Monday, June 09, 2014

Two Knights Caro-Kann Gets Tartakowered

Eleven players participated in the first round of the Summer tourney.
The Kenilworth Chess Club's annual Summer Tournament began this past Thursday.  I always try to play at least the first round of this event, which keeps the club active during the quiet summer months.  My opponent for the evening was NM Mark Kernighan, and I have annotated our game (Replay / PGN).  Though it was an embarrassing loss for me, it was useful for showing that the Tartakower Variation of the Caro-Kann works very well against the Two Knights. 

I have been reading Alexey Bozgodov's The Extreme Caro-Kann, and had brought it to the club where it sat by the board as play commenced.  The book is devoted to the Fantasy Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3) -- a line sometimes named after early adopter Savielly Tartakower.  So when Kernighan played the Caro-Kann, I thought he expected me to follow "the book."  Out of my desire to never give my opponent what he wants, and my worries that I had not yet prepared the Fantasy Variation as deeply as I'd like, I went to my old standby: the Two Knights Variation with 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3.  To this Mark responded with the other Tartakower Variation: 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6.  I had commented on that line recently in annotating Hort - Pfleger, BBC Master Game 1980, where Hort played 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Ne2!  It had occurred to me then that this standard and strong way of meeting the Tartakower would not work with the Two Knights, where White is already committed to Nf3.  I had done some preliminary research at the time for an Nf3 antidote to the Tartakower, but I could not figure out the best path.  I have to admit, I'm still at a loss.  So it looks like the Two Knights Variation has been Tartakowered!  Good thing I am studying the Fantasy Variation...  And there is always the Caveman, the Apocalypse, and the Panov-Botvinnik to fall back on.

As the game shows, the Tartakower Variation is a promising line for amateurs, so I append a bibliography.

Caro-Kann, Tartakower Variation Bibliography (B15 - 4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6)
The line is sometimes called the Forgacs, Nimzovich, or Korchnoi Variation, and sometimes lumped in with the Bronstein-Larsen (B16) with 5...gxf6.  You can find game collections at Chesstempo, 365, and Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen for White.  As always I welcome additions and corrections from readers.

"Caro-Kann Defense: Main line: Tartakower variation (McDonald)" by Kivielovich, (2014).  Presumably this follows games given by McDonald (2000 -- see below).

"Hort's Master Game" (blog / pgn) by Michael Goeller, Kenilworth CC (2014).
Analyzes the game Hort - Pfleger, BBC Master Game, that demonstrates White's best approach with 
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Ne2! 

B15-16 Caro-Kann 5.Nf6, DiamondBase 171 by ChessInformant (2013).  Instant download with 171 games for $4.99 -- a great deal.

"Exploiting the Drawbacks" by Valeri Lilov, (2012).  A 17-minute video featuring the game Ragozin - Boleslavsky, Sverdlost 1942.

Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen by Jon Edwards, Chess is Fun (2011).  Focuses on gxf6 but covers exf6 main line.

"Caro-Kann, Tartakower Variation, Part 1" and "Part 2" by Boris Alterman, ICC (2009).  For ICC subscribers only.

"Epic Battles: Part V: Knocking Out a Solid System" by John-Paul Wallace, (2007). A 21-minute video featuring the game DeFirmian - Odendahl 1988.  By subscription only.

Opening for White according to Anand 1.e4, Volume 3 (Repertoire Books) by Alexander Khalifman, Chess Stars (2004).

Caro-Kann Defence Knight Variation 4: B15-16  by Maurizio Curtacci, S1 Editrice (2002).

Main-line Caro-Kann by Neil McDonald, Everyman Chess (2000): 127-141.

The Dynamic Caro-Kann by Jeremy Silman, Summit (1989).  Though focused more on the gxf6 lines, it also covers exf6.  This is one of the best sources on the line.

Play the Caro-Kann by Egon Varnusz, Pergamon (1982). Still a useful reference, if obviously dated.  There is a great games collection at of games from the book.

The Caro-Kann Defence: Bronstein-Larsen Varition ; Tartakower-Korchnoi Line by V. Ravi Kumar, Dansk Skakforlag (1981).  A 48 page pamphlet devoted to both 5...gxf6 and 5....exf6.  The most interesting suggestion here is 5.Ng3!? for White, side-stepping the exchange, which is not so easy.  Sample games include Karpov - Larsen, Tilburg 1979; Sax - Larsen, Tilburg 1979; Matulovic - Bhend, Zagreb 1955; Unzicker - Lein, South Africa 1979; Spielmann - Nimzovich, Match 1903; Schuster - Carls 1913; Kavalek - Anderson, Match 1978; Sznapik - Kostro, Poland 1980.

"Tartakower Variation" by Jack Peters, Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense, by Raymond Keene, et. al. RHM Press (1980): 39-57.
First published in 1980 (and so available used), this book makes for a great intro to the Caro-Kann, even if it is a bit dated.  The chapter by Peters on the Tartakower Variation is absolutely first rate and very valuable for amateurs interested in the line, especially with its discussion of the endgame implications of Black's structural "sacrifice."  Game references include Sax - Andersson, Wijk aan Zee 1981; Karpov - Korchnoi, WCh Match 1978;  Matulovic - Smyslov, Siegen 1970;  Kavalek - Andersson, Washington 1978; and Peters - Andersson, National chess League 1978.


MNb said...

Both Suetin in Caro-Kann bis Aljechin Verteidiging (Sportverlag Berlin 1983) and Pachman in Moderne Schachtheorie II (Walter Rau Verlag 1983) recommend 6.Bc4 indeed. Statistics confirms that this move is far superior to 6.d4, hence the exclamation mark 5...exf6 is premature.

Michael Goeller said...

Yes, I now think 6.Bc4 is best. Also interesting is 5.Ng3, neatly sidestepping the whole conversation (a move used with success in Karpov - Larsen 1979.)

Michael Goeller said...

In his recent book "Keep It Simple 1.e4," Christof Sielecki's recommendation after 4...Nf6 is 5.Qe2!? One idea is that 5...Nbd7?? loses to 6.Nd6 mate! Another is that 5...Bf5 6.Nxf6+! (now that Black has to take back with the g-pawn) 6...gxf6 7.d3 Nd7 8.g3 followed by Bg2 and possibly Bd2-c3 or b3 and Bb2 gives White a very solid position with chances for advantage. Not very exciting, but he is going for solid above all.

Anonymous said...

Szabo has an article on the Tartakower variation in New in Chess Yearbook #130, just out.

Michael Goeller said...

The PGN file of the game analysis can now be found here:

Using that URL as a model, you can track down all other PGN files on this site.