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A lot of material this month, including three surveys by James Vigus. I've also tried to present recent material on popular variations, including the recently resurgent Panov-Botvinnik Attack in the Caro-Kann.

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

James Vigus, author of The Pirc in Black and White, has contributed another three games this month, with thorough overviews of two of the main lines of the Pirc Defence. In So - Azmaiparashvili, Vung Tau 2008, White plays the Austrian Attack (1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3), which Black meets with 5...0-0 6 Bd3 Na6. The following standard position arises:

Here Azmaiparashvili played the new move 9...e6!?, which worked out reasonably well. But Vigus shows that White could have gained a nice advantage, and he shows a perhaps more important game with 9...Nc7 in the notes. Even there, White's play looks promising.

James' other two games are in the line 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Bd3 Nc6 (the traditional main line of the Austrian Attack), specifically 7 e5 dxe5 8 fxe5 Nd7:

His notes to Abergel - Chatalbashev, Ascona 2008, survey almost every logical response for White, including the game's 9 0-0 and the critical 9 Ne4 as suggested in Khalifman's White Repertoire book. After 9 0-0, James makes a case for 9...Nb4, citing two older games in support. As the game goes, White seems to keep an edge.

In Greet - Chatalbashev, Hastings 2008, White plays the one serious move not given in the notes to the above game: 9 Ne2. Although Black's response leaves something to be desired, James demonstrates that in general he stands quite well with consistent central play. The moral of the story is that ...c5 should be played in nearly every variation of the line.

In addition, I was sent a Pirc game Granda Zuniga-Movsziszian, Benidorm 2008, by reader Felix Eickenbusch, who asks what I think about it and in particular about one of Black's moves (his 20th).

He is right about that move being a mistake (I think), but more importantly we get to see another example of White's g4/Bg2 setup that we've examined before. The diagram is a typical one for this variation. I've annotated this interesting game with some variations. It's not clear whether the opening was equal or somewhat better for White.

Caro-Kann Defence

The Advance Variation continues to be the main area of contention among Grandmasters, but I've been covering that territory for some time, and thought that I'd look at the Panov-Botvinnik Attack.

This month's batch had five high-level games and many others in this newly-popular variation. I have included the five in the game Adams - David, Liverpool 2008. Three of the games are from that tournament and begin in this position:

I was interested to see that the move 8...h6 is holding up, and the well-known gambit line 8...Ba5 9 a3 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Nxd4 also resulted in an even game.

Alekhine's Defence

Among my students, the Exchange Variation with 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 c4 Nb6 4 d4 d6 5 exd6 is easily White's favourite choice, and upon the more dynamic 5...cxd6, there follows the Voronezh Variation with 6 Nc3 g6 7 Be3 Bg7 8 Rc1 0-0 9 b3. We have covered 9...e5 at almost excessive length, but I have criticized 9...Nc6 due to 10 d5 Ne5 11 Be2:

In Boric - Rakic, Croatian Teams 2008, Black goes for 11...f5!?, which leads to a quick draw; but I've added some notes to the game indicating challenges for Black.

Did Rozentalis, the experienced GM and theoretician, intend to try 11...f5!? himself? We won't know, because White deviated first in Szoen - Rozentalis, Karpacz 2008 after 8 Rc1 Nc6 9 b3 0-0 10 Nf3!?, allowing 10...Bg4. The game continued 11 Be2 d5 12 c5 Nc8 13 h3 Bxf3 14 Bxf3 e6:

Black has played his standard reorganization and normally continues ...N8e7. White prevents ...Nf5 with g4, but at the cost of some weakness on the kingside. Perhaps it's about equal. In the game, at any rate, Black decides to play on the queenside, which doesn't seem to be the right idea.

Scandinavian Defence

It's not often that I get a contribution of this quality and depth out of the blue. I received the following game and all the notes from International Master Goh Wei Ming, who writes:

"In a recent tournament, I played an interesting game against GM Laylo Darwin and I thought you might want to consider it for your next update."

As it turns out, he analyses not only the game but the details of the Portuguese Gambit in the Scandinavian, and generously contributing one of his own losses as the basis: Wei Ming-Darwin Laylo, Duty Free Fiesta Mall, Philip 2008:

I've given little space in the past to this line, which still has a reasonable reputation. In fact, Darwin Laylo is a Portugese Gambit expert who, over the last month, has scored 3-1 as Black versus master opposition. His only loss was to the move 4 Qd3!? in a game I've merged into the main one. Still, that move doesn't seem particularly dangerous versus accurate defence.

In the 3...Qd6 Scandinavian variation, I'm going to risk my job by presenting Kosten - Govciyan, Pau 2008, a loss by our webmaster and Fearless Leader that I overlooked last month.

I can't figure out exactly what's going on, but my overall impression is that, while Black's opening is a little risky, he can probably keep his opening disadvantage within bounds. Eventually he even prevailed.

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.