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My initial goal this month was to pay attention to the Scandinavian Defence with 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 (instead of 2...Qxd5). I've done that, and I have to say that Black has problems all over the place! The variations can be fascinating, but in the end, White just seems to get the better of it. Thus, having looked over the material, I wouldn't recommend 2...Nf6 to anyone, but am open to discussion.
Otherwise, I've looked at two more Advance Caro-Kann lines, and investigated three variations of the Alekhine Defence Modern Variation (1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3), namely, 4...Nc6!?, 4...dxe5, and 4...g6. A pleasant change from the Voronezh!

Download PGN of August '09 1 e4 ... games

Caro-Kann Defence

The Advance Variation lines are still changing faster than others. The move c4 on the fourth or fifth move is still causing some trouble, even though it's beginning to seem as though Black has some fairly forcing ways to break up White's position. Trent - Houska, Torquay 2009, is of particular interest because Jovanka Houska is a great Caro-Kann expert. This position arises:

Black enters the forcing variations with 7...Bxf3 and indeed, finds an innovation that appears to secure her the advantage. The game itself is another matter.

In Naiditsch - Anand, Mainz Rapid 2009, a popular variation with 4 Nf3 and 5 Be2 is tested:

White had the chance to enter the Short Variation with c3, but chose the more aggressive variation with c4. The game illustrates that even with a certain amount of simplification, plenty of play remains.

Alekhine's Defence

In the main modern line with 4 Nf3, Black used to play 4...Bg4 and 4...g6 almost exclusively. Now 4...dxe5 is arguably the most important variation, and we even see the move 4...Nc6!?:

In Adams - Porper, Edmonton 2009, White chose the relatively safe 5 c4 Nb6 6 exd6, rather than go for the currently much-analysed 6 e6. The result is that Black gets what should be an equal position, but makes a positional mistake and Adams slowly but surely achieves a winning position. But the game ends surprisingly.

Adams - Zhao Xue, Edmonton 2009 saw the current 'main line' of the Modern Variation, 4...dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6, now played by a number of 2700+ players:

In this normal position, Adams departed from the most common lines by playing 8 Bg4!?. Although he maintains a space advantage and wins a near-perfect technical game, it seems that more vigorous play by Black at an early stage would have given him equality.

Sticking with the modern main line, 4 Nf3 g6 was tested in Reyniers-M Marin, Arinsal 2009. This tried and true position arises, developed many years ago for the Black side by Lev Alburt:

Black played 8...Qd7!? here, which is an older and still-played alternative to 8...Qe7. It sufficed to win the point, but doesn't solve the position, and indeed, White missed the opportunity for a big upset.

Scandinavian Defence

I've generally spent too little time discussing the Scandinavian with 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 (as opposed to 2...Qxd5). In part, that's because there aren't many top-level games with it, but also because White seems to get some advantage in all the key variations.

The game Kovalev - Pluemer, Dresden 2009, tests a very important position that White can get in several of the main lines of the 2...Nf6 Scandinavian:

I've given a fair number of examples, and I can't understand why Black would continue to play this line. The problem is that to get to a couple of Black's favourite setups, it's hard to avoid!

Against ...g6, White can play more calmly by means of Bc4 (rather than c4-c5):

In Adams - Pechenkin, Edmonton 2009, I examine both 7...Bg4 and 7...Nc6 at some length. As the game goes, White plays a rather modest setup that achieves little, plays inaccurately, and watches his game go downhill. Once again Black misses his chance to knock off one of the world's top players, and eventually a draw results.

Black troubles in the 2...Nf6 Scandinavian are not limited to ...g6 lines. After 4 Nf3 Bg4, this position can easily occur:

Here it seems that both 7 c5 and the game's 7 Nc3 lead to White's advantage, as discussed in the game Tzermiadanos - Shen Siyuan, Budapest 2009.

A fascinating line that's never been resolved comes about if, after 3 d4 Nxd5 4 c4 Nb6, White skips 5 Nf3 and goes directly for 5 Nc3 (to avoid the pin by ...Bg4). Black plays the well-known remedy 5...e5, but then White can respond with the pseudo-gambit 6 Qe2:

This can be very messy, and in Sarenac - Scepanovic, Senta 2009, we see that Black has to be very careful.

Finally, reader Wane Inkpen (Wink) asks about the Scandinavian with 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 Nf3 a6 5 Bc4 with an early ...g6. The idea is to get castled before playing ...e6. After 5...Nf6 6 d4, for example, we get this position:

In Scandinavian 3...Qd6 w ...g6 - READER Question, 2009, I look at the combination of the moves ...Qd6 and ...g6 in whatever contexts I find. In general, it's a bit slow for a line which consumes two early tempi with the queen (...Qxd5/Qd6) and perhaps ...a6. In particular, in the diagrammed position, Black can't really afford to play 6...g6? Because 7 Ng5! forces 7...e6 anyway. I've briefly discussed other Black moves at this point, but mainly looked at the idea of ...g6 on the 4th and 5th moves, omitting ...a6.

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.