28 March 2009

A Well Travelled Path

Continuing with Fischer - Euwe, OL 1960, where Euwe lost on the Black side of a Panov-Botvinnik Attack in the Caro-Kann, my first question was to ask what variations are most popular today among the world's top players against the Caro-Kann. (1.e4 c6) Chesslab.com returned 187 Caro-Kanns played since 2006 where at least one player, not necessarily White, was rated over 2700. These were distributed by year as follows:-

13 - 2009
95 - 2008
45 - 2007
34 - 2006

Since the 13 games in 2009 were played through the beginning of March, it appears that either interest in the Caro-Kann is increasing or the number of 2700+ players is increasing even faster. Of the 187 games, 170 continued 2.d4 d5, when White played as follows:-

77 - 3.e5
50 - 3.Nc3
30 - 3.exd5
15 - 3.Nd2

Every one of the 3.Nd2 games transposed back to the 3.Nc3 line after 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4. The Panov-Botvinnik Attack is currently running third in popularity, which is what I expected to see.

Here I did another search on Chesslab to find 3.exd5 games where where at least one of the players was rated over 2600. Here I found 148 games played since the beginning of 2006, all of which continued 3...cxd5. Of those, about 80% continued 4.c4 (the alternatives were 4.Bd3 and 4.Nf3) 4...Nf6 5.Nc3, as in Fischer - Euwe. Here, however, around 70% of the players chose 5...e6, 25% chose Euwe's 5...Nc6, and the rest played 5...g6.

Of the games with Euwe's 5...Nc6, 67% continued 6.Bg5, while the rest chose Fischer's 6.Nf3. Of the 6.Nf3 games, eight in total, all continued as in Euwe - Fischer with 6...Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 (two games varied with 9...Nb6) 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5. Now Euwe went wrong with 13...Nxc3, but the modern masters all played 13...Qd7 14.Nxd5+ Qxd5 15.Qxd5 (one game continued 15.Bg5+) 15...exd5. The position after 15...exd5 is shown in the following diagram.

(An improvement on...)
1960 Olympiad
Euwe, Max

Fischer, Robert
(After 15...e6-d5(xQ)
[FEN "r4b1r/p3kppp/8/3p4/8/5P2/PP3P1P/R1B1K2R w KQ - 0 16"]

Now I thought that seemed rather unusual -- six games in the last three years all jumped into an early endgame position which the players had undoubtedly prepared beforehand -- and I wondered how many games total have reached the diagrammed position. Going back to Chesslab, I searched again and was amazed to find that more than 200 games had reached the same position.

The next step would have been to determine where theory ended in this line and what the last novelty had been, but, speaking frankly, who cares? Is this how modern GMs spend their time, searching for improvements in opening variations that have already reached the endgame? If so, what happened to the creative side of chess? I'm glad that as a youth I was never interested enough in chess (or talented enough) to pursue it professionally. Ugh!

1 comment:

Robert Pearson said...

Yes. I am less interested in professional chess than when I first took up the game seriously; the creative side of chess is only on display in about half of the games.