10 September 2011

Annotated Game #9: Caro-Kann Classical with 5.Nc5

This tournament game features an intriguing sideline of the Caro-Kann Classical variation with 5. Nc5.  On the face of it, it looks aggressive, but if Black keeps his cool and White plays only standard-type moves, Black ends up in a favorable version of his usual setup, as occurred in this game.

White can test Black in the variation I used with 5..Qb6 if he plays 6. g4 as a follow up, similar to the idea that occurs in the Caro-Kann Advance after Black develops his bishop to f5.  In large part due to a prominent loss by Beliavsky to Bronstein in 1975, the Qb6 variation isn't a popular response to 5. Nc5.  However, Kasparov (yes, that one) and Shakarov in their 1984 book Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 recommended it; more recently, Houdini slightly prefers Black as well in the 6. g4 line.

In the below game, White plays the more normal-looking 6. Nf3 and Black then forces the c5 knight back as part of his usual developing sequence.  By move 12, Black has a comfortable game with opposite-side castling, which gives him the easily understood strategic goal of advancing his pawns and pressuring White on the queenside, which White cannot ignore with his king there.

The middlegame instructively points out how my positional play was weak as I exchanged down (and offered to once again) an effective attacking piece for a less effective equivalent.  After going a bit astray with the attack, Black spots a deflection tactic on move 26 and emerges with a pawn and a won endgame.  The endgame itself is also instructive, as White could most likely have held with a more active defense, piece activity being the key in these types of positions (in this case R+N vs. R+N).  White's king was also shut out of the action on the queenside once the theater of war shifted back to the kingside.

