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Happy New Year! We start off 2014 with a mixed selection of games including a subscriber question and, for the first time, I've annotated one of my own 1.e4... games.

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

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Centre Counter - 2...Qxd5 3 Nf3 [B01]

With this year's London Chess Classic being a rapidplay event for the first time it was interesting to see lots of sidelines and less popular openings being chosen by the players. A good example of this was Rowson - Kramnik, with Vlad choosing a Centre Counter rather than his usual ultra-solid Berlin defence. White tries 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be2 Nc6 5.h3 but I think this is well answered by 5...Bxf3 6.Bxf3 Qe6+:

after which Black equalised easily. Still, Rowson went on to hold an impressive draw, but from a theoretical perspective White should prefer 5.0-0 0-0-0 and only then 6.h3.

Alekhine's Defence - Four Pawns Attack 5...g6 [B03]

Next we have a subscriber question, Lou Cyber asks for some updated coverage of the unusual 5...g6, which has been discussed a bit recently on the ChessPub Forum. This seems to be an interesting line for Black but possibly White keeps some advantage after 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 Be6 8.d5:

I've covered all the key lines in Moser - Fier but I think this line is definitely an option for Black against the 4PA.

Alekhine's Defence - Four Pawns Attack 9...Bg4 [B03]

Next, we see a more mainline approach in Onischuk - Kovalenko, there's not a lot new from a theoretical point of view in this game but it's not often we see two 2600s fighting it out in this line. The first new move is 18...f6:

but nothing I've seen changes the overall assessment of this line which is Black is just slightly worse and should probably just try and hold the draw.

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

We have two games in this variation this month. There is still a lot of room for early creativity and I quite like White's 6.Qg3!? in Bartel - Popov:

I think with careful play Black can equalise here but I'm not sure the choice of 6...g6 7.d4 Nd7 is the way to do it.

McShane - Anand was probably the first game I saw at this year's London Classic, and early on it looked oh-so promising for the Englishman as his tricky Two Knights gave him a big advantage. I don't think we'll be seeing 7...Bb4?! again at a high level:

as 8.e5! Nfd7 9.Qg4 just seems to be good for White. Sadly for Luke he missed a couple of wins later on and eventually succumbed during severe time pressure.

Caro-Kann - Panov Attack - 5...Nc6 6.Bg5 [B13]

I've not really covered the Panov much recently so it was nice to see a pretty high level encounter in this line in Amin - Salem. 6.Bg5 Be6 7.a3 used to be considered the mainline until recently (when 7.Be2 became at least as popular). After 7...Qd7 8.Be2 I think the safest choice for Black is 8...Rd8! (covered in the notes) but instead Black tried 8...0-0-0!?:

This also seems playable, if a little better for White, but after some inaccuracies from Amin Black was pressing for the advantage - unfortunately a blunder at the end cost him the game.

Caro-Kann - Classical 4...Bf5, 6.Nh3!? [B18]

White has a lot of tricky move orders in the Classical Caro-Kann and 6.Nh3 is probably one of the better options. After 6...e6 7.Nf4 the usual way to handle this is with 7....Bd6 but this allows 8.h4 - because of this we see 7...Qh4!? in Vovk - Salem but I think White's 8.Nge2! is easily the best reply:

This prepares g3 and leads to a very comfortable position for White, so I think players are better off playing the mainline with 7...Bd6 after all!

Caro-Kann - Classical 4...Bf5 mainline [B19]

To conclude this month I've annotated one of my own recent games against the Caro-Kann. For a long time I've stuck to sidelines against this opening, but since I'm studying the mainlines for ChessPublishing I decided it was time for me to give something more theoretical a go at the 4NCL.

After 11.Bd2 my opponent chose the solid line 12...Qc7 13.Ne4 0-0-0 but following 14.g3 I've never really liked Black's position. The later position after 18.Bc3 is a lot easier for White to play:

and I think 18...Kb8 is a little inaccurate here as after 19.d5 it was hard for Black to gain counterplay. See Rendle - Hunt for full analysis.

See you next month, Tom.

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Please post you queries on the 1 e4 ... Forum, or subscribers can email me at