17 March 2012

Annotated Game #36: How Not to Play the Caro-Kann Classical

This second round tournament game (following Annotated Game #35) was not quite as awful, in the sense that I made some serious strategic errors out of the opening which my opponent took advantage of, rather than me going abruptly from a winning to a losing game.  So at least my opponent deserved the win, which is some consolation (?)

The opening is a Caro-Kann Classical, with White choosing a relatively non-threatening sideline on move 7.  Black goes astray strategically starting on move 10 with the errant plan of castling queenside.  In the old (pre-1980s) Classical variation, this was in fact Black's main idea and considered safe if leading to unambitious positions.  In this game, however, Black ignores the actual board situation to implement this idea, leaving White with a strategically won game as early as move 13.  Black has no counterplay and White's forces are already ideally lined up against Black's king position.  Some nice tactics for White end the game quickly after he ratchets up the pressure.

Black's main errors, from my point of view:
  • Making the all-too-common amateur mistake of deciding to change your openings in a game because of a "bright idea" at the board.  I had never played the queenside castling variation in a tournament game, despite having studied it superficially.  At the time I thought it was "safer" and was proven wrong.
  • Not calculating the consequences of my decision and relying on the current visual impression of the board.  Looking ahead 2-3 moves would have (or should have) revealed that Black had major problems in this line.  The position after move 12 for White is clearly unfavorable for Black.
  • The tactical error on move 17.  It combines some features of a counting error, in which the player doesn't visualize properly the results of a series of exchanges on a square, and missing the eventual skewer.  At the time, I was prone to counting errors and I believe this was the root of the problem, i.e. not being able to visualize the final result on the board and therefore not seeing White's Bf4 threat in time.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2003.??.??"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. Bd3 {a sideline which is not considered particularly challenging.} Bxd3 8. Qxd3 e6 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Re1 Qc7 (10... Be7 { is by far most popular move in this position and also makes the most sense, developing the minor piece to its best defensive square.}) 11. c3 (11. c4 { is the most ambitious and popular choice.}) 11... O-O-O {the decision to castle queenside (presaged by Qc7) is the root of Black's strategic difficulties in this game.} (11... Be7 {scores much better, with the plan of kingside castling. A sample game:} 12. Be3 O-O 13. Rad1 Rad8 14. Qc2 c5 15. Qc1 Nd5 16. Bg5 Bxg5 17. Qxg5 h6 18. Qd2 N5f6 19. Qc2 a6 20. Ne4 b5 21. Nxc5 Nxc5 22. dxc5 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Qxc5 24. h3 Rc8 25. Qd3 a5 26. Re1 Nd5 27. Re4 Nf6 28. Re5 Nd5 29. Re4 {1/2-1/2 Ong,Y-Wright,J/Dubai 1986/TD (29)}) 12. b4 {simple and effective. Black has little hope for counterplay and White risks little in pursuing a queenside attack.} Nb6 {the knight essentially becomes a target here and just gets in the way of the defense.} (12... Kb8) 13. a4 Kb8 14. a5 Nbd5 15. Bd2 Bd6 16. Reb1 Rhe8 {too slow, Black needs more desperate measures now.} (16... Nf4 {would at least attempt to stir up some counterplay.}) 17. b5 e5 $2 {this semi-clever attempt at counterplay in fact loses on the spot, due to White's ability to repeatedly take on e5 then play Bf4 with a skewer.} ( 17... Qc8 18. bxc6 Qxc6 19. c4 Nf4 {is suggested by Houdini, who nevertheless assesses the position as nearly a full pawn equivalent in White's favor.}) 18. bxc6 $18 {deflects the queen from the diagonal} Qxc6 19. dxe5 Bxe5 20. Nxe5 Qe6 $4 {I saw that I was lost after taking on e5, but this of course leaves me equally lost.} (20... Rxe5 21. Bf4 $1 {skewering the rook against Black's king. }) 21. Qb5 Re7 22. Nc6+ {a three-way fork and a fitting end to the game for Black.} 1-0

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