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This month has the usual bunch of Caro-Kann games. It's appropriate, I think, because the stronger players tend to play the C-K more willingly than our other defences. I follow this with a few games in the Alekhine Defence, and conclude with a game by Tiviakov in the Scandinavian, which has a nice game by Berg imbedded in it. In general, these games are of theoretical interest, but are positional in nature and don't include busts of any highly critical lines. But I'll report the latter when I find them!

Download PGN of July '08 1 e4 ... games

Caro-Kann Defence

In the Karajakin - Short Rapid Match in Kiev 2008, the former World Champion contender squared off with a potentially new one in the Caro-Kann Advance Variation. Short played the 3...c5 variation twice, and Karajakin responded with 4 Nf3. After 4...cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6, White tried two approaches. He played 6 Bd3 in round one:

An incredibly interesting battle results. In the opening I think White should have had a limited advantage. As it goes, Black gets the worst of some central exchanges, White mounts a strong attack, and chaos breaks out. A pretty finish ensues, but we need more time on the clock for a match like this to be satisfying.

In their 5th game Karajakin switched to 6 c4:

Black shouldn't have achieved full equality by force, but even White's best line turns out only modestly better for him. The game actually went in Black's direction, and then back and forth, until an inaccuracy cost him the game.

Ed Dearing is the author of several of the best recent openings books, contributing works on the Dragon, Gruenfeld, and Nimzo-Indian. He sends an annotated game, P P Taylor-Dearing, Surrey Open 2008, in the same 1 e4 c6 2 c4 d5 line with 5 Qa4+ that I went into in some detail last month. The game is in the 'main line', if there is one. Ed writes 'in fact I haven't made up my mind about the Qa4 system'.

Here is a key juncture (White's king's knight can also be on e2, which is well worth looking into). At first, Black doesn't seem to have much for the pawn, but he can improve his pieces and his opponent has to find a good plan. The game is very instructive; you should also note the opening move order. Thanks for the contribution, Ed!

The 3...dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6 exf6 line is still alive and every month seems to bring a few examples by good players.

Two columns ago I annotated a game Teterev-Lomako in this line in which Black played a pawn structure with ...h6. In Danes - Lechtynsky, Teplice 2008, Black played 10...g6 followed by ...f5, which is a more aggressive and I think better way to proceed.

In the Panov Attack, you may have seen this position before:

Countless games have begun this way (I've included two that deviated before this), and in general White has done rather well. Recently, however, Black seems to be having a fairly easy time of it. Adams - Akopian, Yerevan 2008 was the most interesting of this month's lot. Nevertheless, it is clear throughout that, with accurate play, the game shouldn't get beyond normal drawing boundaries.

Alekhine Defence

It's fun to see some top grandmasters involved in the Alekhine Defence, because we get so little exposure at that level. We saw two Caro-Kanns in the Karajakin-Short match above. In between them, presumably while Short was trying to patch up his Caro-Kann, he played the Alekhine. Karajakin - Short, Rapid Match (3) Kiev 2008, tested the Flohr Variation, probably the most fun of the classical lines, but only if Black makes it through the opening!

In this familiar position, White has two bishops and some space, but Black has counterplay against the advanced e-pawn, and knights tend to be almost as good as bishops (but not quite) in these restricted ...c6/...e6 centres. As it goes, full-fledged play results. Still, many problems remain, as indicated in the notes. You wonder if lines like this survive simply because the Alekhine Defence doesn't receive enough attention.

Najer - Yermolinsky, Philadelphia 2008, features a line that is very similar to main lines, but somewhat less popular.

After an early exd6, play transposed back to a main line. White played the slightly unusual Re1, which probably should be met by an early ...a6. As the game goes, White's d5 advance should secure the advantage.

The line played in Fedorchuk - Genocchio, Conegliano 2008, is well-established and considered to give a modest but definite advantage to White:

In light of the popularity of the many Caro-Kann, Alekhine, and even Slav lines with this structure, it's a little surprising that we don't see this position more often. Now White normally plays Re1 and Bg5. In the game, White plays Bb3 and c4, when Black is challenged to find an appropriate pawn break. But I think he should have been all right.


Two high-level games in the Scandinavian ended in victory for Black, although in both cases White has the opportunity for a theoretical edge. The main game Ro Campos-Tiviakov, Alajuela 2008, saw Black playing the fashionable line with 3...Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6, with White trying the interesting 6 Bg5!?. After a few moves the opponents reached this position:

Typically for the Scandinavian, White was able to play the simple 10 a3!, when acceptance by 10...Qxb2 leads to a bad game after 11 0-0. White subsequently got a nice advantage, but was outplayed. This game also contains notes on a recent game with 3...Qd6 and 5...a6, won by Black in instructive style. It follows the game that Fabiano Caruana annotated for us a few months back.

Till next month, John

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