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This month’s games, which include one of my own, are all drawn from different events. A recurring theme is that White demonstrates good preparation and attentiveness to what is theoretically topical, but Black triumphs anyway.

Download PGN of April ’22 1 e4 ... games

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Modern Defence with 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Qe2 [B06]

The variation 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 continues to be a favourite choice among those seeking a simple slight plus on the White side. Various theoretical recommendations have been given for Black, my personal favourite being 4...e6 but the majority begin with 4...Nf6 5.Qe2:

Here in Harshad, S - Aravindh, C Black essayed the comparatively uncommon and very KID-esque 5...Nc6, and succeeded in achieving a winning position after a mere 10 moves when his opponent picked an extremely critical continuation and then couldn’t follow through.

Modern Defence, Austrian Attack with early Be3 [B06]

One piece of advice I gave in my Modern book was that an early Be3 from White in the Austrian should always be met by ...Nh6. This seems vindicated in this month’s game. Perez, O - Almeida, O began with the normal Austrian moves 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 a6 5.Nf3 b5 6.Bd3 Nd7:

Here I found it curious that people are still playing 7.Be3, despite the documented dangers of setting the bishop up for ...Nh6-f5 ideas. Better seems 7.a4, followed by a thematic sequence of moves to break up Black’s queenside. Later, Black had a fair degree of control over the flow of the game but failed to capitalise on his chances and even allowed White one winning opportunity in return.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Nxe4 6.Qxe4 Be6 [B11]

To some extent 6...Be6 has lived in the shadow of the more popular ...Nd7 ever since this variation started stealing the limelight. To some extent this is justified, although the text also deserves to exist. After recapping the theoretically critical 7.b3, I conclude that the 7.c4 chosen by White in Sevgi, V - Vorobiov, E also gives decent chances of an advantage.

Maybe White could have demonstrated their opening concept a bit better, if they had played a bit less hesitantly over the next 5 moves. As it was, Black obtained a classic opportunity for a counter-strike against White’s centre with 12... b5, equalising without much further drama. Then, the 200-point rating advantage told.

Caro-Kann Defence, Endgame Offer with 3...g6 4.Nbd2 Bg7 [B11]

Sagafos,Magne - Gumularz,S was an incredibly hard fought game, where White in the end had more reasons for being disappointed. Play began with 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3 g6 4.Nbd2 Bg7 5.g3. (We discussed 5.d4 in Druska-Thybo from Terme Catez 2021.) Now after the normal 5...Nf6 6.Bg2 it is not so simple to find a coherent plan for Black:

White has played an unassuming sort of setup where it is rather easy to (I certainly did) underestimate their chances of an opening advantage, but it is also fairly obvious that there is a danger of ending up in a tempo-down version of a French or Sicilian KIA. Maybe the best way to leverage Black’s different deployment here is an ...a5-a4 plan. Either way, 3...g6 remains not recommended, but the exact manner (5.d4 or 5.g3) in which White should proceed against it is up for debate.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ 7. Nd2 e6 [B12]

Yes, I know. We have seen an awful lot of this (especially around 18-24 months ago) and it has almost gone out of fashion for White, for reasons that aren’t quite clear. Nevertheless, in the Begonia Open this year I found myself contesting it on the Black side. After 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 I decided to obey my own advice and opt for 6...Qa5+ 7. Nd2 e6 8.Ngf3 Nh6 9.0-0 Nf5:

We have covered 10.Nb3 before, but the text move 10.c4 seems both fairly critical and omitted from my previous notes. As such, I began thinking already here. The next 10 moves consisted of sharp, back-and-forth chess without a clear victor of the opening battle but interesting ideas for both sides. After that, my lower-rated opponent missed something and all too soon handed me an abrupt win in Dragicevic, D - Fernandez, D.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7 6.Nf3 [B12]

One of the successors of 4.h4 is the line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7 6.Nf3, which we discussed at some length in the last couple of months. Somehow, looking through games from the World Rapid and other events around the same time, the present game evaded my attention and so I include it now.

It is always welcome to see Black try something against these systems that isn't just boilerplate ... c5 or ...g5, and 6...Qc7 7.Be2 f6 certainly fit that bill in Movsesian, S - van Foreest, J.

Caro-Kann Defence: Panov-Botvinnik Attack with 5...e6 6.c5 [B14]

Next up, we see the ever-inspired Georgian grandmaster Jobava breathing life into a variation that in most cases just sees a very quick transition to a theoretical IQP position. Play started with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 and now 6.c5!? was played, raising the value of each move:

As I show in the notes, this slightly different approach merits quite close attention but Black maintains the balance after 6...Be7 7.Nf3 b6 8.b4 and now 8...0-0 with dynamic equality. White’s queenside pawn wedge remains impervious to attempts to undermine it, however, which could lead to a strong stylistic preference for one or the other side. See Jobava, B - Dimitrov, R.

Caro-Kann Defence: Classical Variation with 4...Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 and 9...h6!? [B15]

Finally, and just for some variety we see Tabatabaei,M - Harikrishna,P, an extremely topsy-turvy battle starting with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Qc2 Re8+ 9.Ne2 h6:

To the best of my knowledge there is still nothing wrong with 9...h5, but the text move has its points as well and it adds to the dynamism in an opening arsenal to have these ideas. In particular Black can often proceed with ...Bg4-h5. My impression is that after the game’s 10.0-0 Nd7 White would have been best served by continuing 11.Ng3!? as otherwise Black can leverage some combination of ...Nf8-g6, ...Qc7, ...a5-a4 and ...Bg4-h5-g6 to gain adequate play. However, in the game also White managed to get some advantage, before the evaluation began swinging around in a complicated middlegame.

All the best, Daniel

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