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This month, the focus is on two openings: the Pirc and the Caro-Kann. Two engine games were used to examine a specific line in the Pirc. While in the Caro, we examine the Exchange with an early Nf3-e5, some critical lines in the Advanced, and finally the main line, with a humiliating flag-fall from the author himself...

Download PGN of May ’19 1 e4 ... games

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The Pirc Defence 4 f3 Bg7 5 Be3 c6 6 Qd2 b5 7 0-0-0 [B07]

This month, I’ve taken an unusual approach by examining 2 computer games from the match of Komodo v LC Zero, in the TCEC Cup. The computers were mandated to play the moves 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f3 Bg7 5 Be3 c6 6 Qd2 b5 7 0-0-0. In the game LC Zero - Komodo, Black immediately erred with 7...h5? Yes, according to my analysis, a 3500 computer blundered on move 7. I wanted to highlight that some traditional engines are particularly poor in these kinds of positions. On the other hand, both neural network based engines, Alpha and LC Zero don’t suffer from this gap in ‘understanding’. After 8 Kb1 0-0 9 Bh6 Na6 10 h4 b4 11 Nce2 Qa5:

Now, 12 g4! is a move which comes naturally to us, but not to Komodo. After 12...Nc7 13 Ng3 hxg4 14 h5 Be6 15 b3 a6 16 a4! Any hopes of counterplay for Black were put away immediately.

With colours reversed, LC Zero instead chose 7...Nbd7. Following 8 g4 Qa5 9 h4 b4 10 Nb1 a similar approach was taken to the first game: LC Zero devotes time to halting White’s attack with 10...h6!?, and again, it proceeded to outplay Komodo, see Komodo - LC Zero.

Caro-Kann Defence, Exchange Variation 2 Nf3 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 Ne5 [B10]

A line which seems popular in blitz encounters, and which is now played fairly often in classical games is the line 1 e4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 Ne5:

In my notes to the game Popov, I - Timerkhanov, A, I give an option to play 4...Nc6 5 d4 and 5...a6!?, this seems to avoid the positions which White is going for in this line. Instead in that game, Black played 4...Nf6 5 d4 Nc6 6 c3 g6 but these positions do seem to offer White a real edge.

The Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation 3...Bf5 4 Nd2 5 Nb3 Nd7 6 Nf3 [B12]

Although there are various ultra-sharp variations in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann, White’s most solid approach is arguably 4 Nd2. A tense positional fight ensues after 4...e6 5 Nb3 Nd7 6 Nf3 h6 7 Be2 Ne7 8 0-0 g5:

Last year, I analysed 9 Ne1 in the game Shirov, A - Nakamura, H. This month, Esipenko, A - Pershin, D saw a serious alternative to that move: 9 a4. This is the more testing approach according to my analysis, and the one which should become more popular. After 9...Bg7 10 a5 Qc7 White should play 11 Bd2 with the point that 11...c5 12 Nxc5 Nxc5 13 dxc5 Qxc5 can be met with the cunning 14 Qe1!. The game continued with the less testing 11 c3.

Rublevsky, S - Dreev A features the more direct 6...c5. After 7 dxc5 Bxc5 8 Nxc5 Qa5+ 9 c3 Qxc5, White played the equally direct 10 Qa4 but this shouldn’t faze Black because 10...Ne7 11 Bb5 Qc7 12 0-0 a6 13 Bg5 can be met with 13...Ng6, which my notes show leads to equality.

The Caro-Kann Advance Variation 3...Bf5 4 h4 h5 [B12]

Perhaps the most enterprising opening line this month was seen in Kadric, D - Macovei, A which saw 3...Bf5 4 h4 h5 5 c4 e6 6 Nc3 Ne7 7 Nge2 Nd7 8 Ng3 Bg6 9 Bg5 Qb6 10 Rc1. Now a crucial alternative to the game continuation is 10...f6 which leads to complications that are, according to my analysis, slightly in White’s favour. The game continuation is also playable of course, 10...dxc4 11 Bxc4 Qb4! 12 b3!:

The best move now is the slightly counter-intuitive 12...0-0-0. However, what’s wrong with 12...Rd8?! 13 Qf3 b5...? White can answer with the brilliant 14 Bd2! which grants White a big advantage after 14...Nxe5 15 dxe5 Rxd2 16 Kxd2 bxc4 17 bxc4 Qxc4 18 Rhd1.

Caro-Kann Defence, Korchnoi's 4...Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6 [B15]

Some time ago, I provided some plans to meet the unique variation 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6 6 c3 Bd6 7 Bd3 0-0 8 Ne2 Re8 with 9 Qc2 h5!?. If the reader recalls, White can play 10 0-0, followed by Bc1-f4 and Qc2-d2. In Simacek, P - Michalik, P, White argues that he doesn’t need to provoke the modern pawn push (of ‘Harry, the h-pawn’) and simply played 9 0-0 Nd7 10 Bf4. After 10...Nf8 11 Qd2 Ne6 12 Bxd6 Qxd6 13 f4 Black made the unsuspecting error 13...Bd7?:

Now, 14 f5 Nf8 15 Ng3 was already winning for White. A tactic worth remembering is 15...Kh8 16 Ne4 Qc7 17 Nxf6! gxf6 18 Qh6 Qd6 19 Rf4 +- although 16 Rf3 as in the game, was also strong of course.

Caro-Kann, Smyslov 4...Nd7 5 Ng5 Ngf6 6 Bd3 e6 7 N1f3 Bd6 8 Qe2 h6 9 Ne4 [B17]

Lastly, I decided to share a painful swindle in the 4NCL this month, which featured the author essaying his own material with 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Ng5 Ngf6 6 Bd3 e6 7 N1f3 Bd6 8 Qe2 h6 9 Ne4 Nxe4 10 Qxe4 Qc7 11 a4!?:

Now, after the natural moves 11...c5 12 0-0 Nf6 13 Qh4 my opponent in Tan, J - Hawkins, J went into deep thought before erring with 13...c4?! 14 Be2 Bd7. Then, I had the feeling my notes provided the line 15 Nd2! but I started to hallucinate and chose the inferior option 15 Ne5. Eventually, I gained a small advantage with my two bishops, although Black could have equalised quite easily. It’s fair to say that through most of the game, I outplayed my opponent and the two bishop advantage showed itself to be a lasting one but, in the end, I forgot about the 33rd chess piece...

Till next time! Justin :)

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