20 April 2013

Annotated Game #91: Opposite-side aggression in the Caro-Kann

This fifth-round tournament game features highly aggressive play from Black right out of the opening, a Caro-Kann Advance by transposition, starting with 8...Nh6.  Black's execution of the idea is somewhat off, but the basic idea is similar to what occurs in some French Defense variations.  White is tempted to play Bxh6, which gives Black the two bishops and the half-open g-file to attack White's king position.  The result is a dynamic game with unbalanced, competing strategies.  Black's decision to castle on the opposite wing further enhances this dynamic.

Although Black does not dominate the game until the later stages, it's clear that his strategic ideas are the ones that are driving the situation, giving him the initiative.  White fails to understand the key factors in the position, for example playing weakening moves such as 18. f4?! followed up by an inaccurate pawn recapture.  Ironically, Black's strategic advantage is then immediately thrown away with the poor choice to exchange his two rooks for White's queen, giving new life to White's pieces and taking away the pressure on White's position.  The position remains complicated, however, and White in turn soon goes astray, chasing Black's king onto a safe square and then allowing Black's queen to take the key d4 pawn.  Black then returns to dominance and finally figures out how to win by pushing his passed d-pawn to victory.

While this is not a particularly high-quality game, the strategic themes and tactical considerations were useful to see in analysis, especially how certain choices lead to rapid changes in both sides' prospects.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "100"] {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 {this line has little independent significance, without even a name for it. The move contributes nothing to the struggle for the center (unlike Nc3 or d4).} d5 3. e5 {Black will now transpose into a favorable line of the Advance variation.} c5 4. d4 Nc6 5. c3 Bg4 6. Bb5 (6. Be2 {is typical here. An example:} e6 7. Be3 Nge7 8. dxc5 Nf5 9. Bd4 Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Nfxd4 11. cxd4 Qa5+ 12. Nc3 Qb4 13. O-O Qxd4 14. Qxd4 Nxd4 15. Na4 g5 16. Bh5 Bh6 17. Rad1 Nc6 18. h4 Rg8 19. g4 Nxe5 20. hxg5 Nxg4 {Bakre,T (2462)-Shaposhnikov,E (2519)/Athens 2001/EXT 2002/0-1 (75)}) 6... e6 7. O-O Qb6 {increasing the pressure on White down the b-file and in the center.} 8. Ba4 Nh6 {this is a developmental idea common in similar types of French Defense pawn structures. Here it is a little premature, as the pawn exchange on d4 should occur first.} (8... cxd4 $5 {is the obvious follow-up.} 9. cxd4 Rc8 $11 (9... Nh6 $5 10. Bxh6 gxh6 $11)) 9. Bxh6 {White rushes to take the knight, but could have pushed Black around some first.} (9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. b4 Be7 11. Be3 Qd8 12. Bxh6 {and Black has much less space (and White has more) than in the game continuation.}) 9... gxh6 10. Qd2 {this breaks the pin, but otherwise does nothing for White, allowing Black a free hand on the kingside.} (10. Nbd2 {would protect the Nf3 again, develop the piece and connect White's heavy pieces on the first rank.}) 10... Rg8 (10... Bxf3 {would take immediate advantage of White's last move. In the game, I was too protective of the two bishops.} 11. gxf3 Rg8+ 12. Kh1 Qa6) 11. Ne1 {forced, due to the threat of Bxf3 with the g-pawn pinned. Moving the queen to support f3 does not work either, as White would then drop the b2 pawn after an exchange of pieces.