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The thematic ‘Eljanov Variation’ continues to attract attention. I played one game where I was aiming for it, but missed out due to White choosing a subtle move order that deserves attention. Elsewhere, I tie up loose ends from the European Championships.

Download PGN of April ’23 1 e4 ... games

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Nimzowitsch Defence with 3.Nc3 [B00]

Coming in some way behind 3.e5 and 3.exd5 is the move 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3, which begs the capture on e4 (even though that’s not the only move.) In Bortnyk, O - Adhiban, A I investigate some subtleties of the endings that arise after 3...dxe4 4.d5 Nb8 5.Nxe4 c6:

With White having an ever-so-slight structural advantage, the way Black develops the queenside pieces after queens come off will be important.

Modern Defence with 3...a6 [B06]

In this month’s game Willow, J - Moroni, L Black pushed the boat out even more than usual in the Modern, essaying the line 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6 (already adventurous, but I’ve been known to play this) 4. Nf3 b5 5.Bd3 Bb7:

Delaying ...d6 to this extent negatively impacts a lot of Black’s developing choices, a fact which Jonah sought to capitalise upon with the immediate 6.h4, a move which I really like. The remainder of the opening went amazingly for White, though sometime in the early middlegame the Italian managed to muddy the waters.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack with 5...0-0 [B09]

After an initial 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 I explore the subtleties of the related 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Be2 before proceeding to the 6.Be2 c5 7.d5 seen in Kalogeris, I - Bosiocic, M. Black’s tournament hadn’t been going amazingly, but some sort of turnaround was in progress and so, in place of the (likely) equalising 7...e6, Bosiocic tried the combative 7...b5!?:

This move is fascinating to research, but after the most accurate play I don’t believe it quite equalises.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance with 4.h4 h5 5.c4 [B12]

After previously trying some questionable approaches against this system I’m fully aware my opponents are likely to give this a shot against me. In Garrido Outon, A - Fernandez, D my opponent’s choice initially seemed to be paying off, as I reacted with 5...e6 6.Nc3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nd7 8.Nf3 Bg4 before then meeting 9.Be2 with the overly simplistic 9...Bxf3?!:

I understood right away that this capture had been premature, and tried to justify it with pawn-grabbing (ultimately with success) but from an opening perspective it’s clear that 9...Ne7 improves.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance with 3...c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Qxd4 [B12]

Another fashionable line, and this time the players in question were my former compatriots: Goh Wei Ming, K - Tin, J. After 5...Nc6 6.Qf4 e6 7.Bd3 Nb4 most people have simply castled, but the current game makes a convincing case for 8.Bd2:

White simply accepts that the bishop on d3 is toast, and prepares to use the b4-square as a launching pad for their own desired trade (i.e. Bb4.) Black prevented immediate trades there with 8...Nxd3 9.cxd3 Qb6, but a few moves down the line White managed to get Bb4 in anyway (and the queen on b6 ended up looking rather pointless.) An interesting new trend that deserves attention.

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

In McClymont, B - Fernandez, D I came in with the express goal of trying out the Eljanov variation (6.0-0 a5!?) again, but my opponent was one step ahead of me and tried out the crafty move order 6.Nbd2, intending after 6...a5 7.a4 f6 to delay castling again and enter more-or-less new territory with 8.Nb3!?:

White wants to cut out Black’s idea of ...Nh6-f7, which causes some sort of traffic jam among Black’s kingside minor pieces. While this is technically a novelty, I could have returned to something checked in this column before by replying 8...Qc7. Instead, the other logical move 8...Nh6?! (anyway!) was uncompromising and exactly what the doctor ordered from a competitive perspective, but objectively gives White a sizeable advantage after correct play.

Caro-Kann Defence, Short System with 5...a6 [B12]

After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2, the ninth most popular move 5...a6 is certainly a rare choice, but not altogether a bad one. Since the White player had a very good idea who he’d be facing in this national league game, there had been time to prepare various surprises against 5...Ne7, 5...Nd7 et cetera. The text is useful in lots of cases, particularly if Black plays ...c5 next (which is the intention.) The game Moreby, J - Harvey, M continued 6.0-0 c5:

In this position (reached fewer than 100 times in my database) it is high time White plays 7.Be3, which was definitely an option on the previous move as well. Instead, after the rather limp 7.c3 Nc6 8.Nbd2 cxd4 Black equalised without too much trouble. Winning this slightly stodgy position then proved impossible, but not for want of trying.

Caro-Kann Defence, Exchange Variation with 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Ne5 [B13]

The very last of my (noteworthy) personal Caro encounters from the last few months was Sardana, R - Fernandez, D from the Doeberl Cup in Australia. I was having a forgettable event, and in this penultimate round sought to redeem myself. Imagine my chagrin, therefore, to find an Exchange Caro on the board. I replied with the uncommon 5...Qb6 (fully playable, and avoiding any Bb5 ideas) and my opponent blitzed out 6.c3:

The principled 6...Bf5 would probably have led to a sharper game. Due to some ghosts I saw, I felt compelled to play the more restrained 6...e6, after which Black needs to exercise some real caution to avoid becoming worse.

All the best, Daniel

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