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Adapting to the situation, the annotators this month have decided to review some of their own games. Dan takes us through two openings in his main Black repertoire, the Caro-Kann and Modern Defences, while I provide some of my Scandi wins and some preparation from the White side.

Download PGN of April ’20 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence, 3...Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 [B01]

One thing I’ve noticed, which I share through two of my own games, is that most players have no idea what to do against the variation 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6. Indeed, Carlsen has pioneered the opening many times in shorter time controls, highlighting that even the super GMs are unsure of this territory. The main line is of course,6 Ne5. In the game Seyb, D - Tan, J, I confirm that the main response 6...Nbd7 is a viable option still. Instead, I had prepared some dubious variation: 6...Be6?!

Now I understood that White is clearly better after 7 Bf4 Qd8 8 h4! when Black will struggle to develop that f8-bishop. Luckily, as I had anticipated, my opponent did not approach the position with the right mindset. 7 Bc4?! Bxc4 8 Nxc4 Qc7 9 Qf3 Qd8 10 Be3 e6 11 0-0-0 and now Black is solid after 11...Be7. I chose 11...Nbd7?! which turned out to be fine, except my opponent missed 12 g4!

The other game, Bergsson - Tan, J was handled even less convincingly by White. 6 Bc4 Bg4 7 0-0 Now, 7...e6 is sensible. I played 7...Nbd7 instead:

Here, White could have played 8 h3! since 8...Bxf3 (8...Bh5 is still reasonable for Black) 9 Qxf3 Qxd4?? Is answered with 10 Bxf7! Kxf7 11 Rd1. The point is that after 11...Qe5 12 Rxd7 Qe1+ is not mate! This is definitely a trick I will remember. 8 Re1?! Bxf3 9 Qxf3 Qxd4 A pawn is a pawn! 10 Bb3 Qg4 and Black is clearly better.

Alekhine Defence, Main Line with 4...Bg4 5 Be2 Nc6 [B05]

New to the archives is the position 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3 Bg4 5 Be2 Nc6?! Perhaps for good reason. Luckily, my opponent in Tan, J - Merkesvik, S had played this a couple times before, so I was well-prepared: 6 0-0! dxe5 7 Nxe5 Bxe2 8 Qxe2:

If Black plays 8...Nxd4 then 9 Qc4 comes, and both Black knights in the centre are too loose. Instead, Merkesvik opted for 8...Qd6 9 Nxc6 Qxc6 10 c4 Nb6 11 b3 Qd7 12 Bb2 c6 13 Nc3 and I had an overwhelming development advantage. I eventually wound up with a crushing position, however I played too softly and the tenacious opponent got away!

Modern Defence, System with Nf3 and Be2 [B06]

The system with 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Bg7 3 Nf3 d6 4 Nc3 a6 5 Be2 is a very unassuming one, and you could be forgiven for thinking Black had easy equality. However, that isn’t really the case. What he does have is a wider-than-normal choice of setups: a Pirc transposition (in which he has committed to ...a6 rather than ...c6), a Sicilian structure, or... improvisation. In the game Froeyman, H- Fernandez, D I chose the third option. The game continued 5...Nd7 6 0-0 b5 7 Be3 b5?!:

Now White chose the principled 8 dxc5 leaving me with a backward d-pawn for the foreseeable future. In my opinion it’s far from simple to make the correct trading decisions for White to actually convert this static plus, nevertheless it’s also very tricky for Black to ever generate winning chances in such a structure and he was ultimately unsuccessful.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation 3...Bg4 4 h3 Bxf3 5 Qxf3 e6 6 Qg3 [B11]

The game McShane, L-Fernandez, D provided almost my (DF) first experience in this line, close to five years ago. After the initial moves 1 e4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Nc3 Bg4 4 h3 Bxf3 5 Qxf3 e6 White chose a move which isn’t a complete stranger to our site, but definitely flies below the radar somewhat in spite of patronage by some very strong players: the unusual 6 Qg3:

It turns out that Black (as is quite common in theoretical positions where he has given up the bishop pair) has to pay a great deal of attention to where the remaining minor pieces go. In particular, I conclude that the correct path is to develop the queen’s knight first, so as not to either provide a hook for the g4-g5 thrust or limit Black’s future options of playing ...Bb4. After accurate play, involving developing all the minor pieces to the second rank, Black can equalise.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4 c4 [B12]

For a couple of years after becoming an International Master, I (DF) played relatively few games I was proud of. That period ended with the game Petrov, M - Fernandez, D, in which my opponent played a relative sideline, albeit one chosen by several strong players. White’s plans in the position after 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Bf5 4 c4 e6 5 Nc3 are relatively easy to understand:

White usually wants to fight to establish a knight on d6, preferably after exchanging all but one pair of minor pieces. In some variations, he can also consider playing with f4-f5. Meanwhile, Black understandably wants to place a knight on d5, but in my opinion he has to be careful not to do so in an overly straightforward fashion. The theoretical move is 5...Ne7, but I chose the subtly different 5...h6!? which also seems playable after some nuances and improvements. Some of those nuances involve the exact circumstances under which ...h6 or ...h5 is preferable, and others have to do with when it’s alright to station a knight on d5. This is a line that needs more attention.

Caro-Kann Defence, Short System with 5...Nd7 6 Nbd2 [B12]

Observant readers would remember that in the position after 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Bf5 4 Nf3 e6 5 Be2 I (DF) have analysed moves like ...c5 and ...Ne7 a lot (including in my book) but never the development of the other knight. However, in the long-forgotten game Srinath, N-Fernandez, D I tried out the move 5...Nd7:

This move is generally ‘slower’ and allows White more options, in my current opinion. So while the majority of people chose to castle in the diagram position, my opponent made a logical attempt to ‘move-order’ me by playing 6 Nbd2. To which I responded with the super-safe 6...Ne7 7 0-0 a6!? (pay attention to the game Adams-Postny in the notes to move 7) which nevertheless turned out to be not so safe after a couple of inaccuracies. After passing through a completely lost position arising from the very logical f4-f5 plan from White , I managed to turn the tables in a messy middlegame where both kings were under attack.

Caro-Kann Defence, Panov-Botvinnik Attack with 5...Nc6 6 Nf3 Bg4 [B13]

Finally, I (JT) go through one of my wins in an old time favourite of mine, the Panov-Botvinnik Attack: 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 c4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Nf3 Bg4 Sadly, it is this, now famous, variation which has killed the vibe for Panov fans. 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Qb3 Bxf3 9 gxf3 e6 10 Qxb7 Nxd4 11 Bb5+ Nxb5 12 Qc6+ Ke7 13 Qxb5 If I remember correctly, I was content with a draw here. Therefore, I had nothing spectacular up my sleeve in event of the main line 13...Qd7. Instead, my opponent played the daring 13...Nxc3. This is a way for Black to keep the game interesting, and it signals that he probably wants to play for a win. That makes sense, considering my track record against the opponent in question (in fact, my last game since the virus severely outbroke was a loss as White against him :P). Yet, I haven’t been able to find easy equality for Black. After 14 bxc3 Rb8 15 Qc5+ Ke8 16 Qxa7 Bd6:

The bold 17 0-0! gives White an advantage. I believe this was also in my preparation for a game I played 5 years ago (Tan, J - Donchenko, A). If Black plays 17...Qh4?? Then 18 Rd1 Qxh2+ 19 Kf1 is suddenly winning for White. Black’s king is the one which is in grave danger! In the main game, I played instead, 17 Be3 Qd7 18 Qd4 and eventually won. See Tan, J - Merry, A.

All the best and stay safe! Till next time, Dan and Justin.

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