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In my final update (for the time being at least) I've decided to concentrate on the Caro Kann, as there were lots of high level encounters in this opening over the last month. In fact there's only one player featured that's below 2600! Also Gawain has kindly annotated his important game from the final round of the 4NCL - a game that helped Guildford 1 win the title.

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

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The Tiger Modern Defence - 4.f4 a6 [B06]

Before we get to the Caro Kann games we have one top level Tiger Modern (4...a6) to examine. I was expecting White to find something promising in Karjakin - Kamsky but 9.Ne2?! seems to be a rather strange novelty:

The idea is to solidify the centre with a coming c3 but this just gives Black the time he needs to get a good game and Kamsky at least equalises. A nice tactic nets Kamsky a pawn later on but, after missing a golden opportunity in the ending, the game ends in a draw. 9.0-0 Nh6!? is more critical and I've included a game with Tiger Hillarp Persson himself as Black from this position in the notes.

Caro-Kann Advance - Short Variation 5...c5 [B12]

Next we have two important games in the 5...c5 Short Variation, both featuring Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as Black. In Nakamura - Mamedyarov White tries the unusual idea 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.dxc5!?:

This line is very tricky and but Mamedyarov's new move 13...Qb4 seems to give him a decent game. It does result in White gaining dangerous play for a pawn though, and a mistake from Black gives Nakamura a crushing attack which he converts with aplomb.

Not to be discouraged Mamedyarov repeated the line again the very next day, this time in Karjakin - Mamedyarov. Obviously this shows he's happy with the theoretical assessment of the line and indeed Sergey opts for the quieter 6.c3 rather than repeating Nakamura's choice. Although this can lead to simple play the position after 14.f5! is anything but:

Both players were well prepared, however, and the game burned out to a draw after accurate play.

Caro-Kann Advance - 3...c5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.c4!? [B12]

4.Nf3 Bg4 5.c4!? has always been a very interesting way of responding to the 3...c5 line but unfortunately it seems Black can equalise with accurate play. After 5...cxd4 6.cxd5 Qxd5 7.Nc3 the game enters a forced sequence and the position after 11...Nc6 seems completely OK for Black:

It's no surprise that both players were well prepared in Najer - Khairullin, they have played the first 20 moves all before in a previous encounter! The game was perfectly played by both sides, but White will be the more disappointed as he never found an advantage.

Caro-Kann Advance 3...Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5 [B12]

I covered 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5!? Qb6 6.Bd3 last month (see Mareco-Molina) but in that game Black opted for the usual move of 6...Bxd3. Instead, in Nevednichy - Lupulescu we see Black grab the pawn on d4 with 6...Qxd4!?:

It's a move that is rarely played, presumably as it's considered too risky. That being said I can find nothing wrong with it, and neither could White in this game. All in all, I can't see much to recommend 5.Bg5 at the moment.

Caro-Kann - Fantasy Variation - 3.f3, 5...exd4 [B12]

Another line which has been considered too risky for Black is 3.f3 dxe4 4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 exd4 - and this time with good reason! ChessPublishing first assessed this as dubious almost 20 years ago and Perunovic - Lajthajm only offers more evidence in that direction! The position after 8.e5! is already clearly better for White:

and Perunovic goes on to win in convincing fashion.

Caro-Kann - Exchange Variation 6.Bf4 g6! [B13]

The exchange variation used to be quite a popular weapon against the Caro-Kann a few years ago but it's fallen a bit out of fashion. I also gave it up and this line is the main reason why. Black has an easy setup based on a quick ...g6 and ...Bf5 and I can't see any advantage for White in these position. In Rapport - Laznicka White tries to complicate things but it only ends up backfiring. The position after 10...Rg8 is already better for Black:

and Laznicka goes on to score a quick win.

Caro-Kann Classical 4...Bf5 mainline - 11.Bd2, 13.Kb1 [B19]

In our final game we turn our attention to one of the critical mainlines of the Classical Caro. I'm very grateful to GM Gawain Jones for annotating his excellent victory against Laznicka from the final round of the 4NCL. 19.Nc3!? was his new idea in Jones - Laznicka, and whilst it seems Black is just about OK in this line with perfect play, this does give him new problems to solve:

Overall the lines after 13.Kb1 seem much easier to play as White.

That's all for me from this month, and unfortunately for the foreseeable future as I'm concentrating on other things instead. I've enjoyed writing for ChessPublishing, and I've learnt a few new ideas in the process. I hope you have too!

Thanks, Tom.

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