ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
As travel within countries becomes safer and more normal, the logical evolution of tournament chess has been a shift away from the pure-online format and towards hybrid games (as well as some national championships.) I found hybrid games somehow more rewarding to follow and have selected a few for this month. Also, a couple of games from the world’s first tournament with a prize fund in cryptocurrency, and one older game whose discussion thread had gained some traction over in the Forum.

Download PGN of June ’21 1 e4 ... games

>> Previous Update >>

Scandinavian Defence: 2...Nf6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bc4 [B01]

Every so often one ‘forgets’ that White is not obliged to allow the recapture of the pawn after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6, and this game serves as a reminder. Our game Sattarov, B - Yakubboev, N featured the continuation 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.f3 Bf5:

Sometime around here, like in the famous Portuguese Variation, White seems to be able to claim some advantage by pushing g2-g4 at some moment. In the game White also got some advantage in the middlegame, but this was more due to the opponent taking considerable risks, possibly with their 150-point rating advantage in mind. As it turns out, those risks were vindicated.

Modern Defence: 3.Nf3 d6 4.Be2 a6 [B06]

Many authors, including myself, have taken a grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it approach to the 4.Be2 and 4.Be3 lines of the Modern, not seeing much better than to enter some kind of Classical Pirc. The received wisdom is that if White still has the option of playing c4, then ...a6 is ill-advised, and (at least) a waste of time, if not worse. In the game Abasov, N - Durarbayli, V Black sought to question this judgement and after 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Be2 played simply 4...a6 5.c4 Nd7:

Durarbayli proceeded to simply construct a Hippo setup and contended that as long as he was careful about circumstances in which White could play b4 and/or a4-a5, things would be alright. He equalised from the opening before eventually prevailing in a messy struggle from the Azeri championships.

Pirc Defence: Austrian Attack with 5...c5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.e5 Ng4 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.h3 [B09]

The game Mozelius, P - Whaley, M was a correspondence encounter from two years ago, but came to my attention while I was browsing the Forum and raised some questions that I believe had not been previously answered here. After examining some deviations, I quickly get to the critical position after 1. e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 c5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.e5 Ng4 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.h3 cxd4 10.Qxd4:

Here I suspect that my previously-discarded 10...Nh6 might be the best answer to Black’s problems, while the game’s 10...Nc6 11.Qa4 Nh6 12.Bd2 Nf5 13.0-0-0 dxe5 looks to be severely tested in at least two ways (and neither is 11.Qe4 especially easy to deal with.) For correspondence the outcome was quite damning: Black had a position that looked mathematically lost as early as move 25.

Caro-Kann Defence: Endgame Offer with 3...Bg4 [B10]

I propose christening the line 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3 as the Endgame Offer (and the position after its acceptance as the Endgame Variation, since the Exchange Variation is already taken.) It would also be plausible to name it after Alan Pichot, since the Argentine grandmaster has played 3.d3 dozens of times, including 3 times in the recent FTX Crypto Cup. None of his opponents fancied going into the endgame, and in the main game Pichot, A - Firouzja, A Black went for 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bh5 instead:

After the principled moves 5.Qe2 e6 6.g4 Bg6 7.h4 h5! White more or less signed up for a piece sacrifice: 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.g5 Bd6 and now 10.Nxf7!?, a fully correct decision that was likely in the prep files of at least one of the protagonists. White obtains two pawns and interesting long-term compensation, while Black has to be careful that their pieces don’t get squashed by pawns (White’s g5-pawn being especially worrying.) Pichot proceeded to score a noteworthy upset.

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

This month’s game Vachier Lagrave, M - Svidler, P should be seen as some kind of sequel to last month’s Fedoseev-Mamedyarov encounter. This game, also from the Crypto Cup, saw a further test of the move I endorsed there, 8.Na4:

The position is definitely better for White in the event of ‘non-forcing play’ but Svidler had a particular sequence of moves in mind to call into question the utility of White’s bishop-pair, namely: 8...Bd6 9.d4 dxe4 10.Qxe4 Nd7 11.Rd1 Nf6 12.Qf3 Qa5 13.b3 e5!? when the misplacement of White’s pieces indicates that the assessment is probably indeed closer to equality. I have suggested a couple of ways White can try to keep the theoretical debate alive in this line, while recognizing that Svidler’s idea is a very good one.

Caro-Kann Defence, Fantasy Variation with 3...e6 4.Nc3 Bb4 [B12]

The French transpositions are everywhere in the Fantasy, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the minor sideline 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 e6 4.Nc3 Bb4 and now 5.e5!? when we are two logical pawn moves away from a Winawer. (To keep track of the transpositions I had to number the corresponding positions in a sideline starting with 1...e6.) The logical continuation of this game was 5...c5 6.a3:

With White having included f3 ‘for free’, the retreat of the bishop to a5 seems stronger than the Armenian variation proper. Black also has a couple of other ways to exploit the inclusion, such as playing ...Qc7 before ...Ne7. In Zvaginsjev, V- Dreev, A Black reacted sensibly (but not critically) and White’s opening concept was able to achieve its main objectives.

Caro-Kann Defence, Exchange Variation with 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.h3 [B13]

The game Antipov, M - Esipenko, A provided a further illustration of the ...g6, ...Bf5 plan Black in the case that White commits to an early h3 in the Exchange. After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.h3 Nc6 6.c3 g6 7.Nf3 Bf5 8.Be2 the only surprise was how quickly Black was able to launch the g-pawn forward and how difficult it was for White to open the position in response. A little-appreciated detail, however, is that in such positions Black often needs ...a6 in order to be completely safe (compare Studer-Peralta in the archives) and, to this end, Esipenko chose 8...e6 9.0-0 a6:

I would hesitate to say Black is already better, but it is really far from obvious what plans White has in response to the obvious kingside pushes. Antipov tried to play c4 at some point, but found the d5-pawn so solidly reinforced that no headway could be made. In my opinion White needs to play this line in some different way before the diagram position (e.g. 8.Bb5) or else switch out of the 5.h3 system entirely.

Caro-Kann Defence, Karpov Variation with 6...Qc7 [B17]

The Caro-Kann with 4...Nd7 is definitely less popular than the 4...Nf6 or 4...Bf5 lines (and on this column I have previously commented about a 11.a4!? option within the main line which probably justifies this theoretical doubt, cf. Tan-Hawkins in the archives) but that’s not to say there aren’t also other systems for Black that merit a bit of attention. I have checked three of them within the main game Lagarde, M - Kamsky, G. I have been testing both 5...h6 and 6...g6 a bit in blitz recently, but more dubious seems the game continuation of 5.Bd3 Ngf6 6.Ng5 Qc7:

White does need some precision to capitalize on this mistake and the refutation isn’t especially well-known (probably why Gata thought it was worth a try.) However, Black ended up confusing himself as well and so after twenty moves nevertheless found himself in a mathematically lost bishop ending, somewhat reminiscent of the one from MVL-Alekseenko in the Candidates.

All the best, Daniel

>> Previous Update >>

Please post you queries on the 1 e4 ... Forum, or subscribers can email me at