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Hi Guys,
This update is strongly focussed on the Pirc Defence, particularly the aggressive lines with 4 Nf3 and 5 Be3. Otherwise, the Advanced, Exchange and Main lines of the Caro-Kann Defence all make their usual appearances...

Download PGN of April ’19 1 e4 ... games

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The Pirc Defence, 150 Attack 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be3 c6 [B08]

A subscriber this month, an avid Pirc adherent, expressed concerns over some persuasive analysis by Sopiko Guramishvili, taken from her chess24 video series, ‘Beat the Caro-Kann, French and Pirc’. In the notes to the game Ivanov, O - Savchenko, B, I cover the common move order 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be3 c6, after which 6 Qd2 b5 and now 7 Bh6! is a threatening continuation. In general, this move order is one I’d avoid as Black.

The Pirc Defence, 150 Attack 4 Be3 c6 [B07]

Next, I cover an ‘improved’ version of that in Riff, J - Onischuk, V which saw 4 Be3 c6. The idea not to commit the bishop to g7 but to prioritise central and queenside play is a common one for Pirc players. Then again, those sides of the board aren’t without their vulnerabilities. The game continues 5 Qd2 Nbd7 6 Nf3 e5 7 Bc4 h6:

Now 8 0-0-0!, a minor improvement on Sevian’s 8 0-0. Then Onischuk should have tried 8...Ng4. The game would remain double-edged but in my view, White’s initiative is a bit difficult to parry.

Pirc Defence, 150 Attack 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be3 a6 6 Bd3 [B08]

The final segment of this Pirc 150 Attack ‘mini-series’ comes from the game Gabrielian, A - Kobo, O and is my favourite game of the three, partly because there is a move which is not mentioned by Guramishvili - namely, 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Be3 a6!? 6 Qd2 0-0 7 Bh6 and now 7...c5!?:

Although I note that this isn’t to everyone’s taste, it does have a lot of dynamic potential. Firstly, as in the game, Black’s structure made for a highly effective Benoni pawn mass on the queenside. At the same time, Black puts immediate pressure on the White centre, an element which is lacking in the ...c7-c6, ...b7-b5 setups. In that game, play continued 8 Bxg7 Kxg7 9 h4 h5 10 0-0-0 Nc6 11 d5 Na7 and Black was ready to counterattack with a quick ...b7-b5-b4, ...Na7-b5.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack 5...0-0 6 Bd3 Na6 [B09]

Having the Pirc/Modern as your main opening does mean that players will constantly try to find small cracks in your repertoire, here and there. Vladimir Onischuk nevertheless remains successful with it. In Basso, P - Onischuk, V a heavy duty theoretical battle ensued in the line 4 f4 Nf6 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Bd3 Na6 7 0-0 c5 8 d5 Bg4 9 Bc4 Nc7 10 h3 Bxf3 11 Qxf3 a6 12 a4 b6:

This position has been seen many times before. Me, I’m not sure I can fully trust this for Black. White only needs to come up with the right plan, granted that if he does not, Black can very easily take over, as it happened in that game. A plan which featured in this game was to play for f4-f5 and throw your pieces towards the kingside. A subtle sub-plan is to play for Nc3-d1-e3. This is one which I recommend the reader remembers if he wants to enter this line. The game continued 13 Qd3 Qc8 14 f5!?, but the White player went astray later on in the game.

Caro-Kann Advance Variation 3...Bf5 4 h4 h6 [B12]

It must have been a surprise for the young Malaysian prodigy, Yeoh Li Tian, to find himself with a winning position as Black against Sethuraman after only 13 moves - this is the price you have to pay as White when you choose to play the sharpest lines with 1 e4! In that game, play followed 3 e5 Bf5 4 h4 h6 5 g4 Be4 6 f3 Bh7:

7 e6! This has already been seen a few times in our archives. 7...Qd6 8 exf7 Kxf7 and now Sethuraman surely mixed up his lines when he played the slightly vague 9 Ne2. This is not such a good move, so I devote most of my analysis to clarifying the situation in 9 f4 instead, coming to the conclusion that White’s initiative is, at the very least, dangerous and objectively he might be somewhat better (see my notes to Sethuraman, SP - Yeoh, L).

Caro-Kann Defence Exchange Variation with an early ...g6 [B13]

In the game, Nisipeanu, L - Piorun, K, I analyse a couple of creative ways to meet the Exchange Variation of the Caro-Kann, namely with 3 exd5 cxd5 4 Bd3 Nc6 5 c3 g6:

Now on 6 Nf3, I’m fond of the move 6...Nh6!? To swap the light-squared bishops while keeping the solid pawn structure intact. Also analysed was an idea after 6 Bf4 to play 6...Bh6!?. Both these ideas are creative yet very appropriate in aiming for equality.

Caro-Kann 5...Bf5 Main Line with 7...e6 8 Ne5 [B19]

Finally, I revisit a popular line in Cheparinov, I - Lupulescu, C, 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Bf5 5 Ng3 Bg6 6 h4 h6 7 Nf3 e6. Previously, in Vocaturo, D - Baldauf, M, I had analysed a particular line finding that Black faced no problems: 8 Ne5 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 Nd7 11 Qe2. I have to admit that it made me a bit suspicious that strong players were still going in for this. Now that Cheparinov played it, I learned that Black actually has to be extremely careful if he wants to play the principled 11...Nd7 12 Bd2 c5 as Baldauf played. Instead, Lupulsecu played 12...Qc7 13 0-0-0 Bd6:

Now two moves give White a good game, that played in the game: 14 Rhe1 0-0 15 Nh5! as well as 14 Nxd7 Qxd7 15 Nf5.

Till next time! Justin :)

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