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This month we see three ‘pairs’ of games that shared a number of early moves. Practically all of the games saw large advantages being accumulated relatively early on, though of course converting them could sometimes become complicated! Of special theoretical note was Van Foreest - Anton Guijarro, where the Spanish player was unlucky not to get more from the game after producing a novelty that neutralised a previously quite dangerous line.

Download PGN of August ’21 1 e4 ... games

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Modern Defence: 3.Nf3 d6 4.c3 Nf6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.0-0 [B07]

Long-term readers of my work will know that I consider this to be one of the most dangerous ‘positional’ ways to play against the Modern. It doesn’t exempt White from needing to have a good general understanding of chess, however. The structure can easily head into KID or even Benoni territory, where ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, that is, a deep understanding of plans will avoid White needing to calculate messy lines that involve possibilities of being mated. Both of this month’s games continued with 4...Nf6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.0-0 c5, the line I gave for Black in my book:

In Aronian, L - Artemiev, V the Armenian grandmaster showed a huge amount of class in his handling of the late opening, beginning with 7.h3 Qc7 8.Re1 and proceeding only to push d5 at a very well-chosen moment. He may have made only one small inaccuracy in the whole game and scored a very well-deserved win.

In Favarel, J - Bauer, C White opted for the more committal 7.dxc5 and also obtained a positional advantage, though perhaps Black’s play could be improved early on. The later course of the game had more to do with the rating differential than with any genuine latent energy in Black’s position.

Modern Defence: 150 Attack with 5.Qd2 c6 6.Bh6 [B07]

The game Stefansson, H - Rasik, V saw a fresh test of an old line last checked in the McDonald days of this column, which starts with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Be3 Nf6 5.Qd2 c6 6.Bh6 and sees White eschewing f3 completely (in favour of trying to push at least one central pawn quickly.) In my opinion, after 6...Bxh6 7.Qxh6 Black has reasonable practical chances in case of 7...e5 but relatively few in case of the game continuation 7...Qa5:

The notes to this game give White a more or less simple and foolproof way to handle 4...Nf6. Even the endgame that was ultimately reached is more dangerous for Black than was thought a decade ago. Black is not having fun against the 150 Attack these days in general, but at least 4...a6 leads to fairer apportioning of the memory work.

Caro-Kann Advance 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ 7.Nd2 e6 8.Ne2 [B12]

In recent years there has been an almost unrelenting cascade of ‘subtrends’ within the 4.h4 system. A few months ago it was the 7.b4 gambit; this month I present two games that began with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ 7.Nd2 e6 8.Ne2:

The move is less common than 8.Nf3 but definitely offers more than its fair share of subtleties as well. For instance, in the first game Bellahcene, B - Sonis, F there followed the natural 8...c5 9.c4N(!) Nc6? and White was already close to winning, though further drama ensued due to the short time control.

In the second game Lagarde, M - Bluebaum, M Black chose the reliable 8...Ne7 9.0-0 Qa6. (This last move should be inserted before White gets a chance to play Nf3.) There followed 10.c4 Nf5 and here I suggest that perhaps 11.Rb1!? deserves attention.

Caro-Kann Defence: Short System with 5...Ne7 [B12]

There now follow two games with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7, mostly viewed as a more flexible knight move than 5...Nd7 in spite of the greater overall popularity of the latter.

Firstly, following 6.0-0 c5 7.c4 Nbc6 8.dxc5 d4 it came as a bit of a surprise to me that a strong grandmaster on the White side still opted for 9.Qa4 Ng6 10.Rd1 d3 11.Be3 after the theoretical results of the last few years. It would have been interesting to see what was intended after the canonical 11...Be7, but of equal interest was the modern test of the old move 11...Qd7:

Chess is a rich game and there is much to be said for avoiding the temptation to just know one move in each position. Despite a lack of recent examples the text move looks totally playable and may even lead to richer play than 11...Be7. Unfortunately, a couple of moves later Black erred in instructive fashion and his king was unable to navigate a successful exit from the centre. See Ter-Sahakyan, S - Leniart, A.

Meanwhile, after the markedly less popular 6.c3 Black needs to pivot towards kingside pawn pushes. There are multiple ways to do this but the 6...Ng6 7.0-0 f6!? of Iordachescu, V - Murzin, V does not seem like a sustainable choice for the repertoire. White should obtain a small advantage after the principled game continuation 8.exf6 Qxf6 9.Bg5 Qf7 10.Nh4!:

Caro-Kann Defence: Advance Variation with 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7 6.Nf3 [B12]

In the May update game Alekseenko,K - Sjugirov, S I noted that after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Black was experiencing problems in the line 5...c5 6.Bb5+. Nevertheless, the struggle over the next few moves will revolve around whether Black gets to execute this push somehow. The main line is 5...Nd7 6.Nf3:

This month’s game van Foreest, J - Anton Guijarro, D continued with 6...Qc7!? (I also checked a number of alternatives) and it soon became clear that Black was ready to play not only ...c5, but also ...f6. The novelty came only a couple of moves later in the shape of 7.Be3 f6! 8.Bd3 Bg4!N and Black is objectively fine. Within weeks, Jeffery Xiong had also tried the move and scored a nice victory that we may also feature soon.

All the best, Daniel

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