26 January 2014

Annotated Game #113: An aggressive Caro-Kann

This next Slow Chess League game features a very aggressive Caro-Kann - from the Black side!  I rarely face the Exchange Variation, popularized by Fischer back in the day, so decided to try a rather sharp approach to it.  I knew my opponent had played the King's Indian Attack previously, so likely would not have much experience either in the line.

In the game, Black offers an exchange of bishops on f5, which White only briefly hesitated before executing, giving Black a sort of Stonewall-type pawn structure and an open g-file.  While familiar with the general ideas of this variation, I did not execute it particularly well, in general being a little too slow (for example on move 11).  Given White's structural advantages, Black needs to press harder and quicker, looking to activate a rook on the g-file and get his king out of the way - things I accomplish too late.  The critical position, however, did not occur until move 29, when White after a long think offered the h-pawn; after a shorter think, I took it, not seeing the full consequences of the action.  My opponent well deserved the win, but I gained a great deal of understanding about the variation as a result, so it was good for training purposes.

[Event "DHLC Slow Swiss #11"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2014.01.25"] [Round "4"] [White "Da-Waaagh"] [Black "ChessAdmin_01"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "1567"] [BlackElo "1453"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] {B13: Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation and Panov-Botvinnik Attack} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bf4 g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. O-O Bf5 {the most aggressive form of this variation for Black.} 9. Bxf5 gxf5 10. Re1 {White immediately deploys the rook on the e-file, to good effect. Black will need to watch out for tactics involving the pin of the e-pawn.} e6 $146 {I thought for a little while here and decided that since ...e6 would eventually be played, might as well do it sooner rather than later.} 11. Nbd2 h6 {Covers g5, notes Houdini via the Fritz interface, but this is too slow and unnecessarily cautious.} (11... Ne4 $5) 12. Nb3 $14 (12. Ne5 {would be the most aggressive continuation.} Nxe5 13. Bxe5 Rg8 $14 {I thought that Black would be all right here, although the kingside is looking a little airy.}) 12... Ne4 {the obvious reaction, establishing a strong centralized knight.} 13. Ne5 {I welcomed this, as it gave the opportunity to trade my terrible bishop for a very good knight. The drawback is that it leaves Black weaker on the dark squares.} Bxe5 14. Bxe5 Nxe5 15. dxe5 {at this point I was happy with my position, as the White e-pawn now blocks tactics down the e-file and White has fewer possible threats with most of the minor pieces off the board.} Rg8 {this seemed like an obvious move, but was not the most effective. No immediate threat is created.} (15... Qb6 { would immediately get the queen into play in an effective way, targeting f2 while also playing an important role covering the queenside.}) (15... Rc8 { is another useful idea, which occurred to me a couple moves later. The rook is activated and firmly controls the half-open c-file, including the key c4 and c5 squares. There is also the idea of transferring the rook via the fourth rank at some point to the kingside, if the opportunity appears.}) 16. f3 { this would have been more difficult and time-consuming to execute after ...Qb6. } Ng5 (16... Qb6+ {was something I looked at, but I did not like the fact that White could simply block on d4.} 17. Qd4 Ng5 18. Kf1 Nh7 $14) 17. Kh1 Rc8 18. Nd4 {A comfortable square for the white knight, says Houdini. However, Black can neutralized it fairly easily with ...a6} (18. Qd2 Rc4 19. Nd4 {is better for White.}) 18... Qb6 {it is worth noting that when the Black queen finally does sally forth from d8, it's much less effective than it could have been on move 15.} (18... a6 19. Qb3 Rc7 20. Rac1 Kf8 $14) 19. Qa4+ {an unexpected development. Not unwelcome, however, since I thought it simply helped chase my king to where it would be better placed.} (19. a4 {is a move that certainly didn't occur to me, nor to my opponent most likely. It contains a trap, though, as} Qxb2 $2 {fails because of} 20. Rb1 Qxc3 21. Nb5 $18 {and Black cannot stop the knight fork on d6.}) 19... Kf8 20. h4 $6 {this weakens White's kingside and should be more effectively punished by Black.} Nh7 $11 {while this looks awkward for the knight, it can redevelop itself to a good square via f8... which unfortunately never happens in the game.} 21. Re2 Kg7 $6 {here I did not give sufficient thought to alternative ideas, instead focusing on getting the king to the corner and the knight redeveloped.} (21... Rc4 22. Qa3+ Qc5 23. Qxc5+ Rxc5 24. Kg1 $11) (21... Qd8 {would also be good.}) 22. Qd7 Rgd8 { as usual, one always picks the wrong rook when there's an option.} (22... Rcd8 {Houdini evalutes that the rook is worth more on the c-file.}) 23. Qe7 { this is good for a cheap threat, but nothing more.} (23. Qa4) 23... Re8 24. Qd7 Red8 {Twofold repetition} (24... Qd8 {would be best, but I was still looking for winning chances, which meant avoiding a queen trade.}) 25. Qb5 Qc7 $6 { now Black starts a downhill positional slide. My pieces are uncoordinated and White can transfer his much more effectively to the kingside to start making threats.} (25... Qxb5 $5 26. Nxb5 a6 {I rejected this during the game because of Nd6, but although the knight is temporarily annoying, it can't hurt Black.} 27. Nd6 Rc7 28. Rg1 f6 29. f4 h5 $11) 26. Qd3 a6 27. g4 fxg4 {forced, otherwise Black's pawns are shattered.} 28. fxg4 Qe7 {a key position for the defense. Unfortunately, I go astray with this plausible-looking queen move. Better would have been to get the king in the corner and off the g-file.} ( 28... Kh8 29. Qf3 Rg8 $14) 29. Rg1 {offering the h-pawn. After several minutes of thought, I did not see a direct win for White if I took it (seeing through move 32), so I decided not to believe my opponent. However, he was correct.} Qxh4+ $2 (29... Kh8) 30. Rh2 Qg5 $2 (30... Qe7 31. g5 Nxg5 32. Rxg5+ Qxg5 $18) 31. Nf5+ $18 {the point being that after an exchange on f5, the g-pawn takes and leaves the Rg1 pinning the queen against the Kg7.} Kf8 $2 {this turns out to be worse than h8 as a flight square, although Black is losing in either continuation.} (31... Kh8 32. Rh5 exf5 33. Rxg5 Nxg5 34. gxf5 Rc4 $18) 32. Nxh6 Qg6 (32... Rc7 {does not help much} 33. Qxh7 Qxe5 34. Qg8+ Ke7 35. Qxf7+ Kd6 36. Qf3 $18) 33. Qxg6 fxg6 34. Rf1+ Ke8 35. Nf7 $1 {now Black loses too much material to stay in the game.} 1-0

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