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In our first joint update we examine recent goings on in the Pirc/Modern and the Caro. Every game this month ends decisively - not something we can promise for every month I'm afraid!

Download PGN of February '12 1 e4 ... games

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Modern Defence 4 Be3 a6 [B06]

We start the update with a look at Hunt, A - Svidler, P and the fighting chess begins with Svidler choosing the rare 8...Nh6 in a critical line of the 4...a6 Modern:

This certainly sets White a lot of problems and soon Hunt was in trouble.

Modern Defence 4 Bg5 [B06]

The Queenstown tournament didn't go fantastically well for me (Gawain) but at least I won the Best Game prize for Sukander, I - Jones, G which started 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5!? I annotated the game for the New Zealand chess magazine but just for you guys I've added in an opening survey of this interesting line. In the following position the queen sacrifice 11...axb5! proved very strong:

Pirc Defence 4 Be3 a6 [B07]

In Adams - Zhukova we see Black employing a Pirc/Modern hybrid, often favoured by Kramnik. Mickey responds with 5.h3, which has yet to be covered on ChessPublishing:

Given the impressiveness of this victory the line may well be worth another look!

Pirc Defence 4 Bg5 [B07]

Black wins don't come easily at the top level but Gashimov - Ivanchuk demonstrates that the Pirc can be a dangerous weapon, even for the elite. Gashimov repeats the line 1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bg7 5.e5 but against a well-prepared Chucky he comes off 2nd best.

Panov-Botvinnik Attack [B10/D42]

This is a commonly reached position in this variation and the recent theoretical consensus is that 12.Bg5 is the only attempt at an advantage:

However, in Istratescu, A - Houska, J White played the older 12.Bc2 and won a very smooth attacking game. Houska didn't play the theoretically recommended 12...Ba6 but we have also investigated recent developments there.

Advanced Caro-Kann - Short Variation [B12]

Gopal, G - Laznicka, V followed the extremely topical 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 c5. The game followed charted waters until 17.a3!?:

intending to defend the c5 pawn with b2-b4. White managed to find an advantage before some mutual errors. However, I still believe this to be sound theoretically for Black.

Advanced 4 Nd2 [B12]

Kurnosov, I - Gorkavij, V examines recent developments in the 4.Nd2 lines, in particular the relative merits of Black's options after 6.Nf3:

In the game Black chooses 6...a6 and gets outplayed but perhaps 6...c5 is a better route to equality.

Classical 4...Bf5 mainline [B19]

Balogh, C - Ragger, M was another important theoretical tussle.

Here 15.g4!? has been scoring very well for White and here too a high rated Black player fails to navigate the complications.

A similar line with 14.Nf1 (instead of 14.Ne4), followed by a quick g4 scored very well for White until Rodshtein found a path to the draw in 2010. In Shyam, N - Barbosa, O, Black instead tried 14...Kh8!? Followed by sacrificing a piece. By the time Black played 21...a4:

it was clear he was on top, and he won within a few moves. However, White does of course have improvements.

See you next month, Gawain and Tom.

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