Caro-Kann Star Fortress
Two recent games have seen the return to the top level of a striking looking line of the Caro Kann Advanced Variation. In response to 4.h4 the move 4...a6 has been played only a handful of times. It looks like something from the Chebanenko Slav, but it is actually a clever waiting move that keeps open an extra escape route for the light bishop in case of a kingside pawn storm by white. It occurred first this year in the European Individual Championship in a game of the Caro Kann specialist Alexander Riazantsev:
The second game to feature this a6-line occurred later in the same tournament in a game between Robin van Kampen and Nikita Vitiugov. It was much less eventful but involved some attractive architectural motifs:
The historian in me feels that I should point out that the Caro-Kann specialist Fabian Doettling first introduced the a6-line into grandmaster practice in 2006 in a game that he drew against Andrei Volokitin, but it was Konstantin Sakaev who first drew blood with it in the Bundesliga early the next year:
There are still just over twenty games in this a6-line on my database, less than half of them at grandmaster level. For the patient positional player, it may still be a good surprise weapon...