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November 2001 Update - 1.e4....




Caro-Kann Defence

One reader pointed out that there was 'no mention' of 2.Nc3 d5 3.f4 on the site. Resisting the temptation to deem it 'unmentionable', I checked my database and found some good players on the White side (Reefschlaeger - Krajewski, NOV01/01). It certainly looks better for White than the equivalent Sicilian line (1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.Nc3) because the pawn exerts more central control on c5. Jon Speelman often makes the supposedly dull Caro look like an attacking line and in Wall-Speelman, NOV01/02, he meets White's unusual choice with his own offbeat moves. When White tries to solve the small problems he ends up with big ones - a nice illustration of how to win with Black.

3.e5 makes Caro players very nervous, at least part of the problem being psychological. The Caro is often chosen for being a nice solid defence that dulls White's attacking ambitions; Black certain doesn't want to go into the wild complications following 3...Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4. In Grischuk - Karpov, MAR01/01, Black tried to avoid this with 4...Qb6, which gave him a reasonable game when White defended the e-pawn with 5.Nf3. But White can play something far more dangerous by offering the e5 pawn as bait...

Black's play in Holmsten - Minasian, NOV01/05, was certainly not for the faint of heart, a more Carowy reaction is to ignore the d-pawn and develop. This is what happens here, but even solidity has its dangers.

In Shabalov - Kachieshvili, NOV01/04, Black played much better than in Sax - Arlandi, NOV01/03. He exchanges his light-squared bishop, erects a wall of pawns and then beats back a desperate looking attack. Music to the ears of those pipe-smoking Caro players.

Alekhine Defence

If White wants a relatively unexplored attacking line against the Alekhine, he could do far worse than try the so-called Vitolinsh Variation which has recently been championed by the Belorus GM, Viktor Kupreichik. In Vitolinsh - Smit, NOV01/06, we see a solid approach by Black, though one which may leave White with an advantage in space. A game between Kupreichik and Alburt (NOV01/07) should receive top billing in the theory stakes, Kupreichik is the leading exponent of the White side of this line, Alburt has championed the Black cause for many years. On this occasion an Alburt experiment goes badly wrong.

In Kupreichik - Kengis, NOV01/08, another Alekhine expert tries to defuse Kupreichik's pet, and with slightly more success than Alburt from a theoretical point of view. After 8.Bb5 it looks as if Black can equalise with 8...Bf5, which later sent Kupreichik off in search of an alternative 8th move.

Black has a good answer to the Chase variation in protecting his knight on d5 with both ...c7-c6 and ...e7-e6 and then undermining the c5 pawn with a later . ..b7-b6. In Rose - Davies, NOV01/09, I was faced with a rabid attempt at attack, but Black's position proved very solid.

Modern Defence

Exponents of the Modern Defence are often distinguished by a dislike of conventional theory. 4...Nd7 against the Austrian certainly fits the bill, but is Black pushing his luck too far? Despite the result of Lalic - Turner, NOV01/10, I think it may be playable.

Best wishes

Nigel Davies