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In this column I'm going to do something a little different. I've been looking through the 1 e4 X Forum over the past few days, and have decided to research and opine about a variety of opening topics the participants discussed, stretching from a long time ago up to the present. I'm including analysis from Forum members, as well as addressing some questions that weren't fully answered there. Thanks to all of you for your insights and amazingly deep analysis!

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

Pirc/Modern Defence

First of all, let me start by announcing that the new Pirc/Modern playable eBook is now ready to download, and that I've decided to sub-divide the Modern Defence Chesspub Guide.

Next I want to consider the Forum discussion of White's Be3/h3 system versus the Pirc. My focus is on a solution for Black proposed by Nigel Davies, which has 153 games in Megabase, and who knows how many since; but it really isn't clear at all. The main line features a counter-solution by Dzindzihashvili that was mentioned but not analysed.

Here Black plays 8...e5, but lands in a stereotyped and rather awkward position. In Forum Pirc Be3/h3 line, I give some lengthy lines which indicate that White is apparently better, although Black seems able to limit that advantage to acceptable proportions. The lines are intricate and I think fascinating, but in any case, his game is difficult to play.

Therefore, I've suggested a new way to play in the diagram, which you'll see in the game.

In the Austrian Attack, my fascination with 5...c5 6 dxc5 Qa5 7 Qd4 is apparently shared by others:

White continues to try this move with success, even at pretty high levels. In Kapnisis-M Gurevich, Chalkida 2009, White wins over the well-known theoretician.

Caro-Kann Defence

In the Forum, there is a rather sophisticated discussion about 1 e4 c6 2 Ne2 d5 3 e5. I was surprised to see that the Archives have quite a bit of analysis on this, and more surprised to see a bunch of recent games.

This crazy-looking gambit (from 3...c5 4 b4) is actually quite difficult to meet. It's almost like a French Wing Gambit, but Black has taken two moves (...c6 and ...c5) to contest the centre. In Surtees - Houska, Liverpool 2008, my first sample game, White wins a smashing victory. I've included previous notes and some options; in general, this is a dangerous line and White always seems to have enough attacking compensation for the pawn.

The main line consists of 3...c5 4 d4. Black has acceded to a tempo-down French Defence, but he is able to develop his queen's bishop.

In Felgaer - Houska, Gibtelecom 2007, Black equalised, only to slip into trouble later. There are a lot of merged games, notes, and options here which illustrate how wide open this line is.

A similar and thematic position arose in Jones - Hera, Porto San Giorgio 2009:

White pits his centre against Black's active pieces. Both sides have chances and the game is unbalanced.

It's surprising to me to see the loyalty which Caro-Kann players have to the Classical main line with 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Bf5. Not that it isn't a good line, but other choices don't seem to be attracting much interest. Recently, Black's plan of ...Be7 and ...0-0 has been undergoing some strong pressure, especially in the following position:

Here White plays 15 g4! And ... Black loses! Or so it seems. The databases are loaded with White wins over the last year. I've merged a lot of these, including a couple from the last few weeks, in the well-publicised game Robson - Malakhato, Tromso 2009. In the forum, the importance of this approach seems to be underestimated. I'd be looking for improvements early on.

Alekhine's Defence

Forum members have continued to put outrageous amounts of work into tearing into this opening. I've indicated before the depth of analysis that they have created in the Four Pawns Attack, and this month will take a look at the even more extensive Forum analysis of Mark Morss' key move in the Voronezh, one that I examined in past updates. You may recognise this position:

In FORUM Voronezh Bb5/..Nc6, I pay homage to these efforts, which I believe were summed up around February of this year. The hardest part was reconstructing the entries from the different postings over the months and trying to narrow the analysis down to the most important lines. My own contribution is small by comparison. Apologies in advance to those whom I don't credit; at first, I was simply going to cite 'The Forum', and then tried to fill in some member names. The reader may have to go to the Forum to see who really suggested what.

One problem with this line for Black is that after you memorise everything in great precision, you'll often get to a literally drawn position, or something that you can't likely win against a weaker player. It's not even clear if you'll equalise against a superbly prepared White player. One Forum member noticed a few games in which M. Chveterik tried moves to avoid the main lines. Remarkably, Chetverik has no less than 7 games in Informant (several are fragments), five from 2007, using two moves other than the overwhelmingly played 9...e5, namely, 9...Nfd7 and 9...e6:

I've bundled them together, with a few notes, in Horvath - Chetverik, Zalakaros 2005. Maybe you'll want to go in this direction.

Thanks to Forum contributors for bringing up such interesting issues!

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.