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Hi all!
This month’s update features a variety of openings. I examine both main and off-beat variations in the Caro-Kann. Separately, I continue to discuss sharp Pirc/Modern lines while the old Alekhine and 3...Qa5 Scandinavian defences also make appearances.

Download PGN of November ’18 1 e4 ... games

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Scandinavian Defence, 3...Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bd2!? [B01]

The main line Scandinavian, 2...Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 is still relatively stable in that the main lines seem to hold up for Black. Thus in Navara, D - Biolek, R, the Czech Grandmaster opted for 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bd2!?:

An attempt to eliminate some lines and possibly take the opponent out of their repertoire. For example, not all players are happy to play 5...Bg4 yet this might be the best move for players who would usually meet 5 Nf3 with 5...Bf5 6 Bc4 c6 7 Bd2 Nbd7!?. In the game, Navara responded with 6 Nf3 after which I recommend the move 6...Qf5!? for Black.

Alekhine Defence, Modern Variation, 4...dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6 6 Nd2 [B04]

Continuing on from various analyses in the archives, I revisit the line 4 Nf3 dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6 6 Nd2:

The game Frolov, A - Bogdanovich, S. was mostly interesting for its middlegame concepts, as the main move 6...Nd7 was not played (this, I believe to be the most testing reply). One important point is that the d2-knight probably doesn’t belong on c4. In fact, a better approach would be to stick the bishop on c4 so that Ne5-d3 won’t impede upon the bishop’s scope.

Modern Defence, Austrian Attack 4 Be3 a6 5 f4 b5 [B06]

Dubious is the line 3 Nc3 d6 4 Be3 a6 5 f4 b5 6 Nf3 Bb7 7 Bd3 Nf6?! See Popov, I - Popov, M. (A line also dismantled by Nakamura last month in the Isle of Man). In my notes to the game, I also extensively discuss the main lines after 7...Nd7 8 e5 c5 9 Be4 Bxe4 10 Nxe4 Nh6 11 dxc5:

Black’s possibilities then branch into two: 11...dxc5, employed by Carlsen against Wei Yi last year, leads to an ending which should be better for White; 11...Ng4! leads to massive complications. I make the practical judgement that they favour White in over the board games but that Black holds with accurate play.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack, 6.e5 dxe5 7 fxe5 [B09]

4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 0-0 6 e5 is known to be the aggressive interpretation of the Austrian Attack. Play continues 6...dxe5 7 fxe5 Nd5 8 Bc4. Now 8...Nb6 is played frequently, but my notes to the game, Pranav, A - Kaidanov, G suggest that it is suspicious. Instead 8...Be6 was played in that game, after which a highly theoretical battle ensued.

An important find, in my opinion, was that 9 Bxd5 Bxd5 10 Nxd5 Qxd5 11 Qe2 can be promptly met with 11...f6!

Caro-Kann Defence, 2.Ne2 d5 3 e5 Bf5 [B10]

Pap, M - Rogac, S featured the side line 2 Ne2. Play naturally continued 2...d5 3 e5 Bf5 4 Ng3 Bg6 5 h4 and now 5...h5!? was essayed:

This holds up nicely for Black if he reacts bravely to 6 e6 with 6...fxe6! After 7 d4, the most straightforward response is 7...Qd6 8 Bd3 e5, when Black takes the initiative.

Caro-Kann Defence, Two Knights Variation 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 h3 Bh5 [B11]

1 e4 c6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 h3 marks an important crossroads for Black. Perhaps for stylistic reasons, Black sometimes retreats with 4...Bh5 as played in Dragun, K - Macieja, B. My notes give an in-depth analysis into the principled lines involving a kingside expansion with White. Specifically, I examine the forcing line 5 exd5 cxd5 6 Bb5+ Nc6 7 g4 Bg6 8 Ne5 Rc8 9 d4 e6 10 Qe2 Bb4 (10...Bd6 must be the subject of more analysis, so I should get to that at a later date).

Now Dragun played 11 Bxc6 bxc6 12 h4 and attained a clearly better position after 12...Ne7?!. Far more popular is the immediate 11 h4 in which case Black does indeed react with 11...Ne7. These positions are razor sharp, but should lead to an advantage for White.

Caro-Kann Advance, Short Variation 5...Ne7 6 0-0 h6 7 Nbd2 Nd7 8 Nb3 g5 [B12]

Shirov, A - Nakamura, H was a sharp, high-level encounter in the Advanced Caro-Kann. Not unexpected given that Shirov is Shirov and Nakamura has adopted the Caro-Kann quite frequently of late. The theoretical battle began with 3 e5 Bf5 4 Nf3 e6 5 Be2 Ne7 6 0-0 h6 7 Nbd2 Nd7 8 Nb3 g5 9 Ne1 Qc7 10 f4:

Black has the options of 10...0-0-0 and 10...c5, the latter was played in that game. I would argue that 11 c3 is more testing than Shirov’s 11 Nxc5, although both are valid options, of course. After 11...Nxc5 12 dxc5 Qxc5+ 13 Kh1, Nakamura played the novelty 13...d4 when the position was unclear.

Caro-Kann 4...Bf5 Main Line with 7...e6 8 Ne5, 12 Nh5!? [B19]

In the last two updates, I examined the fashionable 4...Bf5 5 Ng3 Bg6 6 h4 h6 7 Nf3 e6. After 8 Ne5 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 Nd7, I considered 11 Bf4 and 11 Qe2 which are both objectively fine for Black. Balogh, C - Rodshtein, M featured the sharp 11 f4 Be7 12 Nh5!?:

This move entails a piece sacrifice from White, but with accurate defence, Black seems to equalise: 12...Ngf6 13 Nxg7 Kf8 14 Nxe6+ fxe6 15 Bd2 Rh7! See my notes to the above mentioned game for more details.

Until next time! Justin.

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