10 September 2011

Annotated Game #9: Caro-Kann Classical with 5.Nc5

This tournament game features an intriguing sideline of the Caro-Kann Classical variation with 5. Nc5.  On the face of it, it looks aggressive, but if Black keeps his cool and White plays only standard-type moves, Black ends up in a favorable version of his usual setup, as occurred in this game.

White can test Black in the variation I used with 5..Qb6 if he plays 6. g4 as a follow up, similar to the idea that occurs in the Caro-Kann Advance after Black develops his bishop to f5.  In large part due to a prominent loss by Beliavsky to Bronstein in 1975, the Qb6 variation isn't a popular response to 5. Nc5.  However, Kasparov (yes, that one) and Shakarov in their 1984 book Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 recommended it; more recently, Houdini slightly prefers Black as well in the 6. g4 line.

In the below game, White plays the more normal-looking 6. Nf3 and Black then forces the c5 knight back as part of his usual developing sequence.  By move 12, Black has a comfortable game with opposite-side castling, which gives him the easily understood strategic goal of advancing his pawns and pressuring White on the queenside, which White cannot ignore with his king there.

The middlegame instructively points out how my positional play was weak as I exchanged down (and offered to once again) an effective attacking piece for a less effective equivalent.  After going a bit astray with the attack, Black spots a deflection tactic on move 26 and emerges with a pawn and a won endgame.  The endgame itself is also instructive, as White could most likely have held with a more active defense, piece activity being the key in these types of positions (in this case R+N vs. R+N).  White's king was also shut out of the action on the queenside once the theater of war shifted back to the kingside.

Since this game, due to my studies I believe my attacking play has improved (although it still has a long way to go) as well as my understanding of the role of piece exchanges in the middlegame.  Among other things, this game reinforces the lesson that simplification on the board can lead to a dissipation of an advantage or even a loss.  I was also pleased at being able to see the key tactical motif on move 26, along with the necessary in-between move.  This was relatively simple, but also illustrative of the role that experience with the opening and resulting middlegame played, since I was comfortable and familiar with Black's play in that position.

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