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This month, the annotators examined a range of different lines, from the Scandinavian to the Caro-Kann, in which no less than four independent lines were discussed, enjoy!

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

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Scandinavian Defence: 2...Qxd5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.d4 Bg4 5.Be2 Nc6 [B01]

A rare sighting in 2020 was Heimann, An - Nisipeanu, L: a high-level, over the board encounter featuring the Scandinavian Defence! 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Nf6 3...Bg4 is the alternative. According to my analyses, Black is absolutely fine there. 4.d4 Bg4 5.Be2 Nc6 6.c4 The main move here, although on our site, it has only been mentioned once in passing! 6...Qh5 6...Qf5 is the more reliable move. 7.h3?! 7.Be3 gives White a clear advantage. 7...0-0-0 = 8.Be3 e5 9.d5 e4 10.Nd4?! Better was 10.Nfd2 Ne5 11.Nc3 Nd3+ 12.Kf1 Bxe2+ 13.Qxe2 with some sort of a fight. 10...Bb4+?! 10...Ne5! 11.Bxg4+ Nexg4 12.0-0 Bd6 gives Black a strong initiative. 11.Nd2?! 11.Nc3 leads to a similar situation as in the line 10.Nfd2. 11...Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Ne5 13.Qxh5 Nxh5:

The light-squared weaknesses in White's position and the black kingside pawn majority give Black a clear advantage.

Scandinavian Defence: 3...Qd8 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 [B01]

After the initial moves 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 c6, we reach a position that has been discussed a lot on this site, but as yet not by me (DF). As you would expect from a ‘small-centre’ position where Black has ceded the bishop pair, this is solid for Black but White can get an edge with precise play. I summarise the intricacies of 8.Be3, before giving some brief analysis of the intriguing 8.g4 and then moving back to the move played in Tari, A - Bartel, M , which was 8. Qd3:

Note that play has transposed into a line of the Two Knights Caro-Kann, with an extra tempo for White!

Modern Defence: 150 attack with 7.h4 h5 8.Nh3 [B06]

Quite a few of these Modern updates end up with the saddening conclusion (guess who wrote this!) that the 150 attack is simply a bit better for White. Perhaps the very best of the sub-variations we’ve seen for White in this column is the AlphaZero line from the July update, where Black is truly surviving on the edge of the precipice. This month, the American IM Craig Hilby decided to bring something relatively new to the table, and after 3.Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f3 Nd7 7.h4 h5 8.Nh3 he uncorked the fourth most common move in the position, 8...Nb6!?:

Given how Black often wants to play ...Bxh3 in these positions, this is a very logical attempt, and the timing causes White to play 9.Ng5 with some urgency rather than playing on the queenside. In Wang, K - Hilby, C Black reacted with the natural 9...Nf6, and in the moves that followed I believe both sides made some slight but very instructive inaccuracies. The position seems quite playable for Black and in order to get an advantage, White might have to make some calls that are not necessarily to everyone’s taste. Unusually for the Modern, the c8-bishop often ends up on d7!

Modern Defence: Quiet Lines with 4.c3 [B07]

I have long been a fan of the quiet approach 1.e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.c3 for White, and this month’s game Sjugirov, S - Matinian, N bears out my general impression that Black struggles more if he tries to open the position, than if he doesn’t. There followed 4...Nf6 5. Bd3 0-0 6.0-0 Nc6 7.h3 e5 8.Re1 Re8 9.Bc2!?:

Here White’s cat-and-mouse strategy reaped its reward as Black played the most likely ill-advised break 9...d5. The position opened in White’s favour and he could well have won a miniature, but miscalculated something and ultimately had to win the game from scratch in a long ending.

Caro-Kann Defence: Two Knights with 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 [B11]

This line is quickly becoming a new site favourite; this month, after the practically obligatory knight trade on e4 Black tried a move which is not new to our site but definitely deserves a second look: 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Nxe4 6.Qxe4 Nd7. Some interesting theory has sprung up around this line since Black’s game after 6...Qd5 has been shown to be less than completely trivial to handle. After the further 7.Bc4 Nf6 8.Ne5 e6 9.Qe2 b5:

White deviated from the archive game Raja-Srinath by retreating his bishop instead to d3.

A high degree of accuracy is required from Black: in the game Frolyanov, D - Artemiev, V he mixed up the order of moves 11 and 12, and abruptly found himself in a losing position. In the notes I examine a slightly older Ragger-Donchenko game and opine that best play yields an essentially drawn 3v2 endgame with queens on move 38!

