Recently I’ve started spending more time on chess study and analysis rather than just playing a bunch of blitz and trying to take pieces of information from those games to learn from. The topic has been the Caro Khann lately and I had a game a couple days ago where the benefits from targeted study really became apparent. It was against TheWitchKing13 who’s 1622 in a 5 minute game and from the start it looked like a good fight, they knew the opening principles in the Caro well enough.
We get the position above after move 10, both sides are solid and there are no apparent weaknesses. White wants to attempt to capitalize on the fact my King is still in the center for another move but there aren’t any aggressive options so White follows with a6. This prompts be to play Qb6 putting pressure on the b2 and d4 pawns which both become targets, additionally if Bxc6 I can play Rb8 and have the Queen and rooks control the b file. After 11. a3 Qb6 12. a4 a6 13. a5? White has gone all in on the pawn push but lacks the support for it. Pushing a5 allows for the knight on c6 to capture it and be supported by the Queen so White simply drops a pawn.
White captures the knight pulling the King to d7 but this actually helps my plans and connects the rooks. The King will be safe on d7 for the time being until I situate my rooks. Nc6, Bd3, Rhc8, Ke7 are played and we get a position where White has spent all but one move on moving the Queen over to the King side while not developing any other pieces.
White has overlooked an important weakness while focusing on an attack, the d4 pawn. My next move is clear, Nxd4 threatening Nc2 forking the rooks. The game continues 19…Nxd4 20. Qg4?? (White is all for the attack without calculating anything else, the definition of tunnel vision. There isn’t another piece to support the Queen’s attack) 20…Nc2! 21. Qxg7?? Nxe1 22. Nf3?? Nxf3 23. gxf3 Kd7! (dropping a pawn but preparing to play Rg1+) 24. Qxf7 Rg8+
White has committed to the attack but left his King’s safety as a second thought. The combinations of the Rook on the g file and the Queen on b6 eyeing the f2 pawn is too much for White to stop.
This was the best game of the 10 game match I played with Mr-Raptor. I chose to show it because of its complete balance throughout the game until a small pawn move was made in the middle which lead to a completely losing position. It exemplfies how cut throat chess can be at times and all the effort put forth before can turn into nothing by a minor pawn move.
It was an exchange Caro which can be dull but that’s my style when the option is presented. The exchange allows for true chess understanding to come out, there aren’t big tactical mistakes and complicated positions instead it becomes a slow strategic game where either side will grind the other down.
Let’s look at why b3, a seemingly harmless move caused so many issues. The main weak spot in White’s position is c2, this is very common in the Caro once the c pawn on Black’s side gets swapped off. Black will be able to control the semi open file and exert pressure over time. White currently has nothing defending c2 but the knight was blocking it for now which is supported by the b2 pawn. Once White moved the b2 pawn the knight became a weakness it self and it was the only thing stopping the double rooks from crashing through to c2.
We arrive at this position where White has attempted to place a rook on the c file as well to defend the pawn. It’s White’s move and the best move to make is Ne2 accepting the loss of the pawn instead of allowing Black to continue to mount pressure on the c file in addition to the knight which would jump in on e4. In the game White makes a far worse move while attempting to deal with the pressure and the game ends soon after.
So I just played a game against a 1748, it was an exchange Caro where I played an early a6. White had castled but neglected the development of a knight and bishop while I forwent castling in lieu of development of all the minor pieces. White struck me as an aggressive player, they employed the typical bishop/Queen battery aimed at h7 in hopes the knight would move and it would be undefended. After playing h6 and castling White immediately sacrificed the dark squared bishop in order to take on h6, something that is commonly done to break the King side open and make way for the Queen and knight to jump in.
Now I’ve been here a lot on the receiving side, I don’t make sacrifices like this unless I know they’ll work. The Greek gift is an example of that, it’s a position that is known and when used will net a positive end result. This sacrifice made by White here was unsound, it missed the key components that the Greek gift has and that is tempo. In the gift once the bishop is capture White is able to bring the knight in with check and make way for the Queen while the King retreats.
The sin committed by White in this game was the lack of follow up, once the bishop was sacrificed what came next? The places the Queen would come in to the attack were protected and the knight was unable to jump into anywhere meaningful, the best option was to slide the Queen over to the d file and attack the h pawn but the King could simply defend. White jumps the Knight in for the sake of having it close but it attacks nothing as every space is covered by pawns since White having made no threatens I was able to counter attack the White Queen.
From here the game falls into a reoccurring theme, White makes a move in defense and I again have the attacking initiative. At one point White seems to think giving up a piece for a pawn push is a good idea, however, it ends up back firing again as they go on the defensive and lose tempi. The game really comes to a decisive end when I am able to fork the Queen and bishop which is still aiming into the King side, it leaves White a minor piece down with too many weaknesses to protect. Surprisingly they opt to trade a set of rooks off while giving me the open e file.
The final blow comes from a threat of a Queen trade and a triple attack, White declines the trade and loses the rook with check which was part of the triple attack. They let the time run out and the game ends. For me this was the greatest game I’ve ever played, I had a centi pawn loss of only 20 and two inaccuracies while fending off an attack from a player 250 points higher than myself.