Post #3

Chess Structures in Practice – CaroKann Formation

Just like many of you, I spent a fair amount of time last week following the US Chess Championship played in St Louis. There was plenty of excitement, the live broadcast was very good and more important than anything, the tournament featured what was arguably the strongest combination of twelve players to ever compete in the US Championship. Despite having plenty of nice games to choose from, I think that the game I will show next was the nicest illustration of concepts from Chess Structures put into practice.

Alexander Onischuk(2655) – Daniel Naroditsky(2633), US Chess Championship 2015

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Nf3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Bd6 6. Bg2 c6

The move order 6…0-0 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Qc2 and only now 8…c6 seems to be more precise, making it harder for White to take control of the center.

 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Bg5! Nbd7 while 8…dxc4 was met by 9.Nd2 followed by 10.Nxc4 9. e4 dxe4 10. Nxe4 10…Bb4+ 11. Nc3!

In case of 11.Bd2? Bxd2 12.Nexd2 e5! and Black equalizes.

We have reached the CaroKann Formation (Chapter 3), where White has more space and a better control of the center. The assessment of this position depends almost exclusively on whether Black can find a way to break in the center to release his spatial disadvantage. Otherwise, White will enjoy a lasting positional edge.

11…h6  getting rid of the pin, aiming to create some counterplay with …Ne4

It seems Black did not have better options, for example 11…c5 12. 0-0 cxd4 13. Qxd4 where White has superior coordination. Also 11…Qa5 12.Bd2 e5 is met by 13.a3! Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qa6 15 0-0! with a big advantage.

12. Bf4 Ne4 13. Qc2 Nxc3 14. bxc3 Ba5 15. O-O

This is a good moment to evaluate the position. The structure has changed slightly since White now has doubled c pawns (which also means he has a semi-open b-file. Black has been unable to release his position with either …c6-c5 or …e6-e5 and having his bishop trapped on c8 only adds to his misery. White has a very comfortable advantage.

15…Bc7 trading pieces is good, but this also gives up control of dark squares, which is not so good… 16. Qe4 Bxf4 17. Qxf4 b6 18. Rfd1 Bb7 19. c5! A thematic move in this structure, locking Black’s bishop.

19…Rc8 20. Rab1 Ba8 21. Ne5! Onischuk knows his advantage comes from his strong bishop on g2 versus the poor bishop on a8. Knights are only accessory pieces hence can be traded, 21…Qe7 22. Nxd7 Qxd7 23. a4!

Notice how White does not capture Black’s pawn on b6, since this would release the bishop on a8. 23…Rfd8 24. Bf3 Qe7 attacking the c5 pawn, hoping White will finally take on b6 allowing Black to liberate his position.

White’s also much better after 24… bxc5 25. dxc5 Qe7 26.Rd6.

25. Qe5! bxc5 26. Qxc5 Qc7? too passive, keeping queens on the board will not help Black

In case of 26… Qxc5 27. dxc5 Kf8 28. a5 Ke7 29. a6 Black’s bishop is trapped on a8, but his chances of holding are better than in the game since White does not have entry points at the moment.

27. a5  White can improve slowly, a typical feature of this pawn structure when White’s central domination works out.

27…Rb8 28. c4 Qd7 29. h4 Rbc8 30. Kg2 Rc7 31.Rb3 Qc8 Black’s position continues to deteriorate, how should White proceed in the creation of new weaknesses?

32. g4! White’s central domination allows for a risk-free kingside expansion 32…Rcd7 33. g5 hxg5 34. hxg5 Qc7 35. Re3 Qd6 36. Qxd6 Rxd6

37. c5! Rxd4 38. Rxd4 Rxd4 39. Rb3 Rd8 40. a6! Kf8 41. Be4 White has a rather picturesque position, he is a pawn down but has a great advantage due to the permanently trapped bishop on a8; Black’s position is critical.

41…f5? the decisive mistake

More solid was was 41… Ke7 though after 42.f4 White will improve slowly and win, as an example take 42…Rd2 43.Kf3 Rd8 44.f5 e5 45 Rd3 Rh8 46 Rd6, to follow with f5-f6 with a great advantage.

42. gxf6 gxf6 43. Rh3?! even stronger was the direct 43. Rd3! winning similar to the game 43… Kg8 

More stubborn was 43… Rd4!, though after the precise forced sequence 44. Rh8+ Kg7 45. Rh7+ 45… Kg8 46. Bg6!1 Rg4+ 47. Kf3 Rxg6 48. Rxa7 Rg1 49. Rxa8+ Kg7 50. Rc8 Ra1 51. Rxc6 White is winning without problems

44. Rd3! Rxd3 45. Bxd3

Black is completely hopeless because he is essentially playing without a bishop, and will be unable to prevent White from penetrating decisively on the center/kingside.

45…f5 46. f4 Kg7 47. Kf3 Kf6 48. Ke3 e5 49. Bc4 e4 50. Kd4 1-0 White’s king is coming into e5 to decide the game and Black decided it was time to resign.

Interestingly enough, Black could still try one last trick, which is 50…Kg6 51. Be6 Kf6 52. Bc8 Ke7 53. Bb7?? 53… Kd7! and the game is draw after  54. Bxa8 Kc7 where White cannot make progress. Of course, White was winning easily with either 51. Ke5 or 53. Bxf5.

Final Remarks

  • It is hard to pinpoint exactly where things went so wrong for Black. After a slightly imprecise opening White was simply better for the rest of the game. The crucial point though is that Black did not find a way to carry out the standard central breaks.
  • Once again, similar to example Ivanisevic – Ascic (Chapter 3) the idea c4-c5 proved very effective at restricting Black’s bishop on c8, securing a lasting advantage for White.

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions or questions. If you liked this blog post, click “Follow” at the top of the page to receive an email once a new blogpost is out. I will try to post once per week.


3 thoughts on “Post #3

  1. Greg Granger

    Hi GM Rios — Thank you so much for your wonderful book! I play the CaroKann as a lower rated player and I have learned some insights from reading this post.
    Your writing is exceptionally clear and precise. I think learning the concepts of Pawn Structures is one of the most difficult things new — and longtime lower rated — players must achieve in order to truly begin to understand the game of Chess.
    From the reviews I have read so far on Amazon I know your book(s) will enable me to finally make that next great leap forward that has eluded me for so many years.
    I also play the Slav and the English is my favorite opening as White. Will you be covering those — and their related — structures in your upcoming books?
    Thanks again for a great original book!
    All the best,
    Greg G.
    NJ, USA


    1. Mauricio Flores Post author

      Hi Greg:

      Some structures in my book already cover many things that are relevant to the Slav, mainly chapters 1-5. They might not have that name, but Slav variations go into those pawn structures. Which structure are you referring to when you talk about the English? I can always make a blog post about a particular position (if an interest game comes around).


      1. Greg Granger

        Hi GM Rios,

        Thank you for your kind offer to take a look at an example, or two, of pawn structures in the English.
        I shall pick a couple of examples for you and post them here.

        Best regards,
        Greg G.


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