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There are only about 2000 games every month played with the openings covered in this column, so I can't really make an objective judgment about which games have made the biggest impact on theory. My philosophy this month is to look at a few games with opening variations that especially concern players these days. In particular, I'll examine some lines that overlap with recent books, and some that relate to the ChessPublishing Forum, which I have only recently visited .Congratulations on the great ideas the ChessPublishing subscribers come up with!

Download PGN of August '07 1 e4 ... games

Caro-Kann Defence

Jovanka Houska's book Play the Caro-Kann seems to be having quite an effect on tournament players at all levels. There were no less than 14 games last month in TWIC with Houska's main line 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Bf5 5 Ng3 Bg6 6 h4 h6 7 Nf3 Nd7 8 h5 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 e6 11 Bf4 Qa5+ 12 Bd2 Bb4 13 c3 Be7:

Black's winning percentage was 61% with a 219 point performance rating advantage! Just as impressively, the 7 strongest contests led to 4 Black wins and 3 draws.

In Stellwagen - Grooten, Vlissingen 2007, White outranked his opponent by about 300 points and had the White pieces to boot. But it was all to no avail as Black used absolutely standard moves to gain the advantage and went on to win.

With 20...b5!, Black wins the light squares, since 21 c5? loses at least a pawn.

Rasmussen - Khenkin, Copenhagen 2007 saw a more restrained approach by White, who aimed at early simplification.

This didn't prevent Black from forcing his way onto the light squares again. With 16...b5!, the game turned into a fairly typical fight between White's kingside pawn advance and Black's queenside attack. Ultimately they cancelled each other out and a draw resulted.

Pirc Defence

Just one game this time, in what is perhaps the most fashionable system today.

This position arose in Mirzoev - Movsziszian, La Pobla de Lillet 2007, and is relatively important for Pirc theory. As usual, James Vigus' Pirc book covers the variation excellently, and the course of the game with 8...b5?! confirms his assessment. However, I think Black needs some serious help even when he plays the theoretically better move 8...c5.

Alekhine's Defence

A lot of games this time.

I'm not sure of the theoretical status of 4.Nf3 Bg4, but in the top six games in terms of average rating, Black scored only a half point, and that was a nine-move draw!

However, the less elevated games had mixed results. In the game Verbruggen - Krasenkow, Vlissingen 2007 with 5 Be2 c6, White tested the queen exchange that we recommended in the June column. That variation still looks promising to me. Alas, the almost 700-point rating spread between the opponents soon had its effect. Black's play is a model of how to conduct the game.

In the last update, I referred to a key Alekhine game as 'Sgujirov-Baburin', but for reasons I'll describe I'm showing the same game again. This time I'll use the opponents' correct names, i.e, Moser - Baburin, Arvier 2007.

Reader Mark Morss, who contributes deep and thorough analysis on the Forum, sent me his lengthy review of that game, as well as of the key side variations that are critical to the Four Pawns Attack.

In the given position, I'm still skeptical of Black's ability to fully equalise after the traditional move 15...h6. But Morss makes a deep and thorough analysis of the rarer 15...e5(!). I've looked at it at length, I substantially agree with him that Black gets equal or at any rate perfectly satisfactory play.

I'll use a few older games to investigate these issues. The game Dushin - Siewert, email 2003 tests the following key position, which stems from 15...e5 16 d5 Nd4. It is particularly important because the resulting play is so forcing:

White tried 17 Nxd4 exd5 18 Bxd4. For the moment, as Morss suggests, Black seems to be have enough compensation for the pawn. I agree. But I also include some analysis on a way for White to avoid the whole line (15 Kh1!?) and still try for some advantage.

Andresen - Gilmore is the complement to Dushin-Siewert. White tries 17 Bxd4 exd4 18 Nxd4. Again, it seems that Black has enough play, although this time that's not quite as clear. The only negative thing about both of these lines is that Black never seems to have any positive winning chances.

The Voronezh continues to be one of the most important weapons against the Alekhine Defence. Hanley - Summerscale, London 2007 tested the main line, and it seems to me that White has the better of it, but of course all it takes is one improvement from Black to change that.

Instead of 15 Be2, White plays 15 Bb5(!) here, and I'm not convinced that Black has a road to equality. In the game, however, White overpressed and allowed the advance of Black's kingside majority.

Finally, when Black tries 9...Nc6 instead of 9...e5, he is usually either crushed or ground down. Skorchenko - Tkachenko, Lugansk 2007 was a mix of the two methods. In K Lie-Es Lie, Hamar 2007, the situation was even worse for Black, but a series of mistakes by White led to a draw. Those new to the Voronezh should take a careful look.

Till next month, John

Please post you queries on the 1 e4 ... Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions or queries.