20 April 2013

Annotated Game #91: Opposite-side aggression in the Caro-Kann

This fifth-round tournament game features highly aggressive play from Black right out of the opening, a Caro-Kann Advance by transposition, starting with 8...Nh6.  Black's execution of the idea is somewhat off, but the basic idea is similar to what occurs in some French Defense variations.  White is tempted to play Bxh6, which gives Black the two bishops and the half-open g-file to attack White's king position.  The result is a dynamic game with unbalanced, competing strategies.  Black's decision to castle on the opposite wing further enhances this dynamic.

Although Black does not dominate the game until the later stages, it's clear that his strategic ideas are the ones that are driving the situation, giving him the initiative.  White fails to understand the key factors in the position, for example playing weakening moves such as 18. f4?! followed up by an inaccurate pawn recapture.  Ironically, Black's strategic advantage is then immediately thrown away with the poor choice to exchange his two rooks for White's queen, giving new life to White's pieces and taking away the pressure on White's position.  The position remains complicated, however, and White in turn soon goes astray, chasing Black's king onto a safe square and then allowing Black's queen to take the key d4 pawn.  Black then returns to dominance and finally figures out how to win by pushing his passed d-pawn to victory.

While this is not a particularly high-quality game, the strategic themes and tactical considerations were useful to see in analysis, especially how certain choices lead to rapid changes in both sides' prospects.

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