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This month, we cover no less than four games in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann (as well as one game in the Main Line) while the Modern/Pirc Defences also feature in both our annotations. Dan focusses his attention on the European Club Cup, which he himself participated in, whereas I aim at various lines that are relevant to both my own repertoire, and my upcoming book on 1 e4!

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

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Modern Defence, 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Qe2 [B06]

I have long been of the opinion that after 4.Bc4, the principled move is ...e6, aiming to play ...d5 with tempo. However, I recently became interested in some of the sharper lines Black can play, and in the very recently concluded European Club Cup I essayed 4...Nf6 5.Qe2 0-0 6.e5 Ne8!?:

The main idea is to claim that White will soon have to resolve the question of the e5-pawn: either a dxc5, ...dxe5 type exchange or else the (unequivocally favourable for Black) exd6. I believe Black equalises in all lines but has to know his stuff. My opponent in Sorensen, J- Fernandez, D played the eminently sensible, but not especially theoretical 7.Nbd2, to which I did not reply in the best way. I chose 7...c5 8.dxc5 d5 and won a strategically rather confusing encounter after being essentially lost at one point!

Pirc Defence: 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be3 [B08]

I’m usually excited to see a new Onischuk win in the Pirc... only to be somewhat disappointed to find that the win wasn’t exactly attributable to the opening. In fact, in the game Svane, R - Onischuk, V you could say he won in spite of the poor opening! The game started with the usual 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be3 when out of nowhere, Onischuk plays the almost losing line 5...d5? 6.e5 Ng4 (6...Ne4 is objectively better, but pretty much loses a pawn by force) 7.Bf4 f6 8.h3 Nh6 Now the most incisive is 9.exf6 exf6 10.Qe2+ Kf7 11.0-0-0 when White follows up with a very quick g4-g5. Instead, Svane played 9.Bd3 0-0 10.0-0 c6 11.Re1 b6 12.Qd2 Nf7:

The following sequence of moves illustrates how White can bust open Black’s defences. 13.h4! Na6 14.e6! All these moves are perfectly timed on account of White’s powerful 17th move. Nd6 15.h5 g5 16.Bxd6 Qxd6 17.h6! Bxh6 18.Nh4! The point of White’s play is revealed, his knight comes to f5 and the position is simply crushing. Sadly for the young German Grandmaster, his opponent tricked him later in the game to produce a miraculous swindle.

Pirc Defence, Classical Variation 6...a6 [B08]

In the same tournament, a more orthodox approach was adopted by ”Polish Fighter“, Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the game Kulaots, K - Duda, J. After 3...g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 he opted for the standard 6...a6. Black may also choose 6...c6 (it’s a matter of taste). Naturally, the game continued 7.a4 b6 8.Re1 Bb7 and now 9.e5 dxe5 10.Nxe5 gave White an advantage. Although Duda played quite poorly in the opening, I found the game to be instructive all the same, particularly because of the strategic ideas which Kulaots came up with. The game continued 10...Ra7?! 11.Bf4 Nc6 12.Nxc6 Bxc6 13.Be5 Qa8?! 14.Bf1 Rd8 15.Qe2 Rd7 16.h3 Qd8:

17.a5 b5 And now the fantastic positional manoeuvre, 18.Na2! e6 19.Nb4 with a clear advantage. My notes to this game also feature some sneak peek analysis for an upcoming book I will be publishing on 1 e4, plus a blitz game I played just yesterday, in the UK Open Blitz Championship!

Caro-Kann Advance Variation, Short System 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Nd7 6.0-0 Ne7 7.c3 c5 [B12]

Also relevant to my book will be the variation 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Nd7 6.0-0 Ne7 7.c3 c5 which occurred in Akash, G - Nguyen Van Huy. White should respond with 8.dxc5 Nxc5 9.Nd4 when 9...Bg6 is a sound continuation for Black. For instance, 10.Be3 Nc6 11.f4 Ne4. Instead, the unsuspecting 9...Nd7? was played:

Now 10.Bg5! really puts Black in danger as the threat is either Nb5 or Nxf5. Instead 10.Nxf5 gave White no more than a slight pull.

Caro-Kann Advance Variation, Short System 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 c5 [B12]

Finally, I (Justin) examine one of the more concrete variations in the Advance Variation, namely 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 c5. I’ve dealt with this quite a lot of late, and not without reason. White generally has three challenging responses to it (7 c4, 7 dxc5 and 7 Na3), none of which offer much in the way of a genuine advantage. Still, we’ve seen over the past few months that White has a few ideas up his sleeve, and Black does need to come prepared. In the game Kargin, A - Harutjunyan, G White chose 7.Na3 after which Black already deviated from the main lines with 7...a6. In my opinion, White can gain an initiative after this move by 8.dxc5 Nec6 and now, I’d be very happy with my position as White after 9.Be3 Nd7 10.c4 Be4 11.cxd5 Bxd5 12.Nc4 Bxc4 13.Bxc4 Bxc5 14.Bf4. Kargin played 9.c4 instead, which turned into a sort of bad Reti on the queenside, following 9...d4 10.Bd3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nd7.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation 3...Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 [B12]

The common line with 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ 7.Nd2 made another appearance in the European Club Cup:

this time in a game of tremendous theoretical value: Vucinic, G - Kobalia, M. Black’s approach bears out our previous comments about how he should tackle the line: leaving the queen on a5 until/unless it becomes clear that a6 is a better location. After all, White is going to play c4 later anyway, and can easily arrange to support the queen with Rfd1. So a much better use of energy than the near-automatic ...Qa6 is to bring a rook to d8 and play ...c5 without too much delay.

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

The second game in this section features a move-order ‘trick’. If Black responds to 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 with ...e6 instead, then 7.Bg5 almost certainly transposes to the line 5.Bg5 Qb6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3:

Unwilling to play 7...e6 here, or perhaps thinking he could get away with it, a young Russian talent ventured 7...Qxb2? here and was nearly lost after 8.e6. The operative word is ‘nearly’, since matters are not totally clear and White needs to remember some precise moves. In the game he didn’t, traded queens too readily and even lost the resulting ending. See Takacs, L- Murzin, V.

My point in pairing these games is to claim that 5.Bg5 is a more accurate move-order. Unless he wants to play the idea of ...Qa5+ before White has exchanged light-squared bishops, there seems little alternative for fighting for equality other than 7...e6 8.Nd2 c5.

Caro-Kann, Classical Main Line 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 [B19]

I’m going to use the excuse provided by the game Buksa, N- Yuffa, D to publish some of my analysis on the main line with 11.Bd2; that is, 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12. 0-0-0 Be7 13.Kb1. The multi-talented Russian grandmaster opted for 13...Qb6 14. Rhe1 0-0 15.Nf5 Bb4:

as previously played in an old Mamedyarov game, despite the line being almost refuted by 16. Nxh6+! Instead, White tried another refutation attempt which was also clearly prepared; it wouldn’t have worked against perfect defence, but in the game it was enough to crash through. Meanwhile, 13...0-0 obviously continues to stand up to scrutiny, and I also include some interesting notes on 13...c5 and 15...exf5, ideas which Black might try if the main lines become doomed to forced draws.

Till next time! Dan and Justin

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