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This month, Justin explores some interesting new territory, while Dan investigates how his previous analysis has held up under the microscope of new practical tests.

Download PGN of November ’20 1 e4 ... games

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Owen’s Defence 3.Nc3 [B00]

1.e4 b6 was played in the rapid game, Antipov, M - Theodorou, N. Rarely do we see a GM playing 1...b6, and even rarer is the sight of a 2600 losing to it! 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nc3 I’d be curious to see how Black would have responded to the main move 3.Bd3 since 3...d6 can be answered with 4.Ne2!? Nd7 5.0-0 e5 6.c4 In any case, Black can play a KID-structure, with 6...g6. The drawback is that once f5 comes, White has exf5 and the Black pawn structure is more vulnerable than it would be in a normal KID. 3...d6!? 4.Nf3 4.f4 might have been more unpleasant to face. 4...Nd7 Theodorou has played in this way a couple of times. 5.Bd3 My feeling is that White played lazily in the opening, thinking that anything would grant him a large advantage. 5...e5!? 6.dxe5? This is clearly a mild approach. 6.Bc4! h6 7.Qe2 Ngf6 8.Be3 would have been strong. White has the idea to castle long, which is usually not a good option in a standard Philidor. 6...dxe5 7.Bc4 h6! 8.0-0 Ngf6:

The players have reached a Philidor structure, where Black has developed the queen’s bishop first, rather than the king’s bishop. This gives Black the opportunity to play ...Bd6 and ...Qe7, with the added possibility of castling long. The situation is definitely unpleasant for White, who expected a large advantage by playing simple, natural moves, but instead found himself in a balanced position with all to play for. It is no surprise that Theodorou quickly seized the initiative and won!

Pirc Defence: 150 Attack with 6.g4 [B07]

I’m increasingly of the view that after the 150 Attack is much better against the Modern than the Pirc, and this month’s game Rasmussen, A - Chatalbashev, B helps motivate that view. The initial moves were 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4.Be3 c6 5.f3 b5 6.g4, a line where it seems Black should always resist the temptation to play ...a5-a4, however much he wants to! That applies even if White plays b3 in short order. White improved on an earlier site-annotated game by playing 6...Bg7 7.Qd2 h5 8.g5 Nfd7 9.f4!?:

This move has some intricacies to it, and might well be a viable second way for White to fight for an advantage if for some reason he isn’t satisfied with 6.Qd2 Bg7 7.Nge2 (as I suggested in January.)

Pirc Defence: Austrian Attack 5...0-0 6.Bd3 Nh5 [B09]

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Nh5 was an idea which a subscriber prompted me to analyse. While it is almost certainly questionable, the element of surprise may be enough to rattle your opponent. 7.0-0 7.Be3 is an important alternative. In fact, it is probably the move I would recommend for White. On 7...Nc6 8.f5!? appears to be dangerous for Black. 7...Bg4 8.Be3:

At this point, the move I like for Black is 8...Nd7, to prepare ...c5. For instance, 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 c5! 11.d5 Qb6 12.Nd1 Bd4! Black exchanges White's good bishop and intends to setup a dark-squared pawn formation, in order to fix White's pawns on light-squares. In Berkvens, J - Avrukh, B, 8...e5 was played instead, however, this gave White a clear advantage. 9.dxe5 9.fxe5 dxe5 10.d5 is also strong. 9...dxe5 10.f5 Nf4 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3. What happened after this was quite impressive, Avrukh wriggled out of an inferior position by creating counterplay on the queenside, and even went on to win!

Caro-Kann: Two Knights Variation with 3...dxe4 and 6...Nd7 [B11]

I covered the line 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Nxe4 6.Qxe4 Nd7 just a couple of months ago, but there are clear signs that we’re not the only ones working on this topical line! The key position arises after 7.Bc4 Nf6 8.Ne5 e6 9.Qe2 b5 10.Bd3 Qc7 11.a4 Bd6 12.Nxc6 b4 13.Nd4 a6 14.Nf5:

A deeply unsatisfying and not especially illuminating set of computer lines follows after 14...Be5 so it is no particular surprise that Robson found an early deviation in Liang, A - Robson, R, which in practical terms is probably also an improvement. White may be able to find an objective advantage after the game’s 14...Bb7 but it seems to come at the price of allowing Black a hugely powerful knight on d5. We have definitely not heard the last of this line though, and it seems to be at the forefront of Black’s attempts to equalise against the Two Knights.

