The Two Knights Caro-Kann Gets Tartakowered

By Michael Goeller

I have a new appreciation for the Tartakower Variation of the Caro-Kann for Black -- especially when played against the Two Knights Variation. The problem here is that White's Knight is committed to the f3 square, yet it is best placed at e2 where it has a lot more options -- and is not subject to a Bg4 pin.

Michael Goeller - Mark Kernighan [B11]

KCC Summer Tourney/Kenilworth, NJ USA (1) 2014


1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ exf6!

 










I recently annotated the game Hort - Pfleger, BBC Master Game 1980, which opened 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3,Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6, after which Hort was able to play c3, Bd3 and Ne2 with good chances. While annotating that game, it occurred to me that White cannot play Ne2 if this line arises via the Two Knights move order, as in the game. I had done some preliminary research on this position but could not arrive at any conclusion regarding White's best course of action. I now think that the Tartakower is a very appropriate response to the Two Knights because of White's premature commitment to Nf3.

 

6. d4

Maybe 6. Bc4!? Bd6 (6... Be6 7. Qe2 Qe7 8. O-O ) (6... Qe7+!? 7. Be2!) 7. Qe2+ Qe7 8. Qxe7+ Kxe7 9. d4 and perhaps White can make something of his superior majority in the ending.

 

6... Bd6 7. Be3

Though the Bishop probably belongs on this square, I now think this is the wrong order of moves. The correct plan seems to begin with Bd3, with the idea of laying siege to the key f5 square and trying to rob Black's light-squared Bishop of squares. White will typically follow with h3 and possibly Nh4-f5 and/or g4. Meanwhile, it is best to remain uncommitted to the location of the white king as long as possible. Ultimately, it is an equal game, but White at least has a logical plan.... And, of course, this plan would be much better served if the Knight were on e2 instead!

7. Bd3 O-O (7... Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. g4! Bg6 10. Qe2+! Qe7 11. Be3 O-O 12. O-O-O) 8. Be3! (premature is 8. O-O Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. Be3 Nd7 11. Re1 Re8 12. g4 Bg6 13. Bxg6 hxg6 and Black had the f6-f5 break in 1/2-1/2 Viacheslav Ragozin-Salomon Flohr/Semmering/Baden AUT 1937 (69) ) (8. h3!? Re8+ 9. Be3 Bf4) 8... Na6 (8... Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. g4 Bg6 11. Bxg6 hxg6 12. Qd2 with O-O-O to follow) 9. c3 Nc7 10. Qc2.

 

7... O-O

7... Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. g4 Bg6 10. Bd3 Na6 (10... Bxd3 11. Qxd3) 11. Bxg6 hxg6 12. c3 Qd7 13. Qb3 O-O-O 14. O-O-O Nc7?! (14... Rhe8=) 15. c4 (15. Ne5! Bxe5 16. dxe5 Qe7 17. exf6 Qxf6 18. Bxa7) 15... Kb8 16. Ne5!? Qe8 17. Nd3 Qe4 18. c5 Bf8 19. Nb4!? (19. Qxf7! g5 (19... Nd5 20. Rhe1) 20. Rhe1) 19... Kc8 20. Qxf7 a5 and now instead of the misguided 21. Nxc6? of 0-1 Moller,A-Nielsen,H (2090)/Copenhagen 1998 (32), White should have played 21. Nc2 Nd5 22. f3 Qxf3 23. Bd2 .

 

8. Qd2 Be6

Black has done well in this position with a variety of moves:

 

a) 8... Re8 9. O-O-O?! (It may be too risky to castle queenside here; safer is 9. Be2 Na6 10. O-O=) 9... b5 10. h3 Be6 11. Kb1 Na6 12. g4 Nb4 13. b3 Bd5 14. Be2 Qa5 15. c3 Be4+ 0-1 Carlo Rabbiosi (1812)-Roland Salvador (2477)/Vimercate ITA 2012.

 

b) 8... Qc7 9. Bd3 Be6 10. c4 Na6 11. a3 Rad8 12. O-O c5 13. d5 Bg4 14. Kh1 Bxf3 15. gxf3 Nb8 (15... Bxh2? 16. f4) 16. Rg1 Rfe8 17. f4 Nd7 18. Rg2 g6 19. h4 (19. f5!) 19... f5 20. Bxf5 (20. h5) 20... Nf6 21. Bd3 Qd7 22. Qd1 Rxe3 23. fxe3 Qh3+ 24. Rh2 Qxe3 25. Qf1 Nh5 26. Rh3 Ng3+ 27. Rxg3 Qxg3 28. Re1 Qxh4+ 29. Kg1 Bxf4 30. Qe2 Kg7 0-1 Viacheslav Ragozin-Vitaly Chekhover/Leningrad (Russia) 1938.

