22 September 2013

Annotated Game #105: The Caro-Kann - a dull, positional opening (?)

This final-round Slow Chess League tournament game featured an imbalanced Caro-Kann, where Black staked everything on an audacious kingside attack after the dubious decision to sacrifice two pawns coming out of the opening.  Essentially I overreacted to White's 10. Qb3, an excellent move which nonetheless could have been neutralized with a little more thought.  However, it being a Friday night after a long week of work and a glass or so of wine, I had something of a devil-may-care attitude and felt like playing actively, rather than defending a potentially worse position with objectively best moves.

White, perhaps seeking to consolidate his advantage rather than press it, soon afterwards missed the powerful 16. Ng5! which while not winning immediately would give him an overwhelming advantage.  I was then able to continue with my attacking plans, although missing the much stronger 21...Bxh2+ continuation.  (Thanks to nate23 for raising this in the post-game analysis chat.)  White's king is eventually chased across the board and material loss ensues.

Black's ability to fight for the initiative and then put together a winning attack helps illustrate the practical power of active, aggressive play.  I constantly searched for threats to make against my opponent and for ways to improve my piece positions for attacking purposes, which increased the pressure on White.  Annotated Game #104 saw a broadly similar game trajectory, in which I was able to pull out a victory after being under pressure and down material.  While the point of post-game analysis is to help avoid putting oneself in that kind of a hole during future games, it's also worthwhile to understand on a broader level what kind of play can be most effective in terms of results.  I'll share some related thoughts on chess performance vs. chess skills in a subsequent post.

[Event "Slow Swiss #8"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.09.20"] [Round "5"] [White "TheIronFly"] [Black "ChessAdmin_01"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "1421"] [BlackElo "1550"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nf3 $5 (5. Nc3 {would enter the Panov variation.}) 5... Bg4 {I thought for a while here and decided to be experimental, rather than almost certainly enter the main Panov line with ... e6, which would transpose back after 6. Nc3. To me this was the best way to challenge the difference in move-order. Its drawback is that the bishop is away from the queenside; the effects will be seen in several moves.} 6. Nc3 e6 (6... Nc6 {would be better here for several reasons, developing the piece, freeing the Ra8 and and blocking the a4-e8 diagonal.}) 7. cxd5 (7. Qb3 { now looks pretty strong.}) 7... Nxd5 8. Be2 Be7 (8... Bb4 $5) 9. O-O O-O { played with almost no thought. I was still on automatic pilot in the opening, which is dangerous when the opening has varied from the standard.} (9... a6 { would have been the easiest way to avoid annoying threats to the b-pawn.}) 10. Qb3 {the most challenging move (and annoying for Black). I thought a good deal here and came up with several plausible options, in fact Houdini's top 3 choices (.. .Nc6, ...Nxc3 and ...Nb6) . I ended up not seeing any of their results clearly enough, however, and played an inferior move.} Nd7 $2 {Black is not going to have enough compensation for the sacrificed material.} (10... Nxc3 11. bxc3 Qc7 $11 {seems simplest. During the game I over-valued the idea of keeping the d-pawn isolated in my calculations.}) 11. Nxd5 exd5 12. Qxd5 Be6 $6 {rather than play a game where I am down a pawn and struggling the whole time, I decide to sacrifice another pawn for activity and a possible kingside attack. Did I mention I had been drinking wine prior to the game?} (12... Qb6 { would be a solid move that limits the damage.}) 13. Qxb7 Nb6 14. Qe4 $16 Re8 15. Be3 Bd6 $2 {Black abandons the defense of the diagonal in hopes of increasing his attacking potential, but this gave White a missed opportunity.} (15... Bd5) 16. Rac1 $2 {this gave Black a pawn back for free, essentially.} ( 16. Ng5 {this was pointed out in the post-game analysis by nate23.} f5 17. Qf3 Qd7 18. Nxe6 Qxe6 19. Rac1 {is one possible continuation. White's two bishops, extra two pawns and the passed central pawn, along with Black's weakened kingside, give White an overwhelming advantage.}) 16... Bxa2 $14 17. Qd3 Bd5 18. Ne5 {I thought this was a bit of a time-waster, although it does provoke a weakness on the g8-a2 diagonal which bears watching.} f6 19. Nc6 {the knight is further from the coming kingside action here, as well as being exposed to threats against it, so I was happy to see this.} Qd7 20. Na5 Re4 {perhaps not objectively best, but it seemed a good way to disrupt things and attempt to wrest the initiative away from White. The rook of course is headed for h4.} 21. Bf3 $2 {this looks superficially good but allows Black to execute the attack, even though I missed the best continuation.} (21. h3 Rh4 22. Bd2 Re8 $14) 21... Rh4 $15 (21... Bxh2+ $1 {was also pointed out by nate23 in the post-game chat. On most other moves I looked at the bishop sacrifice possibilities, but did not here, because I was fixated on the ...Rh4 idea. The general idea behind the rook move is correct, but the intermediate sacrifice gives it much more strength.} 22. Kxh2 $2 (22. Kh1 $19) 22... Rh4+ 23. Kg1 Bxf3 {and White cannot avoid mate, since the Black queen cannot be kept out of h3.}) 22. Bxd5+ Nxd5 23. f4 {this seemed like a mistake at the time, but Houdini assesses other moves as worse. White simply has no good choices.} (23. h3 Rxh3 24. gxh3 Qxh3 $17) 23... Nxf4 {I wondered here if the bishop capture would be better (Houdini says it is) but after looking at the knight capture I decided it looked fine and I did not want to take the time to work through the other variation. Lazy, or practical?} (23... Bxf4 24. Bxf4 Nxf4 25. Qb3+ {forcing Black to have to worry about his back rank} Kh8 26. Qf3 Re8 $15) 24. Bxf4 $6 ( 24. Qc4+ {I had considered this to be White's most effect move here.} Kh8 25. g3 Nh3+ 26. Kg2 Qg4 $11) 24... Bxf4 25. Rc4 $2 {I was expecting g3 here. The move is a creative attempt to hold the position together, but after Black's next move, White cannot avoid losing material while his king gets chased to the other side of the board.} (25. g3 Bxc1 26. gxh4 Bh6 27. d5 Rb8 $15 { is one probable continuation.}) 25... Bxh2+ 26. Kf2 Rf4+ 27. Ke2 Re8+ 28. Kd2 Rxf1 {this seemed the most sure way to victory, although there were better options.} (28... Qd5 $5 {forks the Na5 and g2, for example.}) 29. Qxf1 Qb5 30. b4 Bd6 {I had calculated this far before move 28 and did not see any way for White to hold out.} 31. Nc6 Bf4+ {a useful example of how my thinking process was working well by this point in the game. This non-obvious move works because of the deflection tactic. If the king moves, then Black's rook and queen penetrate with mate threats.} 32. Qxf4 Qxc4 0-1

