28 April 2012

Annotated Game #43: New tournament; Caro-Kann Classical

After Annotated Game #42, about two years passed before I played in another tournament, due to my work and life circumstances.  However, this next tournament turned out rather better than the last one and I at least held my own overall.

This first-round game features the Caro-Kann Classical, with a relatively unchallenging sideline (7. Be2) chosen by White.  Like most variations chosen by Black in the Caro-Kann, the Classical Variation is solid rather than unbalancing, so deviations by White from "book" play allow Black to more easily reach equality, rather than offering the chance at an advantage.  Black is assessed by the engines as equal on move 12 and by move 14 I would say has successfully taken over the initiative, along with having an advantage in piece coordination.  Some subtle inaccuracies in piece placement (18...Nb6) and then choosing to dominate the wrong file means that Black is unable to turn his initiative into anything concrete, although he is certainly no worse.  The Bishop vs. Knight ending that occurs after a series of exchanges illustrates a typical Caro-Kann piece imbalance, where Black's knight and pawn placement are sufficient to contain White's bishop.

Games that lack a lot of fireworks can still be useful (perhaps sometimes more useful) to draw lessons from. In this case, the analysis shows where Black could have better placed his pieces in the early middlegame, specifically the queen's knight and the doubled rooks, something which will better inform my future play.  This is also a relatively rare example of a use of the ...e5 break in the Classical variation, where ...c5 is more usual, and is a good illustration of how it can be set up and employed.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "85"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. Be2 {a passive continuation} e6 8. O-O Bd6 { normally Black plays Be7 in this variation, but here is able to seize the h2-b8 diagonal and preempt Bf4.} 9. Re1 O-O 10. Nh4 {now out of the database. This allows White to eliminate Black's light-square bishop without in turn trading his off (as is usually done on d3). However, this is also a loss of time for White and Black continues developing.} Nbd7 11. Nxg6 hxg6 12. Bf3 { Although White still has this bishop, it's doing very little, given Black's dominating pawn structure on the light squares.} Qc7 $11 13. Nf1 Rfe8 14. g3 { evidently the point of Nf1.} e5 {this and the ...c5 break are the two main freeing moves for Black in this variation. Here the piece configuration means that ...e5 will be more effective.} 15. Be3 exd4 16. Bxd4 Be5 {Black is fine with trading bishops, since White's dark-square bishop is more active overall and particularly threatening on d4.} 17. Ne3 Rad8 {effectively bringing another major piece into play and creating latent threats along the d-file.} 18. Bg2 Nb6 (18... Nc5 {is a more active placement for the knight and possible due to the discovered pin on the Bd4.}) 19. Bxe5 {breaks the pin by force, due to the simultaneous attack on the Qc7.} Qxe5 20. Qc1 Qc5 21. c4 Re7 (21... Nbd7 {with the idea of repositioning it on e5 is better, as the knight while on b6 is essentially out of play.}) 22. Qc3 Rde8 {dominating the d-file instead would seem to be of more use.} (22... Red7) 23. b4 Qh5 24. a4 {this invites Black to do the effective repositioning move ...Nbd7, which he however passes up.} Ng4 25. Nxg4 Qxg4 {now Black instead has exchanged off his more effective minor piece.} 26. Rxe7 Rxe7 27. Bf1 Nd7 {now it's clear Black needs to do something with the knight.} 28. Re1 Rxe1 29. Qxe1 Nf6 30. Qe3 b6 31. Qe7 Qd7 32. Qxd7 Nxd7 {we now enter a drawn minor piece ending. White's bishop has no prospect of being able to invade Black's camp to attack his pawns.} 33. f4 Nf6 (33... c5 {would be simpler, leaving the knight on d7 while there is still tension between pawns on the queenside and not giving White any potential openings there.}) 34. Bg2 c5 35. bxc5 bxc5 {Black now has to watch the queenside carefully, although it's still a draw.} 36. Kf2 Kf8 37. Ke3 { inviting the knight check on g4.} Ke7 {winning the h2 pawn didn't seem worth the risk of allowing White's king to penetrate my position, although according to Houdini White couldn't get too aggressive.} (37... Ng4+ 38. Kf3 {Houdini 1. 5a w32:} (38. Ke4 f5+ 39. Kd5 Ne3+ 40. Kxc5 Nxg2 41. Kd6 Ne3 42. c5 Ke8 43. Kc7 Nc4 44. c6 a5 45. Kb8 Nd6 46. Kc7 Ke7 $19) 38... Nxh2+ 39. Ke4 Ng4 40. Bf3 Nf6+ 41. Ke5 Ke7 42. a5 Kd7 43. Bd1 Kc6 44. Bf3+ Kc7 $11) 38. h3 Kd6 39. g4 Nd7 40. Bd5 f6 41. Bf7 Nf8 42. h4 a5 43. h5 {and White will not be able to make any progress against Black's pawns on the dark squares.} 1/2-1/2


  1. Hey ChessAdmin!

    Nice notes!

    And based on your thoughts on the opening I am going to switch to the Caro-Kann as Black against 1. e4. I switch my openings around about once every year. I think it helps with overall growth and keeps me from getting stale!

    I really do like your annotations!

  2. The Caro-Kann is a fun (no, really) and deep opening - I think you'll enjoy it. Glad the notes were useful.

    I should probably do a "Why I Play the Caro-Kann" post at some point, since I did one for the English.

  3. hey Chessadmin!

    Against 1. d4 I am considering switching to the Queen's Gambit accepted as it is fairly different from the Queen's Indian I have played the past year. OR would it be wise to try the Slav as it and the caro-kann have some similar attributes? (I will say I am leaning towards the QGA because it can be a wild ride and different types of pawn structures)

  4. I'd suggest looking at the QGA, actually, if you're already leaning toward it. I played it for a while and enjoyed it before switching to the Slav as a more solid approach. There are in fact a good number of similarities between the two openings, since in many Slav lines Black plays an early dxc4. The QGA isn't one of those openings where you can just wing it, but I think it pays off if you're serious about studying it. It definitely has a more open character to it. The Slav is an excellent opening but there is in fact little overlap between that and the Caro-Kann, despite the common c6/d5 pawn configuration.