SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
When the Caro-Kann’t…
The Caro-Kann is not only one of the most respectable defences at Black’s disposal; it is also one of the most solid, resourceful and difficult to beat openings on the market. Little wonder why this defence is most often the choice when attacker meets defender at high-stakes chess.
That is why it is always nice to see a game (rare though it may be) where Black simply gets blown out of the water! Witness the following brevity between GM Spassov and National Master Debray (Elo 2350) at the recently concluded Cappelle tournament.
A popular line today that is characterized by both sides castling on opposite sides of the board. In practice Black does very well! Theory has not yet given its final word in this sharp position. I myself have played it from both sides of the board with mixed results…Spassov’s plan is very interesting and worth a closer examination.
14.Nxf6 Nxf6 15.g4!
Not a new idea in this type of position, but never the less a strong attacking move that forces Black to play very carefully. The idea is to use the g-pawn as a lever to force open a file on the Kingside.
In light of what happens in the game, perhaps it should be given some thought the risky-looking capture on g4:
15…Nxg4!? 16.Rhg1 Nxf2! ( 16…f5?! 17.Qe2with Ne5 coming up is a lot of play for a pawn ) 17.Qe2 Nxd1 18.Bxh6 Bf6 (Diagram right) It seems that White has no forced win!
19.Bxg7 Bxg7 20.h6 Qf6 21.Rxg7 Kh8 22.Ng5 Qxd4 and White has nothing better than a perpetual check
There is a modern principle that an attack on the wing can best be met by a counter-attack in the centre. Here Black threatens the a-pawn as well as …Qe4 (trying to trade Queens). No doubt Black only considered Spassov defending his a-pawn, and not the cold blooded move that White now played:
16.g5! Gung ho! 16…Qxa2
The logical follow up of Black’s idea. He threatens mate in one move and so puts White’s Kingside attack at a full stop for …one whole move! Black’s misfortune is that his Queen alone is not able to do much damage on its own…
I really like this simple move. White makes luft for his King and Black all of a sudden finds that he has nothing but a few useless spite checks! Note that Black does not have 17…Ba3 here since after 18. Qb1! Black finds that he simply loses a piece!
17…Ng4 Risky is17…hxg5 18.Bxg5with h6 and Ne5 with a very strong attack 18.Rdg1 !
It is remarkable how White can simply ignore Black’s threats! This demonstrates how ineffective an attack can be unless it is backed up by some reserves. White, on the other hand, has 5 pieces dedicated to the attack (Queen, 2 Rooks, Bishop and Knight) and can afford to sacrifice one inorder to break thru…
18…Nxf2 19.Qe3 Nxh1 20.gxh6
20…Qa1 21.Kc2 Qa4 22.Kb1
Black’s spite checks have come to an end and now the time has come to solve real problems.
22…Qb5!? Hoping to get another check on f5… 23.Ne5!
Cutting the Queen off from the Kingside and intensifying the enslaught. Black can not stop the attack. If 23…Ba3 24.Bc1 solves nothing ; and if instead 23…Bf6 24.hxg7 Rfd8 25.Qh6 should be mate very quickly
23…g6 desperate, and with fingers crossed!
24.c4 [ or 24.hxg6 f6 25.h7 Kh8 26.g7 ] 24…Qa4 25.hxg6 fxg6 26.h7
It is forced mate!
GM Vasil Spassov (or Spasov) was born in 1971. Vasil was the 1989 World U-20 Chess Champion. He was also Bulgarian champion in 1990, 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2008, and is one of Europe’s top GMs.