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Two miniatures by White, amongst a number of grinds from Black. Notably, this month features no games from your author, who took a little bit of a break after the British Championships!

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

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Pirc/Modern Defence, Quiet Variation with 4.c3 [B07]

Perhaps ‘Quiet Variation’ is the best, fairly unambiguous way to refer to the line 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.c3 Nf6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.0-0. We have recently looked at some examples where Black (mostly unsuccessfully) went for a scrappy ...c5 approach; in this month’s game Javakhishvili, L - Dronavalli, H Black went for the pure KID approach of 6...Nc6:

I think White’s most useful prophylactic moves are h3 and Re1 in some order; to fight for an advantage it is probably necessary to be at least ideologically OK with possibly pushing d5. This is not something that can really be claimed after the game’s 7.Bg5, and particularly after the subsequent 10.dxe5. How Black created winning chances after that is very commendable, however!

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...dxe4 [B11]

Onto a bit of a recurring theme for us with the game Deac, B - Nihal, S where Black essayed the experimental variation 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Na6. White reacted with the calm 6.c3:

Strategically it seems quite fitting for Black to play ...Qd5 here, while the game’s continuation 6...Nxe4 7.Qxe4 Qd5 was met, seemingly correctly, by 8.Qe3! with what feels like a slight advantage.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...Bg4 [B11]

Next up, a new idea for White in quite a surprising place, at least for me. The idea of meeting 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3 Nd7 7.Bg2 d4 8.Ne2 Qb6 9.Qb3 with 9...Qxb3 10.axb3 d3 has been known for a while:

However, as far as I can see, nobody thought of turning this into a pawn sacrifice for White. In Uskov, A - Petrov, N there followed 11.Nf4, when after 11...dxc2 12.d4 e5 13.Nd3 (sacrificing a second pawn!) 13...exd4 14.Kd2 Black needs to play 14...Nc5 or risk what could turn into a rather grim defence. He did, and after a long and largely equal struggle Black triumphed through force of willpower, but it remains to be seen how many people will copy this somewhat interesting idea.

Caro-Kann Defence, Short System with 5...Ne7 6.0-0 c5 [B12]

Our next game features a talented Australian GM trying out the rare 8.Nc3!? in Kuybokarov, T - Bernadskiy, V. The game was short and sharp, with a fair number of alternatives for both sides early on, and the critical point coming already on move 14 after 14.Nb5:

Black had to take this knight: in the game 14...Qxb2?? was already enough for White to put him away. A very interesting line and a fertile ground for preparation for one-off fighting games.

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

By coincidence, our next game Kaidanov, G - Akopian, V also features a Nf4 novelty, this time it came earlier: 7.Nf4:

After the natural 7...c5 8.d5 Nxd5 9.Nfxd5 exd5 10.Nxd5 the most accurate continuation was probably 10...Nc6, rather than the game’s 10...Bd3 which looks practically harder to handle for Black. Though I don’t want to let that detract too much from what was overall a nice technical display by Akopian!

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Qd7 [B12]

It seems someone finally got tired of the debate between 6...e6 and 6...Qa5+ after taking on d3, and in Klabis, R - Berdayes Ason, D opted for the relatively uncommon 5...Qd7:

I feel the most critical move is probably 6.Bg5 (early engine analysis indicates probably taking on g2 ends up being strongest for Black) while something like 6.Be3 leaves Black a wider choice of ways to play for equality. That also holds for the game’s 6.Nc3, though I have to take issue with the way Black handled the next few moves.

Caro-Kann, Advance with 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ [B12]

It is a little surprising for me that people continue playing the line with 6...Qa5+ 7.Nd2 e6 8.Ngf3 Qa6 (and its various cousins), especially against people with a track record on the White side. That being said, Black’s eventual demise in Shirov, A - Bareev, E had little to do with the opening. The Spanish grandmaster deviated from his previous games with 13.Qc2:

Arguably the existing 13.Qc3 was stronger, since in the game the status of White’s d4-pawn allowed Black to gain a valuable tempo with 13...Be7 14.Ba3 Bxa3 15.Rxa3 Qb6, essentially equalising. White then plunged the game into utter chaos where the cost of a mistake was perhaps higher for Black.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 [B12]

Chess is becoming harder when you need to win with Black against lower-rated players, of which De Winter, A - Beerdsen, T was perhaps a perfect example. In one of the modern main lines of the Advance Caro, Black felt obliged to keep the fight going with the rare 10...Rg8!?:

After 11.Qxh7, he then went wrong on the very next move: the patient 11...Rb8 was called for, tying down White’s second bishop, with tremendous complications which I try to analyse. Instead 11...Qb6 led to a game where Black essentially didn’t have winning chances.

Caro-Kann Defence, Classical Variation with 3...g6 4.Be3 Bg7 [B15]

I would personally have filed this under the Modern, but who am I to disagree with ECO? In a further illustration of the point from above, in an attempt to create winning chances from the opening Black essayed this hybrid line that should objectively be around +0.7. White reacted with 5.e5 Nh6 6.f4 Ng4, probably reaching the critical point of the opening:

It is quite important for White to retreat the bishop with 7.Bd2 here, as the game’s 7.Qd2 brings Black to the cusp of equality immediately. See Danielyan, V - Gholami, A.

All the best, Daniel

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