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For the first time since February 2020 your columnist has left his adopted home of Australia, embarking on an ambitious series of tournaments that will hopefully provide good material for this column. Nevertheless, a large number of Internet games still feature for now.

Download PGN of May ’22 1 e4 ... games

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Alekhine’s Defence with 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 [B04]

We begin with a lesson in how not to handle the White side of this unassuming system. After 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 a known inaccuracy is 6.c4?! as played in Nepomniachtchi, I - Bortnyk, O since Black can reply with 6...Nb4!:

After a couple more inaccuracies White’s position was practically lost already at move 11, but then the rapid time control took its toll and the higher-rated player was able to eke out a win using an exchange sacrifice for passed pawns.

Alekhine’s Defence with 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 c6 5.Be2 Bf5 6.0-0 dxe5 7.Nxe5 [B04]

Meanwhile, in case Black plays 4...c6 immediately, there is no problem with playing 5.c4 (possibly the most accurate continuation.) Our second game Kamsky, G - Fedoseev, V instead saw 5.Be2 Bf5 6.0-0 dxe5 7.Nxe5 Nd7:

It appears that White keeps some small advantage with the accurate 8.Nf3, arguing that Black’s knights are about to get tangled and so they are best left untraded. However, some previous games did see the logical 8.c4 tested as well, which seems to give Black equality. This was another game where White’s eventual win, while not undeserved, was certainly difficult to anticipate.

Caro-Kann Defence with 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 g6 [B10]

The passion of Olexandr Bortnyk for the line 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 g6 7.Bc4 Bg7 8.d3 0-0 9.Nf3 a6 10.Qa3 continues unabated, as we see this month in Bortnyk, O - Praggnanandhaa, R. It seems that the correct plan for Black in the theoretical 10...b6 line has yet to be discovered (or, in case mine is the correct answer, given its practical debut.) Instead, in the game there followed 10...Nb6 11.Qb3 Nxc4 12.dxc4 b5 13.0-0 bxc4 14.Qxc4 e6:

White has a number of extremely interesting tries, of which I would maybe rate 15.Bg5 more highly than the game’s 15.dxe6 Bxe6 16.Qh4 Rc8 17.Bh6.

Caro-Kann Defence with 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3 d4 [B11]

Another miniature here, this time in favour of Black. The historical equalisers against 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3 have been 3...dxe4, 3...d4 and the gambit 3...e5. My analysis suggests that Black should possibly eschew the third, and be decidedly more careful playing the second. Our game Harutjunyan, G - Ponkratov, P reached its early climax after 8...Nf6:

Here White opted for the odd-looking 9.Nh3 (trying to keep options of pushing the f-pawn) when in fact the more flexible and normal 9.Nf3 left quite good chances of an advantage. In terms of modern, Two Knights-adjacent treatments for White, I don’t think this line is too much worse than the Endgame Offer 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation, Short System with 5...Nd7 6.Nbd2 [B12]

Our next game opens with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Nd7 6.Nbd2 (I am used to seeing this either on move 4, or soon after castling) which is a slightly unusual order that probably still has its points. For one thing, by covering e4 with the queen’s knight White discourages the traditional ...Ne7. The Nh4 motif continued to play a significant role over the coming moves, without ever actually appearing on the board itself. 6...a5!? 7.a4 f6:

Due to White’s lack of castling it’s not possible to play 8.Nh4 here, but on subsequent moves it may well become possible. Black’s last has actually indicated a desire to play ...Nh6 rather than ...Ne7, a telegraphing which should probably have been acted upon with 8.Nb3 rather than the game’s 8.0-0. See Nepomniachtchi, I - Paravyan, D.

Caro-Kann Defence, Fantasy Variation with 3...e6 4.Be3 [B12]

I tend to average about 1 Caro per event, and this year’s Doeberl Cup was no exception. In the game Richards, H - Fernandez, D I took my own advice and met 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 with 3...e6, expecting 4.Nc3 but instead getting the gambit line 4.Be3!?:

While it is possible to accept the pawn, the main instructive feature of this game is how easily Black can become better in some of the IQP positions that can result from 4...Qb6, followed by some form of ...Nc6 (possibly) and mass exchanges on c5 and d5. Black also tends to have a bit of momentum in the Rubinstein-structure positions such as the one I could have reached after 5.Qc1 c5 6.c3 dxe4 7.Nd2 and now the correct 7...cxd4.

Caro-Kann Advance, Short System with 5...c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7 8.Nd2 Nbc6 [B12]

One of the most critical lines in the whole Advance is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7, where Black offers the d4-square or possibly the bishop-pair in exchange for greater structural solidity. White’s methods to try and nevertheless break down the centre boil down to the usuals: c4, Qa4 and possibly Bb5. These can be combined in various ways although MVL’s method of 8.Nd2 Nbc6 (I gave 8...a6 in my book) and now 9.Bb5!? was new to me:

Black’s reaction was principled, though possibly could have been even more so had he grabbed a hot pawn. The advantage changed hands a couple of times, coming to rest in the possession of Alexei Dreev before a couple of dreadful blunders in time-trouble turned a -7 into a +7! See Vachier Lagrave, M - Dreev, A.

Caro-Kann Defence, Korchnoi Variation with 6.Bc4 Bd6 7.Qe2+ [B15]

Finally, a game that caught my eye from the European Individuals. Authors are often quick to assume that after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 it is compulsory for White to set up with c3, Bd3, Qc2 etc. In reality this is not true and many of the endgame variations that can arise after something like 6.Bc4 also have a certain amount of point. Play continued with the principled moves 6...Bd6 7.Qe2+ Qe7 8.Qxe7+ Kxe7 9.Ne2 Be6:

It is often difficult to know when to take on e6 in such a case, because there can be pressure against a potentially backward e6-pawn. In Livaic, L - Ponomariov, R I believe the young Croatian made the correct choice in picking 10.Bd3, keeping the bishops and preparing for some queenside expansion. He only went wrong later in placing his king behind the advancing queenside pawns. Some late endgame drama rounded off what was in general a fairly good Caro performance by Ponomariov.

All the best, Daniel

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