09 November 2013

Carlsen -- Anand 2013, Game 1

It came as a bit of a slap in the face to everyone...
Andrew Martin
In his YouTube analysis of today's game, IM Andrew Martin called the short draw "a slap in the face." Short draws are unpopular with most chess fans. World Championship matches are particularly afflicted with this demon. However, I agree with Boris Gelfand's provocative comments last year. Draws are the business of the players.
We are here to play the match, we are not here to entertain spectators. We don’t have to play out the moves; commentators can explain that.
Boris Gelfand (see "Backlash on Short Draw," The Chess Drum)

Carlsen,Magnus (2870) -- Anand,Viswanathan (2775) [D78]
FWCM 2013 Chennai (1), 09.11.2013


My time zone is ten hours behind that of Chennai, so it is not possible for me to follow the games live and continue to get the sleep that my body requires. When I awoke early this morning, I quickly checked the initial moves of the game and was happy to see Carlsen's first move!

I predicted this move in a comment on the forums of Chess.com. 1.Nf3 is a flexible move that may transpose into many different opening systems. It is a move that I have played in many important games, and Carlsen has adopted it prior to this match, as have many other strong players.

Officially, 1.Nf3 is called the Reti Opening. However, the Reti proper is a particular set of moves in response to a particular response by Black. This game did not follow that path. Naming an opening solely by the first move strikes me as silly.

In his video, Martin used the term King's Indian Attack for Carlsen's opening moves. There is a KIA variation of the Reti. The ECO classification places the game as a variation of the Grunfeld Defense.*

1...d5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.d4

4.O-O keeps the game within ECO A07, a Reti. Carlsen's move appears slightly more popular in ChessBase Online (1800 to 1649), but other searches suggest that O-O may be more popular, and significantly more so in older games.

As one should both expect and hope for in this World Championship match, both players are employing move order transpositions to probe the other's opening preparation without revealing too much of their own. Today's game was a psychological battle and reconnaissance.

Black to move


4...Nf6 is vastly more popular, occurring roughly ten times as often. However, Carlsen played 4...c6 against Teimour Radjabov in the 2012 Tata Steel tournament.

Reference Game:

Radjabov,T (2773) -- Carlsen,M (2835) [A07]
74th Tata Steel GMA Wijk aan Zee NED (8), 22.01.2012

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.d4 c6 5.0–0 Nf6 6.Nbd2 0–0 7.c4 a5 8.b3 a4 9.Bb2 Bf5 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.Nxd7 Bxd7 12.Bc3 axb3 13.axb3 Bg4 14.Rxa8 Qxa8 15.h3 Bf5 16.Qa1 h5 17.Qxa8 Rxa8 18.Ra1 Rxa1+ 19.Bxa1 Bc2 20.e3 g5 21.Bf1 g4 22.hxg4 hxg4 23.Be2 Kh7 24.cxd5 cxd5 25.Bc3 Kg6 26.Kf1 Kf5 27.Ke1 Nd7 28.b4 e6 29.Nf1 Kg5 30.Nh2 Nf6 31.Bd2 Kf5 32.b5 Bf8 33.Ba5 Be7 34.Bc7 Kg5 35.b6 Bb3 36.f4+ Kf5 37.Kf2 Bc4 38.Bd1 Bb4 39.Bd8 Ba5 40.Kg2 Bd3 41.Kf2 Ne4+ 42.Kg2 Nf6 43.Kf2 Ne4+ 44.Kg2 Nf6 ½–½

5.0–0 Nf6 6.b3

Carlsen deviates from his game with Radjabov with a move played by Sergei Karjakin against Vladimir Kramnik in the Tal Memorial blitz. It is reasonable to assume that both Carlsen and Anand looked at such games in their preparation for this match. Anand certainly would have studied all of Carlsen's recent games, while considering where alternative moves might be desirable.

6...0–0 7.Bb2 Bf5 8.c4

Black to move


Kramnik played 8...Ne4. Anand's choice is more popular in recent games, while Kramnik's holds the lead overall. White's scoring percentage is a little above average.

9.Nc3 dxc4!

Anand's move here is not the game's novelty, but it is close. ChessBase Online has three games with the resulting position. One of these games is of no significance as it was played by class players. The other two games were played by relatively weak masters. Andrew Martin examines one of these games in some detail in his video.

Anand's move is the strongest in the position, according to the three engines that I consulted--Stockfish 4, Hiarcs 12, and Rybka 4. The engine evaluations favor Anand's move by 1/3 to nearly 1/2 pawn over the second choice. It is the only move that tilts in Black's favor, and it clearly offered Carlsen some problems after the subsequent moves. Both players match the top engine moves until Anand's 12...Nd5.

10.bxc4 Nb6 11.c5

Black to move


While considering this move before it was played, International Masters Lawrence Trent and Tania Sachdev considered whether the knight might become trapped.


Anand mentioned that this move surprised him. On his The Week in Chess site, Mark Crowther published excellent commentary on today's game that employs postgame comments by the players as well as comments by Gary Kasparov.

12...Nd5 13.Qb3

Trent and Sachdev favored 13.Nxd5.

13...Na5 14.Qa3 Nc4 15.Qb3 Na5 16.Qa3 Nc4 ½–½

A draw by repetition permits a short draw without running up against the rule that neither player may offer a draw prior to Black's move 30.

*ECO Code is a trademark of Chess Informant.

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