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Kate Inside the Rainbow
The Chimp Paradox
The Complete Manual of Positional Chess
Thinking Inside the Box
Together with Morozevich
My Game Of the Season
By Keith Nevols
This favourite game of last season is from an En Passant match between Swale and Tunbridge Wells where I was at board three. The game took place on Thursday 24 November 2016 and my opponent was Mr H Tassell, graded at 147 – 13 points higher than me.
At club level, the Caro-Kann defence does not come up very often, but I encountered it in a club match earlier in the year. That game had gone down an aggressive line for Black (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6 gxf6!?) and I was well beaten while struggling with a position with which my opponent was much more familiar than I.
So I did some research to find some way to answer the Caro-Kann and came across a video which recommended the second move Ne2. Amongst the variations was an early pawn sacrifice – so I decided to give it a go.
1. e4 c6
The principle is that, generally speaking, Caro Kann players like to put a bishop on f5. From the g3 square, this can be attacked by the knight and White can get time to develop.
2. .... d5
3. e5 Bf5
Other moves Black can consider are 3. ... c5 (to be answered with 4. d4) and 3.. d4 (where White could have some fun with 4. b4!? or the more conservative 4. c3).
4. Ng3 Bg6
The aim of this follow-up is to continue to harass the bishop.
5. ..... h6
If 5. ... h5 then 6. Be2 and Black’s h-pawn begins to look uncomfortable.
6. h5 Bh7
To my surprise, I have got to the position of the pawn sacrifice I mentioned earlier. It is very unusual to get the chance to try out some home preparation of this sort, and I hesitated and considered the natural 7. d4. But after some deliberation I decided to go for it.
Here it is. A positional pawn sacrifice at move seven. I hoped that Black had not seen it before and, judging by the way he now went into some deep thought, I think that was correct.
7. .... fxe6
You can see the point behind the sacrifice. Take a look at the bishop on f8. How it is going to get out? On the e-file, there are doubled pawns that will have to be shifted before it can think of freedom, while on the g-file, if the pawn on g7 moves, it will be exchanged for White's h-pawn and his pawn on h6 is poor.
And, of course, while the bishop on f8 is blocked, the rook on h8 will also struggle to get out.
The other point to note is the opening of the h5-g6-f7-e8 diagonal. White must move fast to exploit this while Black might want to castle queenside quickly to get the king out of the way.
The follow up to 7. e6 which restricts the e5 pawn and prepares to bring the king's bishop to d3.
8. .... Qd6
I took a look at 8. .. Nd7 preparing e5. One line could be 9. Bd3 Qa5+ 10. Nc3 e5 and castling very soon or White could play 9. f4 trying to keep the trap closed.
I also wondered about 8. .. e5!? - immediately returning the pawn with 9. dxe5 e6 to follow.
The idea of the move Qd6, and the next knight move, is to get castling, but Black does not have enough time.
9. Bd3 Bxd3
If 9. .. Na6 I intended 10. Bxh7 Rxh7 11. Qd3 Nf6 12. Qg6+.
10. Qxd3 Na6
11. Qg6+ Kd7
So we have prevented castling, but Black’s king looks quite snug behind those pawns. Now the plan was to get a White rook onto the e-file and hammer at the e5 and e6 squares. The longer those pawns stay on e6 and e7, the more development problems Black will have.
12. O-O Nf6
If 12. ... e5 White can retrieve the pawn with 13. Qf5+.
13. Re1 c5
14. dxc5 Nxc5
Black has succeeded in removing the White pawn from d4 and might now be thinking of e5 at some stage, even if it gives the pawn back, but with the subsequent intention of e6 and developing the kingside. The e5 move would not be possible while White has the option of Nf5 and then taking on g7. And White's queen is very well placed.
I now considered 15. b3 with the idea of bringing the bishop to a3. But after 15. ... Nce4 16. Ba3 the Black queen can simply move to a6 or f4. So I decided to bring the knight into the action while also covering the e4 square - which both the Black knights are currently looking at.
