HOW THE CHAMPIONS PLAY AS WHITE: PART 1
For this article I could not resist covering the World Championship Match that has just concluded in New York City. One of the things that I like about World Championship matches is the number of chess fans around the world - super GMs and lesser mortals - that share their opinions on social media. I even got involved, and it turns out that my tweets about this match have not gone unnoticed, since I took part in an enjoyable Twitter exchange with none other than super GM Peter Svidler.
Going into this match, Magnus Carlsen's main opening move was 1.e4 - indeed he used that opening move exclusively in his match in 2014 against Vishy Anand. Sergey Karjakin also prefers the opener that Bobby Fischer famously dubbed, "best by test." If anything, Karjakin's White repertoire is even more limited than Carlsen's. Of course, it has to be pointed out that when I comment on both players' respective strengths and weaknesses, it is all relative! Any world class player could play any opening for either side and still probably beat any untitled player! As Black, Karjakin tends to employ the (in)famous Berlin Defence, which seems a particularly good fit for a match, since the traditional match strategy is to equalise comfortably out of the opening with Black, and with White try to gain a slight edge, or at the very least a position that is easier to play.
Carlsen's repertoire looked very much the same, but he had been known to play the Breyer on occasion, usually when he wanted to keep a few more pieces on the board. However, few questioned that Carlsen would rely heavily on the Berlin in this match, assuming he did not fall behind. Since Karjakin almost always plays 1.e4, unless he completely changed his White repertoire between the Candidates' and the World Championship, I thought we would be in store for six Berlins when Karjakin had White, and more or less the same when the colours were reversed. With that in mind, let us move onto the games!
I have decided to analyse all of Karjakin's White games first, followed by all of Carlsen's White games. This is because what happened in the previous game often has very little relevance to what you will play in the next game because you played with a different colour (apart from games six and seven), unless you won or lost. And I am going to stick my chin out by assuming that every single reader of this Magazine already knows the result in every game from the match, because if you do not, then...well...you should follow more top games! :) Before the match, Vlad Tkachiev weighed in with his match preview: "How many decisive games there will be depends on the strategy chosen by Karjakin and his team. A quick win in one of the first games of the match is the only chance. Will Karjakin stake his hopes on a 'blitzkrieg'? I do not know the answer to that. It is more than ninety-five percent likely, meanwhile, that victory will be achieved by you know who - the clear favourite."