Caro-Kann: Two Knights Variation with 3...Bg4 and 6.g3 [B11]

Those of you who haven’t been living under a rock will likely already know my (DF) motivation for including a game which wasn’t played this month, or this year, or even this century. The game Nezhmetdinov, R - Kasparian, G was played over 60 years ago, but was recently catapulted back into the collective chess consciousness by the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. Notwithstanding what seems to be an error in how the opening phase was shot for television, we can see that the opening moves were 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3:

We have focused on 6.Be2 quite heavily in these pages, and perhaps unfairly so. In the notes I have indicated one possible improvement which puts the ball back in Black’s court with respect to one recent Caro-Kann repertoire (which wasn’t my own!) but I nevertheless still believe 6...Nd7 is probably a slightly better and more flexible reply than 6...g6.

Caro-Kann: Advance Variation with 4.h4 h5 5.c4 [B12]

As with the Liang-Robson encounter above, I’ve decided to pay an immediate return visit to what seems like another topical line of the Caro-Kann. This time, the predecessor game was Adams-Keymer (see September) and the opening moves were 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nd7 8.Nge2 Be7 9.Ng3 Bg6:

I’ve pointed out a couple of new ideas that swing 10.Be2 more firmly in the direction of a White advantage, and retain my previous view that neither 10.Nge4 nor 10.Nce4 helps him fight for an advantage (rather the opposite!) However, Black needs to be exceptionally accurate and it is perhaps here that the attraction of the variation lies. Most of the resources Black relies on involve attacking the d4-pawn in highly specific and differing ways, while in the game Sevian, S - Sheng, J he prematurely sent his queen on an excursion to a5 and never really recovered. The cruel thing is that this same move is very useful in the 10.Nge4 line.

Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation with an early ...Qc7 [B13]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 is one of the most reliable setups against the Exchange Variation. Black prevents the immediate 6.Bf4. 6.Ne2 (I covered 6.h3 previously in the infamous game, Aronian - Howell.) 6...Bg4 For those who aren't scared of IQP positions, it's worth investigating 6...e5!?. 7.0-0 e6 8.Qe1 Bd6?! Objectively, Black is not much worse after this move, but it gives White an initiative. In my opinion, the best is 8...Nf6, after which, there are two critical tries. 9.Bg5 h6! and Black has a good game following 10.Bxf6 Bxe2! 11.Qxe2 gxf6; or 9.f3 Bh5 10.Qh4 Rg8! where I find a spectacular improvement upon Ashwin’s analysis to Alekseev - Arutinian.

9.f3! Bf5! Effectively the only way to continue the fight. Of course, not 9...Bxh2+?? 10.Kh1 Bh5 11.Qh4 +- 10.Bxf5 exf5 11.Bf4 Nge7 12.Qg3 0-0-0 13.Na3 a6?! Better was the immediate 13...h5 when White is only slightly better. 14.Bxd6 Rxd6? Avoiding an unpleasant ending, but the cure was worse than the disease! 15.Qxg7 Rg8 16.Qxh7 Re6. Black did not have enough compensation in the game Stukopin, A - Posthuma, J, although White ended up allowing a rook sacrifice that led to a perpetual.

Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation with 5...e6 [B13]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 e6 6.Bf4 Bd6 7.Bxd6 Qxd6 8.Qg4 Nge7?! Previously, I covered 8...g6 and 8...Kf8. The game continuation is, I think, premised on a single trap. 9.Qxg7 Rg8 ...and in Goh Weiming, K - Idani, P White falls for it with 10.Qxh7? (I don't see Black's compensation after 10.Qh6!, preventing ...e5, 10...Rxg2 11.Ne2 Ng8 12.Qxh7).

10...e5! Now Black is better! 11.dxe5? 11.Ne2 was best. 11...Qxe5+ and White was forced to play the unfortunate-looking 12.Be2 because 12.Ne2?? Rh8 would lose the queen.

Till next time, Justin and Dan.

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