15. Nc3 Rc8
Planning to come to d4 and then e5 - while also peering in the direction of the undefended pawn on a7. Black now can't play 16. .. d4 because of 17. Bxd4 (17. .. Qxd4 18. Red1 wins the queen).
16. .... b6?
A mistake providing White with two free moves to continue the attack. A better option might have been 16. ... Qa6 tucking the queen away.
If instead Black plays 16. .. e5 then White has a good choice of 17. Rad1, which is strong. (17. ... e6 18. Bxc5 Rxc5 19. Nge4) or 17. Nf5 (17. ... Qe6 18. Bxc5 Rxc5 19. Nd4).
Remember Black's bishop on f8 and rook on h8 which I mentioned earlier? Look what a miserable time they are having.
17. Nb5 Qb8
18. Nd4 Qd6
Now if White wanted a draw he could simply play 19. Nb5 and Black might obligingly repeat moves. But the gain in tempo meant that I had moved my knight from c3 to d4 where it is very happy, looking at b5, e6 and f5.
I gave some thought here to 19. c4 dxc4 20. Rad1 but then Black has the annoying 20. .. Nd3! turning the tables. So instead it is time for the last piece to join the fight.
After 19. .. e5! the position is equal if, after 20. Ndf5, Black can find 20. .... Qb8!
This would stop 21. Nxg7 because of 21. ...Bxg7 22. Qxg7 Rcg8 23. Qf7 Rh7 trapping the queen.
After 20. .. Qb8, White could try the more aggressive 21. c4 with 21. .. Na5 22. cxd5 Nxb2 23. Rb1 Nc4. White could then consider 24. Qf7 but it is hard to see a breakthrough.
19. ..... Nce4
While Black is effectively playing two pieces down, then maybe it is a mistake to exchange.
20. Nxe4 Nxe4
Now a big think. Firstly, I looked at the piece sacrifice 21. Bf4? - 21. ... Qxf4 22. Qxe6+.
I could not see anything against 22. .. Kd8 (23. Nc6+ Rxc6 24. Qxc6 Qxf2+) and overlooked the simple 23. Qxd5+ which will win the knight and have a winning attack.
A far better move for Black would be 22. .. Kc7 then 23. Nb5+ Kb8 24. Qd7 Rc5! (defending the d5 pawn). 25. Qxa7+ Kc8 26. Qa6+ (if 26. Qa8+ then Qb8) Kd7 27. Rxd5+ Ke8! 28. Qa8+ Kf7.
However, I did not see any need to sacrifice a piece in a winning position where there were other moves available.
I considered 21. f3! which I think is probably the best - clearing the e-file and redeploying the bishop back to f2 and then on to g3.
Instead I went for my third option, to get that bishop to the b8-h2 diagonal by a more immediate route.
21. g3 Nf6
22. Bf4 Qb4
Now, having forced the queen off the centre files, how can I finish off the attack against the king? I saw two options - 23. Qf7! was the sensible option - but, rather foolhardily, I decided to gamble.
The reason I say this is a gamble is because I thought he might now play 23. ... Qxd4!? Then 24. Rxe7+ Bxe7 25. Rxd4, or just 24. Rxd4 Kxe6, and it is queen and pawn against rook and knight - the type of lop-sided positions I do not like.
By removing two of White’s attacking pieces, Black would hold off immediate loss, and could cause White some problems. White should still win but not without a headache.
23. .... Qxb2?
With this move I breathed a sigh of relief. This was my day after all. I saw how I could finish it off from here.
24. Qf5 Kd8
25. Nc6+ Rxc6
26. Rxc6 e6
27. Qxe6 Bc5
The bishop is free at last - just in time to hear the final whistle.
28. Rc8 mate
I was very pleased with this quick win against a higher graded player by the use of a positional pawn sacrifice.