18 February 2012

Annotated Game #31: In which a Caro-Kann becomes a French

This game demonstrates how a vague familiarity with your chosen opening line can lead to long-term trouble.  I had by this point in my career adopted the 3...c5 variation against the Advance Caro-Kann, but had not put much effort into actually looking at it.  Black with 5...e6 makes a common error out of ignorance and ends up simply with a tempo-down French Defense.  This is amusing to look up in the database, because the position is easily found, but the computer thinks Black should get two moves in a row (if only!)

By move 11 White has a significantly superior position and correctly decides to start operations on the kingside.  However, he does not conduct his attack in the most rigorous manner and Black could have fought back and seized the initiative himself on move 16.  The position at this point is particularly worth studying, since it illustrates how one side can change the course of a game with bold thinking and active play.  I was psychologically on the defensive at that point and not looking for such moves; at the time, I also was more timid in my move selection.

Black nevertheless has a more or less reasonable game, albeit slightly worse and without much counterplay, as he simply tries to respond to White's threats.  A characteristic thinking process flaw (not focusing on the full range of your opponent's threats) derails Black on move 24, as he removes a key defensive piece from its square; this also reflects another thinking process flaw, not understanding what your pieces are doing in a position.  White immediately spots a way to make multiple threats that cannot all be dealt with and emerges up a piece.  Black decides to fight on tenaciously, but after good defensive play by White any counterchances on the kingside are nullified.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Frtiz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2002.??.??"] {C02: French: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 {this is a common opening error for those not familiar with this line of the Advance Caro-Kann. The light-squared bishop is locked away unnecessarily and Black ends up with a tempo-down French Defense.} (5... Bg4 {is the correct move.}) 6. a3 Bd7 7. Bd3 Qb6 8. Bc2 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nge7 10. Nc3 Ng6 {while it looks on the surface like Black has a reasonable game, in fact he is significantly behind in development and White's pieces (especially the bishops) have far more scope for action.} 11. h4 {my opponent obviously understands this position better than I do and realizes the benefits of immediate action on the kingside, where White has local superiority of forces.} Be7 {this develops a piece, but is too slow. With Black's forces concentrated on the queenside, he should attempt to start counterplay there, for example with Rc8 or Na5.} 12. g3 {an unnecessary pause in the action.} (12. h5 Nf8 {is forced and White has the initiative and a major attack coming on the kingside.}) 12... f6 {my unfamiliarity with this position-type continues to make itself evident, as this will inevitably weaken Black's central structure.} (12... h6 {is necessary to take the g5 square away from White's pieces.}) 13. h5 Nf8 14. Na4 Qc7 15. exf6 gxf6 {at least I figure out this is superior to the bishop capture, since the pawn now controls g5.} 16. Bf4 (16. Nc3 {the engines agree on this, bringing the knight back into the fray with Nb5 now a threat, for example} O-O-O 17. Bf4 Bd6 18. Nb5 Qa5+ 19. b4 Bxb4+ 20. axb4 Qxb4+ 21. Qd2 Qxb5 22. Bd6 {and White's attack is probably winning.}) 16... Bd6 {is the obvious defensive move. However} (16... e5 $5 {is found by the engines, who aren't hampered by being psychologically on the defensive. This push takes advantage of the pawn on f6 in an aggressive manner.} 17. dxe5 fxe5 18. Be3 d4 19. Bg5 Bg4 20. Bxe7 Qxe7 {and Black is fine, perhaps even preferable due to his central control.}) 17. Bxd6 $14 Qxd6 18. Nc5 O-O-O {Black needs to get out of the collapsing kingside, although life won't be easy on the queenside either.} 19. b4 {superificially aggressive, but not in fact dangerous as long as Black keeps his cool.} (19. Rc1 {bringing the rook into the attack was more promising.}) 19... b6 {a beginner's move, getting rid of the knight but opening more long-term holes on the squares in front of the king.} (19... Kb8 { followed by ...e5 and Black is OK.}) 20. Nxd7 $14 Nxd7 21. Rc1 Kb7 22. O-O h6 { the idea was to free up the Rh8 from protecting the h7 pawn, but this is a positional error, potentially giving White the g6 square as an outpost.} 23. Re1 f5 (23... a6 {would have repaired the pawn structure in front of the king and enhanced Black's defense.}) 24. Kg2 (24. Qe2 $142 Rhe8 25. Ba4 {and Black is under heavy pressure.}) 24... Nf6 $2 {this is a classic example of not paying enough attention to the opponent's threats when choosing a move.} 25. Ne5 Rh7 $2 {this was designed to meet the Nf7 threat, but does not deal with the next move.} 26. Nxc6 Rg8 ({if} 26... Qxc6 27. Bxf5 {with a discovered attack on the queen.}) 27. Ne5 {Black is now lost, being a piece down without any compensation. However, I play on tenaciously, in the hopes that my opponent will blunder in return.} Rhg7 28. Qe2 Ne4 29. Bxe4 dxe4 30. Qc4 f4 31. Rxe4 fxg3 32. f3 {an instructive defensive move. Black's piece activity is blocked by his own pawn on g3 and the White king is perfectly safe.} Qd8 33. Qc6+ Kb8 34. Qxe6 Qg5 35. Qd6+ Kb7 36. Qd5+ Ka6 37. b5+ Ka5 38. Nc6+ (38. Nc6+ Ka4 39. Qc4+ Kxa3 40. Qc3+ Ka4 41. Qb4#) 1-0


  1. Really liked this game, I just found your blog as I am getting back into chess and I found this really helpful. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comments! It's always good to have someone -else's- example of what not to do in the opening, heh.