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As luck would have it, many of the critical games of the British Championships fell into one of my two columns. I analyse three of them here, together with some from the start of the World Cup.

Download PGN of July ’23 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence with 3...Qd8 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 [B01]

Perhaps optimistically for a Black game against a player who spent time in the world top 5, in our first game Adams, M - Fernandez, D I opted to repeat a line which had brought me success before, namely 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 c6 8.Be3 e6 9.Bd3 Nbd7. Here, Mickey went for the more aggressive approach with 10.0-0-0:

My greatest mistake in this game (unless you count move 1!) was probably to respond here with the exuberant 10...a5, when the established 10...Bb4 was only slightly better for White, and indeed featured in my pre-game notes.

Caro-Kann Defence with 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qe2 [B11]

There are a wealth of ways for White to get a KIA-type position against the Caro, and while not theoretically critical in the normal sense, it is still noteworthy when a convincing game is played with one, for instance Bernadskiy, V - Trost, E. This game began 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qe2 d4 4.Nd1 before reaching a critical juncture after White’s logical developing move 9.Bg2:

The position is essentially equal, and also quite free-form, rewarding understanding rather than memory. A principled reaction here would have been 9...exf4, and while there’s also nothing wrong with charging the h-pawn (as Black did in this game) it has to be backed up with consistency and calculation.

Caro-Kann, Advance with 3...c5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.dxc5 Nc6 6.c3 [B12]

Back to a topical battleground this month with two games I found particularly interesting. In the first, Adhiban, B - Yoo, C, Black went for the fighting continuation 4...Bg4, which may not equalise but is interesting to check. There followed 5.dxc5 Nc6 6.c3 e6:

Here I prefer the 7.Be3 chosen by Hans Niemann over the 7.b4 of the main game.

Caro-Kann, Advance with 3...c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qf4 e6 7.Bd3 [B12]

Back to the British Championships next for a test of the interesting possibility 4...cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qf4 e6 7.Bd3 Qc7, as seen in the game Han, Y - Ledger, A.

White needs to understand the main idea of Black’s rather uncommon last move (which is to push ...f6) and react accordingly. Even so, there are possibilities for Black to take the debate further in some of the strategically complicated lines.

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

In our next game, Khandelwal, A - Wadsworth, M, everything up to 13.a4 is already known to this column. On the next move I suggest one interesting alternative for each side, but overall play was quite logical by both sides until 18...Nce7 from Black:

White traded on e7 and a move repetition shortly ensued, but maybe the opening debate is still going strong after a move like 19.Rc1.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.g4 [B12]

This is more of a model game than a theoretical treatise, and comes from the second half of the Norwegian derby at the world cup, Tari, A - Carlsen, M. White needed to win this game, and at some point actually had excellent chances of doing so, but the opening point I wanted to draw attention to arose after White’s 12. Bd3:

Deprived for now of explosive central pawn breaks, Carlsen decided to gain space with the flank pawn thrust 12...h4!, creating space on the kingside for his bishop, which then enabled ...g6 and ...Nf5, achieving equality with what looked like a minimum of effort. The drama of the later part of the game should not be missed and was very typical for these closed positions with opposite colour bishops.

Caro-Kann Defence, Korchnoi Variation with 9...h5 [B15]

Finally we turn to a drama in two parts. In the first half, White followed one of the recommended plans against the established 9...h5 variation, culminating in 15.Nc3:

We have seen this kind of stuff in the positions with opposite side castling a few times, with one of White’s big ideas being an exchange sacrifice on e6. In Grischuk, A - Daneshvar, B Black reacted, in my opinion poorly, with the direct 15...Nf4?! and while Grischuk may not have reacted in the best way either, what he did was ensure that Black’s king safety remained markedly worse as both clocks ticked down to zero.

Caro-Kann Defence, Classical Variation with 8.Bd3 [B19]

It is not the first time we’ve seen Grischuk omit 8.h5 in the Classical and he certainly seems to handle the resulting positions well. Another game from the same minimatch as above, Grischuk, A - Daneshvar, B saw play telescope down an extremely typical line, up until 15.Rxe7:

Black can equalise in this line, but needs to be quite careful as the doubled f-pawns are by default a problem, and it is only with judicious handling that they end up as an asset that bolsters Black’s light squared control. An extremely instructive game, perhaps the most instructive of this month.

All the best, Daniel

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