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I hope your chess is going well. The theme this month is neat knight moves- they gallop backwards, hop to the edge of the board, sacrifice themselves in style or even stay at home a long time! The result is that Black wins every game- I believe this is a first in one of my updates. So let’s get down to business, starting with the Scandinavian.

Download PGN of January ’18 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian 3...Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Bf5 6.Bc4 e6 [B01]

A lot of attention has focussed recently on 3...Qd6, so this month I’ve had a look again at 3...Qa5. First up is an interesting sideline. With 7.Bd2 Qb6 Black consistently delays Nf6 in order to avoid the difficulties associated with the mainline after 7...Nf6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ gxf6. Naturally this is provocative play which might lead to White sacrificing a piece to catch the black king in the centre, 8.Qe2 Nf6 (finally!) 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.Nh4 Bg6 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.Qxe6+ Kd8:

You can find analysis of the sacrifice as well as what I think is a better try for White earlier in this sequence by clicking on Svoboda, S - Polak, T.

Scandinavian 3...Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bc4 [B01]

Here it is White’s turn to delay the development of his king’s knight. If left alone White will play Nge2 and 0-0. Then Black has a problem with developing his bishop from c8, as if it goes to f5 it can be hit by Ng3 and then, after Bg6, further threatened with f2-f4 planning f4-f5. Black can disrupt White’s build up with 5...Bg4!:

Eric Prié, one of the previous analysts on ChessPub, has been a Champion of this move. He demonstrated his ideas in games which can be found in the archives. I’ve added some more theory this month. And here is a puzzle for you from the game:

White has castled with 12.0-0. How can you punish him for the ‘insolent’ manoeuvre of his rook to b3? Check out Lubbe, N - Pruijssers, R.

Alekhine Exchange 5...cxd6 6.d5 [B03]

Nimzowitsch would have been delighted by the triumph of bizarre moves in our next game. White has seemingly played a logical move in 6.d5, clamping down on space in the centre. After 6...g6 he plays 7.Qd4 to prevent Bg7 and interfere with Black castling. But it is then that something crazy happens: 7...e5!:

What’s this? Has Black forgotten that 8.dxe6 en passant is possible, smashing up the black pawns and attacking the rook on h8 again? Check out Elgersma, S - Zelbel, P.

Modern Defence 4.f4 a6 5.Nf3 [B06]

The variation with 4...a6 is named the Tiger Modern in honour of Swedish GM Tiger Hillarp Persson (I wonder if this appellation would have caught on if his first name had been Bob or Jim?). A key move is 5...b5:

It's important to remember that Black isn't ignoring events in the centre when he pushes his wing pawns in the Modern. With his last two moves he has stopped Bc4 and cleared b7 for his own bishop, from where it attacks e4. He has also forced White to reckon with a b5-b4 lunge, when his knight has to leave its good post on c3 and give up defending e4. I’ve investigated the critical line 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.e5 c5 8.Be4 Rb8 9.Be3 b4 10.Ne2 Nh6 in Tronenkovs, V - Ladva, O.

Caro-Kann Two Knights 3...Bg4 4.d4 [B11]

White’s fourth move is in effect a pawn offer, which Black could accept with 4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Qxd4. Gawain Jones analysed this in a previous update- subscribers can find his work in the archives. Instead after 4...e6 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 dxe4 White has the chance to defend d4 with 7.Qxe4:

Now 7...Nf6 is so natural it hurts but it might not be the best move. It was actually played in this month’s game, when 8.Qe3 forced Black to make an important decision: should his bishop go to b4 or be fianchettoed on the kingside? Here with all the details is Arribas Lopez, A - Shmeliov, D.

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

Here I’ve looked at two examples of White (or more specifically Russian GM Sergei Rublevsky) rushing his knight to b3. He hopes to benefit from the open lines that will result from Black advancing c6-c5. Artemiev therefore avoided the pawn break in favour of 6...Ne7 7.Be2 Nc8:

Retreating the knight clears the way for the development of the bishop to e7 and also prevents White playing Nh4 to grab the bishop pair. But how is the knight on c8 going to make its fortune? There is a clever way: 8.0-0 Be7 9.a4 0-0 10.a5 a6 11.c4 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Na7! 13.Be3 Nb5:

The knight has made a journey via e7, c8, a7 and b5 to re-enter the battle in Rublevsky, S - Artemiev, V.

In our second game, Rublevsky was facing a player even younger than Artemiev: the 15 year old Russian Andrey Esipenko, who is rated 2571 but at the time of writing is still a FIDE Master. Esipenko went for the ...c7-c5 break but first of all answered 6.Nf3 with 6...a6 to rule out any future Bb5+ when play continued 7.Be2 c5 8.c3 c4:

Black decides it’s best to close the queenside. He found himself under pressure but I still like what he did at move 20:

After 20...Kd7! 21.Rb1 Kc7 Black’s major pieces are all at home, but at least his king is working hard in guarding the b-file! Enjoy a hard fight in Rublevsky, S - Esipenko, A.

Caro-Kann Classical Variation 4...Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nh3 Nf6 [B18]

Now 7.c3 is a sound move which prepares Qf3 without leaving c2 hanging to Bxc2 or d4 to Qxd4. It also cuts out lines with e7-e5 by Black as it rules out Qa5+ regaining the pawn after White plays d4xe5.

White intends to play Nf4 and h2-h4 to harass the bishop on g6. If Black is forced to play ...h7-h6 as a response then the exchange Nxg6 forcing ...f7xg6 would be a catastrophe for him. But it turns out the bishop can find a safe refuge deep in enemy territory, 7...e6 8.Nf4 Bd6 9.h4 Qc7 10.Qf3 Nbd7 11.h5 Bc2!:

If a player is surprised in a sharp opening line he can be totally crushed, no matter his rating. That's of course why such an emphasis is placed on opening theory. Maxim Turov came well prepared for the struggle and won a great attacking game in Fedorchuk, S - Turov, M.

After this Update I’ll be taking a break from I hope you’ve enjoyed my analysis over the last 12 months. Good luck with your chess.

All the best, Neil.

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