29 December 2013

Commentary: Snowdrops vs Old Hands 2013 - round 1

This commentary game features WGM Nastassia Ziaziulkina (18, Belarus, 2350) versus GM Iossif Dorfman (61, France, 2580), from round 1 of the Snowdrops vs. Old Hands 2013 tournament in the Czech Republic.  While the tournament theme of young, rising female players versus "senior" grandmaster types is something of a publicity stunt, all the players seem to enjoy themselves and it can be entertaining to follow; complete tournament results can be found here.

For those who don't play (or play against) the Caro-Kann, this is not a terribly exciting game, but for me it is a good example of pursuing opening study by selecting complete games to analyze, which also contributes to a a holistic approach to chess training.  I now have a much better sense of this sideline, which among other things saw some action in the 1960 Tal-Botvinnik World Championship (game included in the notes).  For me the key new items were looking at the all-important transition from opening to middlegame and subsequent strategic ideas that Black can pursue.

[Event "Vrsanska Uhelna chess match 2013"] [Site "Podebrady"] [Date "2013.11.30"] [Round "1.4"] [White "Ziaziulkina, Nastassia"] [Black "Dorfman, Iossif"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "56"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:07:17"] [BlackClock "0:07:21"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Bc4 {a sideline that has been popular in the past, for example used in the Tal-Botvinnik matches, where its theory evolved considerably. White targets f7 and plans to follow up with N1e2-f4, eyeing tactics on e6.} e6 7. N1e2 Bd6 {Black's response in this variation to White's strategic plan is simple: exchange off the knight if it goes to f4.} 8. h4 h6 9. Nf4 Bxf4 10. Bxf4 Nf6 11. h5 {in line with Spassky's "modern" method of how to use the h-pawn in main line Caro-Kann. Here's an alternate take from the 1960 Tal-Botvinnik World Championship match:} (11. Qd2 Nbd7 12. O-O-O Nd5 13. Rde1 N7b6 14. Bb3 Nxf4 15. Qxf4 Nd5 16. Qe5 O-O 17. Ne4 Qb8 18. Nd6 Rd8 19. Nc4 Nb6 20. Qxb8 Raxb8 21. Ne5 Bh7 22. Rh3 Nd7 23. c3 Nxe5 24. Rxe5 b6 25. Rhe3 Rbc8 26. Bc4 Rc7 27. b4 Kf8 28. g4 Bg8 29. Bb3 Bh7 30. f4 Bg8 31. Kb2 Bh7 32. h5 Rdc8 33. Bc2 Bg8 34. g5 f6 35. R5e4 c5 36. Bb3 cxb4 37. cxb4 hxg5 38. fxg5 fxg5 39. Rg3 Rf7 40. Rxg5 Rf2+ 41. Ka3 Rc7 {1/2-1/2 (41) Tal,M-Botvinnik,M Moscow 1960}) 11... Bh7 12. O-O O-O 13. Bd3 $146 {in comparison with the main line, White now takes an extra tempo to exchange off the Bh7. This is a reasonable trade in strategic terms, as Black's bishop occupies an excellent diagonal and its White counterpart is hemmed in by Black's pawn structure. Although this is one of Houdini's top choices, according to the database it is a novelty. Presumably White players are normally looking for something more ambitious in this variation.} Bxd3 14. Qxd3 Nbd7 {we now have a standard-looking Caro-Kann structure from the main line, the difference being that White has bishop for knight. While this may provide a slight edge, it is worth noting that White's knights can be effective attackers in the main line, especially when targeting e6/f7, which is not possible here due to the absence of both the light-square bishop and a suitably placed knight.} 15. Rfd1 Re8 16. c4 Qa5 {the idea being to restrain b4 and develop the queen to a more useful square. Also worth noting is how the queen exerts lateral force along the fifth rank, especially against the h-pawn, although Black is not able to make anything of it during the game.} 17. a3 Rac8 18. b4 Qa4 {Black takes advantage of the lack of a light-square bishop to occupy the hole on a4.} 19. Qf3 (19. Ne4 $5 {threatening to occupy d6} Nxe4 20. Qxe4 a5 {is still all right for Black, but White would thereby accentuate the B v N dynamic.}) 19... a5 20. Bd2 (20. bxa5 Qxc4) 20... axb4 21. axb4 Qc2 { Black logically continues her campaign of penetrating White's queenside with her queen.} 22. Rac1 Qa2 23. Qc3 Qa8 {Black now opts to continue maneuvering with her queen, rather than changing the position's structure.} (23... b5 { would be a little more ambitious, although still generally equal.} 24. cxb5 ( 24. Rc2 Qxc4 25. Qxc4 bxc4 26. Rxc4 Nb6 27. Rc5 Nbd5) (24. Qd3 bxc4 25. Rxc4 Red8 {now the c-pawn is protected tactically, for example} 26. Rdc1 $2 (26. Rc2 Qd5 27. Rdc1 Rb8) 26... Ne5) 24... cxb5 25. Qxc8 Rxc8 26. Rxc8+ Kh7 {would produce a situation where the queen should be a little better than the two rooks, for example.}) 24. Ra1 Qb8 25. Qc1 Qd6 26. Bf4 Qe7 {there is no rush to capture on b4, as Black cannot hold the pawn.} 27. Re1 Qxb4 28. Rb1 Qa5 { the probable continuation would be 29. c5 Ra8 30. Rxb7 Ra7 followed by a rook exchange, which appeared sufficiently drawish for the two players to call it a day.} 1/2-1/2

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