Friday, 11 December 2015

Risk free play?

Someone at my chess club asked me who was winning the current London Chess Classic after round 5. "Whoever has played Topalov" was my flippant reply. To this answer I can probably add Anand's name, as between them they have been involved in all the decisive games so far.
The current win rate of 16% (5 from 30) is extremely low and already discussions about why this is so have started. Probably the most popular theory is that all the players are so close together in strength that risk-free play is the optimal strategy. Of course the downside of this is that if neither player takes a risk, then a draw is the likely outcome.
This theory seems to be supported by what happened in the Grischuk - Anand game today. If you look at the position after move 22 you might think that Anand was on top. However there is a difference between dynamic features and static features, and after the exchanges on f3, it is the Black c pawn that is the real target in the position. White's bishop is out of play on h1, but this is only a short term disadvantage, and after a further 20 moves, White repairs his position, and then converts the ending.
So Anand may have tried to mix things up with his kingside play, but this came to naught, as Grischuk was able to weaken the c pawn as far back as move 12, before defending for as long as necessary. 

Grischuk,Alexander - Anand,Viswanathan [A20]
London Chess Classic Olympia, London (6.1), 10.12.2015

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Caruana could easily have 3 wins by now, against Nakamura (3), Topalov (4), and Grischuk (5).
MVL might have beaten Nakamura. Anand had his chances early against Carlsen, who then turned them around late, but a draw was the end result. In the same round, Grischuk had Giri on the ropes before his time trouble spoiliation. Topalov had good prospects just this round (6) against Adams.
MVL-Grischuk might have looked tame after the queens departed, but both players were unclear who was playing for what in their remarks.

OTOH, Topalov could have held against Anand, who himself against Grischuk (6) had a fleeting draw chance (d3 not Kd3) at the end. If it were just draw rate, it could be just stats and fluctuations. But the Berlin has been seen too often for some eyes (particularly Nigel Short's).