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Another Caro-heavy update, with a particular focus being the fashionable 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 variation. Elsewhere, Londoner and my ex-Cambridge teammate Conor Murphy, playing for Ireland in the Olympiad, notched up an impressive scalp in the super-theoretical 3...dxe4 Two Knights.

Download PGN of August ’22 1 e4 ... games

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Modern Defence, 150 Attack [B06]

After 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 I have previously checked almost every order in which White can try and execute Qd2, h4, f3, 0-0-0 and Nh3, aiming for one particular key position. One wrinkle I hadn’t necessarily appreciated is that after 5.Qd2 b5 6.h4 Nf6 7.f3 h5 8.0-0-0 Black isn’t actually forced to obey tradition with 8...c6.

In Jones, G - Carlsen, M the world champion offers his own take on matters, which is quite convincing: simply 8...b4 asking the c3-knight where it will go next. It appears Gawain made the wrong choice, though matters soon became messy anyway and he had his share of chances before the 200-point rating gap eventually told.

Caro-Kann Defence with 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 g6 [B10]

We again check out the position after 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 g6 7.Bc4 Bg7 8.Nf3 0-0 9.d3 a6 10.Qa3 b6 (Note that 10...Nb6 was checked in the May 2022 game Bortnyk - Praggnanandhaa) 11.0-0 Bb7 12.Re1 Re8 13.Be3 b5 14.Bb3 Nb6:

In my analysis to that game I only looked at 15.Bxb6, but it is time to give some attention to the equally valid 15.d6!? which is a speciality of Jobava. The simplest is 15...exd6, while if Black rejects that move (for instance to play 15...Bxf3) then it becomes necessary to tread with much more caution. Something that was ultimately not possible for Black to do in Bernadskiy, V - Kolb, T.

Caro-Kann Defence with 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 [B10]

The poor cousin of the Advance variation, the line 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 nonetheless has a couple of points. At this point Black could have chosen to play 3...Bg4 or 3...Bf5. The first of these offers White the chance to keep things original with a Be2, 0-0 and quick c4 setup. The second offers White, besides the normal 4.d4, the ability to suggest a transposition to the Advance French (!) with 4.Nh4, entering almost uncharted territory already. Instead, Black played 3...c5:

Now White can again play 4.d4, transposing to the line we consider in two games below, but for this encounter selected the original 4.b4!? which may not be a serious try for an advantage, but certainly sufficed to confuse Black quite quickly in Shevchenko, K - Tomczak, J.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Nxe4 6.Qxe4 Nd7 [B11]

One of the novelties I’ve previously suggested in this highly topical line was tested at the Olympiad in the form of 18.Qh4:

My analysis continued with 18...Rg8, while in Murphy, C - Bluebaum, M Black instead opted for the sequence 18...Bxg2 19.Rg1 Rg8 20.Bxh7 Bxh2 (an oddly satisfying bit of early-middlegame symmetry!) when White probably could have obtained a reasonable advantage with 21.d3. Even 21.d4, however, is by no means easy for Black to handle and the German GM erred on the very next move.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...c5 4.Nf3 [B12]

On principle, it seems wrong for Black to meet 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 with 4...Nc6, as that would allow White a better version of the 4.dxc5 lines in addition to the expected 5.c4. Black can instead try and navigate to those lines with 4...cxd4 (intending 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.c4 e6) but two potential problems can be seen in this month’s games.

First off, in Aronian, L - Jumabayev, R White essayed 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qf4, an ambitious line but seemingly one that can be handled if Black develops the pieces in the right order. After White’s 9th the following position was reached:

My impression from the precedent game is that Black can equalise with 9...Nxd3 10.cxd3 Ne7, while the game’s 9...Rc8 was perhaps less effective and allowed White to mobilise with tempo.

Secondly, in Sarin, N - Di Nicolantonio, L White tried the simpler-looking 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3, trying to avoid unnecessary complications and just develop with 0-0, Re1, Nd2-f3 etc. One of the main areas where White has to show judgement here is in how they react to a future ...a5. That would be my recommendation after 7...e6 8.0-0:

White is not yet so well-developed that they can afford to ignore the ...a5, ...Ba6 stuff. In the game, Black delayed it for three moves (8...Ne7 9.Re1 Ng6 10.Nd2 Be7 11.g3 a5) and by this point it was too late. Curiously, from the diagram position an Olympiad game continued 8...g6, resulting in a convincing win for this site’s 1.d4 d5 2.c4 columnist.

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

Next up we check the QGA-adjacent variation 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.a3, where my recommendation for Black is 6...Nd7. Instead Gajewski, G - Janik, I saw 6...dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nd7 8.Nge2 Nb6 9.Ba2:

The minor move played by Janik, 9...h6, appears to equalise without too many problems, something which cannot be said for the main move 9...Ned5. In the early middlegame, White needs to demonstrate highly incisive play (an obscure exchange sacrifice features in one line) in order to try for anything at all, whereas Black’s moves kind of play themselves. Thus it was that Black reached a -1 position without any particular rocket science, before a couple of rather unfortunate decisions led to him going home empty-handed.

Caro-Kann Defence, Korchnoi Variation 5...exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 [B15]

By contrast to last month, this time our Korchnoi game is an exposition of how White should play the endgames that can arise. Play started with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 Re8 9.0-0 Nd7:

10.Bf4 was chosen in the game (while my previous analysis has focused on 10.Ng3.) Pieces tend to leave the board quite quickly in this line; one point worth noting in the meantime is that White may as well wait for ...Ng6 or ...Qc7 to be played before taking on d6 (and in the former case, following up with Ng3 since Black won’t have ...g6 available.) In Kokarev, D - Dreev, A Black never quite seemed to reach total equality, while White made some nice and quite insightful decisions to ensure that their majority was always the more mobile.

All the best, Daniel

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