Tag Archives: Caro-Kann

Which Chess Opening Move is Best? Part 1

Should I Open with 1.e4, 1.d4, or something else as White?

Not surprisingly, the short answer is “it depends.”

Let’s dig deeper.

First, there is one thing you certainly should not do. Don’t play offbeat moves (1.b3, 1.b4, 1.f4, 1.Nc3, etc.)  just to avoid theory. I’ve touched on this before. Only use moves like this if you enjoy playing the resulting positions. 

Having gotten that out of the way, we really have only four or five serious moves left. There’s no question which one we should discuss first.

1.e4 — Best by Test?

The famous game Fischer-Tal from the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad was a sharp draw in the French Defense. You can actually purchase a print of this photo here.

To a certain extent, I think Bobby Fischer was right. But not everyone should follow his advice.

Opening with the King Pawn requires the most well-rounded skills. Generally, you must attack the Sicilian Defense or give Black at least equality. Aggressive play is also the best recipe against the French Defense, Caro-Kann, and Pirc Defense, among others.

At the same time, patience and maneuvering skills are needed to play the Ruy Lopez or Italian Game well.

The higher up the rating ladder a player advances, the less opponents are afraid of gimmicky attacks — aside from feeling confident against gambits, they might willingly enter slightly worse positions with a chance to grind you down. Michael William Brown was in my group at the 2008 Western Invitational Chess Camp (organized by Robby Adamson). His main defense was the Closed Ruy Lopez, and he really knew how to play it. Sure enough, Michael became a Grandmaster in 2019.

Maybe the biggest question is: can you break down the Berlin Wall or Petroff Defense?

My point is, I think 1.e4 requires the most diverse range of skill to play well consistently — in other words, to legitimately play for a win against strong opposition. Contemporary role models include CarlsenCaruana, and Karjakin. 

It’s no coincidence these players have contested the last two World Championship Matches!

Not everyone prefers the King Pawn, or possesses the ability to play it well — or at least as well as the ability to play other first moves.

Next time, we’ll discuss some alternatives, starting with 1.d4.

Chess Tactics: Morozevich — Iordachescu, 1998

Alexander Morozevich: A New Shining Star

Alexander Morozevich

Alexander Morozevich. Photo: chessdom.com

Alexander Morozevich (born 1977) burst onto the world chess scene in the mid-1990s and quickly became a darling of fans worldwide with a unique brand of tricky, aggressive, unorthodox chess. The Muscovite was a protégé of super trainer Vladimir Yurkov (1936-2007) whose previous students included Yuri BalashovNana Ioseliani, and Andrei Sokolov.

Morozevich earned his Grandmaster title in 1994. In August of that same year he won the final edition of the Lloyds Bank Open in London with an amazing 9½ points out of 10.

Morozevich later became a fixture at top events, reaching a peak rating of 2788 and peak ranking of World #2 in July 2008 (behind World Champion Viswanathan Anand). His debut at the top came much earlier, however, when he jumped in rating from 2590 (World #93) in January 1998 to 2723 (World #5) in January 1999.

Another particularly stunning performance helped in that ascent.

 

The 1st Chebanenko Memorial

In February 1998, a 10-player round robin honored the famous trainer of Moldova, Vyacheslav Chebanenko (1942-1997), in the nation’s capital Chisinau.

Alexander Morozevich was only the fourth-highest rated player in the well-balanced Category XII event.

The 20 year old won his first game … drew the second … and then won all the rest! Obviously, his tally of 8½ points out of 9 was enough for first place.

In Round 6, what did Morozevich (White) play on his 22nd move against Viorel Iordachescu?

 

An Interference Tactic that Makes an Impression

Though he sometimes plays blitz and rapid events, Alexander Morozevich has scarcely played classical chess since 2014 — he won the annual Karpov tournament at Poikovsky in May of that year. It appears he has effectively retired, with little fanfare … a loss for the chess world.

Chess Tactics: Harding — NN, 2020

Isolated Queen Pawn Adventures

Today I want to show one of my recent blitz games on the Internet Chess Club (ICC). I think it is somewhat instructive, especially in the context of IQP (Isolated Queen Pawn) positions.

I have enjoyed playing the white side of IQP positions ever since I read Alexander Baburin‘s phenomenal Winning Pawn Structures around 20 years ago. The book contains a couple of examples right out of the Panov-Botvinnik Attack as seen in this game. Even though I usually struggle with attacking, this one felt natural because Baburin’s examples are memorable.

A line related to that featured in this game also appeared in a game I praised on May 23.

White to play. How did I launch a strong attack?

12.?

Attack with the IQP

Chess Tactics: Andreikin — Sjugirov, 2012

Dmitry Andreikin

Dmitry Andreikin. Photo: FIDE

Born in Ryazan, Russia, Dmitry Andreikin (1990 – ) won the World Junior Championship in 2010. He is a two-time Russian Champion (2012, 2018), and was a Candidate in 2014. His highest rank was #19 in December 2014, and his highest rating was 2743 in June 2016.

Most grandmasters would be thrilled if they achieved these targets by the end of their career! And yet…

Andreikin is overshadowed by his 1990 rivals: former World #2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2016 Challenger and youngest GM ever Sergey Karjakin, and World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Today we look at a nice attacking gem against Sanan Sjugirov that helped Andreikin win the 2012 Russian Superfinal. Black plays a bit too slowly and pays a heavy price.

White to play. How did Andreikin set the stage for a quick win?

13.?

