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A connecting thread between the Openings in this section is a kingside fianchetto by Black. Not only in the Modern and Pirc, but also in lines of the Caro-Kann, Alekhine and Scandinavian the bishop proves effective on g7. We’ll see some cracking examples in the games this month.

Download PGN of March ’17 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian 3...Qa5 Variation: 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bd2 [B01]

Here after 6.Bc4 Bf5 a tricky line is 7.Qe2:

I've looked at scenarios where Black delays his development in order to strike at the white bishop with a ...b7-b5 pawn advance. Sometimes it just fails as White can answer it with a piece sacrifice of the Bxb5! kind. But if well timed it seems to give Black more attractive chances than he is offered in the normal lines of the Scandinavian.

The illustrative game actually went 7.Nd5, when 7...Qd8 8.Nxf6+ gxf6 led to an imbalanced pawn structure and a hard struggle in Dragun, K - Boros, De.

Alekhine’s Defence: 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 [B04]

I think this variation is a good choice if you are new to the Alekhine or don't play it much as it cuts out a lot of theory. After 6.Be2 Bf5 7.0-0 Nd7 8.Bg4 Bxg4 9.Qxg4 g6 10.c4 Nc7 White tried to improve with 11.Nd2!?:

Sethuraman hurries his knight to f3 to support e5. This looks like a good idea as it’s difficult for Black to shake off his slight but irritating inferiority in Sethuraman, S - Ramirez, Alej.

Alekhine’s Defence: 4.Nf3 g6 [B04]

Thanks to the move order, after 4.Nf3 g6 5.c4 - choosing to transpose to 4.c4 lines - 5...Nb6 6.exd6 cxd6 7.Nc3 Bg7 8.Be3 0-0 9.Rc1 Bg4 Black was in effect a tempo up on lines where he plays first ...Bf5 and then pins the knight with a later ...Bg4:

You'd think it would be plain sailing for him after that, but he unexpectedly gets into trouble in Dahl, T - Rozentalis, E.

Pirc Defence 150 Attack: 4.Be3 Nf6 5.f3 [B07]

Black has been reluctant to play 4..Nf6 against the 150 Attack out of fear of a quick Qd2 and Bh6 by White. Now that these lines have been more or less neutralised, the knight move is coming back into fashion:

As we see in this month’s game, it is White’s king that can end up in hot water, whilst the black king remains sheltered by its centre pawns. Looking at this line also gives me the excuse to include Kasparov’s famous win against Topalov - it was played in 1999 just before ChessPub started. Here is Kotronias, V - Saric, IV.

Modern Defence: 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5 a6 [B06]

White’s 4.Bg5 is an attacking move but it leaves d4 underdefended compared to 4.Be3. Therefore you'd imagine that preparing c7-c5 would be key to Black's strategy:

But as we shall see in the selected game Smirin keeps it in reserve, instead putting pressure on the white centre from the wings with his bishops and the ...b5-b4 pawn advance. By delaying ...c7-c5 he keeps his centre compact and doesn't open lines for the white pieces. Eventually Kovalev runs out of ideas and makes an unsound sacrifice in Kovalev, VL - Saric, I.

Caro-Kann Two Knights: 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 [B11]

Here after 6.d3 Nd7 7.Bd2 rather than face an attack of the 7...Ngf6 8.g4 variety, Black tries 7...g6!?:

The idea is to take the sting out of White's kingside pawn advance by putting the knight on e7 and develop the bishop along the diagonal a1-h8. Or so it seems- as this is a game by the inventive Jobava things never turn out the way you imagine! Check out Kuzubov, Y - Jobava, Ba.

Caro-Kann Advance, Short Variation: 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 [B12]

Here we’ll investigate 6.0-0 Bg6!?:

Black has a cramped game so the bishop retreats to make way for the knight to go to f5. This will allow the other bishop to be developed to e7. He will then be able to castle kingside. The fly in the ointment is that ...Nf5 encourages White to launch a pawn storm with g2-g4 etc. But as we shall see, Riazantsev isn't afraid of this in Salem, AR - Riazantsev, A.

Caro-Kann Exchange Variation: 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.c3 [B13]

This variation can also arise from a 'd-pawn Specials' move order. Indeed Eric Prie did a lot of work on the line after 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 cxd4 4.exd4 Nc6 5.c3:

Now 5...g6!? indicates that Black wants to play a fighting game. After some insipid play by White he was able to utilise the sequence ...Nh6, ...f7-f6, and ...Nf7 to achieve an ...e7-e5 breakout in Libiszewski, F - Iturrizaga, E.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the update and have picked up a couple of ideas you can try in your own games.

All the best, Neil.

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