Mariya Muzychuk was born in Lviv, Ukraine in 1992.
The Ukrainian Women’s Champion of 2012 and 2013 has won a pile of medals in European and World Team Championships, and in Chess Olympiads.
Still, her greatest achievement was becoming Women’s World Chess Champion in 2015! Simultaneously, she earned the International Grandmaster title.
Mariya’s older sister Anna Muzychuk is also one of the top female players in the world.
A Brilliant Finish
Recently, FIDE reinstated a Candidates Tournament as part of the Women’s World Championship. The eight-player double round robin for this past cycle was held May-June 2019 in Kazan, Russia.
Aleksandra Goryachkina clinched the 14-round marathon two rounds early in a dominating performance, earning the right to challenge reigning Champion Ju Wenjun.
However, it was Mariya Muzychuk who ended the tournament with a bang: her crushing victory over the winner was awarded the Brilliancy Prize of the Candidates Tournament! Goryachkina was undefeated in the event until this final round game.
Black is trying to hang on, but White dashes her hopes. How? White to play.
One Round Too Many
In conclusion, just one more thing needs to be said: Happy Women’s Day!
Understanding the Caro-Kann Defensewas published way back in 1981. Amazon tells me I purchased it in March 2012, but I’ve only read it recently … and regret not doing so much sooner.
I have read a lot of Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6) books over the years, as I flirted with the opening for years and have now made it my weapon of choice against 1.e4.
I’ll start with the conclusion: I don’t think any other Caro-Kann title comes close.
Keep in mind: I lack chess talent, and need things spelled out for me in a to-the-point manner. This is why I love Max Euwe and Edmar Mednis so much. Your mileage may vary. There are other choices if you want wild, entertaining stories with your chess.
More About Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense
The book has five co-authors: Raymond Keene, Andrew Soltis, Edmar Mednis, Jack Peters, and Julio Kaplan, with each writing two consecutive chapters.
All the main lines are covered, including 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 (by Peters) which most contemporary books ignore completely. Soltis covers sidelines in the final chapter, which includes the King’s Indian Attack (2.d3), TwoKnights (2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3), and 2.c4 as expected, but I was surprised to see the Fantasy Variation (2.d4 d5 3.f3) discussed in a book from 40 years ago —and well-done, too!
The authors really take their time and discuss the ideas and key maneuvers available to both players in this opening. You really understand what both players are striving for, and their variations are helpful, not torturous.
The only place where the book really shows its age is with the Advance Variation (2.d4 d5 3.e5). It only discusses the old, not-topical line 3…Bf5 4.Bd3. Still, the coverage is helpful, as Keene explains this part very nicely, and the line still appears at lower levels!
I don’t read chess books very much any longer, but I couldn’t put this one down and finished it within a week. It was that helpful, easy-to-read, and confidence-building.
I would order a copy of Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense if you have any interest in this opening — from either side, as a player or a coach. Not only can the book be had cheaply, who knows how long copies of the old gem will be around at an affordable price?
Table of Contents
Other Images from Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense
For Reference: Other Caro-Kann Books
If you want to play the line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5:
Grandmaster Repertoire 7: The Caro-Kannby Danish GM Lars Schandorff (2010) was widely praised, and contained the latest theory and games. Still, I felt something was missing. At least for me. It’s the type of opening book you would expect from Quality Chess.
There is also Caro-Kann: Classical 4…Bf5by Garry Kasparov and Aleksander Shakarov (1984). The coverage is thorough, as you would expect from The Beast, and I suspect it can be a useful starting point even today.
I haven’t read Play the Caro-Kann: A Complete Chess Opening Repertoire Against 1e4 by Jovanka Houska (2007), but I remember it getting good reviews. Notably, she recommends answering the Advance Variation with 3…c5, rather than the much more common 3…Bf5. This line has gained in popularity at high level, and I might change to it myself!
If you want to play the line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7:
I previously reviewed Opening for Black according to Karpov by former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman. This book has been much more helpful to me, because it gives analysis and sensible reasoning for its moves and evaluations. It’s Caro-Kann coverage is not huge, because most of the book is devoted to defending 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3, etc.
More recently, there’s Caro-Kann: Move by Moveby Cyrus Lakdawala (2012). Personally, I don’t like these kinds of books that contain too many words that try to be clever and don’t get to the point. (At the other end of the spectrum, I wouldn’t bother with Eduard Gufeld and Oleg Stetsko‘s Caro-Kann: Smyslov System 4…Nd7 from 1998).
There are other books, too, of course. But these are the ones I am familiar with.
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?
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 Carlsen, Caruana, 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.
In Part 2, we discuss some alternatives, starting with 1.d4.
In Part 3, I give my opinions on various Flank Openings.
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 Balashov, Nana 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.
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.
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.
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?
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.