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Should I Play 1…e5 Against 1.e4?

If you are rated under 1000, YES! Without a doubt. Start with the Double King Pawn.

It’s important to learn how to fight for and maintain control of the central squares before trying to counterattack your opponent’s center.

After my first few rated tournaments, I began playing the Pirc (1.e4 d6):

And had no idea what I was doing. I simply chose the opening because I saw it in MCO-13 and it had a lot less pages to “study” than most other defenses to 1.e4. By study, I meant “memorize,” because that’s what I thought opening learning was about in those days.

When I was around 1000, I switched to the French (1.e4 e6):

About which I did have a decent idea thanks to the books Mastering the French with the Read and Play Method by Neil McDonald and Andrew Harley; and French Classical by Byron Jacobs.

My play was passive and one-dimensional. I didn’t learn how to attack, instead sitting back and waiting to spring a counterattack. I played other dodgy openings like the St. George Defense (1.e4 a6) sometimes, scoring over 50% with it.

You can get away with this against the Under 1800 crowd, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

I dabbled with other openings over the years, too: the Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6):

The Scandinavian (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6):

Even, for one or two tournaments, Alekhine’s Defense (1.e4 Nf6):

I deliberately avoided 1…e5 and the Sicilian (1.e4 c5)

Because they were “too complicated.”

Yes, there are many choices available to white after 1.e4 e5, but not a lot of different ideas. That is the key.

You want your pieces to become active and to not allow white to get (or maintain) a pawn duo on d4 and e4.

After the common sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6:

Black’s control of d4 does not allow white to push the d2-pawn there without it being exchanged. If that exchange happens black will have decent control over the center.

Black is fine in the Italian game as long as he or she doesn’t fall into a trap, so let’s look at a common line in the Scotch Game:

Black has nothing to worry about here, with good development and a solid position.

This begs the question: why not play an early c2-c3 in order to play d2-d4 and replace a captured d4-pawn with the c3-pawn? Well, that’s what the Ponziani Opening tries but fails to achieve:

Black has other good tries on move 3. The point is, white can’t keep the entire center intact.

That brings us to white’s best attempt, and the main one black traditionally worries about when deciding to play 1..e5: the Ruy Lopez.

This is perhaps white’s strongest attempt to trouble black after 1.e4 e5. Black can also choose the solid Petroff Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6):

Which is arguably even more solid.

I recommend all new players get considerable practice in the Double King Pawn before trying something else. At 1400-1600 a player can branch out if they feel they must.

Opening for Black according to Karpov

If you like Karpov’s black openings this is an underrated gem

Opening for Black according to Karpov was written by Alexander Khalifman and published by the Bulgarian publisher Chess Stars all the way back in 2001. I believe it was one of their first books.

Now, I have to admit being attracted to this book when I first bought it many years ago because Anatoly Karpov, the 12th World Champion, has always been my favorite player. I remember enthusiastically reading his Grandmaster Musings column in Chess Life magazine in the late 1990s.

Khalifman did a five-volume series on Vladimir Kramnik’s white opening repertoire, Opening for White according to Kramnik, and years later made a new edition of these books. He also wrote a 14(!) volume series on Viswanathan Anand’s white opening repertoire, Opening for white according to Anand.

The Karpov book is a slim 187 pages plus an Index of Variations, and there are no other books in the series. Still, it’s a definitely worth having if you have interest in playing drier openings that resist cutting-edge theory.

The openings for black

Against 1.e4: Caro-Kann

After 3.Nc3/Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4, he gives 4…Nd7.

Of course…this is often known as the Karpov Variation!

In the Advance Variation, Short System after 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2,

Khalifman gives 5…Ne7

which indeed Karpov favored. Coverage is light here, and theory has certainly moved forward, so I would supplement study here with a database of modern games.

Khalifman’s guidance on sidelines is sound and easy to understand. In general Chess Stars authors really shine at conveying the ideas behind the moves.

Against 1.d4: Nimzo-Indian, Queen’s Indian, Catalan

You start with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6, as Karpov usually did.

Against 3.Nc3 you go for the Karpov Variation of the Nimzo-Indian (3…Bb4 4.e3 c5 5.Bd3 0-0 6.Nf3 d5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 cxd4 9.exd4 b6).

The coverage is better than I’ve seen anywhere else. Again, supplement with newer games.

Against 3.Nf3, the recipe is the Queen’s Indian with 3…b6.

I suppose 4.g3 Ba6 is the main line here

so you’ll want to consult a database for more up-to-date games.

Against 3.g3, when white plays the Catalan, you play 3…d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0

The explanations are great, but as I keep saying, you need to supplement the text with contemporary games.

A similar approach with …Nf6 and …e6 is given against Queen Pawn Games like the London, Trompowsky, Torre, Veresov, etc.

Against 1.c4: English with 1…e5

I’m not a specialist on these lines, so I can’t comment on how theory now views the lines given, but once again the commentary is instructive.

Against 1.Nf3: 1…Nf3 2.c4 b6

Some similarities with the Queen’s Indian section, but in many lines Khalifman recommends a double fianchetto and does a great job showing how the play can develop. Again, newer approaches are missing, but it’s a great start.

Khalifman also gives some guidance against 1.b3 and 1.g3 in this chapter.

Verdict

As you can see, this book has definite limitations in 2020. Still, the structure of the repertoire, care taken about move orders, and above all the easy-to-understand insightful commentary make Opening for Black according to Karpov one of the forgotten opening book gems of the past 20 years.