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This month we see another couple of games from Vachier Lagrave in his favourite 4.h4 Caro, but for my money the most impressive player against the Caro-Kann at the moment is Sergey Karjakin so be sure to check out his impressive victory over Mamedyarov.

Download PGN of May '13 1 e4 ... games

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Centre Counter 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 [B01]

We start however in the Scandinavian and in Iordachescu - Tiviakov we see the Dutchman defending with his favourite 3...Qd6 variation. However, the line he chooses, 5...Bg4, has fallen out of fashion somewhat and I can't say it surprises me. White opts for the critical line and after 8 moves a key position has been reached:

White seems to be doing well in the previously analysed lines of 9.Nxg6 and 9.Nb5, but in the game Iordachescu chooses 9.Nc4 which is also dangerous, and he wins relatively easily. I'd be surprised if Tiviakov repeats this line in the near future.

Modern/Caro hybrid - Gurgenidze System [B06/B15]

The position after 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 d5 5.e5 can be reached by either a Modern or Caro move-order and it's a very interesting one. Critical is 5...Nh6 6.Nf3 f6 7.Bd3 and now in Areshchenko - Iordachescu Black opted for 7...0-0:

The way the game went Black obtained good chances before eventually losing a complicated middlegame, but I think with accurate play White should be better in this line. I've also updated the analysis on Black's critical alternative 7...Bg4 in the notes.

Caro-Kann Advance - 3...Bf5 4.h4 [B12]

And now we're on to the Vachier Lagrave show. Over the last year or two the French Super-GM has been scoring heavily with this line and many of his previous victories can be found in the archives. He extends this run in Vachier Lagrave-Ding Liren which features the critical 4...h6 5.g4 Be4 6.f3 Bh7 7.e6!? and now 7...Nf6!?:

This is very sensible but it soon becomes clear that Maxime's preparation is the deeper of the two and he goes on to win a very instructive game. This is well worth checking out for just how White exploits Black's undeveloped kingside. I still feel 7...Qd6! is Black's best option in this line as it's far from clear where White's advantage is in that line, although Vachier Lagrave no doubt has some ideas at least!

Whilst it's good to stick to what you know, it's dangerous to become too predictable at the top level, and when Maxime repeated 4.h4 later on in the Alekhine memorial he came up against some impressive preparation from Vitiugov. Here Black preferred the more solid 4...h5 5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 Nge7 7.Nge2 Nd7 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Be2 and then played the novelty 10...Qa5:

This seems to solve a lot of Black's problems and in Vachier Lagrave-Vitiugov White suffers a rare defeat in this line.

Classical 4...Bf5 Mainline [B19]

Last month, in Saric-Nisipeanu, I suggested that White should be better in the 7...e6 8.Ne5 line after 11.f4!:

In Anand - Ding Liren Black tries 11...Bb4+, but the World Champion obtains a slight edge and goes on to win very smoothly. Black's play can be improved upon but nevertheless these positions don't strike me as very appealing.

Next, we see the mainline with the slightly unusual 12...Bd6, but in Guseinov - Pantsulaia White is well prepared. Black had the position after 13.Kb1 Bxg3 14.fxg3 0-0 before, but Guseinov improved with the very strong 15.Rh4!:

White's plan is simply g4-g5, and although he had to sacrifice a pawn in the game to get it in, it leads to a dangerous attack. Black was already much worse before a blunder on his part removed any doubt.

Now we come to my favourite game of this update: Karjakin - Mamedyarov. White goes for the tricky 13.Kb1 line, and in reply Black tried 13...Qb6, which has been scoring pretty well of late:

After 14.Rhe1 0-0 15.Nf5 Mamedyarov chose the principled 15...Bb4, but Sergey unleashed the shocking 16.Nxh6! a sacrifice that looks stronger the more I look at it. Black is unable to defend and Karjakin wins a very impressive game indeed.

The strength of the sacrifice was confirmed 5 days later when in Topalov - Mamedyarov Black decided to decline the sacrifice with 15...exf5, but White should definitely have a slight advantage in this line, even though Black was able to hold the draw in this game.

See you next month, Tom.

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