Caro-Kann, Advance Variation 3...c5 4.dxc5 e6 5.Nf3 Bxc5 6.a3 Nd7 [B12]

The somewhat controversial Spanish Championship saw a theoretical debate based upon a very recent book by Francesco Rambaldi, ‘The Caro-Kann revisited: A Complete Repertoire for Black’. 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 e6 5.Nf3 Bxc5 6.a3 Nd7!? Rambaldi's unique recommendation. 7.c4 My provisional rebuttal to Rambaldi's analysis is 7.b4 Be7 8.Nbd2 a5 9.Rb1 axb4 10.axb4 11.Bb5 fxe5 12.Nxe5 Ngf6 13.0-0 0-0 14.Nd3! (Rambaldi only gives 14.Bb2). 7...Ne7 8.Nc3 0-0 8...dxc4 9.Bxc4 Ng6 10.Qe2 Qc7! was also possible. 9.cxd5 9.Bd3 is the most important line, leading to ridiculous complications and unclear positions. 9...Nxd5 10.Nxd5 exd5:

We've arrived at a concrete position. These days, when the position is clarified so early in the game, it usually suggests that the game is balanced and that Black has equalised. This is no exception. 11.b4 (11.Qxd5?? Qb6!). 11...Bb6 12.Bg5 Qe8 Better was 12...f6! 13.Qxd5+ Kh8 with good compensation. 13.Qxd5 Bc7 14.Bf4 Nf6 15.Qc4 Nh5 16.Rc1 and now Black would have been at least OK with 16...Bf5! but instead erred with 16...Bb8?? 17.Bd3 +- White is completely winning without any need for sacrificial play nor calculation, see the game Shirov, A - Plazuel, P.

Caro-Kann Defence: Korchnoi's 4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6, 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 Re8 9.0-0 [B15]

The next two games were played in the Online Olympiad. In Maghsoodloo, Parham - Svane, R, the topical 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 was debated and concluded in favour of the young German Grandmaster. 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 Re8 9.0-0 9.Qc2 h5!? has been all the rage in the last couple of years. 9...Na6 A standard knight manoeuvre in this variation. 10.Bf4 I haven't been able to find anything more testing. 10.Nf4 Nc7 11.Qf3 g6 12.Bc4 is an aggressive way to meet Black's setup, however the c7-knight continues its mission to relocate with 12...Ne6 13.Nd3 Ng7! and Black appears to equalise without trouble. 10...Nc7 11.Qd2 Be6 12.Rfe1 12...Nd5 13.Bg3 13...g6 14.a3 Bxg3 15.hxg3 Qd6:

Black should be quite confident that he's equalised the game by now and after 16.c4 Ne7 17.Qc3 Rad8 he has reached a perfectly harmonious position. Later on, the game displayed the success of an archetypal ‘Petrosian Knight’. I am certain the great ‘Iron Tigran’ would have employed this system were he alive today.

Caro-Kann Defence: Main Line with 4...Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.N1e2 [B18]

Mamedov, R - Wojtaszek, R took a different path. 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.N1e2 (A tricky alternative to the main line 6.h4 and an old favourite of mine, although usually I played the 6.Nh3 move order.) 6...e6 I stopped playing this line as I believed 6...Nf6 was an easy equaliser. This was probably more the case with the knight on h3 as there 7.Nf4 was necessary. With the knight on e2, White has the option to play 7.h4!? h6 8.Nf4 Bh7 9.c3 e6 10.Ngh5 with interesting play. 7.Nf4 Bd6 8.Ngh5!? 8.h4 is the main move. 8...Bxh5 8...Kf8!? is viable albeit slightly unnecessary. 9.Nxh5 g6:

10.Ng3 In my opinion 10.Nf4!? is more testing. 10...Nf6 11.g3 Nbd7 (11...0-0 12.Bg2 Re8 13.Nd3) 12.Bg2 0-0 13.Nd3 and White is slightly better. 10...Nf6 11.c3 Nbd7 12.Bc4 Qc7 13.Qf3 h5!? 14.Bg5 Be7 15.h4 Nd5. Black obtained a typical fighting game and continued by expanding on the queenside. The game featured several mistakes on both sides, which goes to show that the Caro-Kann can become sharp if both players want it to.

Till next time, Dan and Justin.

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