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February 2001


This month I'm pleased to get the chance to put together a round-up of the latest theory and ideas in one of my favourite lines, where sharp and extremely exciting play is likely to occur.

This year I have a very hard tournament schedule, and so GM Nigel Davies will be taking over responsibility for this site in the coming months.

Thank you for all your kind emails!

All the best

Alex Volzhin

The winner of the November voting poll was the sharp line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2

In this survey, I've tried to select the most interesting and instructive games which were played recently.

By the way, this was quite a difficult task since the line has never been more popular and hundreds of games were played at the top level during the last two years. White's play may seem somewhat anti-positional but it fits well into one of the main principles of modern chess: White should fight for the initiative at all cost. Another explanation of the popularity of this variation is the fact Black is currently doing well in the Caro main lines with 3.Nc3 (let's say, in Smyslov's 4...Nd7 and the Classical 4...Bf5).

The main experts in this line are A.Shirov, E.Sutovsky, I.Nataf (to name only a few) and among adherents of Black's position are GMs E.Bareev, A.Dreev, I.Khenkin and yours truly!

Theory and games

AV256 6...f6 is out of fashion nowadays but it is by no means bad. It fits in with the well known principle that a flank attack should be countered by action in the centre of the board.

Here, although Black's pawn structure on the K-side is exposed, he can hope to obtain a comfortable blockade position - in my opinion Black has good chances.

AV257 After 6...f6, the best move in my opinion if 7 h4. White manages to obtain a flexible pawn phalanx in the centre of the board and a considerable space advantage. However the position is not at all clear, since White lags behind in development after his many pawn moves.

AV258 GM Tony Miles is the main adherent of 6...Be7 at the top level. This move looks strange because the Knight on g8 now has no good square, but Black has something in mind. He plans to play 7...Nd7 and then to undermine White's pawn chain by playing...h7-h5. After ...h7-h5 White's usual reply is Nf4 destroying Black's pawn structure on the K-side, but then it's not so dangerous for Black since he can protect his g6-pawn by playing ...Nf8. But in my opinion, this plan looks pretentious and White can obtain better chances (of course, that is, if he plays accurately!)

AV259 6...c5 has been Black's main reply throughout the decades (6...Ne7 which is very popular now, was discovered only a few years ago). The appreciation of this move has changed many times - brilliant wins and severe losses have alternated with each other. But the line is alive, and only last year was enriched with many interesting ideas.

AV260 In a hugely exciting game, one of the main favourites in Las Vegas is eliminated by the greatest suprise of the event. White chooses the most aggressive continuation, and by sacrificing a pawn, gets a huge development advantage. Black has to solve some extremely difficult problems.

AV261 In the main line after 6...c5 7 h4 h5, Black elects to keep his strong Bishop and sacrifice a pawn, hoping to obtain a development advantage and exploit the weakness of White's centre. This is a very interesting idea but unfortunately it doesn't quite work...

AV262 Black allows White to grab the bishop and destroy his pawn structure on the K-side, but in return he creates pressure on White's centre. As usual, Morozevich mixes things up at the first opportunity.

By the way, if you find mistakes in my comments to this game please don't be quick to judge me! - I have trouble understanding Morozevich's play :)))

AV263 In a line that has a bad reputation, Black has something new in mind... If you ever have to face this line as White, then my recommendation would be to go for a dangerous looking Knight sacrifice.

AV264 We took a look at this line with 6...Ne7 last year when this defence was at the height of its popularity. Since then many interesting games have been played, and the line has proved its viability.

AV265 After 6...Ne7 7 Nf4 c5, 8 dxc5 is a simple-looking move that contains more than a drop of poison. White doesn't give up on the idea of Bishop-hunting (8.h4), he just delays it for a move.