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Hi all!
This update mainly examines sharp lines in the Pirc/Modern Defences and 3 highly relevant variations in the Caro-Kann. It also features an interesting idea in the Alekhine Exchange variation.

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

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Pirc Defence, 4 Bg5 c6 5 Qd2 Nbd7 [B07]

In the first game, I consider the aggressive 4.Bg5. In Jelmer, J - Handke, F, Black now opted for Marin’s recommended approach 4...c6 5 Qd2 Nbd7 6 f4 d5 7 e5 Ne4 8 Nxe4 dxe4 when White came up with the interesting novelty 9 e6!?:

... a pawn sacrifice that Handke should not have accepted. Nevertheless, Black won the game convincingly after White failed to target the right weakness.

Pirc Defence 4 Bf4 [B07]

On two consecutive days, Ukrainian Grandmaster, Kravtsiv opted for 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Bf4!?:

Previously, this would have been considered relatively harmless, indicated by the fact that Black would often choose this setup against the London System. In both games, Kravtsiv used this specific placement of the queen’s bishop to support a direct e4-e5 breakthrough. The game Kravtsiv, M - Gusain, H continued 4...c6 5 Qd2 b5 (5...Nbd7 occurred the day before in Kravtsiv, M - Harsha, B) and now came 6 e5!? which led to an advantage in a queenless middlegame for White.

Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack, 5...c5 6 Bb5+ [B09]

A deeper theoretical battle ensued in L’Ami, E - Harsha, B. In that game, the sharp line 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 c5 was used by Black to claim equality out of the opening. L’Ami played the critical 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 Bxd7 Qxd7 8 d5:

which scores tremendously well but perhaps not justifiably so. In the end White managed to cause problems, but with precise play Black should be OK in this concrete variation.

Gurgenidze System 3...c6 4 f4 d5 5 e5 Nh6 [B15]

What made the Olympiad so thrilling was that there were many battles between top Super Grandmasters, and Grandmasters of a somewhat lower tier; this tended to result in dynamic opening preparation and unusual ideas being essayed by the stronger player. In Wagner, D - Aronian, A for example, 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Bg7 3 Nc3 c6 was employed by Aronian although White (naturally) attained a stable advantage after 4 f4 d5 5 e5 Nh6 6 Nf3 Bg4 7 h3 Bxf3 8 Qxf3 Nf5 9 Ne2:

I take a look at important manoeuvres that Wagner did and did not employ, which is hopefully useful in understanding the Gurgenidze structures.

Alekhine’s Defence, Exchange Variation 5 cxd6 cxd6 6 d5 e5 [B03]

After the moves 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 c4 Nb6 5 cxd6 cxd6, White typically plays 6 Nc3 and finishes development before creating any tension. An alternative approach is to play the aggressive 6 d5!? as in Berzinsh, R - Bezgodov, A:

That game arrived at what Gawain dubbed the tabiya of this variation, namely 6...e5 7 Nc3 Be7 8 Bd3 0-0 9 Nge2 f5 10 b3. Such positions are strategically rich. In the game, things worked out perfectly for White as he managed to undermine Black’s kingside pawns to gain an advantage in the centre.

Caro-Kann, Advance Variation, 3...c5 4 dxc5 Nc6 5 Nf3 [B12]

In terms of popularity, 3 e5 c5 has largely been surpassed by 3...Bf5 although it still remains just as critical. On the other hand, Pijpers seems to be confident in his preparation after 4 dxc5 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bg4 6 Bb5:

Two of his games this month continued 6...Qa5+ 7 Nc3 e6 8 Bd2 Qc7 9 b4 a5 10 a3 Bxf3 11 gxf3 Qxe5+ 12 Qe2. In Pijpers, A - Nabaty, T (in the notes) Black went directly for the ending with 12...Qxe2+ 13 Kxe2 although this involved some suffering. Pijpers, A - Jakubiec, A differed with 12...Qh5, although White gained a slightly better ending anyway after 13 f4. In my analysis, I suggest that it might not be so clear-cut if Black plays his hand right.

Caro-Kann, Korchnoi's 4...Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6, 9...h5 [B15]

3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6 6 c3 Bd6 7 Bd3 0-0 8 Qc2 Re8+ 9 Ne2 h5!? has been a critical try for Black of late. The game Handke, F - Grandelius, N showcased a couple of important ideas from both sides, 10 0-0 h4 11 Bf4!?N:

from White is premised upon the tactical justification that 11...Rxe2? 12 Qxe2 Bxf4 is bad in view of 13 Qe4 +-. Black also came up with some creative preparation with 11...Na6 and yet another positional struggle arose.

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

Finally, I expand upon my analysis of the variation 4...Bf5 5 Ng3 Bg6 6 h4 h6 7 Nf3 e6 8 Ne5 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 Nd7:

In the previous update I analysed 11 Bf4 (see Sutovsky, E v Shankland, S), and in Vocaturo, D - Baldauf, M yet another alternative to the mainline 11 f4 was essayed: 11 Qe2. My notes indicate that Black equalises if he follows the game Predke, A - Matlakov, M; otherwise his king might find itself under pressure quite early on, as actually occurred in the game continuation.

I hope you find this update useful, and till next time, Justin.

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