October '01- What's New
Having just finished my book on the Alekhine (to be published soon by Everyman), I'm really into this defence right now. My database shows that it's the top-scoring defence against 1.e4 after the Sicilian.
Led by the anarchistic GM, Tony Miles, Black has been bending the rules a bit against 4.Nf3. In Gallagher - Baburin, OCT01/01, we see Babs giving his 4...c6 another try, which certainly dampens Gallagher's attacking ambitions. Castling queenside turns out to be very ill-advised.
The words 'Voronezh Variation' have been striking fear into the hearts of Alekhine players and turned the once harmless Exchange Variation into an instrument of torture. But Black has been fighting back with the simple 5... exd6 (Simons - Baburin, OCT01/02), getting castled and then figuring out where to put his minor pieces. It's not quite the kind of chess some Alekhine players are used to, but it gives Black a very decent game.
If you take a look at Swedish GM, Jonny Hector's games, you start to realise that 2.Nc3 is a problem. Hector has quietly been developing his own theory on this line, has managed to discredit many of Black's supposed 'antidotes' and returned an enviable plus score. But in Cherniiaev - Baburin, OCT01/03, we see an Alekhine pro take the Black side and it soon becomes evident that he has given this problem some thought.
Alexander Beliavsky is one of the latest GMs to join the ranks of Pirc players, quite possibly inspired by the example of his former countrymen, Chernin and Gurevich. In his game with Zaja, OCT01/04, he shows that he's very well versed in the latest wrinkles with 12...Qa4 effectively neutralising this whole line.
I found Bologan - Azmaiparashvili, OCT01/05, to be deeply impressive. Playing Black against a fellow GM, Azmai throws his opponent on his own resources as early as move 4 with an original queen move, thereafter transposing very neatly into a suped-up Gurgenidze system. A game worth careful study.
If you want to play the Pirc, find every one of Alexander Chernin's games with this defence and play through the lot. In Salmensuu - Chernin, OCT01/06, he effectively defuses White's early Bh6 with 7...e5, 8...Ng4 and 9...Qf6. Very neat equalisation.
Anand - Chernin, OCT01/07, provides some more theory on the '150 Attack', which is now appearing at top GM level. Although this game was a rapidplay encounter, it was well played by both sides and has some theoretical importance. Anand's 10.h3 looks relatively harmless but requires accurate defence by Black.
After having been overshadowed by 4...Nd7 for a number of years, 4...Bf5 is making a comeback. The sexy plans for Black are where he castles kingside and attempts violence on the queenside.
Lutz - Dreev, OCT01/08, is a good example, with both sides delivering a number of body-blows before the game finally ends in peace.
White's failure to make much headway in the main lines of 4...Bf5, has sent him back off the the archives for some old Keres and Tal games. Yuri Razuvaev told me that he had been showing 6.N1e2 to the Italian team which may account for it cropping up here (Ferrari - Lalic, OCT01/09).
The move 6...e6 against the 6.Bg5 Panov, has been virtually ignored for years, for no particular reason. But if people start taking notice of Dautov's games (Klundt - Dautov, OCT01/10), it will probably spring into fashion.
That's all folks, I'm off to the pub..