Luck is a Matter of Preparation Meeting Opportunity | Road to GM, Game 66

A battle in the theoretical Panov Caro-Kann endgame which should be equal in theory, but…

Ivankovic I. (2081) vs Tomic S. (1876) , Caro-Kann, Panov Botvinnik Attack
2019 Croatian Cup Finals, Rd.5, 05/18/2019

After having won the round 4 match, which was an upset for my team, because we were lower rated, we have expected to face a very strong team the next day. Surprisingly, we were paired down, and faced a team lower on all four boards (if our first setup plays, that is).

This meant that I got to play again! I really thought I wouldn’t play rd. 5, but since it was a 2081 opponent, I was given a chance. Needless to say that I was too excited and couldn’t concentrate since I’d just beaten an FM two hours ago, but I had to calm down and start preparing for the next one!

Matej helped there and I got to my prep immediately. The opponent I was to play had a much higher rating several years ago. That means that he’s on the decline, but still a very strong player, much higher rated than I am.

He usually plays c4, although he sometimes surprises with b4 or g4. So I had a lot to do. Especially so because I’ve recently decided to learn a new system against the English and stop playing c6 every game. When I prepared and looked at his games, his responses to 1…c6 made me decide to go for the Caro-Kann defensive system once more. We could have either entered the Panov, the Slav or g3 setups. I was prepared for all three.

Most of all, though, I had prepared for the Panov Attack, since he’d already transposed into one at the cup a few rounds before, and it was highly likely he’ll choose it again.

I know the queen exchange variation in the Panov by hear, and I still did a lot of work on the endgame ideas, so I was very well prepared for what we ended up playing. The position we got was known and equal. Matej, my coach and team captain told me to offer a draw (which I wasn’t happy about) and my opponent declined, of course, wanting to win at all costs. And when you push too hard… You can lose.

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