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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Karpov's Caro Kann: Closed System

Caro Kann Defence: Advance Variation and Gambit System (Batsford Chess Books) - Anatoly Karpov, Mikhail Podgaets, Jimmy Adams I had still not lost a game playing for my new club (two wins, two draws), and my captain asked if I would like to play first board in the next match. I was warned I'd have to play Black against an International Master. After consulting with my second, I decided to go for it, and for the first time in my life got to play the black side of an Advance Caro-Kann.

Swiss Second Division, Apr 29 2012

White: Christian Maier
Black: MR

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. e5 Bf5

Karpov thinks ... c5 is just as good, but ... Bf5 has always been the more popular move. I have played ... c5 in ICC games, but it's surprisingly easy to end up minus a pawn if you don't know exactly what you're doing.

4. h4

A clever move, invented by the great Paul Keres in 1931 and still going strong. If Black mechanically plays ... e6, 5. g4 will trap his bishop.

4... h5.

Karpov considers this to be the main line. The old move was ... h6. You can also play ... Qb6, which he thinks is quite good.

5. Bg5!?

I didn't know this move, and Karpov's book doesn't consider it. A quick look at the Chesslive database after the game reveals that it's been around for a while, and has recently become popular.

5... Qb6

I couldn't understand his idea. How is he going to defend his b2 pawn? 6. b3 looks horrible, so he must have a sacrifice in mind, but what?

6. Bd3!

Diagram 1

After six moves, we have an insanely complicated position where anything can happen. I can take an exchange with 6... Qb2 7. Bf5 Qa1, but after 8. e6 it looks like his attack is easily worth it. I was more tempted to win a pawn with 6... Qd4. After 7. Nf3 Qg4 I couldn't quite see where his compensation was, but he has many tries and had obviously prepared the line. I decided to play solidly, which is what most people in the database appear to have done.

6... Bd3

7. Qd3 e6

If I play Qb2 and take the rook, my queen is going to get trapped by Qb3. I will get two rooks for it, but my position is undeveloped and he will again get a killing attack. Most people play ... e6, I found out later.

8. Nc3 Qa6?!

My first inclination was to play the simple ... c5, and that's what I should have done. Instead, I remembered that Karpov recommended the Qa6 manoeuvre, and decided to do that first. Surely it would just improve my Queenside position?

9. Qh3!

Apparently a new move. Other people have played 9. Qd2, which isn't nearly as good.

9... c5??

Completely missing his idea.

Diagram 2

10. Nd5!

OMG. I can't take it, because then Qc8 is mate. An unusual trap! I am lucky I don't already have to resign. My next move is forced.

10... Qc6

11. Nf4 cd
12. OOO Bc5
13. Nge2

I have managed to avoid losing material for the time being, but I am completely busted. He has a huge lead in development and I have opened the position too early. My one chance is that he'll get overenthusiastic.

13... Qb6
14. Nd5!?

This is maybe a good move, but he doesn't need to be so clever. There were any number of prosaic ways to increase his advantage. Though I still wondered if I'd live to see move 20.

14... Qc6

Diagram 3

15. Nd4?

Intended to be a brilliant sacrifice, but I'd already seen it wasn't so clear.

15... Bd4
16. Rd4 ed
17. Rd5 Ne7!

I can't take the rook, but this developing move gives me far better chances than I deserve.

18. Rd6 Qc7!

Diagram 4

Maybe he'd only calculated 18... Qc8?? after which 19. Qc8 Nc8 20. Rd8 is mate.

19. Be7 Ke7

I offered a draw on psychological grounds. I was pretty sure he'd decline, but then if his position continued to deteriorate he'd start regretting it.

20. Qa3 Ke8!

Another only move, but now it really isn't so clear. He started to look distinctly unhappy.

21. e6 Rh6!?

Diagram 5

The computer prefers the cold-blooded ... Nc6, but I badly wanted to exchange off one of his rooks, which were still worrying me.

22. Qg3!?

It's horribly complicated. The computer thinks taking on f7 is good for White, but at the time I felt I had enough resources. Clearly he did too.

22... Kf8!

I started to like my position. None of his tactics seem to work.

23. Rhd1 Na6!

I need to protect my queen, and luckily I can do so while developing a piece. Now he has to be careful. We were both running very short of time due to all the difficult decisions we'd made earlier, and play starts to get random again.

24. Qf3 Rf6!
25. Qh5 Kg8!

Diagram 6

My king has reached something that almost looks like safety, but it's cost me another pawn.

26. ef+ Rf7
27. f3 Raf8?!

A solid move, but probably not the best one. I was having trouble adjusting to the new kind of position that has arisen.

28. Qd5!

Pinning my rook. I still have problems to solve.

28... Nc5
29. b4?

Diagram 7

A dreadful move, gratuitously weakening his own king and pushing my knight where it wants to go. But I only had about three minutes left to reach move 40.

29... Na4
30. Qb3 b5
31. h5 Qe7!

So far, I am alert. The queen is coming out to check on g5

32. c4?

This just can't be good. He is now as lost as I was on move 10.

32... Qg5+
33. Kb1 Qf5+
34. Kc1 Qg5+
35. Kb1 Qf5+
36. Kc1

I repeat moves to gain some time on the clock.

36... Qf4+
37. Kb1 Qc4
38. Qc4 bc
39. Kc2 Re7
40. Ra6 Nb6

Diagram 8

I have reached the time control and now have another 40 minutes. With a knight for two pawns in the ending, I must surely still be winning? But it turned out to be technically much harder than I had expected, and he starts defending grimly.

41. Rd2 Rf5
42. Ra5!

A fine defensive move. I felt taking the rook ought to be winning, but I couldn't find a clear sequence. In the end, I played a solid move.

42... Rfe5?!
43. Rc5!

Another good defence.

43... Re2
44. a4

He want to advance the queenside pawns for two reasons. The more pawns he can exchange, the harder it will be for me; also, knights do very badly at stopping rook pawns.

44... Rd2+
45. Kd2 Rd7+
46. Kc2 Nd5!

He can't take on c4 because of the knight fork, but he can advance those damn pawns.

Diagram 9

47. b5 Kf7

My king wants to take his kingside pawns, but again he defends well and advances them.

48. g4! Ke6
49. f4!

A few moves earlier, I had thought that ... Rc7, exchanging the rooks, would win here. But unfortunately, it doesn't work. He has too many pawns, and my knight is overworked stopping them.

49... Ne3+
50. Kc3 Ng4
51. Kc4 Ne3+
52. Kb4 Nd5+
53. Ka5 Nf4
54. Rc6+ Kf7
55. Ka6

His queenside pawns are really becoming dangerous. It's taken too long to kill his kingside. Also, I was very short of time again.

55... Nd5

Diagram 10

56. Rc4

But not 56. a5?? Nb4 mate!

56... Ke6
57. a5 Nc7+
58. Ka7 Nb5+
59. Kb6 Nd6
60. Rc7!

Diagram 11

60... Rd8

I had a few seconds left to make my last move of the second time control, and was worried that exchanging rooks might even lose.

61. Rg7 Nc4+
62. Kb5 Na5


He takes my knight, I check and take his pawn. Very inaccurate, but a great fighting game.