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There's lots of interesting and attacking chess to look forward to in this month's update, which is largely concentrating on sidelines. I'm sure with the Candidates going on at the moment there will be plenty of mainlines for next month!

Download PGN of March '14 1 e4 ... games

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Centre Counter - 'Banker' Variation 3...Qd8 [B01]

We begin with a definite sideline, the 3...Qd8 Scandinavian or 'Banker' variation. It's known for its solid reputation and in Naiditsch - Danielsen Black certainly got an acceptable opening position. White tried 5.Bc4 a6 6.a4!? with the idea of developing the knight on g1 to e2 rather than f3:

However Danielsen showed that 6...Nc6 7.Nge2 e5! pretty much equalises with best play. Both sides missed chances later on but eventually it was the 2700+ who came out on top (as so often is the case!)

Pirc - 150 Attack 6.h3 [B08]

There are lots of ways to play the 150 Attack but basically all of them include a quick Qd2 followed by castling on the queenside. That's exactly what we get in Akopian - Chatalbashev and it leads to early complications. The position after 10.Qf4 looks visually impressive for White:

but I think Black should be OK with accurate play and there's always good chances for counterplay on the queenside. The game ends with a failed hunt and then a game ending blunder - it's definitely one to check out even if the opening isn't your cup of tea.

Pirc - Austrian Attack - 5...c5 6.dxc5 Qc5 7.Qd4 [B09]

Richard Rapport is becoming something of a regular in this column which isn't surprising as he's not afraid to try out some of the more unusual openings. Here we see him in a back and forth encounter with up and coming Dutch GM Robin Van Kampen in the fashionable 5...c5 6.dxc5 Qc5 7.Qd4 Austrian Attack. Rapport's 9...Qd8 appears to be a new move:

and it certainly leads to interesting play. Again, both sides have chances but eventually it's White who gets the full point in Van Kampen-Rapport as Black's king gets caught in a mating net.

Caro-Kann - Two Knights Variation 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 [B11]

I've played the Two Knights Variation a fair amount myself against the Caro-Kann and I've always found it difficult handling 4...Nf6, so it was nice for me to see how a top GM plays against it. White takes on f6 (rather than opting for 5.Qe2!?) and gets exactly the position he wants after 12.Nh4!:

but just as it looks as he's on the way to victory he throws away first the win and then, when over pressing, the draw. Black can also improve in the opening, I think ...Bg4 should be delayed, at least until after castling but probably longer. See Naiditsch - Ezat for details.

Caro-Kann - Two Knights Variation 3...Bg4 [B11]

Next we see the mainline of 3...Bg4 (rather than 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6) in Motylev - Riazantsev. The line we see with 6.d3 Nf6 7.Bd2! is currently looking like White's most dangerous option and Black doesn't seem particularly well prepared as he loses a tempo in the opening. White is already doing well after 12.0-0-0 and he goes on to win in just 26 moves!

Caro-Kann Advance - 3...c5 [B12]

3...c5 against the Advance remains in fashion at GM level and here we see another Black success with a quick draw against an opponent more than 100 points higher rated. The position after 7...a6 is new to this site:

but White reacts well with 8.Nbd2! However, a later inaccuracy allowed Black to equalise with active play. I've suggested a couple of improvements for White in the notes to Zhigalko - Bernadskiy.

Caro-Kann - Classical 4...Bf5 mainline, 7...Nf6 8.Ne5 [B19]

Negi - Ragger is probably the closest we have to a traditional mainline in this update but even this features the slightly unusual 7...Nf6 which allows 8.Ne5. The first 13 moves have all been seen before, in Adams-Khenkin, but after 13...Qxd5 the young Indian GM improves with 14.Qxd5 cxd5 15.Ne2!:

This is difficult to deal with and indeed I'm not sure why Black players are suddenly happy to play into this line. White usually gets an edge without risking much and in this game the pressure proves to be too much for Black and Negi wins a smooth and instructive game.

Caro-Kann - Unusual lines - 2.c4 [B22]

Finally we examine the extremely rare 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Qxd5!? (technically a 2.c3 Sicilian) which isn't actually too bad! That being said Black has to be very careful as one mistake can cost him big after already losing time in the opening. In Miezis - Dobrov Black didn't find the correct defense to the threat of 15.Nc7+ in the following position::

and succumbed to a quick defeat. 4...Qxd5 is still worth a look as Black actually missed a chance to equalise earlier on.

See you next month with some mainlines, Tom.

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