Since this game, due to my studies I believe my attacking play has improved (although it still has a long way to go) as well as my understanding of the role of piece exchanges in the middlegame.  Among other things, this game reinforces the lesson that simplification on the board can lead to a dissipation of an advantage or even a loss.  I was also pleased at being able to see the key tactical motif on move 26, along with the necessary in-between move.  This was relatively simple, but also illustrative of the role that experience with the opening and resulting middlegame played, since I was comfortable and familiar with Black's play in that position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Nc5 {an aggressive-looking sideline} Qb6 6. Nf3 (6. g4 Bg6 7. f4 e6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. h4 h5 10. f5 exf5 11. g5 Nd7 12. Nb3 Qc7 13. Nh3 O-O-O {is the critical line from Bronstein-Beliavsky.}) 6... e6 7. Nb3 Nd7 8. Be3 ({Standard is} 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Ngf6 10. O-O Be7) 8... Qc7 9. Qd2 $146 {First move out of the DB. Only two other games are shown in it, one with Bd3 and the other with Nh4.} Ngf6 10. Bd3 {as you may have guessed by now, a standard idea in the Classical Caro-Kann. Black's light-square bishop is too strong to leave there and there is little else for White's bishop to do.} Bxd3 11. Qxd3 Be7 12. O-O-O O-O {opposite-side castling favors Black slightly here, as White does not have as many kingside threats as in the main line.} 13. h3 h6 {although this takes g5 away from White, better would be to get the queenside ball rolling with ..a5 and not give White a possible future target at h6.} 14. g3 Nd5 15. a3 {takes away the b4 square from the attack} Nxe3 {Example of a beginner's exchange, taking simply because you can. The Nd5 is much superior to the Be3 and no benefits accrue to Black from this.} 16. Qxe3 Nf6 {moves the knight away from the attacking zone. Better would be to develop a rook with Rfd8 or push the a- or b-pawns. Black's potential attack has lost momentum.} 17. c4 {Luckily White decides to loosen his kingside and offer a target for Black, giving him back his attack.} b5 18. Qd3 {this allows Black to open lines on the queenside.} ({Better defense would be} 18. c5 a5) 18... bxc4 19. Qxc4 Rab8 20. Rhe1 (20. Nc5 {would remove the knight from the line of fire and let it go to d3 to help shore up the b-file}) 20... Qb7 {bad attacking form, putting the queen in front} ({More effective is} 20... Rb5 {followed by Rfb8}) 21. Rd3 Rfd8 {with the idea of transferring it to b5 via d5. This is too slow, however.} 22. Re2 Rd5 23. Nc5 {disrupts Black's plan, I recall being surprised at this.} ({Houdini suggests} 23. Ne5 {which would be more active for White, for example} Rc8 24. Rc2) 23... Qb5 {again with the beginner's exchanges; Black's queen is better on the attack and is also helping defend the queenside weaknesses.} ({Houdini and Fritz both prefer} 23... Bxc5 24. dxc5 {which leaves Black with a positional plus, at least, if not an attack.} Rbd8) 24. Rc3 {however, White doesn't seize the opportunity to exchange queens and misses a tactical deflection theme after the captures occur on c5, allowing Black to win a pawn.} Bxc5 25. dxc5 Rxc5 $1 26. Qxb5 (26. Qxc5 Qxe2) 26... Rxc3+ { an important in-between move.} ({Black needed to be careful here and not do the obvious recapture} 26... Rcxb5 $6 27. Nd4 Rh5 28. Nxc6 $11) 27. bxc3 cxb5 { After the smoke clears, Black has a winning endgame, with 4 vs. 3 pawns on the kingside and connected vs. isolated pawns on the queenside.} 28. Rb2 Rc8 29. Rc2 Nd5 {another beginner's move, placing a piece where it is obviously less effective at controlling territory.} (29... Ne4 30. Kb2 $19) 30. Kb2 $17 Kf8 31. Nd4 a6 32. Kb3 Nb6 33. Kb4 Nc4 34. a4 e5 35. Nb3 (35. Nf5 bxa4 36. Kxa4 e4 $17) 35... Ke7 36. axb5 axb5 {the pawn is tactically defended, due to the threat of Na3+} 37. Ra2 Nd6 {I had thought this necessary to protect the pawn.} ({However, the engines show this:} 37... Ke6 38. Kxb5 Nd6+ 39. Kb4 Rb8+ 40. Ka4 Ra8+ 41. Na5 Nc4 42. Kb5 Kd5) 38. Ra7+ {looks useful on the surface, but all it does is help Black activate his king. The white rook can't do any damage to Black's kingside pawns.} (38. Nc5 $5 {would make it much more difficult for Black.}) 38... Ke6 $17 39. Nd2 g6 {preparing to get the pawns out of the way of the White rook and push in the center.} 40. f3 f5 41. Rg7 Kf6 42. Rd7 Ne8 { far too passive.} ({Much better is} 42... Rc6 $17 {which holds everything together and keeps White's king cut off.}) 43. Nb1 {returning the passive favor, instead of Rd3.} e4 44. Na3 Ke6 ({More forcing would have been} 44... exf3 45. Rd3 f2 46. Rf3 Nc7 47. Rxf2 Nd5+ 48. Kxb5 Rxc3) 45. Rd2 $17 Nc7 46. Nxb5 $2 {the endgame simplification error, to which I've been subject to myself.} Nxb5 $19 47. Kxb5 Rxc3 {Black now has a completely won game, with White having no counterplay with either rook or king.} 48. fxe4 fxe4 49. Rg2 Kd5 50. Rd2+ Rd3 51. Rg2 e3 52. g4 Ke4 ({An easier and quicker approach would have been} 52... Rd2 53. Rg1 e2 54. Re1 Ke4) 53. Kc4 Rd2 54. Rg1 Kf3 ({The engines bemoan the fact that I didn't play} 54... e2 55. Re1 Ke3) 55. Kc3 Kf2 56. Rb1 Rd6 57. Rb7 e2 {making it harder for myself} (57... Re6 $5 {and Fritz says Black can already relax} 58. Rb1 $19 e2) 58. Rf7+ Kg3 59. Re7 Kxh3 { rather than trying to queen the pawn, which seemed too hard, I just simplified down.} 60. Rxe2 Kxg4 {White's rook can't stop the king and two connected passed pawns, with his king out of the action.} 0-1

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