22 October 2008

1.d4!! Anand's Novelty

How should White begin?

Viswanathan Anand usually favors 1.e4. The king's pawn opening claims the center, opens lines for a bishop and the queen, and leads to many aggressive lines. It does more to improve the mobility of White's army than any other move.

Vladimir Kramnik favors 1.d4 or 1.Nf3, although he has played 1.e4 plenty. The queen's pawn opening claims the center, opens lines for a bishop, and the pawn is supported by the queen. Yet, it is generally considered less aggressive than 1.e4 and is favored by players seeking a positional struggle.

Opening with the king's knight or the queen's bishop's pawn (1.c4) often transposes into lines that begin with 1.d4, but these moves also have their own character.

White has twenty possible first moves, but these four--e4, d4, Nf3, c4--account for the overwhelming number of grandmaster games. Lesser players also play these four most of the time with 1.e4 and 1.d4 as the leading choices.

“Best by test”

Bobby Fischer declared in My 60 Memorable Games (1969) that 1.e4 was “best by test.”

New in Chess Yearbooks declared 1.d4 “best by test” in “How to Read NIC Statistics.” This article presents a simple bar graph comparing four interrelated bits of data from the NIC database.

White scores 54.8% in the database as a whole
White scores 56.1% with 1.d4
White scores 54.1% with 1.e4
White scores 52.3% against the Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense is a principle culprit in reducing the scoring percentage of 1.e4.

Early in his career, Kramnik was a devotee of the Sicilian Defense. Anand has produced many stunning victories in the Sicilian Defence from both sides. He plays it well, and he plays against it with authority.

Kramnik has been answering 1.e4 with 1...e5 for the past several years. Against Garry Kasparov, he adopted the Berlin System of the Spanish Opening, a system advocated by Emanuel Lasker more than a century ago, and Kasparov was unable to win with White. Since then, Kramnik's Russian Defense (aka the Petroff) has been almost invincible.

All of the games in the World Chess Championship 2008 in Bonn so far have been queen's pawn openings. A Semi-Slav Defense to the Queen's Gambit might have been a reasonable prediction for games when Kramnik has White, but the two Nimzo-Indians and the Queen's Gambit Declined, Classical variation when Anand had White have been a surprise.

Viswanathan Anand has favored 1.e4, but not as dogmatically as Fischer. Anand’s 1.d4 appears in more than one hundred games prior to his present match against Vladimir Kramnik. Although most of these were rapid or blitz games, he played a queen’s pawn opening against Michael Adams in the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January. In 2005 he played it against Adams twice—in Wijk aan Zee and in Linares. Alexander Morozevich has faced 1.d4 from Anand three times at standard time controls.

Prior to his World Chess Championship match with Boris Spassky, Fischer had played 1.e4 in all but three tournament and match games. It must have been difficult to cope with Fischer’s choice of 1.c4 in the sixth game even though Spassky was an authority on the resulting opening.

Fischer,R (2785) - Spassky,B (2660) [D59]
World Championship 28th Reykjavik (6), 23.07.1972
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 0–0 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 b6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Rc1 Be6 12.Qa4 c5 13.Qa3 Rc8 14.Bb5 a6 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.0–0 Ra7 17.Be2 Nd7 18.Nd4 Qf8 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.e4 d4 21.f4 Qe7 22.e5 Rb8 23.Bc4 Kh8 24.Qh3 Nf8 25.b3 a5 26.f5 exf5 27.Rxf5 Nh7 28.Rcf1 Qd8 29.Qg3 Re7 30.h4 Rbb7 31.e6 Rbc7 32.Qe5 Qe8 33.a4 Qd8 34.R1f2 Qe8 35.R2f3 Qd8 36.Bd3 Qe8 37.Qe4 Nf6 38.Rxf6 gxf6 39.Rxf6 Kg8 40.Bc4 Kh8 41.Qf4 1–0

Fischer went on to play 1.c4 again in the eighth, twelfth, and fourteenth games of the match. His wins in games six and eight gave him the lead he would carry to the conclusion, even adding to it by two games.

Anand’s choice of 1.d4 with White so far in the World Chess Championship match in Bonn is less novel than Fischer’s adoption of 1.c4 in 1972, but it appears just as effective.

1 comment:

  1. I just read an interesting short article about the seconds of Anand and Kramnik, where I saw:
    "But the interesting Anand choice is the unknown young Polish GM Wojtaszek, who is also primarily a 1. d4 player like Kramnik. That could be Anand’s secret weapon because Wojtaszek’s ideas are unknown and un-exposed." It was written after the second game, so 4th and 6th games were the confirmation.