ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month I look at the Pirc Defence (with one Modern Defence) and Caro-Kann. Most of the lines featured are modest ones without immediate confrontation in the centre, and with accurate play they offer players of White a good chance for a small edge. Even then, a knowledgeable handler of the Black pieces will have an acceptable position. In addition, you might want to take a look at the two games with the fascinating anti-Slav line 1 e4 c6 2 c4.

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

I've put together a few of this month's games with the Classical Pirc, which is still one of the serious positional challenges that Black faces.

In Khamrakulov - Iuldachev, Tashkent 2008, Black sets up with the venerable ...a5/...Na6-b4 piece disposition:

White soon deviates and gains the advantage in a variation that is not the most critical. Nevertheless, he has a tendency to control more space in this line, and I doubt that Black should gain absolute equality against best play. But that's possibly more a matter of taste than anything else.

The lines with ...Nbd7 are probably the most important these days. In Inarkiev - Mamedyarov, Baku 2008, Black surrenders the centre at an early stage, not a normal decision:

This seems playable if Black accedes to an early simplification that offers no winning chances whatsoever. He gets more ambitious and ends up considerably worse.

Another ...Nbd7 system is featured in Guseinov - Dzhumaev, Baku 2008:

With 10...exd4 11 Bxd4 Ne5!, Black establishes dynamic counterplay based upon his open lines. This line seems equal, although a move earlier, White had a chance to gain what seems to be a small advantage in a rather dull position.

Reader Dominic Bennett has been using Nigel Davies' "1... d6 Universal" DVD, and prepared a variation from it. But over the board, he received a surprise:

Black was supposed to stand well after the coming ...Nd4, but White played 9 Qa4!, and indeed I can't see a sure way to equality. See Reader Question-Modern Defence / 1...Nc6.

Caro-Kann Defence

I have watched the variation 1 e4 c6 2 e4 (= 1 c4 c6 2 e4) 2...d5 3 cxd5 exd5 4 exd5 Nf6 5 Qa4+ for some time now, and still don't see how Black can equalise!

In Leon Hoyos-Burmakin, Salou 2008, Black enters into the main line (or at least the most popular one). I have tried to collect all of my previous ChessPublishing notes and others to at least give you an impression of what the main issues are.

Black can avoid the above line by 2 c4 e5. Then 3 Nf3 Nf6 is a common order, but Black has also tried 3...Qa5 4 d4 d6. In Lopez Martinez-Fluvia Poyatos, Barcelona 2008, he used a third plan with 3...Qc7 4 d4 Bb4+ 5 Bd2 Bxd2+ 6 Qxd2 d6:

By exchanging his dark-squared bishop, Black is able to put his pawns on dark squares without worrying about hemming in that piece. White's reply is the surprising 7 Qg5!?, which works rather well for specific reasons.

Returning to the main line Caro-Kann with 2 d4 d5, the Advance Variation line 3 e5 Bf5 4 Nd2 continues to give Black problems. Alekseev - Bjerkes, Hungarian TCh 2007-8 reached the following typical position:

White proceeded to play on both wings with g4, f4, and c4.

A similar position was reached in Lastin - Timman, Baku 2008:

This time White begins on the queenside. Both sides have some options, but White's best one comes early on, and although it's a normal game, perhaps he should stand a little better.

Mamedov - Jobava, Baku 2008, transposed to exactly the same position. White emerges with a small advantage, but both sides have plenty of chances throughout a long struggle.

The Short line of the Advance Variation with Nf3, Be2, etc. is still very popular, and has done well. Black has numerous ways to get his pieces to good posts, and never seems that badly off; but as always, White's space advantage has to be dealt with. In Vallejo Pons-Anand, Leon Rapid 2008, the following position is reached:

Anand has chosen what is probably a slightly inferior line, and his 8...Nc8!? doesn't seem to help (8...Rc8 is better). It's unusual to see the World Champion go down to defeat so easily.

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.