ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
As usual, a whole lot of B06 and B12 from me this month, delayed not by the train strikes that have crippled my country, but by failing to remember to send! Probably the most theoretically interesting game was between Derakhshani and Kirk, two of England’s next-in-line contenders for the GM title.

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

>> Previous Update >>

Modern Defence, 3.Nf3 d6 4.h3 [B06]

The modest 4.h3 line almost doesn’t feature on our radar these days, but as will become clear in the next update, 4.c3 has some drawbacks if play goes into a KID kind of structure, while the text is flexible to a fault and useful in almost every instance. Following 4...c5 5.c3 Nf6 a key decision needs to be made:

I personally think 6.Bd3 might be strongest, and Black doesn’t really have a way to exploit the very slight delay in castling. Also interesting is 6.Bb5+, while in Svidler, P - Shirov, A White went for the less thematic 6.dxc5, still scoring a nice win due to overly ambitious play from his opponent.

Modern Defence, 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5 a6 5.Qd2 [B06]

As a matter of health and safety, I think anyone intending to play a minor line against the Modern should start with 3.Nf3 instead (see above!) and those do empirically tend to work out better. The experiment by Sanal didn’t end up going that well, either in terms of the game result or the opening one, after 4...a6 5.Qd2 Nd7 6.0-0-0 b5 it is already tough for White to think about playing for an advantage:

Maybe this could still have been done with 7.Nf3, but following the cautious 7.Kb1 Bb7 8.f3 c5! Black had already equalised in Sanal, V - Demchenko, A. The remainder of the game can be treated almost as a Sicilian; one of the perks of writing this column is that you get to colonise parts of certain others in this way. Next month, I will do the same with a KID structure from Nakamura...

Modern Defence, 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.h4 h5 6.Nh3 [B06]

It is maximalist and quite understandable for White in this line to try and delay f3 until they see ...Nf6, and I would be very curious if there was some preparation ready in case Black did exactly that and followed 6...Bxh3 7.Rxh3 with 7...Nf6. Instead, in Vidit, S - Aravindh, C Black (possibly following the adage to play a sensible but not critical move if caught out of prep) went for 7...Nc6!? reaching an almost entirely new position:

Here, Vidit improved on a previous Lawrence Trent game by playing 8.Qd2, remaining agnostic about central pawn pushes until provoked to do so by Black. This would have been a model game by him, if not for a catastrophic loss of control late on in time pressure.

Caro-Kann, Endgame Variation 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3 [B11]

In playing through the games from Hoogeveen (where I also played) I noticed my last-round opponent had an interesting Caro skirmish as well. Facing a 200-point rating deficit, Black didn’t go for anything critical, allowed White to set up the pieces in the manner of their choosing, and...then outplayed a GM. A key moment arises after 16.Kh2:

White is ready to push f4, has pieces positioned well for the opening of the position, and can also consider b4 in various versions as well. However, Black struck first and the outcome of the late opening battle became doubtful. See Ernst, S - Maatman, N.

Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.Be2 [B11]

I am a big fan of ‘model games’ that illustrate the ideas of one or other side, while the other side plays neutral, relatively uninspiring but not uncharacteristically bad moves. One such started with 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.Be2 Bc5 7.0-0 Nf6 and here, rather than head into the 8.Rd1 gambit line or similar, White chose in Reinaldo Castiniera, R - Vallejo Pons, F to exchange with 8.cxd5:

I have been disparaging about most versions of this pawn trade in the past, though it does have its place. Here, however, it allows Black to quite trivially get their knight to c6. The way in which Vallejo then creates winning chances from a symmetrical structure is commendable (12...Ne4! is instructive) and worth playing through if, as a Caro player, you worry about opponents just playing for a draw.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 [B12]

A couple of games this month that started with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3. While next month we will see how the world champion handled this with Black (spoiler: not in the same way!) both of this month’s games saw the usual 6...Qa5+, trying to provoke some disarray before blocking White’s e-pawn push.

In Adhiban, B - Kushagra, M White went for the apparently peaceful 7.c3 e6 8.a4, but even in this relative backwater (and with c4 all but ruled out from White) it turned out that 8...Qa6 wasn’t a good use of a tempo:

Play continued with 9.Qd1 Ne7 10.b4 Nf5 11.Nf3 and subsequently Black’s downfall was largely down to the fact that they didn’t play for a pawn break (primarily ...f6, but ...c5 is also not outside the realm of possibility.)

In Kramnik, V - Melkumyan, H White went for the gambit continuation 7.b4, which was again declined (if you’re not absolutely on top of the theory here it looks very dangerous to accept, and I suggest a couple of novelties there for White.) Play continued with 7...Qa6 8.Qd1 e6:

Previous players hadn’t put the queen on d1, but it did add a bit of flexibility to White’s play in what followed, starting with 9.c3 and proceeding with 11.a4 in an echo of the Adhiban game above.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.Nge2 [B12]

Ezra Kirk demonstrated nice preparation and good judgement in the game Kirk, E - Derakhshani, B, which started with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.Nge2 dxc4 7.Ng3:

While 7...b5 is clearly a fun line to mess around with at home, if you’re caught in your opponent’s preparation it’s better to try and do something calm. As such Borna played 7...Nd7 8.Bxc4 Nb6 before presumably being slightly surprised by his opponent’s novelty 9.Be2. The move seems quite decent, it lends some useful support to g4-type plans and I would like to see more of it in the future.

All the best, Daniel

>> Previous Update >>

Please post you queries on the 1 e4 ... Forum, or subscribers can email me at