Carlsen-Anand By the Numbers

Carlsen-Anand By the Numbers

| 78 | Chess Event Coverage

What can we expect from the World Championship Match that starts this Saturday? Most predictions are educated guesses, so now might be a good time to get educated!

You already know the match schedule and basics, and below you'll find the historical numbers for all games ever played between the world champion, GM Magnus Carlsen, and the former world champion, GM Viswanathan Anand. All research was done using Megabase 2014 (online databases may vary slightly).

1) The big number: The two have played 70 lifetime games in all time controls. Fans might be surprised to know Anand leads with 36/70. He is equal in classical time controls and holds a small lead even in blitz and rapid (which may be more surprising considering Carlsen is world champ in both of those time controls too).

Of course, Anand was once a world leader in blitz as well — he once spotted his opponent two minutes on move four and still won without rushing.

2) The White/Black breakdown: Through blind chance, Carlsen has enjoyed White for 36 games to Anand's 34, but the Indian benefits more from playing White than Carlsen does. Anand is +2 with the first move (seven wins and five losses with 22 draws) while Carlsen is flat as White (eight up and eight down with 20 draws).

3) The openings you're most likely to see:

  • When Carlsen is White, the two have played an amazing 30 different ECO codes in 36 games.

C67 has appeared three times, with C65 and C66 once more each. These are all variations of the Ruy Lopez, Berlin Variation. Anand has score well in these five games (two wins and three draws).

Will Carlsen try to crack Anand's Berlin for the first time next week? History suggests it's not the best choice.

When Anand doesn't feel like answering 1. e4 with 1...e5, he has played the Sicilian seven times. Carlsen has a lone win, five draws and two losses.

The Semi-Slav Variation of the Queen's Gambit is also quite popular. ECO Codes D43-49 have appeared six times, with Carlsen scoring poorly again. Here he checks in with one win, two draws and three losses (two of which were in classical chess).

Since we've already said Carlsen has a lifetime even score as White, clearly he has been better off getting away from these common openings. He's +5 in all other openings. In the 2013 World Championship, Carlsen scored +1 as White, winning a game in the Queen's Gambit Declined (he also won last year as White in the Tal Memorial in a Nimzo-Indian).

  • When Anand is White, the two have been slightly more stable — 25 ECO codes in 34 games.

C95, the Closed Ruy Lopez, has worked out well for the "Tiger From Madras." In four games, he has a win and three draws. In two other games in the Closed Ruy Lopez, Anand has another win and draw. When Carlsen tries the Petroff insead, things aren't much better. Anand has two wins (both in rapid) and a draw.

Anand would be wise to go straight into the main lines if the possibility of a Spanish reappears. Two of his five losses to Carlsen have come from playing 3. Bc4 and also playing the rare 6. Qe2 (Worrall Attack), both in accelerated time controls.

The notable exception would of course be Carlsen's Berlin. As much as he has been stifled when Anand plays it, he has similarly baffled Anand with it — a win and a handful of draws (including his only game with Anand this year). That win came in last year's title bout.

Just as with White, Carlsen seems to also benefit from getting away from his main weapons. He easily drew with a rare Caro-Kann usage in Chennai, 2013, and also famously won with two queens in 28 moves by using the Nimzo-Indian.

4) Has Carlsen's score improved as he got older? That equal score as White is a bit misleading. Unsurprisingly, the last few years have seen the scale tip toward Norway. Carlsen has been dominant the last five years. Since 2009, Carlsen has won 12 of their 17 decisive games overall, including most of the classical wins.

Naturally, the most important artificial span of time to judge their results was the two-week period last November when Carlsen was +3 en route to winning the title in 10 games.

5) The betting odds: Even if you think Anand has better chances this time, most would still want some kind of favorable odds before placing money on it. What's a fair line?

This site has Anand as a 16/5 underdog, while this one likes his chances slightly more at 11/4.

A better question may be whether Anand should get better or worse odds than last time. Here you can get 3.3/1, which is slightly better than you would have received last year (2.7/1) on the same site.

Let us know in the comments what you think the odds should be! 

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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