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Hello and welcome to the December update. This month I continue to focus on the Caro-Kann and Pirc/Modern but I also inadvertently stumbled upon two Alekhine games that I wanted to share.

Download PGN of December '06 1 e4 ... games

Caro-Kann Defence

For a long time in the Advanced Variation 3...Bf5 4.Nc3 has been considered one of White's most dangerous weapons against the Caro, and this is still the case today:

I even know of a top player (confidential!) who has stopped playing the opening because he can't find a line against 4.Nc3 he is fully comfortable with.

Although Black won in Arizmendi - Gomez, I doubt this game provides the answer that Black players need. Nonetheless, Black is a quickly a pawn up and White has to play accurately to prove compensation, which he didn't manage here.

4.h4!? is also dangerous and has been played recently by Short and Kramnik:

I consider various ideas relating to this line in Short - Johannsen.

2.c4!? looks fairly innocuous, but after the normal continuation 2...d5 3 ed cd 4 cd Nf6 5.Qa4+!? leaves White a pawn up for quite a few moves and Black has to know his stuff to get into the game:

I don't think this line threatens the Caro in the long-term, but I think 1.e4 players should give it a once-over in order to play it as a surprise weapon, because Black often fails to get enough compensation for the pawn, see Game 3.

Pirc Defence

Finally, The 'Philidor-by-Stealth' game Vescovi - Felgaer made such an impression on me last month that I wanted to compare it with Kotronias - Felgaer this month. In both cases Black was suffering, but in this case he escaped with a draw. Personally, I think if Black wants to play this line he should take his chances with 6...Ke8.

Tregubov - McShane features a seemingly innocuous move order by White, but I am highly intrigued by it because at the moment I don't see a fully adequate answer for Black:

I suspect that there is one, but Luke didn't find it, and ended up in a slightly dodgy line of the Alekhine...

Alekhine's Defence

Speaking of which, I was very impressed by Black's play in Volokitin - Ivanchuk because it deftly exploits a series of natural (perhaps too natural!) moves by White.

This game has already been analysed by John Cox in a previous update, but I added a few thoughts of my own, and thought it was worth showing again.

Hope you all have a good Christmas.

Until next year, Jonathan.

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