28 May 2024

Annotated Game #280: When you are in a hole, stop digging

In this fifth-round tournament game as Black, having lost previously twice with that color, I managed to at least stop digging myself any further deeper into negative territory. This time I had the mental toughness to go ahead and play my somewhat risky repertoire line against the Two Knights in the Caro-Kann, unlike the previous time I had faced the variation, which ended in an embarassing loss (Annotated Game #271). While I slightly goofed in the opening, I still managed to equalize by around move 13, and sealed the draw by move 17 by achieving a structure that White could not break down. While I do not advocate playing for a draw from the start of the game, as that tends to have worse results in practice, I was fine achieving one here and breaking another losing streak as Black.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "63"] [GameId "489173303298"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 {unlike in the previous tournament, here I have my personal repertoire line prepared.} 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 {now we are in Bronstein-Larsen territory, deliberately unbalancing the kingside pawn structure, unlike the more solid Tartakower variation with ...exf6.} 6. d4 Bg4 7. Be2 e6 8. Be3 Bd6 {perhaps a premature commitment of the bishop.} (8... Nd7) 9. Qd2 Qc7 10. h3 Bf5 11. Bd3 Bg6 {this would be more useful if I had planned kingside castling.} (11... Bxd3 $5) 12. O-O-O Nd7 13. Bxg6 hxg6 $11 {by this point I have managed to equalize. There is a solid row of pawns on the 6th rank and White no longer has a developmental advantage.} 14. c4 O-O-O 15. Kb1 Kb8 {this gives White a bit more play than is necessary, although it is solid enough.} (15... c5 {played immediately is more assertive.}) (15... e5 {is also possible to strike in the center.}) 16. d5 {this allows the central tension to be resolved.} (16. c5 Be7 17. Bf4 e5 {Black would be cramped without this pawn lever, but it keeps things equal.}) 16... exd5 17. cxd5 c5 {played after a long think here; I later learned that this is a common theme in this position-type. The point is that White's play is contained by the blockade of the d-pawn and Black's influential c-pawn.} (17... Ne5 {was my other main candidate move.}) 18. Qc2 b6 {this solidly shores up the c-pawn further.} (18... Nb6 $5 {is a more active choice.}) 19. Nd2 Bf4 {this exchange benefits Black, since clearly Black's dark-square bishop is doing very little, while White's would have more scope on the board.} 20. Nc4 Bxe3 21. fxe3 {either recapture is fine here. Now the d-pawn is not isolated, but the e-pawn is backward on an open file.} Ne5 {improving my worst piece, never a bad idea.} (21... f5 $5 {would be another way to play, fixing the e-pawn (or exchanging it off if advanced).}) 22. e4 Nxc4 {this exchange ensures Black's central blockade will be successful.} 23. Qxc4 Qe5 {from this point on it is completely even, as neither side can make progress.} 24. Rhe1 {overprotecting the weak e-pawn.} Kb7 {mostly a waiting move.} (24... Rh4 $5 {would keep the pressure on, also with a transfer to f4 possible.}) 25. Qb5 Rd6 {defending against the threatened penetration on c6.} 26. Qc4 Re8 {at this point I am just marking time and keeping White honest.} 27. Qf1 Rh8 28. Rd3 a5 {this is not necessary, but takes away some potential play on the a-file, for example after Ra3 eyeing the a6 square.} 29. Rde3 Rc8 30. Qc4 Re8 31. Qb5 Rc8 32. Qc4 {and with no ideas for progress left, a draw was agreed.} 1/2-1/2

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