1 comment:

  1. I just started reading your blog this morning. It is great. I think we are in very similar places as far as looking to improve. I noticed in this game on move 8.....Be7 a developing move. This can't be bad and Bb4 is implying you are willing to exchange the bishop for knight giving up the bishop pair. I never would do that either without compensation. I've been reading the Jerry Silman books on imbalances and it appears there is an imbalance here in pawn structure. Not to be mistaken for a weakness according the Silman, just a difference to design a plan around. The state of the pawn structure shows and isolated d-pawn for white and to work against it Silman suggests black should first control the square in front of it, the d5 square. Then exchange some minor pieces and leave at least the queen and a rook to win it. White needs to keep the minor pieces on the board so their dynamic potential (increased potential activity due to the open/half open files around it) can compensate for the potential weakness of the isolated pawn. White needs to do something with the activity or be able to support the pawn push.

    I am a hopefully improving intermediate player and this is only my interpretation of the Silman lesson. To the diagram after 8. Be2 from white. Right now, it's black to move and the knight on b8 or the bishop on f8 should be developed. To go with the black plan of controlling d5, the f8 bishop (dark squared bishop) can not directly influence that square, but it can take away a white piece that can, the c3 Knight. That's why I like Bb4, not just because it develops a piece, but it could be useful in the overall plan against the isolani.

    Now we have to look at what will happen if the question is put to the bishop either with 9. 0-0 or 9. a3. Say white responds to 8...Bb4 with 9. 0-0. 9....Bxc3, 10. bxc3. This ruins the plan on the isolated pawn, but there's more. Now white has a backward c-pawn and an isolated a-pawn.

    Silman suggests control the square in front of a backward pawn as well. As long as c3-c4 can be prevented and c4 can be controlled by black, the backward c-pawn should give black winning chances in the endgame. If it can advance safely, black gains nothing and gives white the bishop pair.