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Happy New Year!
Among my first New Year’s resolutions has to be preventing the slide of my ChessPublishing column to later and later days in the month, and sometimes even into the next one. My apologies for this, and in keeping with the resolution I am releasing December and January in rather quick succession. In this update I am including a large number of White wins and no Black wins. There were a number of successful experiments which bear mentioning, notably by E. van Haastert and J.Druska.

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

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Alekhine’s Defence, Four Pawns Attack with 5...g6 6.Nf3 [B03]

We pick up the action in Peczely, S - Varga, Z after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6 5.f4 g6 6.Nf3:

Note that, just as in the lines with an early exd6 (which we investigated last month, also featuring the Nf3, ...Bg4 pattern) this move isn’t as accurate as 6.Nc3.

There, 6...Bg4 came next (6...dxe5 is also interesting) and after the accurate 7.Be2! breaking the pin, White achieved a small advantage. Typically for a Varga game, the evaluation then swung quickly and strongly in the opposite direction, before he let White off with an excessively modest move and drew.

Caro-Kann Defence, Endgame Offer with 3...g6 [B10]

After the initial 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3 g6 4.Nbd2 one could be excused for thinking White was committed to the whole KIA/reverse Philidor philosophy. This made for more of a surprise when following the automatic 4...Bg7 he essayed 5.d4!?:

This move is an apparent waste of time, but in reality far better than it looks. In an exceptionally well-played game, one of the best Danish players went down after making only one, non-obvious mistake in a position that was practically difficult without being objectively worse. White’s opening concept deserves serious attention; see Druska, J - Thybo, J.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3 [B11]

I have always admired the Yugoslavian school of chess (think Gligoric, Ljubojevic, Velimirovic) in which strong, big-picture moves get found without too much explicit calculation, making it easier to keep playing them under (sometimes severe) time pressure. In this context, I would like to note the name of Serbian GM Bosko Abramovic (1951-2021), whom I met at tournaments in Serbia and analysed with a few times over coffee. His love of the game at an advanced age was inspiring. RIP.

GM Damljanovic, an ex-Yugoslav champion, is another of the stalwarts who played with those people as equals and channels their energy today. There is no other way to describe the game Damljanovic, B - Gagunashvili, M than as an outclassing of a strong 2550+ player. The game began with 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3:

It then quickly proceeded into a standard small-centre position where Black was clearly angling for ...c5. It is often mentioned that this move gives White a small advantage and less often discussed how to use this fact. From this game, we see that arranging for Qb5! is often the best way to try and continue pressing after Black has gone for that pawn exchange.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.h4 Qb6 [B12]

After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 we have already recently checked the sideline 4...c5 (and we will soon also check 4...a6.) One of the only other reasonable ways to avoid moving the h-pawn is the equally experimental 4...Qb6!? as seen in this month’s game Rakotomoharo, F - Korpa, B. White gets a small advantage after 5.g4, but also possibly after the creative 5.a4!?:

I am not sure of when I last saw a theoretical line with one side pushing both flank pawns by move 5 (maybe some reader can inform me of relevant variations) but it is rewarding to see that it is possible! (Black’s control of the centre is in general not great in these Advance lines.) Even more incredible, after 5...a5 White could have considered playing 6.Ra3. I picked this game for aesthetic value, but it also has a fair amount of theoretical value since 5.g4 is not obviously overwhelming.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4.g4!? Be4 [B12]

The thrust 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4 continues to be rather popular (there is some appeal in trying to force through e6 rather than letting Black play ...e6) and in this month’s game we see an unexpectedly classical exposition of why. White followed the theoretical recommendations (taking on f7 and gaining space and obtained objectively quite little; the position after 10...h5 does not seem problematic at all:

Yet, many moons later, White managed to develop all the pieces and Black was still left with a backward pawn on e6, requiring constant attention. This proved to be his undoing in Hauge, L - Howell, D. In many ways, this felt similar to the Druska game mentioned above.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation, Short System with 5...Ne7 6.c3 Nd7 7.0-0 Ng6 [B12]

The line 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.c3 is becoming increasingly annoying for Caro players. The idea is that in response to ...c5 White is taking rather than pushing c4. I don’t think I’ve looked at too many games where Black opts for a ...Ng6 plan here (rather than say ...h6 with ...Bh7) so Zhigalko, S - Svane, R appealed with its continuation of 6...Nd7 7.0-0 Ng6:

(One other line where I show a novelty putting the ball back in Black’s court is after 7...c5!?.) There followed the direct 8.Ne1 f6!? 9.f4! and Black faces the prospect of being overrun with a quick g4 push.

Caro-Kann Defence, Classical Variation with 7.Bd3 [B18]

Some time ago I said I would be keen to check a game in the line 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Bd3, and this month I got my wish with a game from the Dutch league. The game van Haastert, E - Cardon, H saw the acceptance of the sacrifice, and strong preparation (or improvisation) from both sides until the move 12...Rc8:

I would argue that White should react with 13.Ne4 instead of 13.Bd6, the latter giving Black a truly incredible way to unravel and start developing pieces to reach equality. In conclusion, I think Black has yet to find an extremely convincing line after accepting this gambit pawn.

Caro-Kann, Classical Variation with 7...Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 [B19]

Previously this would have been labelled ‘Classical with 11.Bd2’, but so popular is the 7...e6 line now that the variation 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 probably now needs more specification. There followed 11...Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Ne4, a relatively well-forgotten move which used to be quite automatic.

Black’s best response has not changed: 13...Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nf6 and here the endgame variation starting with 15.Qe2 likely needs fresh tests, while the game’s pawn sacrifice 15.Qd3 0-0 16.g4!? was a sharp attempt that nevertheless is not very practical against a decently-prepared player because Black can decide whether to force a draw with natural moves, or cling onto the pawn and play for a win. See Bocharov, D - Kokarev, D.

All the best, Daniel

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