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In this month's update I've concentrated on some unusual lines in the Pirc/Modern, but we start off with a special 'How to draw with 2600s in the Centre-Counter' courtesy of Matthieu Cornette!

Download PGN of March '12 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence 3...Qa5 [B01]

In the first game I feature no less than 4 games with Matthieu Cornette as Black in the Scandinavian! His score of 2.5/4 (including 3 quick draws against a 2600+ average) is very impressive. In the main game he plays the unusual 7...Bb4!? in a critical line and draws easily:

See Fedorchuk, S - Cornette, M.

Modern Defence 3...a6 [B06]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6!? is a very flexible system and is examined in Harutjunyan, G - Chernyshov, K. Although I quite like this way of playing Black went wrong early on and was in a lot of trouble after 12.e5!:

I've suggested a few possible improvements in the notes.

Modern Defence 4 Bc4 [B06]

Game 3 features the British number 6 (David Howell) taking on the World number 2 (Lev Aronian) with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4!? Nf6 5.Qe2:

Which looks like a reasonable way to play, although Aronian eventually comes out on top.

Modern Defence Classical 5 Be3 [B06]

In Negi, P - Gashimov, V a fairly standard position is reached after 7 moves:

but White's next move, 8.Ne2, doesn't set Black any real problems. I've also analysed the critical 8.0-0 in the notes.

Pirc/Modern Defence 4 Bg5 h6 [B07]

The next game features a twist on a line analysed last month. After 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5!? h6 White simply retreated the Bishop with 5.Be3 and claimed h6 as a weakness. This sets Black some original problems as you can see in Vallejo Pons, F - Maiwald, J.

Czech System [B07]

Hou Yifan has been in a rich vein of form recently and Game 6 features her final round encounter in Gibraltar against Mamedyarov. The position after 12 moves appears quiet:

but the game soon explodes into action.

Advanced Caro-Kann - Short Variation [B12]

We have to wait until 20.Nb3 to see a new move in Bologan, V - Antoniewski, R:

Black reacts well and in fact the whole game is played accurately by both sides. At the moment Black is holding his own in a very fashionable line.

Our final game is Caruana, F - Iturrizaga, E. It features another topical line: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7 8.Nd2 Nbc6 9.N2f3. The position after 13.c4!? deserves careful study:

Later in the game we see that opposite-colour bishop positions aren't always drawish!

I'll see you next month when Gawain will be returning for another joint update, Tom.

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