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December 2001 Update - 1.e4....



Caro-Kann Defence

The so-called Gundaram Variation (with 5.c5) is rarely played at GM level, and only then by devil-may-care players such as Mariotti. In club chess it's another matter, with many players being attracted by the directness of White's plan (to set up and advance his queenside pawn majority). In game one (Mariotti - Meduna, DEC01/01) Black transposes into a kind of Swedish Variation of the Tarrasch Defence with colours reversed, which is certainly a solid plan.

In game two (Korman - Svensson, DEC01/02) Black quietly continues his development with 5...e6 before deciding whether or not to challenge the c5 pawn. The problem here is that White has time to reinforce it with b2-b4, Bb2 and a2-a3. If there is a refutation of the Gundaram, then it surely lies in the sharp 5...b6. In the main line, see DEC01/03, White obtains passed pawns on b5 and c6 which effectively trap Black's knight on b8. But in return Black gets a massive centre and a huge lead in development.

If White wants a 'romantic' line against the Caro, then the so-called 'Fantasy Variation' should certainly be considered. It has enjoyed the patronage of such neo-romantics as the great Bronstein plus Sweden's Jonny Hector. White's idea is to maintain the due of pawns on e4 and d4, arguing that Black's passive 1...c6 will mean that he can't exploit this. In Hector-Danielsen, DEC01/04, Hector tries 5.Bd2, simply unpinning his knight on c3, though it doesn't look like anything special.

Pirc Defence

Nigel Short has shown an increasing preference to play sensible non-theory. In his game against Campora, see DEC01/05, he comes up with an unusual but interesting second move, exploiting the fact that 1...d6 means that a later ...d6-d5 will lose a tempo.

2.Bc4 would not be good against the French!

'Grand Prix Attack meets the Pirc', see DEC01/06. White plays the same moves as he might in the 2.Nc3 and 3.f4 line of the Sicilian, and asks Black if he can do better than transpose. The first big question is about 5...Nxe4, as in this game. As 5...Nxe4 fails to equalise, Black has tried quieter moves. In Romero Holmes - Wortel, DEC01/07, we see the stock in trade Pirc move 5...c6 whilst Romero Holmes - Insua Mellado, DEC01/08, features the simple 5...0-0.

If Black adopts a Modern Defence move order he can meet 2.f4 with 2...d5, as in Danielsen - Salmensuu, DEC01/09. This is one of the joys of leaving your d-pawn at home.

Moving on to the Austrian Attack with 5...c5, one reader asked me about the advisability of 9...Kf8 (after 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.e5 Ng4 8.e6 Bxb5 9.exf7+) rather than the habitual 9...Kd7. Maybe it is playable, but the only chance seems to be 10...Qb6. In Korneev - Cebada, DEC01/10, Black lost badly.

Keep your questions coming in, I'll attempt to address the most popular issues.

Nigel Davies