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We've got a lot of decisive games this month (7/8 in fact) and part of that is down to a lot of creative play from both colours - of course another reason is there are a few mistakes thrown in as well, but that's to be expected in unfamiliar territory, especially when the positions are complicated!

Download PGN of February '14 1 e4 ... games

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Modern Defence - 4.Nf3 c6 5 Be3 [B06]

Richard Rapport has brought a refreshing approach to Elite chess in recent months - he's happy to experiment with both colours (he's played quite a few 1.b3 games as White) but, of course, this does sometimes backfire. In Naiditsch - Rapport we see what happens when Black plays a provocative opening and then makes the first mistake with 8...d5?!:

The bishop on g7 is now permanently blocked and White's kingside play is much stronger than anything Black can muster on the queenside.

Modern Defence - 4.f4 a6 [B06]

To be honest I'm not that big of a fan of the Austrian Attack (4.f4) against the Modern but Black certainly still has to be very careful in these lines

Here White normally opts for either 7.e5 or 7.0-0 (I prefer the latter) but in Shomoev - Bocharov he instead goes for 7.a4 b4 8.Ne2 - this is well met by 8...c5 (8...Nd7 should also be fine) but Black goes wrong soon after and quickly finds himself in hot water.

Caro-Kann Advance - Short Variation 5...Nd7 6.0-0 a6 [B12]

Black has a lot of alternatives in the mainline after 6.0-0 but 6...a6 is very unusual and hasn't been featured on this site before:

I suspect Nigel was trying to avoid theory, facing a line that he popularised for White. The idea is to play a quick ...c5 as Black whilst avoiding Bb5+ ideas, but this is neglecting development on the kingside. Black can get away with this, but again a couple of mistakes are very costly and White goes on to win comprehensively in Adhiban - Short.

Caro-Kann - Fantasy Variation - 3.f3 Qb6 4.c3 [B13]

For a long time, after 3.f3 Qb6 White's standard move has been 4.a4, but last year we saw a new idea for Black with 4...e5 5.dxe5 a5! which seems to give Black a good game. Perhaps it's in the light of this that we've seen 4.c3 instead, but Black should be fine here with either 4...e6 or 4...e5. We see the former in Azarov - Navara (although both are covered), and then White goes for the odd 5.e5?! which just leads to a bad French Defence for him after 5...c5!:

Instead White should try 5.Bd3 or 5.Nh3, but Black is fine in any case. It seems that the sting has been taken out of the Fantasy Variation somewhat, for the time being at least!

Caro-Kann - Larsen/Bronstein 5...gxf6 6.c3 h5!? [B16]

We examine another sideline in Popov - Kabanov, namely 5...gxf6 in a Classical Caro-Kann. This is already fairly unusual but it becomes downright rare when after 6.c3 Black chooses the tricky 6...h5!?:

This strikes me as a good way of playing for a win as Black against lower rated opposition, but in this case Black was 150 points the underdog and he got rather outplayed. Popov's 9.Qc2 is interesting, allowing White to keep his bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal.

Caro-Kann - Smyslov - 4...Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 [B17]

We finish off with 3 games that are all relatively theoretical! First we have a mainline Smyslov where the first 15 moves or so have been seen many times before and in fact 16...Nb4!? is the first new move to this site:

However Black follows this up incorrectly after 17.Be4 with 17...c5?! and as a result she struggles to develop her kingside for the rest of the game. Instead 17...f5! is critical and I've taken a look at the key lines here in the notes to Yu Yangyi-Zhao Xue.

Caro-Kann - Classical 4...Bf5 mainline, 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Kb1 Qb6 [B19]

The position after 13.Kb1 Qb6 is perhaps the most fashionable variation in the Caro-Kann right now and we finish off with another two important games in this line. First off we see Michael Adams try 14.Ne4 rather than the usual 14.Rhe1, probably to avoid the line we see in the next game. This seems to lead to a pleasant position for White although it's possible that Black could've improved. The position after 20.Qxe6 fxe6 looks what White should be aiming for:

but uncharacteristically White goes wrong soon after and loses his advantage. Full analysis as usual in Adams - Lenderman.

Finally, we have Ganguly - Vitiugov which returns to the topical 14.Rhe1, but currently it looks like Black is doing OK in this line after 14...0-0 15.Nf5 exf5! 16.Rxe7 Qd8 17.Re2 Ne4:

White certainly needs a good idea in this position and I've tried to suggest a few options at this point. Ganguly repeats Topalov's 18.g3 but this doesn't really get him anywhere and in the end we're treated to an endgame master class from Vitiugov as he grinds out the win from almost nowhere! If White can't find something in this line then perhaps players should turn their attention to Adams' 14.Ne4 from the previous game!

See you next month, Tom.

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