07 January 2012

Annotated Game #26: Nemesis; Caro-Kann Classical

The following game was against the same opponent from Annotated Game #23, who despite being listed on the crosstable with a rating of around 400 points lower, as Black bamboozled me into a draw in that game (which occurred during the previous tournament) and then in this tournament, defeated me with White.  A true nemesis!

Before posting, I looked up his ratings history on the U.S. Chess Federation site.  This made me feel somewhat better, as he was only provisionally rated and his excellent result in the previous tournament had jumped him from Class C (where he actually was at the time in the live ratings) to Class B.  Another useful example of why players should ignore ratings.

My opponent deserves credit for his excellent opening preparation, as he avoids the main line of the Caro-Kann Classical but plays his sideline quite well through move 12.  At that point, I pursue an idea from the main line variation (the thematic ..c5 break) which however lands me in trouble, due to the differences in White's setup.  The remainder of the game is a complex and remarkable seesaw where my opponent repeatedly gets in strong moves, but I either find defensive resources or (more often) he fails to follow them up and put me away. I note the following key sequences:
  • Moves 12-18:  White punishes ..c5 by creating a strong advanced passed pawn in the center and opening lines for his pieces, but lets up the pressure enough for Black to set up a blockade of the pawn and free up his forces.
  • Moves 20-22:  Black recovers from a sequence where he moves away a key defender, not seeing White's threat.
  • Moves 25-29:  Black finds a key defensive idea, but then fails to resolve White's outstanding threats.
After some more nail-biting back and forth, Black can be said to be equal as late as move 40, but then defends shallowly and inaccurately and White gets in the final blow.