} O-O-O {Black goes for an aggressive, opposite-sides castling situation. This is consistent with his strategy of opening the g-file.} (11... Rc8 {would instead keep the king in the center, where perhaps it might in fact be safer in the long run.}) 12. Bxc6 Qxc6 13. b4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Qb6 {played with the idea of getting the queen and king off of the c-file. However, this essentially wastes a tempo, as the king will need to be moved anyway and the b6 square is not necessary best for the queen.} (14... Kb8 15. a3 Qa6 16. Ra2 Be7 $15 {is one possible continuation.}) 15. a3 Kb8 16. Nc3 Be7 (16... Rc8 { is a more accurate continuation, as this is clearly the best place for the rook and immediately generates pressure down the c-file, while the bishop development can wait.}) 17. Kh1 {White is looking to advance the f-pawn without creating potential problems due to the Qb6 presence on the g1-a7 diagonal.} f6 {...Rc8 would be significantly better here, as the Rd8 is effectively doing nothing at the moment. Black's alternative idea is to open the f-file and generate further pressure that way, however, so he reserves the Rd8 for that purpose.} 18. f4 $6 {this creates further weaknesses for White.} ( 18. h3 Bh5 19. Qe3 {would be an effective way to combat Black's plan.} fxe5 $6 20. Qxe5+) 18... fxe5 19. fxe5 {this choice of recapture facilitates Black's plan.} (19. dxe5 $5 {looks like a viable alternative, says Fritz.} d4 20. Ne4 Qc6 $15) 19... Bg5 $15 {having chosen to preserve the two bishops earlier, Black now makes the most of them.} 20. Qf2 $6 (20. Qd3 Bf5) 20... Rdf8 $2 { this lets White off the hook, rather than increasing the pressure on him.} ( 20... Rc8 21. Na4 (21. Ne2 Rgf8 $17) 21... Qb5 $17) 21. Qxf8+ $11 Rxf8 22. Rxf8+ Kc7 {now White's rooks are quite active and Black's king position appears precarious, although Black should be able to hold the position.} 23. Rf7+ $2 {White in turn now gives Black an easy way out of his diffculties, chasing the king to a much better square and allowing Black to take the key d4 pawn.} (23. Nd3 {was the best way to proceed, with the d4 pawn protected tactically due to the fork on b5.} Qa6 24. Rf7+ {now this works, as the Ra1 covers the back rank.} Kc8 25. Nc5) 23... Kd8 $17 24. Na4 $4 {leading to a quick end, notes Fritz.} (24. Nf3 Bxf3 25. Rxf3 Qxd4 26. Re1 $17) 24... Qxd4 25. Nc2 Qd2 26. Ne1 Bd1 (26... Bh5 $5 {makes it even easier for Black, comments Fritz.} 27. Rf8+ Ke7 28. Rf1 Be2 29. Nf3 Qf4) 27. Nf3 Qe2 {with the threat of Qf1+} 28. Nc5 (28. h4 Ke8 29. Nc3 Qb2) 28... Qf1+ 29. Ng1 Qxf7 30. Rxd1 {now White is down too much material and Black's protected passed d-pawn will decide the game.} Be3 31. Nf3 b6 (31... Bxc5 {might be a simpler route to victory, as the Black queen can easily dominate the R+N here, with no counterplay from White.} 32. bxc5 Qf4) 32. Nd3 Qc7 33. Re1 d4 34. b5 Qc3 35. Nb4 Kc8 36. Nc6 a6 37. a4 a5 38. h3 Kc7 39. Kh2 Bf4+ 40. Kh1 Be3 {Twofold repetition, notes Fritz. I hadn't yet been able to calculate how to best advance the d-pawn and so repeated to make the time control.} (40... d3 $5 41. Rf1 d2 {wins.}) 41. Kh2 Qc4 {White threatens to simply mop up the queenside.} 42. Ra1 d3 43. Rd1 Qc2 (43... d2 $1 44. Nxd2 Bxd2 45. Rxd2 Qf4+) 44. Rf1 Bf4+ 45. Kh1 Qe2 {here I dither for a few moves before figuring out that I can simply push the d-pawn and win.} 46. Ra1 Qb2 47. Rd1 Qc2 48. Ra1 d2 49. Nxd2 Qxd2 50. Rf1 Qe3 0-1

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