15 April 2012

Annotated Game #40: Be careful what you wish for

This game in the 5. Qf3 sideline of the Caro-Kann Classical is most notable for how Black repeatedly did not take advantage of a number of opportunities presented by White in the late opening and middlegame phases.  However, at this point (round 6 of the tournament) I was hoping to stabilize my performance and was clearly looking for a draw.  Be careful what you wish for, since you just might get it.

Before my most recent chess training period (starting with the establishment of this blog), I had relatively little notion of the importance of active piece play.  Starting on move 9, by which point Black had more than equalized, I pass up several chances to improve my piece activity and create multiple threats.  I like to think that now I would recognize at least some of the better candidate moves, given a better understanding of the importance of piece play and how to widen the move selection process.

In the end, the draw wasn't a bad result, but it illustrates another psychological trap - for Class players especially - which is to settle for a result that is less than the position merits, either through mis-evaluating the position or from lack of a winning desire.  In the long run, for the improving player I believe that realizing potential wins is just as important as avoiding losses.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2003.??.??"] [TimeControl "240+2"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Qf3 e6 {this is an immediate and effective antidote to White's queen sortie.} 6. c3 Nd7 7. Bd3 Bxe4 {Black exchanges, believing that White's light-square bishop is not going to pose much of a threat, given the pawn structure.} (7... Bg6 {is the other option for Black.}) 8. Bxe4 Ngf6 9. Bg5 Be7 (9... Qb6 {is preferred by the engines. Normally I don't like early queen sorties, but this one makes sense, given the Nf6-Nd7 setup and the chance to inflict some structural damage on White. One possible continuation:} 10. b3 Qa5 11. Bd2 Nxe4 12. Qxe4 Nf6) 10. Bd3 h6 (10... O-O {is a necessary move anyway and also less committal.}) 11. Bh4 O-O 12. Bg3 Qb6 13. Qe2 Rad8 14. Nf3 c5 { this is the classic pawn break in the Caro-Kann Classical. Black gets more scope for his pieces and challenges White in the center.} 15. h3 {not sure what White was protecting against, as Ng4 does nothing but hit air.} (15. O-O $5 $11) 15... cxd4 $15 16. Nxd4 Nc5 17. Bb1 {this retreat doesn't make much sense, among other things locking in White's rook on a1.} (17. Rd1) 17... Rd7 ( 17... Na4 {is immediately found by the engines and creates multiple threats, while tying White to the defense of b2.} 18. Nb3 Qa6 19. Qc2 (19. Qxa6 bxa6 20. O-O Nxb2 $17) 19... Bd6 20. Bxd6 Rxd6 $17) 18. O-O Rfd8 19. f3 {while this controls e4, it also opens up the key g1-a7 diagonal and leaves g3 unprotected. } (19. Be5 a5 $11) 19... Nd5 (19... Nh5 {instead immediately exploits the hole on g3.}) 20. Kh1 Bf6 21. Bf2 Nf4 {the knight hops into an even better square} 22. Qc2 (22. Qc4 Bxd4 23. cxd4 Qa6 24. Qxa6 Nxa6 $15) 22... Ncd3 (22... Nfd3 { is the correct knight choice.} 23. Nb3 Nxf2+ 24. Qxf2 Nxb3 25. Qxb6 axb6 26. axb3 Rd2 27. Be4 (27. Ra2 $2 Rd1 28. Kg1 Rxf1+ 29. Kxf1 Rd1+) 27... Rxb2) 23. Nb3 (23. Be3 $5 $17 {was possible in this line, as the Nf4 will now be left hanging by any move by the Nd3.}) 23... Nxf2+ 24. Qxf2 Qxf2 25. Rxf2 Rd1+ 26. Kh2 Kf8 (26... Nh5 $1 {threatening Be5} 27. g3 g5 {controlling f4} 28. Bc2 Rxa1 29. Nxa1 Be5 $17) 27. Bc2 {and I take a draw in a slightly advantageous position.} 1/2-1/2

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