The problems I faced with the game dynamics were largely psychological.  White was pressing for the entire game, while objectively Black achieved equality multiple times, recovering from White's initial threats.  However, I felt like I was on the ropes and always having to struggle against superior forces, which clouded my judgment.  Failure to look for more active options (a key point from my games in general) was also a common theme.  All in all, an instructive game to analyze.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D (really Class B)"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "1995.??.??"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. Bd3 {This was the main line of the Classical variation prior to Spassky's innovation with the h4-h5 pawn push. Black is under less pressure and has a small overall plus score in the database.} Bxd3 8. Qxd3 Ngf6 9. O-O e6 10. Re1 Be7 11. c4 {this is the best way for White to strive for pressure and an advantage. It is clear that my opponent had done some good home preparation in this line.} O-O 12. Bf4 c5 {this is a mistake brought on by false analogy with the main line, where around this point Black wants to play the ..c5 break. Here, White's setup is different (most notably with the pawn on c4 and the Bf4) and he is able to punish Black for the oversight.} (12... Re8 {this is the preferred move, for example} 13. Rad1 Nf8 14. Ne5 Ng6 15. Bc1 Qa5 16. Bd2 Bb4 17. Bxb4 Qxb4 18. a3 Qe7 19. Ne4 Rad8 20. Nxg6 hxg6 21. Ng5 b5 22. Nf3 Qb7 23. c5 Rd5 24. b4 Qc7 25. g3 Red8 {1/2-1/2 Bisguier,A-Burger,K/USA-ch 1965/MCL 03 (25)}) 13. d5 $16 exd5 14. cxd5 { The passed pawn on d5 will quickly become a dangerous weapon, comments Fritz.} Nb6 (14... c4 {is an example of active, creative defense found by Houdini. The point being} 15. Qxc4 Nb6 16. Qb3 Nbxd5) 15. d6 {my opponent continues to play aggressively and find the best moves. Note how quickly Black's position deteriorates once the e6 pawn disappears and White's pieces have increased their open lines and scope for activity.} Re8 {Black manages to save the bishop, thanks to the unprotected Qd3.} 16. Rad1 Bf8 17. Rxe8 {this relieves the pressure on Black somewhat. Occupying e5 with a piece would keep the pressure on.} Qxe8 18. Re1 {White continues to release the pressure. Moves such as Bg5 or Nf5 are more challenging.} Qc6 {Houdini at this point evaluates the position as roughly equal. Black has a blockade of the d7 square in place and White, although more active, will have to worry about guarding the d6 pawn. } 19. Nf5 Nbd5 (19... Re8 {would significantly aid Black by getting his rook into play on the e-file, as it is doing nothing at all on a8. The failure to activate one's rooks is a common amateur mistake and shows up repeatedly in my games during this time period.}) 20. Bg3 (20. Bg5 $142 $14) 20... Nh5 $4 { an example of a failure to understand the Nf6's defensive role in this position, namely helping guard d5 and e8. Also an example of the failure of my thought process to look at my opponent's threats (falsification).} 21. Ne7+ $2 (21. Ne5 {is what the engines immediately find, as the attack on the queen drives away the only defender of the Nd5 (removal of the guard tactical theme). } c4 22. Qf3 Qe8 23. Qxd5) 21... Bxe7 $11 22. dxe7 Nhf6 {once again the position is back to objective equality. Psychologically, however, Black has suffered two major surprise blows which affects his subsequent play.} 23. Bh4 Re8 24. Bxf6 gxf6 {this looks a little strange but actually is fine, as it takes the e5 and g5 squares away from the Nf3 and keeps the centralized Nd5 in place, so a fair tradeoff for the weakened pawn structure.} 25. Re4 {seeking to immediately exploit the g-file} f5 ({Why not just play} 25... Nxe7 {and if} 26. Qe3 Qd6 $11 {? I believe I missed the Qd6 move at the time, which sets up some back-rank mating threats, due to a preoccupation with White penetrating with Qh6, which however Black can neutralize easily.} 27. Qh6 Rd8 28. h4 Nf5) 26. Re5 $14 Nxe7 {now Black has the loose f5 pawn to worry about and no longer controls g5 and e5.} 27. Nh4 (27. Qe3 $5 {would further pressure Black} Qd6 28. Qxc5 Qxc5 29. Rxc5) 27... f6 ({Black is temporarily a pawn up and should think about resolving the weaknesses of his king position in exchange for the material. Houdini finds the following move, which does the job nicely, due to the hanging Nh4 and Re5.} 27... Ng6 28. Rxe8+ Qxe8 29. Nxf5 Qe1+ 30. Qf1 Qd2 { and thanks to his active queen Black has a comfortable draw in the endgame.}) 28. Qc4+ Kf8 29. Rxc5 Qd6 (29... Qe4 {this active defensive move is immediately spotted by the engines as best. White's back-rank weakness and the hanging Nh4 are exploited in order to simplify the position in Black's favor.} 30. Qxe4 fxe4 31. Kf1 Rc8 32. Rxc8+ Nxc8 {and Black can hold the knight endgame.}) 30. Qc1 (30. Nxf5 $2 {is no good because of} Nxf5 31. Rxf5 Re1+) ( 30. g3 {however seems to solve White's back-rank problem and alllow him to put major pressure on Black, with Rc7 threatened.}) 30... Qe6 ({Better is active defense with} 30... Rd8 {threatening back-rank mate, so} 31. g3 Qd2 {and Black is OK.}) 31. h3 {finally giving the King some luft.} Kg7 {walks into a pin of the Ne7...} 32. Qf4 {which White however fails to notice, although this move also keeps the pressure on Black.} (32. Rc7 {would allow White to establish a dominant rook on the 7th rank} Qe4 33. g3 Kg8 34. Qe3 Qxe3 35. fxe3 Nd5 36. Rxb7 Nxe3 37. Rxa7) 32... Rc8 (32... Kh8 {gets the king out of the way} 33. Qd2 (33. Nxf5 b6 {threatening removal of the guard for the Nf5} 34. Qd6 Nxf5 35. Qxe6 Rxe6 36. Rxf5) 33... Rc8 34. Rxc8+ Qxc8 35. Qd6 Ng8) 33. Nxf5+ {now the capture on f5 comes with check} Nxf5 34. Rxf5 Rc2 35. Rh5 Qe1+ {this ignores White's mating threats in favor of regaining a pawn.} (35... Kh8 $5 $16 { would have been more appropriate.}) 36. Kh2 $18 Qxf2 $4 (36... Qe7 {wouldn't have lost immediately, but would have allowed} 37. Rxh7+ $1 Kxh7 38. Qf5+ Kg7 39. Qxc2) 37. Qg4+ (37. Qh6+ {is the quicker way to victory, although the game move is quite sufficient.}) 37... Kh8 38. Rf5 {allows Black to escape.} (38. Rd5 {and White has prevailed, comments Fritz, due to the threat of Rd8#} Qb6 39. Rd7 Qc7+ 40. Rxc7 Rxc7 41. h4 $18) 38... Qe2 39. Qg3 Qe6 ({At least by this point I see the problems with} 39... Rxb2 $4 {Taking that pawn is naive, says Fritz.} 40. Rxf6 Qe7 41. Qc3) 40. Qb8+ Kg7 (40... Rc8 $5 {again, active defense is the best way. Houdini finds this remarkable line} 41. Rxf6 Qxh3+ 42. Kxh3 Rxb8 43. Rf7 Kg8 {and Black has survived.}) 41. Qxb7+ Kg6 {the final losing move. On the surface it looks agressive, kicking the Rf5, but the rook's redeployment allows White to resume mating threats.} (41... Qf7 { was necessary, also protecting the a7 pawn.}) 42. Rf3 $18 Qe5+ $4 {sad, as Fritz says.} (42... Rc5 43. Qxa7 Qd6+ 44. Rg3+ Rg5 $18 {is best for Black, but it's clear the endgame is lost.}) 43. Rg3+ {a novel way to attack while interposing.} Kh6 44. Qg7+ (44. Qg7+ Kh5 45. Qxh7#) 1-0

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