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An assortment of games this time. Some big names played a few interesting Caro-Kanns, so they are featured. Then I try to show some Alekhine games in which the contestants are reasonably rated. With players like Nakamura, Yermolinsky, and Shabalov using the Alekhine, maybe it's becoming an American thing! Anyway, I'll try to get to the Classical Main 4...dxe5 5 Nxe5 games (à la Carlsen) soon; it has been used a lot recently.
In the Scandinavian, I show a win by Nakamura over Vallejo Pons in an important line; Black has to walk a tightrope to get to the game position, but then he's probably okay in theory.

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

We start with a Pirc:

I wasn't going to cover any Pirc Defences this month, but noticed Papp - Medic, Pula 2009 and Sharapov-Koscielny, Lubawka 2009 (placed in the notes to Papp-Medic). They both feature the Austrian Attack line that we've looked at with 7 Qd4:

The games are not high-quality and I've only lightly annotated them (White wins quickly in both), but they continue White's success story with this line. And they show a couple more of Black's defensive tries. I wonder if 7 Qd4 will turn some heads, especially given White's otherwise total lack of success versus 5...c5.

Caro-Kann Defence

There were several top games in the Advance Variation, which is the leading choice of the top GMs these days.

I'm fascinated by the opening in Vallejo Pons-Karpov, Donostia 2009. Every time that we think we've seen all the logical 4th and 5th moves by White, a new sequence attracts our attention, in this case 3...Bf5 4 Nd2 e6 5 g4!?. I rather like it, although Karpov responds well and reaches this position:

After very logical moves by both sides, White has given up a valuable central pawn for one on the flank. But he has rapid development and attacking chances. A very interesting fight ensues.

The Short System has become the favourite choice of Advance Variation players. In Svidler - Nakamura, Donostia 2009, the players reach a main line position:

Five or six moves have been played here, including 8...c5, 8...Bh7, 8...a6, and even 8...g5. Nakamura played the unusual 8...Qc7, which serves as a sort of back-rank-clearing non-committal move; later after ...c5 and ..cxd4, the queen proved useful on the file.

White chose the main line 3 Nc3 and Black had few problems equalizing in Vallejo Pons-Granda Zuniga, Donostia 2009.

A strange formation. Black takes three moves to get his king to a8 and White ends up finding little to do. He does get an edge (though not by force), and the game ends in a typical time-trouble flurry of mistakes.

Alekhine's Defence

In Ol Ivanov-Derbenev, Lipetsk 2009 , Black plays the Bagirov-Flohr variation with the unusual but logical-looking 6...Nd7:

The move isn't necessarily bad, but it's at the least difficult to handle.

In Garcia Pantoja- JoseL1 Fernandez Garcia (love these ChessBase naming conventions!), Havana 2009, Black chooses the traditional main line:

In this innocent-looking position, White falls into a trap that many others have in similar circumstances. This time he gets enough play and the game turns into quite an adventure.

Of course, adventure defines the Four Pawns Attack. In Esserman - Yermolinsky, Mesa 2009 , Black gives Ljubojevic' old 9...c4 line a try. The pawn push isn't a mainstream choice, and perhaps a little risky for a GM, but it has been used quite a lot over the past decade and covered well on this site:

This is my first game with 9...c4, so I'll fold analysis from the Archives, as well as from Alekhine sources, into the notes.

The Voronezh is still enormously popular. Hamdouchi - JoseL1 Fernandez Garcia, Donostia 2009 reaches this position:

One more test of this main line! This time Black gets away with a draw, the first theoretically correct result, but only after giving White a substantial edge! There's a long tradition of Black being insufficiently prepared in this line, which is a reason to keep showing it.

Scandinavian Defence

Michael Melts has a new edition of his wonderful classic 'Scandinavian Defense: The Dynamic 3...Qd6'. I've used only a bit of it to help analyse Nakamura - Vallejo Pons, Donostia 2009; but I'll be delving into it a lot more as time goes by. The game itself develops independently.

The players start with this critical line for the 3...Qd6 variation. I've devoted some time to presenting an overview of how it breaks down. Vallejo Pons avoids some of the worst lines and comes out with a reasonable queenless middlegame. It's a harder position for Black to play than for White, however, and I don't doubt that this was part of the reason for some late mistakes on his part.

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.