11 January 2009

1893 Tarrasch - Chigorin (Openings)

Chigorin had his idiosyncratic opening -- 1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 -- which, as detailed in that previous post, he played five times at Hastings 1895. He also played it 10 times in his 1893 match with Tarrasch, out of 11 games where he had White, achieving a +5-3=2 result.. To achieve that sort of consistency, Tarrasch had to cooperate, which he did by playing the French Defense in all but one game, where his 1...e5 was answered by Chigorin's 2.f4.

The players were also consistent in their opening moves with colors switched. Tarrasch opened 1.e4 in 10 games of 11 as White, Chigorin answered 1...e5 each time, and seven games continued 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3, as shown in the following diagram.

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3

If the position looks unusual, it is. Most players continue 5.O-O without giving it a second thought.

What's wrong with 5.Nc3? I'm not sure, except that it's just not popular. Chesslab.com has a single game with a player over 2700, where White was Morozevich, who is capable of playing anything. The only example by a 2600+ player was Short in 2000. Chesslab's W-L-D stats for 5.Nc3 are 35%-36%-29%, with 5...b5, the move of choice, improving White's odds to 38%-33%-29%. As for Chigorin's responses -- 5...d6 in five games and 5...Bb4 in two -- there has been so little experience that the stats are meaningless.

In The Game of Chess, Tarrasch wrote,

The best defense [to 5.Nc3] is the natural move 5...Bc5 whereupon there follows 6.Nxe5 (After 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 the game is similar to the Giuoco Piano.) 6...Nxe5 7.d4 Bd6 8.f4 (8.dxe5 Bxe5, with an even game, is better.) 8...Nc4 (The only good move. If 8...Nc6 or 8...Ng6 then White gets the advantage by the advance of the Pawns.) 9.e5 O-O! 10.Bb3 b5! 11.O-O Bb7! (Black develops with each move.) 12.exd6 (If 12.exf6 then 12...Qxf6 also with advantage to Black.) 12...cxd6! 13.Bxc4 bxc4. In spite of the doubled Pawns Black has decidedly the better game. White's King has been weakened by the move f2-f4 so that Black controls e5 and the Bishop at b7 acting along the open diagonal, rakes White's position in a very threatening way. (p.290)

The result for 5.Nc3 in the 1893 Tarrasch - Chigorin match was +3-3=1.

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