Main Line Caro-Kann

Round 1

11.Be3  11.Bd2 is far more popular and successful, but I wasn’t sure at the time, only had a guess that it might be.

13.Ne2  13.Ne4 would have been more challenging, although my move is more familiar from similar lines of theory.

13…Ne7  Unassuming.  After 13…Qa5, 14.Kb1 Nf6, I was looking at 15.g4 here, but …Nxg4, 16.Rdg1 Ndf6! shuts this idea down.  So, 15.Nf3-d2! would be best here, since 16.Nc4 is threatened to fork queen and bishop, and is a good square for the knight.

14…Nd5  14…Nf6 is smoother.

15.Bd2  15.c4 NxBe3, 16.fxNe3 preserves initiative.  It jumped out at me, but I wasn’t sure.

14.b3?!  Too cautious.  14.b4!, 14.Nc3, and 14.Bc3 are all better moves according to Houdini.

18….a6 is best (+.5), a cautious move that I pointed out after the game.  However, OTB I’m always most worried about the sharpest lines, and showed Shirley 18….cxd4, 19.Nb5 Nc5, thinking 20.Qc2 (Qe2 would be better) d3, 21.Qc3 could be good for her, but just missing that 20.Qxd4 is safe to play, and is actually completely winning for White after 20…Qb8, 21.Bf4! BxBf4, 22.QxNc5+.

18…Nb8??  I told Shirley after the game, I had seen that this move was losing in all lines, and the eval jumps to nearly +9 for White!  So, it’s really over here, and all that’s left is to choose your color of fireworks; a lot of paths will lead to Rome.

Time-wise, I had an hour and ten minutes remaining, and Shirley forty minutes.  This means the game was approximately an hour and a half, and I did most of my thinking on her clock (for a change from all the blitzers who I play).

Shirley put her opening knowledge she had just learned to good use, and for me who doesn’t normally play this line but wants to incorporate it into my repertoire, I got a good sense from the game and Houdini as to just which moves and ideas take priority over others (or at least a bit more than I understood previously).

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