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Hi everyone, this month is largely comprised of relatively unusual variations and moves that haven't been covered before. Having said that I do look at a couple of old favourites as well, so it's a bit of a mixed bag!

Download PGN of August '13 1 e4 ... games

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Alekhine's Defence Exchange 5...cxd6 [B03]

Our first game starts off as a mainline and reaches this well known position after 9.b3:

but instead of the standard 9...e5 or 9...Nc6 Black tries the rare 9...Bf5 and equalises easily against his higher rated opponent. In Arencibia Rodriguez-Panjwani White fails to get any advantage after 10.Nf3 d5 so perhaps 10.Be2 is a better try for an edge.

Modern Defence 4.Nf3 [B06]

In Alekseev - Onischuk we see a new move (for this site) as early as move 4 as Black employs the unusual 4...Bg4. White demonstrates why this line isn't played very often but misses a chance to play an early break in the centre with 10.e5!

After this missed opportunity Black equalises but things go wrong later on and Alekseev wins a tricky ending.

Modern Defence 2...Nf6 [B06]

Even though 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6!? has been played by Carlsen it's still rather rare at GM level. The critical test is 3.e5 Nh5 when we have the 'North Sea Defence' but in Kotronias - Rapport White instead plays 3.Nc3 and after 3...d5 4.e5 Ne4 5.Nce2 f6 6.f3 Ng5 7.Bxg5 fxg5 a rather odd position has been reached:

Now it may be that White is still a little better here but it's far from clear. In the game Kotronias missed several chances to win before blundering the whole point away in the endgame. I'd still recommend 3.e5 as I find it hard to believe Black's knight is well placed on h5!

Pirc - Austrian Attack 5.Bd3 [B09]

Last month Karjakin tried this interesting idea which is designed to stop Black from playing an early ...c5 but in Karjakin - Wang Hao Black had prepared a surprise of his own, 5...e5!?. This move isn't played very often and Karjakin quickly showed why with some powerful play on the kingside. Black's position after 13.h4: was already precarious

and after a mistake his position quickly fell apart.

Caro-Kann Advance - Short Variation [B12]

We return now to the Caro-Kann but things remain slightly offbeat as we see an experiment with 5...Bg6 6.0-0 Nh6!? go badly wrong for Black. Actually if you check the notes to Giri - Topalov you'll see that Black was actually doing fine but in the following position:

Black inexplicably sacrifices a piece with 15...Bf5? 16.g4 Nxd4? and has to resign 7 moves later.

We finish with 3 more games in the Advance Variation that are rather more theoretical. Last month we saw 5...Nd7 6.0-0 h6 7.Nbd2 Ne7 8.c3 and how Mamedyarov quickly got into trouble with 8...c5. Black improves in Laznicka - Mammadov with 8...Qc7 9.Re1 g5:

Although Laznicka plays the excellent 10.Nf1! here and wins an instructive game I think both sides' play can be improved upon.

Zhigalko - Berkes follows some of Gawain's old analysis up until 15...Kd7 when White played for the win with 16.Qd1 rather than 16.Qf1 which seems to lead to a draw with best play.

However after accurate play by Black it was Zhigalko that found himself struggling for equality and he was a little lucky to escape with a draw. If you know your stuff this line seems to be fine for Black. In the notes I've explained why Black no longer prefers 11...Bb4 in this line.

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

The line with 4.h4 h6 5.g4 Be4 6.f3 Bh7 7.e6 has featured a few times on ChessPublishing and for a while we've been recommending 7...Qd6 here, and in Popov - Arutinian we see a critical test of this line after 8.exf7 Kxf7 9.f4! Nf6 10.Nf3 Nxg4 and now 11.h5!? which I haven't previously considered:

White has dangerous compensation for the sacrificed pawn here but Black should still be OK, however after a mistake on move 13 Black finds himself under a lot of pressure and Popov quickly puts him to the sword. While I think Black is OK in this line perhaps the more solid 4...h5 is a safer system.

See you next month, Tom.

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