Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


A Bust to the Caro-Kann: The modern 7....Nf6

I've grown weary of busting the Caro-Kann over and over again, so just one last look - this time into a more recent line after:
1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 PxP
4. NxP Bf5
5. Ng3 Bg6
6. h4 h6
7. Nf3 Nf6!?

This move order had not been well regarded for some time - it seemed that immediately conceding the e5 square to White's knight with tempo was too much of an indulgence. However, on further analysis it was realized that having the knight on e5 weakens White's grip on that e5 and d4 (as Gallagher wryly points out 'that's right, a knight on e5 doesn't control the square e5') , rather it offered Black a target to counterattack. Also, if White does not recognize the independent positional nuances of the position then Black gets a much improved version of his favorite opening. For example, White can try to ignore Black's creative effort and go back to the main line:
8. h5 Bh7
9. Bd3 BxB
10. QxB e6
11. Bf4 Bd6!

That's right, Black is happy to trade off his 'good' bishop because, after the exchange the position is already essentially equal. White's space advantage is almost meaningless because there are too few pieces on the board. Note this is not possible in the main line because a knight on d7 would be screening the queen from defending d6.

Or after:
11. Bd2 c5! White gets a taste of Black's main idea - c6-c5 not only can't be stopped, it is also strong!
12. O-O-O Nc6 and here Black has the unusual and important achievement of planting his knight on c6. Black has scored well from these positions.

After getting taken to the woodshed a few times in this way, two consensus main lines have appeared for White that try to take advantage of Black's creativity:

7. Nf3 Nf6!?
8. Ne5 Bh7
9. Bd3!? BxB (there are nasty tactical refutations to 9. .... Qxd4?? Try it blindfold)
10. Qxd3 e6

In comparing this position to the main line, the h-pawn is on h4 rather than h5 and the knight is on e5 rather than f3. White's task is to make the latter point important.

11. Bd2 Nbd7 (challenges the e5 knight, 12. NxN gives White nothing)
12. f4 Be7
13. O-O-O O-O
14. Qf3 Qc7

With sharp attacking play possible - White can, as in the main lines, aim for a g2-g4 push while Black will press with c6-c5 and use the semi-open c-file to attack the White king. White has generally scored well from this position, however.

White has another line at his disposal in which he aims to keep all his pieces on the board:
7. Nf3 Nf6!?
8. Ne5 Bh7
9. Bc4 e6 (In your mind's eye envision the consequences of 9. ... Nd7)
10. Qe2

Play in some way resembles certain lines of the Scandinavian defense. White aims for early pressure on the light squares, with ideas of a sacrifice on e6 or f7. However, Black does best with:

10. ... Nd5
11. Bb3 Nd7
12. Bd2 Nxe5
13. dxe5
where again White aims for an attack on the Black kingside, an attack that is strengthened by the presence of the light-squared bishop, but this bishop is a target for an attack by ....a7-a5-4, and White must weaken his queenside to stop this attack leading to sharp play. An attacking game along these lines is DeFirmian-Brunner 1995.

Conclusion: 7. ... Nf6 leads to interesting play that is independent from the main line. However, White seems to be doing well if he pays attention to Black's plan of ....c6-c5/Nc6.

There, that wasn't so hard, was it? You have all you need to know to bust the 'Kann, unless Black plays 4. ... Nd7 or 4. ... Nf6. In that case offer a draw, and if refused then quietly resign. In all seriousness it seems like a lot of theory but really all the moves can be distilled to positional objectives that are common across all the lines. The moves should flow gently like water....


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