 

9. Bd3

9. Be2 Nd7 10. c4 Qc7 11. Rc1 Bg4 12. h3 Bh5 13. O-O (13. c5 Be7 14. Bf4 Qc8 15. O-O and White can get in d5) 13... Rad8 14. Rfd1 Rfe8 15. b4 f5 16. c5 Be7 17. Bf4 Qc8 18. Re1 Nf6! 19. Qb2 Nd5 20. Bg5?! (20. Be5) 20... Bxg5 21. Nxg5 Bxe2 22. Rxe2 Nf4! 23. Rd2 Qd7 24. Nf3 Re4 25. Rcd1 Qd5 26. a4 Re6! 27. Kh2 Nxg2! 28. Rg1 (28. Kxg2 Rg6+ 29. Kf1 Qxf3) 28... Nf4 29. Qa3 Rde8 30. Ng5 Re1 31. Qf3 Rxg1 32. Kxg1 Nxh3+ 33. Qxh3 Re1+ 34. Kh2 Rh1+ 35. Kg3 Rg1+! 36. Kf4 h6 37. f3 hxg5+ 38. Ke3 g4 0-1 Jacques Mieses-Salomon Flohr/Bournemouth ENG 1939.

 

9... Re8 10. O-O

10. c3 Nd7 11. O-O Qc7 12. h3 Rad8 13. Qc2 g6 14. c4 Nf8 15. Bd2?! (15. Rfe1=) 15... Qc8 16. Ne1? Bb8?! (16... Bxh3! 17. gxh3 Qxh3 18. f4 Ne6) 17. Bc3 g5 18. Qd1 Ng6 1-0 Ilia Abramovich Kan-Ravinsky/Odessa (RUS) 1929 (34) .

 

10... Na6!? 11. Bxa6!?

Generally not a good idea, I know, but I was looking to create some imbalance in the position.

a) 11. c4 Qd7=

b) 11. c3 Qd7=

 

11... bxa6 12. Bf4 Bf8 13. Qd3 a5!?

a) 13... Qb6 14. b3 Rad8

b) 13... g5! 14. Bg3 Qd5! 15. c3 (15. Qxa6 g4) 15... c5!?

 

14. c4 Qb6 15. b3 Rad8 16. Be3

16. h3=

 

16... a4 17. Nd2 Qa6!?

...with the idea of c5 and if d5? Bxd5 due to the pin on the c-pawn. I thought during the game that Black was better after 17... Qa5! eyeing Qh5 and Bd6, or supporting Bf5.

 

18. Rfd1

18. Ne4! c5 (18... Bf5? 19. Nxf6+) 19. Qc3 cxd4 20. Bxd4 Bc8!? (20... Bxc4? 21. Nxf6+) 21. f3.

 

18... f5

Stopping Ne4 ideas.

 

19. Nf3 Bd6 20. g3 Bc7

Kernighan's waiting strategy. During the game I most feared 20... f4!? 21. Bxf4 (21. gxf4 Qc8!) 21... Bxf4 22. gxf4 Qc8 23. Re1 Bf5 and Black can create dangerous threats on the light squares.

 

21. Nh4 g6 22. Qc3 Bc8?!

 










Kernighan's typical waiting strategy should have gotten him in trouble here. But, getting into time pressure, I blundered.

 

23. d5?

A last minute decision, even though I had seen the better move:

23. Bg5! Rd7 (23... Rd6 24. Bf4 Rd7 25. Re1!) 24. Nf3 and Black's pieces are in each other's way.

 

23... cxd5!

23... Be5 24. Bd4 Bxd4 25. Rxd4 cxd5 also favors Black.

 

24. Bd4?

My dark square fantasy continues....

 

24... dxc4 25. Bh8 Rxd1+ 26. Rxd1 f6 27. Bxf6 Ba5

27... cxb3! 28. Qxc7 Qxf6

 

28. b4 Bxb4 29. Qxb4 Qxf6 30. Qxc4+ Qe6 31. Qxa4 Bb7 32. Qxa7??

32. Qb3 Qxb3

 

32... Qe1+

and I am mated. We both had about five seconds left on the clock. A useful lesson regarding the Tartakower Variation!

 

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[Michael Goeller]

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Game in PGN

Copyright © 2014 by Michael Goeller

See also Hort's Master Game