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Happy New Year!
The first twelfth of my New Year’s Resolution to deliver ChessPublishing columns before the twelfth of the month has taken shape. I look forward to seeing what gems of B00-B19 praxis are thrown out by the likes of Tata Steel and Gibraltar!

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

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Scandinavian Defence with 3...Qd8 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6 [B01]

I don’t think even the most die-hard fans would try and claim that 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 is an equalising try. What might perhaps come as a surprise to some is how quickly the trouble can arise unless Black pays very real attention to the c8-bishop. In the game Ramoutar, A - Savic, M play continued 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6:

Already 6.Bc4 would have landed Black in rather hot water (though White ended up only putting the bishop there after 6.h3.) Black’s c8-bishop often runs out of viable squares along the c8-h3 diagonal and ends up having to fianchetto, which of course becomes all the less convenient if White has taken control of the queenside as well with a2-a4.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack with 5...0-0 6.Bd3 Nfd7 [B09]

Following 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 general consensus is that White should be slightly better after a bit of inspired play. (A few months ago we saw a nice game by Polish GM Piorun here.) The thing to watch out for is that Black hasn’t yet committed to ...c5 or ...e5, and wants to execute one of those pushes (usually the former) in a way that releases maximum energy. With this in mind, it might seem like a welcome bit of flexibility for Black to try, as they did in Stoleriu, G - Manolache, M, the odd-looking 6...Nfd7!?:

The knight controls both of the squares those pawns could thrust to, but the problem is that ...e5 will fail to actually open the long diagonal in most cases, and thus Black ends up pushing ...c5 in a worse version. There followed 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 Na6 9.Be3 and White stood better. There are some instructive middlegame moments later on in which White failed to attack in the right way and then Black pushed back with some really principled queenside action.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.d4 Nf6 [B11]

About half a year ago we looked at an Erdos game where Black declined to play ...dxe4 in the Two Knights after 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.d4, by choosing instead 6...Nf6. Since White is in no position to push e5, this insertion makes good sense. Back then he tried 7.Be2, which I still think is interesting. But against his wunderkind opponent the Hungarian chose to play more sedately in Erdos, V - Firouzja, A: 7.exd5 cxd5 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.Ne2 h6 10.c3 Bd6 11.Bc2 Rc8 12.g4

Black chose an atypical move here which shocked pundits at the time, but has logic: 12...Kd7!? Black may have moved the queen’s rook, but that doesn’t mean the king can’t ‘castle’ across to b8!

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation with 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.Be2 Bc5 [B11]

A more common line that we’ve seen a few times before runs 6.Be2 Bc5 7.0-0, after which Black often prompts White to offer a gambit with 7...Nf6. Instead, in Gavrilescu, D - Svane, R, Black tried 7...Nd7 8.Na4:

and then, like Firouzja above, didn’t take on e4 (in a position where theory and principles indicate it’s probably a decent idea.)

Instead, the German GM chose the combative 8...Bd4 9.c3 Bf6, banking on White’s sidelined knight and his own solid central structure to provide enough counterplay. In the end he obtained some practical chances, but was unable to convert them into reality and the game ended in a draw.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4.h4 a6 [B12]

After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 we have already recently checked the sidelines 4...c5 and 4...Qb6!? but so far not the ubiquitous 4...a6!?. It seems that whenever Black wants a waiting move in the Advance, this one comes to the rescue and in fact, this particular version has recently been seen in quite a few tests. My judgment based on the game Abdusattorov, N - Bernadskiy, V was that White’s initial response of 5.h5 was correct:

However, after the justifiably combative 5...c5 set up by Black’s 4th move, the reaction 6.Bd3 wasn’t correct. There are usually two things to consider against a ...c5 push in the Advance: taking it, and pushing c4. As things were, White outplayed Black from a level position out of the opening, before being dragged back down by some excellent practical defence.

Advance, Short System with 5...Ne7 6.0-0 h6 7.Nbd2 Nd7 8.Nb3 Bh7 9.a4 a6 [B12]

Last month we looked at the fashionable 6.c3 line, this time I take a look at a slightly different spin from Black, namely 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 h6 7.Nbd2 Nd7 8.Nb3 Bh7. Note that 8...g5 has been seen a few times in the archives, but in this game Black simply never played ...g5 at all. Black’s idea is to prepare some queenside break, but it needs to be done quite carefully and it certainly isn’t always going to be ...c5. White’s 9.a4 looked critical, clamping down on these queenside options:

Black was being pressured into a decision, with options being things like ...a5 and 9...a6, though the pawn later ended up being pushed one square further anyway. This made ...c5 less likely, while the overlooked possibility of ...b5 would have been interesting at certain points in the middlegame in Firouzja, A - Jobava, B.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.a3 [B12]

It is relatively rare to see a game where Black castles queenside in the Advance, and the fact that it happened here can be explained most readily by noting that this game actually very much resembled a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Play began with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Ne7:

Having avoided playing h4 thus far, I think White shouldn’t play it here either and the game continuation 6.a3 is deservedly the main line. It is not simple for Black to maintain the tension for long, but I believe they should hold out for one more move, while White develops something else (preferably blocking the third rank) prior to releasing all the tension with ...dxc4. See Sedlak, N - Bryakin, M.

Caro-Kann Defence, Exchange Variation with 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 [B13]

Finally, we take a look at the Londonesque main line of the Exchange, starting with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6:

I did some digging on the relatively obscure 6.Nd2, before moving on to exactly what plans White can use to nurture an advantage if after 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Black opts for 7...Qc8. They don’t always involve keeping light-squared bishops (though that helps); in the end in Faizulaev, A - Makhnev, D Black ended up getting abruptly mated.

All the best, Daniel

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