Carlsen-Karjakin 2016 – Game 1
Carlsen’s choice of the Trompowsky cannot possibly be serious, but the way he played and the positions he aimed for definitely are. The choice of this opening reminds me of his choice of the Caro-Kann in the first game of his match with Anand in Chennai 2013. A surprise value that is never to be repeated during the match; additionally it gives the opponent’s team additional work that will most probably be in vain for the remainder of the match.
More important in my opinion is the way in which Carlsen successfully directed the game toward positions and manner that suit him best. This has been his “secret power” for many years now, from literally any opening he manages to obtain middlegame and ideally endgame positions that he likes and plays better than his opponents.
That he didn’t succeed to pose more serious problems in Game 1 speaks favourably for Karjakin. He did the required job to prepare both practically and psychologically to defend slightly inferior positions. This reminds me of the work Kasparov did before his first matches with Karpov, training himself to play quiet positions where Karpov was at his best. As a result of this work Kasparov was no longer inferior to Karpov in these positions, which forced Karpov to search for other strategies in order to beat him. Something similar happened in Buenos Aires in 1927, when Alekhine showed Capablanca that he wasn’t at all inferior to the great Cuban in technical and simple positions. Will the same happen in New York? Will Karjakin prove to be up to the task in defending unpleasant positions againt the greatest “squeezer” or our time? The short match of only 12 games certainly is in his favour as he won’t have to suffer in too many games, like Kasparov and Alekhine had to. Additionally, he will use his opening preparation to limit the number of the games where he ends up in such positions to a minimum.
These questions will have their answers in the remaining games. In Game 2 we will see what strategy Karjakin will implement to pose problems with white.
Here’s the first game with detailed analysis: