When an elite player is an acknowledged authority in an opening, playing it against him is usually not a wise idea, as Black finds out in the following game.

Playing the Caro-Kann against Viktor Laznicka, a Czech grandmaster, is a very risky decision, as he is one of the world’s leading proponents of the defense. In this game, he demonstrates that he is quite comfortable playing the other side as well.

Laznicka, V. vs. Swapnil, SD.
6th HD Bank Cup 2016 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 3.2 | 09 Mar 2016 | ECO: B12 | 1-0
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5
3... Bf5 This is more common, aiming for a strategic game. The text is a more direct way to try to equalize  )
4. dxc5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4
5... e6 Is also possible
6. Bd3 Bxc5 7. a3 And, in my opinion, White is a little better  )
6. Bb5 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 e6 8. Bd2 Qc7 9. b4! Saving the right pawn. The White queenside pawn mass will become a problem for Black in the near future.
9... Bxf3
9... a5 This was also possible, aiming to go after the queenside pawns instead. But, White would have a pleasant choice between two good options:
10. O-O! I like this more than the sedate a3
...  axb4 11. Na4 Eschewing all things positional for rapid development. White will quickly be able to play Bxb4 and Nb6, giving him a strong initiative  )
10. gxf3!? A very interesting decision. I think Laznicka wanted to keep the rook on a1 protected
10. Qxf3 a5 Wwhite cannot reply a3, which is possibly why Laznicka took with the pawn. But, White is better if he plays for the initiative
11. O-O axb4 12. Na4  )
10... Qxe5+ 11. Qe2 Qxe2+ 12. Nxe2 The computer thinks Black is fine here, and even offers him a slight edge in its evaluations. But, I think this is very misguided -- the White queenside pawn mass will mobilize quickly
12... Be7 13. Nd4! A very strong exchange sacrifice
13... Bf6
13... Kd7 In light of how the game went, this could have been a decent alternative  )
14. Nxc6 Bxa1 15. Ke2 a6 16. Ba4 Bf6 17. Na5+ Kf8 18. Nxb7 White's pawns will soon be too difficult to control. Note how ineffective the Black rooks are and that the fractured kingside pawn structure cannot be attacked.
18... Ne7 19. Rc1! Another strong move: White prepares c4
19... Nf5 20. c4 dxc4 21. Rxc4 Be5 22. f4 Bc7 23. Bc2 Rb8 24. Be4 Ne7 25. c6 Finally the computer comes around to understanding White's idea. Nc5 is looming and Black is in big trouble
25... Nd5 Probably the best try in a bad position. Black is unable to activate the h8 rook
25... f6? 26. Nc5 Wins immediately  )
25... f5 26. Bf3 Kf7 27. Nc5 And White is much better  )
26. Bxd5 exd5 27. Rc5!
27. Rd4? This natural looking move would be a big mistake because of
27... Re8+ 28. Kd3 Re6! Winning the c6 pawn and changing the course of the game  )
27... d4 28. Rd5! Well calculated. White goes in for the kill with Rd7
28... Re8+ 29. Kd3 Re6 For a moment, it looks as if White has blundered, but he was clearly ready:
30. b5! axb5 31. Bb4+ Kg8 32. Bd6
32. Rd8+! This pretty move was a bit more precise, but Laznicka's move definitely wins so I see no reason to criticize it.
32... Bxd8  )
32... h6 33. f5! Getting in a useful advance before taking the bishop
33... Rf6 34. Bxc7 Rxc6 35. Ba5 Kh7 36. Rxb5! Taking the correct pawn -- now White has a passed pawn. The rest requires no comment
36... Rb8 37. a3 Rc1 38. Nd6 Ra8 39. Bb4 Rd1+ 40. Ke2 Rh1 41. Rb7 f6 42. Re7 Rxh2 43. Ne8 d3+ 44. Kxd3 Rxf2 45. Nxg7 Kh8 46. Ke3 Rf1 47. Ke2 Rf4 48. Bd6 Rd4 49. Ne8 Rg4 50. Nxf6 Rg7 51. Re6 Rg5 52. Re7 Rg7 53. Re5 Rf7 54. Ne4 Kg7 55. Ke3 Rc8 56. Bc5 Rb8 57. Bb4 Rd8 58. Nd6 Ra7 59. Re6 Kh7 60. f6 Kg6 61. f7+ Kg7 62. Re8


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.