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Something in all four openings this month. There are some new discoveries, but mostly it's just a question of refining existing variations. The good news is that every opening is looking sound. But 2...Nf6 in the Scandinavian needs some work.

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

The Austrian Attack (4 f4 and 5 Nf3) is one of the most complex and double-edged of the Pirc Defence complex. 5...c5 has been an effective move for decades. A fairly recent idea is 6 dxc5 Qa5 7 Qd4!?:

It's no wonder that it took so longer for players to take this move seriously. White's queen is subject to attack and he is going to lose a tempo. Ledger - CW Baker, Staverton 2009, presents several defensive options for Black. The strange thing is that White seems to maintain an edge regardless. Some work is needed here!

There are two main ideas in the Austrian Attack with 4 f4 d6 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Bd3. Black can play ...Nc6 and/or ...Bg4, intending ...e5; or 6...Na6 with the idea of ...c5. Felgaer - Peralta, La Plata 2009, saw the latter plan.

In this standard position, I show two games from this month's batch, one with 8...Bg4 and the other with ...Rb8. Apparently Black can play either move with expectations of equality.

Once again this month the 4 Bg5 Pirc showed up in many games. After killer results in the last few months (see the updates), Black held his own overall this time. She did lose in Muzychuk - Zhorzholiani, Tbilisi 2009, which reached this position:

This looks like a typical Be3 Pirc. Since Black 'lost' a tempo by playing ...Bg7 before White played Bh6, you'd suspect that White had the advantage. But Black has her own queenside chances.

Caro-Kann Defence

Once more we have Jovanka Houska's favourite variation, but with a move that isn't in her book:

The new 17 Qc2 has had good success of late. The point is to discourage ...c5 because of d5, as well as to stop ...b5 for the moment, and thus gain time to prepare a kingside attack. Nevertheless, I feel that Black should come out with satisfactory play. In E Berg-J Lopez Martinez, Salou 2009, Black came out of the opening well enough, got the advantage and then blundered. I've inserted several games with 17 Qc2 from this month.

The Short Variation of the Caro-Kann had terrific results among the higher-rated players this month. Of the top 8 games, it scored 7-1.

I tend to think that White can achieve a small advantage in the main line variation that Black chooses in Leko - Anand, Miskolc 2009 (see my notes):

But in the game, Leko doesn't get anything, and since these players are not only elite stars but Caro-Kann experts, I'm not sure that my suggestions mean much!

The diagrammed position is a basic and oft-recurring one. I also give games with Black's many 5th-move alternative.

Reader Michael Ridge puts in a request:

«On the 1 e4 ... Chesspub website, it would be interesting to see some coverage of a repertoire based on the line 1 e4 d6 2 Nc3!? - a handy line if you play the Grand Prix Attack, and often used by Nigel Short among others, but rarely covered in works on the Pirc/Modern, which I know technically begins after 2 d4, but the upshot is that this whole move order tends to fall through all the cracks. I have the Bangiev CD which recommends this, but it would be very interesting to see your take on this move order.
Obviously I'm not asking for coverage of lines with an early ...c5 which is just a GPA by transposition, but instead what White should do if Black does not play ...c5 early on - when to transpose into an Austrian Attack or whatnot - anyway, your thoughts on this would both be very interesting and fill a sort of gap in the opening literature here, as far as I can see.»

My response to Michael: I'm not sure that I can devote enough effort to single update game to fill a gap in theory, and my luck with Bangiev lines has been poor. But I notice that 2 Nc3, while not a mainstream move, has been played steadily, through the years. Although, as you say, its most prominent practitioner seems to be Nigel Short, he uses it to aim for other lines such as the Sicilian Grand Prix or a main line Austrian Attack of the Pirc. One of my bigger merged databases has 720 games with 2 Nc3 that are independent of the Pirc, Grand Prix, Closed Sicilian, and everything else represented by another ECO code. In 1 e4 d6 2 Nc3: Transpositions - and Independent Lines, I'll address some of these independent lines, with the understanding that the play can head anywhere. In order to preserve my sanity, I will stick mainly to 2400+ average ELO games.

Alekhine's Defence

In Movsesian - Svidler, Odessa 2009, the most popular (only?) variation of the Classical Alekhine's played by elite grandmasters is 4 Nf3 dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6. Then Black can set up in various ways, but will usually play with ...g6 and ...Bg7. This position arose:

In the game White played a line with Nbd2-f3 and Black equalised rather easily.

Scandinavian Defence

I was surprised myself to see that I hadn't a single game with one of the Scandinavian main lines 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 Nf3 (I have covered 3 d4 Bg4) 3...Nxd5 (and 3...Bg4) 4 d4:

In the game Wan Yunguo-Laylo, Subic Bay 2009, I've folded in a few new games, and notes from John Emms' second edition of 'The Scandinavian'.

Till next month, John

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