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Hello everyone and welcome to the 1.e4... November update. Long term subscribers to the French section will be aware that I ran the show there for some eight years before leaving ChessPub for a break of about half a year. Now I'm back and looking forward to studying all the other half open defences to 1.e4 with you.

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

First up is a rather attractive game in the Classical System of the Pirc:

It's nice to see that top players such as Svidler and Topalov are able to play in a fluid, dynamic way against the Classical. In the illustrative game, a Hippopotamus set up avoids the rigid, fixed pawn centre that might arise if Black adopts an approach with 6...Bg4 and 7...Nc6. It is of some theoretical importance as White tries to improve on the game Malakhov-Topalov given in the archives but is upended in Jakovenko - Svidler.

Caro-Kann Defence

Perhaps in a bid to escape the overanalysed mainlines, White has been turning to the Two Knights Variation 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 in some high level games, after which 3...a6!? is an interesting riposte:

It isn't only in the Sicilian that Black can employ the flexible little move a7-a6 at an early point. Here it has a definite purpose as it helps Black expand in the centre with 4...d4 and 5...c5, assuming, of course, that White allows him and he takes the chance. In our first example, White replies 4.h3, to stop a pin with 4...Bg4, but his opponent spurns the gain of space in favour of 4...Nf6. Here is one of the high points for England at the recent European Team Championships in McShane - Shengelia.

In the second game the young star Ray Robson adopts the Two Knights in the World Cup- some 50 years after his countryman Bobby Fischer played it in the Candidate tournament at Bled, 1959. Robson answers 3...a6 by seizing the centre with 4.d4, but the results aren't very impressive in Robson - Jobava.

Another way to avoid the mainline is with the Panov-Botvinnik attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3, and here we'll take a look at 5...Nc6 6.Bg5 Be6:

Now 7.a3 has been played fairly frequently. It is a useful semi-waiting move that says to the opponent 'What can you do now?' as both 7...dxc4? 8.Bxf6 exf6 9.d5 and 7...Ne4? 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.d5 end up losing a piece. However, much to White's disappointment it seems that Black can answer with 7...g6! and notwithstanding the damage done to his pawn structure after 8.Bxf6 emerge with a promising game. Here for the evidence is Friedel - Wang Hao.

The alternative for White is 7.Nf3, when Black has the option of 7...Ne4, as after 8.Nxe4 dxe4 the knight on f3 is hanging so there is no 9.d5 win of a piece. Instead 8.Be2 is an interesting quiet move which I have tried in McDonald - Lee.

Finally in the Caro-Kann, I noticed the following wild game while I was coaching at the World Youth in Antalya last month. Black took some jaw-dropping risks, but in the mainline he got away with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Qc7 11.0-0 b6 12.Qg4 Kf8 13.b3 g5!?:

Here is Durarbeyli - Shreyansh.

Alekhine's Defence

Here 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 c6!? is a no-nonsense approach:

Black's aim in the Alekhine is to prove that the white pawn on e5 is a target, and if this means giving up the bishop pair and the right to castle, so be it! The mainline runs 6.0-0 Bxf3 7.Bxf3 dxe5 8.dxe5 e6 and now White has to make an important choice. One possible approach is 9.b3, aiming to overprotect the e5 pawn with 10.Bb2, which is analysed in Breznik - Rogulj.

Instead 9.Re1 Nd7 10.Nd2 Qc7 is perhaps the critical test of Black's opening line, which is placed under pressure by Vuckovic - Bogut.

OK that's all for now. I hope you found some of the above games useful or interesting. Good luck in your games! Neil

Please post you queries on the 1 e4 ... Forum, or subscribers can email me at