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Hi all,
This update builds on the last, in developing more content on the Two Knights Variation against the Caro-Kann as well as the Austrian Attack against the Pirc Defence. Other lines which feature include the main line Scandinavian, 4 Be3 against the Modern Defence and the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann.

Download PGN of December ’18 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence, 3...Qa5 4 d4 c6 5 Bc4 Bf5 6 Nf3 Nf6 [B01]

Since engines (along with chess in general) have progressed quite significantly in, say, the last 5 years, it made sense to reconsider some old tabiyas. Hence, in the game Gukesh, D - Savic, M I look at the classical Scandinavian line 2...Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 c6 5 Bc4 Bf5 6 Nf3 Nf6 7 Bd2 e6 8 Nd5 Qd8 9 Nxf6 Qxf6 10 Qe2!:

First of all, 10...Bxc2 can be discounted for good. 10...Nd7 11 0-0-0 is hardly playable as White has a free hand in launching an attack on both the kingside and the centre. This leaves 10...Bg4 11 d5 Bxf3 12 gxf3 cxd5 13 Bxd5, where White still keeps an advantage. Black’s best hope for a game is 13...Nd7, but White’s two bishop advantage is unpleasant. For advocates of the classical Scandinavian lines, this is not great news.

Modern Defence, 4 Be3 a6 5 Qd2 b5 [B06]

4 Be3 continues to demonstrate an aggressive response to the Modern (compared to the more respectful 3. Nf3, 4 Bc4, 5 c3 type structures that I have discussed previously). In Brkic, A - Sjugirov, S I examine an early 6 h4 !?:

There are some subtleties behind this move, discussed in the notes. The game continued 6...Nf6 7 f3 h5 8 0-0-0 Nbd7 to which 9 e5!? could be the ultimate test for the variation.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack, 6.e5 dxe5 7 fxe5 [B09]

Last month, I examined 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 0-0 6 e5 dxe5 7 fxe5 Nd5 8 Bc4 where I considered both 8...Nb6 and 8...Be6, neither of which were completely straightforward. This month, an important revision has been made, in that 8...Nxc3! 9 bxc3 c5 equalises:

This has been played many times of late by the Pirc expert, Vladimir Onischuk. See my notes to Heimann, A - Onischuk, V.

Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation, 3...Bg4 4 h3 [B11]

Last month, I discussed 2 Nc3 d5 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 h3 concluding that the bishop retreat 4...Bh5 is risky. Where I examined 5 exd5 cxd5 6 Bb5+ Nc6 7 g4 Bg6 8 Ne5 Rc8 9 d4 e6 10 Qe2 Bb4 in the last update, I now turn to 10...Bd6 in my notes to Gumularz, S - Marosi, L. Affirming my conclusion, I show that 10...Bd6 isn’t sufficient either, and that White should go ahead and accept the pawn sacrifice with 11 Nxg6 hxg6 12 Nxd5:

Considering that 4...Bxf3 is far more common, I take the time to examine some ideas there as well, in the game Jovanovic, Z - Zelcic, R, which continued 5 Qxf3 Nf6 6 Be2.

Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation, 3...dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 [B11]

If Black is not too keen on giving up the bishop pair so early, then a solid alternative is 3...dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6. Black argues that 5 Nxf6+ gxf6 (or 5...exf6) is a better version of the main line with 4...Nf6, since 6 d4 can be met with 6...Bg4. Instead, in the game Hawkins, J - Houska, J play continued 5 Qe2 Nxe4 6 Qxe4 Qd5 7 Qf4 Qf5 8 Qe3:

Yes, no less than six queen moves have been made, in a sort of dance-off between the two queens! Better still, Houska is relentless in her endeavour to swap the queens and secures her goal with 8...Qe6. This leads to a fairly good version of the ending for White after 9 d4. Arguably more critical is 8...Qxc2 9 Bd3 Qa4.

Caro-Kann Advance, Short Variation 5...c5 6 Be3 Qb6 7 Nc3 Nc6 8 Na4 Qa5+ 9 c3 [B12]

A hot topic in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann is 3...Bf5 4 Nf3 e6 5 Be2 c5 6 Be3 Qb6 7 Nc3 Nc6 8 Na4 Qa5+ 9 c3 after which, Black usually addresses the complicated theoretical discussion with 9...cxd4 10 Nxd4 Nxd4 11 Bxd4 Ne7. Instead, I find that 9...c4!? as played in Lobanov, S - Can, I, is an equally testing alternative:

Black soon had a good ending.

Caro-Kann Advance, Short Variation 5...Ne7 6 0-0 c5 [B12]

Deviating from that game, Paravyan, D - Sorokin, A saw 5...Ne7 6 0-0 c5 7 Na3!?:

An unusual move perhaps, but logical. The knight either aims at the b5-square or supports the c2-c4 push. Instead of the game continuation, 7...Nbc6, Black should continue with 7...Nec6! which leads to equality with precise play.

Till next month... and next year! Justin.

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