30 March 2013

Annotated Game #88: King Safety in the Caro-Kann

This next tournament started off with an Attack of the Clones, bringing me to a round 2 game with Black.  My opponent chooses an offbeat but effective sideline of the Caro-Kann with 2. c4.  However, he fails to take proper advantage of his lead in development and by move 10 Black has effectively equalized.

The positional maneuvering that follows is illustrative of Class B level play, as neither side seemingly knows what is going on in the position.  Black should be more pleased with the results, as his goal was to maintain equality and get his pieces into more effective positions, rather than attempting to seize the initiative.  Black's failure to understand the position's requirements, however, is brought to a head when White undertakes a rather obvious attack on Black's open kingside.  Despite the availability of a standard defensive resource (25...Ng8 with equality) Black fails to consider the move.  Instead he plays blithely on, focusing on the obvious White threat and failing to do elementary checks, captures and threats (CCT) analysis, leading to a quick and shocking conclusion.

The impression one gets from this game is that neither Black's mind nor heart was in it, which is essentially correct.  The opening variation is not very exciting for Black, who needs to struggle a bit for equality with no obvious counterattacking opportunities.  Games should not be played on autopilot, however, and in addition to engaging in poor positional play, I was simply lazy in failing to make the necessary calculations when my king position finally came under direct attack.

Any Caro-Kann player should have a defensive radar that detects these types of potential threats to king safety, ideally heading them off before they materialize or, failing that, marshaling enough defensive resources to meet the threat.  In this game, the weakening of the king's pawn shield allowed White to muster a cheap attack and Black's failure to find the correct defense allowed it to succeed, neither of which would have occurred if Black had been paying attention to his position.


  1. Hi Chess Admin,

    Tough game.

    I think White played pretty well. Especially 16-18 where he overprotected the d pawn, took the c-file, and especially Bb1 which opened lines and kept h7 diagonal. I don't know if it was luck or skill but pretty good chess as you were busted with a bind by 20.

    Maybe around 18... was a chance to liquidate on the c file with something like ...Qb6 and ...Na7 or Na5 depending, you've got c8 covered and he's got to worry about back rank mate, rook fork on b1 and weakness on b2 square. It might be tough but it looks like if you can get rid of rooks & then queen and get Qside pawns on dark squares the d-pawn weakness would favor Black.

    1. White was around 4-5 tempi behind the usual IQP strategy by around move 20, without any real pressure to show for it, so I'm not as impressed by his play compared to what he could have done. After the pawn structure change, the move 25 variation with ...Ng8 shows that despite White looking optically better, he really has nowhere to go against Black's position (although Black certainly has nothing going against White either, it's pretty drawish). Black dominates the d5 square so White has nowhere to go in the center, the kingside threats are essentially over, and he's got no prospects on the queenside.

      Black's main mistakes earlier on were in not developing the queen and light-squared bishop, resulting in a more cramped position than necessary and giving White the only practical chances in the position - White looks better by comparison, I'll grant that. Later, the rapid collapse after White initiates a rather basic kingside attack is just awful. In sports the equivalent is when the commentators say that one side didn't bother showing up for the game.