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There's lots of Caro-Kann action to look forward to in this update but before that we see Hikaru Nakamura pull off a fantastic save in a tricky queen and pawn ending!

Download PGN of July '13 1 e4 ... games

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Centre Counter - 3...Qa5 [B01]

Our first game this month see an unusual line against the mainline Centre Counter. After the standard 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Bf5 White opts for the rare 6.Ne5!?:

Black had early problems to solve in Dominguez Perez-Nakamura and after some uncharacteristically bad opening play from the American super-GM he found himself a pawn down for nothing ... but that wasn't the full story - he then goes on to hold a lost ending with accurate defence.

Pirc - Austrian Attack 5.Bd3 [B09]

Karjakin - Mamedyarov sees more original play from both players. Instead of the usual 5.Nf3 Karjakin chooses 5.Bd3, with the idea of meeting 5...c5 with 6.dxc5 dxc5 7.e5! and in response Black sacrifices a pawn with the tricky 5...0-0 6.Nf3 c5 7.dxc5 Nbd7!? which has only been seen once before:

Whilst it's true that Black gets some compensation after this move there's no doubt that White has the better chances here and I don't really see this idea catching on.

Caro-Kann - Fantasy Variation - 3.f3 Qb6 [B12]

The fantasy variation can normally be relied upon for interesting and original play but even so it's rare to see a novelty on move 5! After 3...Qb6 4.a4 e5 5.dxe5 Black plays the logical 5...a5! and quickly obtains a good game.

White goes wrong straight away with 6.Bd3?! in Bauer - Ragger but it's not easy to find an advantage with other moves either. Perhaps White should stick to 4.Nc3 instead.

Advance - 4.h4 [B12]

Next we turn our attention to a fashionable line of the Caro-Kann in Andriasian - Minasian where Black tries 7...dxc4 rather than 7...Nd7 that has featured heavily on this site in recent months.

Although this seems to be a playable alternative as usual it's Black that has to be very careful here. After 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.Bg5 Qb6 10.Bxc4 Minasian grabbed a hot pawn with 10...Qxb2 but found himself on the wrong end of a miniature. If Black wants to play this line he should probably go for 8...b5 which I've examined in the notes.

Advance - Short Variation [B12]

Back in more theoretical waters we see two games from Alexander Morozevich as White in the Advance. In Morozevich - Mamedyarov he gets a fantastic position from the opening after Black goes for the risky 8...c5?!:

After 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Nd4 Black tries ...Bh7 but quickly finds himself in hot water; alternatively 10...Bg6 was tried in a game from the computer World Championships but that also turned out well for White. Instead of this Black players should investigate 8...Bh7.

The opening is less of a success for White in Morozevich - Topalov.

8.dxc5 is critical here but instead Alexander tries the tricky 8.Nh4 and Black's position was very comfortable after 8...Be4 9.Nd2 Nc6 10.g3 Be7 11.f3 Bg6. Black eventually won but not before Morozevich misses the chance to trap Black's queen!

Smyslov Variation - 4...Nd7 [B17]

After a few games this month with early deviations from theory we have to wait until move 17 to see a new move in Shomoev - Sjugirov.

Here White tried 17.c4!? rather than Leko's 17.dxc5, which is known to lead to a small but safe advantage, and after some inaccuracies from both sides Sjugirov blunders a piece and the game. There are plenty of improvements for both sides in the notes and hopefully we'll see more of 17.c4 in the future.

Classical 4...Bf5 mainline [B19]

Finally we return to a the classical mainline for a look at the fashionable 13.Kb1 Qb6. A couple of months ago we saw Karjakin score an impressive victory over Mamedyarov with 14.Rhe1! so in Eliseev - Riazantsev Black immediate diverges from that game with 14...c5!?:

After 15.c4 cxd4 16.Nxd7 0-0 Black eventually came out of the opening with a good position but White's play left plenty of room for improvement. Eliseev could have forced a draw at a number of points and I still think that 15.Qc4, which I recommended in the notes to the Karjakin game, looks promising - I've examined that in more detail here.

That's all for this month, Tom.

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