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World Chess Championship Games and Chess King 2 Analysis
It is time for another World Chess Championship match! This time around the match-up is one that has been eagerly anticipated for a long time, pitting reigning champ Viswanathan Anand against the young up-and-comer Magnus Carlsen. Many chess players will be following the games day by day as they are played, and in this month's article we will show you how to get the most from replaying the games by using the tools provided in the Chess King 2 software package.
The initial step, of course, is to download a PGN format file of either the current game or the entire match so far. There are a number of places on the Web to get the games; a simple search for "World Chess Championship 2013 PGN" will scare up several of them. Once you have downloaded the file to your computer, you can load the database into Chess King 2 by clicking the large "Games" button, clicking the "Import" button to the left of the Chess King 2 logo, clicking the ".." button in the dialogue that appears (as seen here):
Then using the Windows File Selector to go to the folder where you saved the data, and double-click the PGN file's name to add it to the list of databases in Chess King's game list screen. Click the database's name from the list in the left hand panel to get the list of games so far in the match, then double-click the most recent game to load it into Chess King 2's main screen.
The second game of the match was played earlier today as I write this, and this game was of special interest to me: Carlsen, with the black pieces, chose the Caro-Kann Defense in response to Vishy's 1.e4. I have been a Caro-Kann advocate for many years (and I just finished an exciting Caro-Kann project for Chess King, which you will be hearing about in 2014), so I could not wait to check out Game Two.
Chess King 2 provides users like you and me with some tools to help us better understand the game. The first thing I did after loading the game was to step through it, move by move, following the action on the chessboard while also keeping an eye on the Chess King tree, displayed in the panel below the game notation:
As we have discussed in prior Chess King articles here at ChessCafe.com (see the ChessCafe.com Archives), the tree is a way of looking at the whole GigaKing database of more then five million games via a simplified statistical tree form. As you step through a game move by move, the tree changes to show you every move from GigaKing that was played in the current position. In the illustration above, we see all of the white replies played in the position after 8...Bh7, along with statistical data on each move. At a glance we see that 9.Bd3 was the most popular move (it was played in 218 games), while 9.Bc4 was statistically the most successful (when one eliminates from contention the moves that appeared in less than ten games; it earned 64% of the available points).
As I am stepping through the game, I am looking for two things. I am on the hunt for "crisis points" in which a player made an unusual decision, like playing a rarely-played move for example. The other thing I am seeking is the "novelty": the spot where the game diverges from known practice when one of the players makes a move that does not appear in the Chess King tree.
As for unusual moves, the word "unusual" only applies to Game Two in a relative sense. The players opted for a main line classical Caro-Kann (which is itself somewhat unusual in that the variation is the "standard" way to play, meaning that this system has been around forever and is a very well-trodden path. It is not something you would expect to see in a short world championship match). At the seventh move, Carlsen as Black opted for 7...e6 which is not the most popular move, but is still a well-worn highway and a very safe option:
While the choice of a move that has appeared over six hundred times does not quite qualify as a "surprise," it is interesting to note that Carlsen did not opt for the more popular ...Nd7, especially early in a match when each player usually tries to get a read on his opponent's state of mind. In many matches, psychology rather than theoretical surprises tend to take center stage in the early going.
While stepping through the moves of a game using Chess King's tree, we have to be aware of transpositional possibilities. In Game Two, after the following moves:
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 e6 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Nd7 11.f4 Bb4+ 12.c3 Be7 13.Bd2 Ngf6 14.O-O-O O-O 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.Qxe4
We reach a point at which it appears (at first glance) that a player has come out with a novelty. Carlsen plays 16...Nxe5, which does not appear as a move in the game tree based on the GigaKing database. But when we are looking at moves in a tree, it is always a good idea to check ahead a move or three to see if the game transposes back into known territory. In this case the moves 16...Nxe5 17.fxe5 bring the game back to a known position, and Carlsen plays the standard 17...Qd5 here.
Now comes the fun; after checking ahead a few more moves, we see that Anand played something new here. Instead of 18.Qg4 for some kingside pressure, Vishy swaps queens and heads for an endgame with 18.Qxd5. At the previous move, the point at which Carlsen played 17...Qd5, we have a couple of other Chess King tools we can use to further examine the position at which Vishy varied from known practice.
One option is for us to have a look at what has been played before. At 17...Qd5 the Chess King tree shows us that the move 18.Qg4 appears in two games in the GigaKing database. We can easily find these games in just a few seconds, by going to Chess King's yellow "Menu" button in the screen's upper left hand corner, selecting "Search," and the "Current position" from the sub-menu. In just a few seconds (five of them on my machine, to be exact), Chess King provides both games:
We can double-click on a game to load it into Chess King's main chessboard or, for a quicker look (and maybe a more preferable one, since it does not require us to leave the current game), we can single-click on one of the games and play through it (using the keyboard cursor keys) on the small chessboard at the bottom of the game list screen:
By looking at these games, we can see what has happened in the past; we can check known practice and compare the positions and results to what happened in the present game.
Another option is to see what the chess engine Houdini thinks of the position after 17...Qd5. Did Vishy make the best move in the chess engine's opinion? Was 18.Qg4 better? Or perhaps there is something else, another strong move that has not yet appeared in practical play?
To find out, we need to return to the main chessboard screen with Game Two loaded, then click on 17...Qd5. Next we will start Houdini's analysis by clicking on the blue arrow button at the upper left of the engine analysis panel:
After a moment Houdini springs to life and begins to display its analysis. Always bear in mind the main rule of chess engine analysis: the longer you let an engine analyze a position, the better and more reliable the results tend to be. Of course, we cannot let an engine analyze forever; at some point we will need to stop it. Modern computers can reach a search depth of more than twenty plies (half-moves) in a very short time:
And at this point it looks like Houdini evaluates Anand has played it fairly safe. Although 18.Qg4 is arguably the better move, it is only 11/110ths of a pawn better than what Vishy actually played. So while 18.Qxd5 is technically a novelty, it is not necessarily a great one.
We can, of course, let Houdini run as we step through the remaining moves of the game to see if anyone missed anything major:
18.Qxd5 cxd5 19.h5 b5 20.Rh3 a5 21.Rf1 Rac8 22.Rg3 Kh7 23.Rgf3 Kg8 24.Rg3 Kh7 25.Rgf3 Kg8 ½-½
Replaying the game in this fashion does not reveal anything unusual; it seems that both players seem content to play it safe. After Vishy trades queens, the game goes stale in Houdini's opinion (and in the opinion of many players, judging from the general Internet reaction).
Obviously there is plenty more chess to be played in the 2013 World Championship; the Chess King tools described in this article are just a few ways in which you can use your electronic teacher and sparring partner to enhance your enjoyment of the rest of the games in this historic championship match.
Have fun! – Steve
© 2013 Steven A. Lopez and Chess King. All rights reserved.
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