Thursday, 30 June 2016

Mike and the Caro-Kann

As we saw yesterday, Mike Closs had a number of weapons in his arsenal to take on the French Defence. After his normal 1 e4, he played many times against 1 ...e6, but it is a little odd that so few people tried the related move 1 ...c6. Somehow the Caro-Kann was rarely seen in Mike's games. As far as I know, he never played it as Black, preferring openings based on a kingside fianchetto (Pirc, Modern, Sicilian Dragon), although he did have a brief spell with the French Defence a long time ago.

With White, he varied his response to the Caro-Kann without ever settling on a favourite. After 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5, I certainly saw him play 3 Nc3, 3 Nd2, 3 e5 and 3 exd5 (the latter two against me when I twice surprised him with 1 ...c6).

Today's game sees him using the Advance Variation and reveling in the standard space advantage before arranging a tactical denouement.

Mike Closs vs. Kyle Kinnie
Redcar Open, 1995

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Be3 Bb4 6. Nge2 Ne7 7. Ng3 g6 8. Bg5 h5 Black's kingside pawn play is reminiscent of a Gurgenidze System, although it would be useful if the bishop could fill in the weaknesses on the dark squares. On the other hand, the pin on the knight is quite annoying for White.

9. h4 Nd7 10. Be2 Qa5 11. Qd2 Rg8  Rather than commit the rook to a particular position, Black should have stayed more flexible with 11 ...c5 or even 11 ...0-0 12. O-O Nb6 13. a3 Bxc3 14. bxc3 Na4 15. Rab1 Just in time, as Black was building serious pressure on the queenside. The counter-threat against b7 stops Black from gaining the advantage.

15 ...Nb6 16. Rb3 Kd7 17. Rfb1 Rae8 An important moment in the game. White stands better, but how can he inject a little more poison into the position?

18. Qc1! Making way for the bishop to retreat from g5 to d2, when it can play against the black queen. I like this creative idea very much. 18 ...Rc8 19. Bd2 Nc4 Black cracks under the pressure. 19 ...Qa4, although not entirely satisfactory, avoids the tempo-gaining 20 c3-c4 and is probably the best try. Once b7 drops the writing is definitely on the wall. 20. Rxb7+ Rc7 21.Bg5 Rgc8 I can't recall a single game in which Mike threw away such an advantage. I really like the way he now swaps off all three sets of minor pieces, almost on successive moves. He undoubtedly had the final position of the game in his mind, even from this distance. 22. Bxe7 Kxe7 23. Qg5+ Ke8 24. Nxf5 exf5 25. Bxc4 dxc4

26. e6 Qa6 27. Rxc7 Rxc7 28. Rb8+ Rc8 

Go on then, Mike!

29. Qf6!! and Black resigned, 1-0. Just try and find a successful defence!

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