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Hi all, this update focusses on the Scandinavian Defence, with particular attention given to a few innovative ideas in the 3...Qd8 variation. There are also two games in which Pirc/Modern experts were in trouble as early as move 5! The only other opening that features is the Alekhine Defence, in which I discovered some new grounds for investigation.

Download PGN of June ’19 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence 3...Qd8 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bc4 [B01]

In the first Scandinavian game that I cover, White opens with 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd8 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bc4 a6 6 a4. This is pretty non-critical as Black has various ways to equalise. My recommendation is 6...c5!?. However, 6...Nc6, as in the game, is also principled:

After 7 d4 Bg4 8 d5 Nb4 Black has comfortable equality. See my notes to the game Solodovnichenko, Y - Bauer, C.

Scandinavian Defence 3...Qd8 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bg4 [B01]

More challenging of course, is 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3. Now Black is at a crossroads. McDonald is quite fond of 5...Bg4 6 h3 Bxf3 7 Qxf3 c6, aiming for a solid and static pawn structure at the price of disowning his light-squared bishop. White has a couple of options there. In the game, Rosen, E - Dale, A, I re-examine 8 Qd3!? but ultimately focus on the main line 8 Be3 e6 9 Bd3 Nbd7 10 0-0 Bd6

Now I recommend the quiet novelty, 11 a3!?, the point of which is to prevent any ...Nd5-b4 annoyances. Then, I provide a very specific setup which should yield White a strong initiative. In the game, the hasty 11 Ne4 was played and Black equalised with 11...Nxe4 12 Qxe4 Nf6 13 Qf3 Nd5 14 Bd2 Qf6.

Scandinavian Defence 3...Qd8 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 g6 [B01]

Recently strong GMs have drawn inspiration from Nakamura’s new approach, 5 Nf3 g6. I was happy with all but one of the lines. For instance, in the game Kovalev, V - Maghsoodloo, P, 6 Bc4 was met with 6...Bg7 7 0-0 0-0 8 h3 a6 9 a4 Nc6!:

Against any normal setup, Black will continue with ...b7-b6, ...Bc8-Bb7, ...e7-e6 and a rerouting of the queen’s knight. The only problem line I found, and a fairly critical one at that, was 6 Bf4! followed by a direct attack against the king in similar fashion to the ‘150’ Attack of the Pirc Defence.

Scandinavian Defence 3...Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Bc4 Bf5 7 Ne5 [B01]

Previously, I’ve advocated that 3...Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Bc4 Bf5 is well met with 7 Ne5. In the game Harikrishna, P - Hera, I the following forced continuation took place: 7...e6 8 g4 Bg6 9 h4 Nbd7 10 Nxd7 Nxd7 11 h5 Be4 12 0-0 Bd5 13 Nxd5 cxd5 14 Bd3 Bd6. I’ve expressed in Nepomniachtchi - Kovalenko that I liked White’s prospects after both 15 a4 and 15 Qf3. The game instead continued 15 c3 0-0-0 16 Qf3 Rdf8:

Now White should play the typical 17 Kg2 Kb8 18 h6! to hamper Black’s kingside pawns. Instead, Harikrishna opted for an innocuous setup, 17 Be3 Kb8 18 Rfc1?! f5! and Black was the one with the initiative.

Alekhine Defence, Main Line 4...g6 5 Bc4 Nb6 6 Bb3 Bg7 7 Ng5 [B04]

A well-known aggressive line in the Alekhine was revisited in the game Druska, J - Joie, S: 4 Nf3 g6 5 Bc4 Nb6 6 Bb3 Bg7 7 Ng5 e6 8 Qf3 Qe7 9 Ne4 dxe5. In our archives, only 10 Bg5 is analysed, which is by far the most popular move. Watson’s analysis is slightly out-dated so I re-examined the line as well, arriving at some truly thought-provoking grounds for further investigation. Namely, after 10...Qb4+ 11 c3 Qa5, 12 dxe5! Is the move which needs to be researched. I provided a few variations for guidance.

Instead, the immediate 10 dxe5!? was essayed. Following 10...h6 11 Nf6+ Kf8 12 Qc3 N6d7 13 Nxd7 Nxd7 14 f4 Black should have played 14...Nc5 15 Be3 b6 which is definitely not as ugly as it seems.

Pirc Defence 4 Bg5 c6 5 Qd2 [B07]

Ruiz, J - Marin, M featured 4 Bg5 c6 5 Qd2 b5?! which was quite a peculiar choice from the Romanian GM, considering that 5...Nbd7, his own recommendation, seems to hold up. White reacted directly with 6 e5 b4 7 exf6 bxc3 8 Qxc3 exf6 9 Bf4 Be6 10 0-0-0 which gave him an advantage. What drew my attention to this game was that it only lasted 22 moves - with a Pirc expert on the Black side! Certainly, his anti-positional 10th move 10...a5?? accelerated the process to his defeat. How does White exploit his opponent’s vulnerable king position?

11 d5! cxd5 (11...Bxd5 12 Rxd5! cxd5 13 Bb5+ Nd7 14 Nf3 Be7 15 Bh6 and Black is paralysed) 12 Bb5+ Nd7 13 Nf3 Rc8 14 Qe3 +-

Modern Defence 4 Be2 [B07]

When I saw the game Thorfinsson, B - Hillarp Persson, T I was reminded of the famous ‘Chinese Immortal Game’; incidentally one of the first attacking games that I was acquainted with as a kid. Our game continuation went 1 d4 g6 2 Nc3 Bg7 3 e4 d6 4 Be2 Nf6. Now the brilliancy which I referred to (Liu, W - Donner, J) continued 5 g4, while Thorfinsson opted for 5 h4. Just as Marin did, Hillarp Persson went astray on move 5, playing the unsuspecting 5...h6?:

Thorfinsson naturally did not hesitate to crack open the Black kingside with 6 h5 g5 7 f4!.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack with 5 a3 [B09]

The paradoxical idea in the Austrian Attack, 5 a3!?, has recently gained traction. White plays the most aggressive fourth move available and the quietest on the fifth. He hopes to dissuade Black from playing for ...c7-c5, while also nullifying the effects of ...Nb8-c6. Well, as it transpires, after 5...0-0 6 Nf3 Black can indeed play either of those moves but surprisingly, it is not so easy to equalise. See my notes to the game Van Foreest, J - Gurevich, M.

Till next time! Justin :)

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