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Hello everyone,
This update will be entirely dedicated to the World Championship match in New York. Most games in the match started with the moves 1.e4 e5 and almost all of them featured the Spanish. So, top chess is yours to enjoy.

Download PGN of December ’16 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish with 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 [C84]

The game Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M World Championship match (game 2) New York 2016, saw the world champion employing 9...Na5, the move he had played earlier this year in a rapid game against Topalov.

In the position given above Carlsen deviated from 12...Nc6, which was earlier played by the top players, and instead played the clever 12...Re8! and equalised easily. A mistake free game, which indicated that Karjakin's opening advantage over Carlsen doesn't really exist, despite all the talk before the match. The idea of 12...Re8! is strong and shows that Black doesn't have a single problem in the featured line. The ball is in White's court.

The third tie-break game saw Karjakin deviating with 11.b4 (see the notes to the next game), instead of 11.d4, but Carlsen was again ready and introduced the interesting novelty 12...Nd4, which, after White's unconvincing play, allowed him to fight for the advantage and eventually win the game, thus taking the lead in the match. 18.Re1 is a possible improvement over Karjakin's 18.Ne4.

Two weeks later Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M World Championship match (game 11) New York 2016, saw Black deviating from 9...Na5 with the immediate 9...Be6. After a logical sequence the players reached the diagram position after 13...fxe6:

Here Sergey played the clever 14.f4 instead of the 14.Qg4 Qc8 15.f4 I analysed for you earlier in Leko,P-Caruana,F Dortmund GER 2013. The champ was again the first to surprise his opponent with the novelty 14...c5, and even tried to play for a win. A well-played game by both players, where all of Carlsen's attempts to play for the initiative were met by precise moves from the challenger. This match proved that Black's positions in the system with 6.d3 and 8.d3 are very solid. Nevertheless, I expect further discussions in the upcoming elite tournaments.

Anti-Marshall with 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 [C88]

In our next game, Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M World Championship match (game 4) New York 2016, Karjakin employed a favourite setup of the Azeri GM Vugar Gashimov, a similar setup to the one he applied in the system with 6.d3.

Here, after 13...h6, Karjakin played the new but dubious move 14.Nh2, instead of 14.Ng3 which would transpose into the game Wei,Y - Bu,X/Zaozhuang 2015. It was followed by the shaky 18.Bxh6 and then the positional mistake 19.Bxc4?, which put him on the edge of a precipice, but Magnus wasn't at his best and allowed White to hold. From an opening point of view 14.Nh2 shouldn't be repeated. Instead the logical and natural 14.Ng3 deserves more attention.

Anti-Marshall with 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d5 [C88]

In the next Black game of Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M World Championship match (game 6) New York 2016, the world champion deviated from 9...d6 with the more aggressive 9...d5.

Here, as in many other games from the match, Carlsen was the first to surprise his opponent, this time with the novelty 14...c5, instead of 14...Qd4 or 14...f6. The challenger reacted in the most critical way, but his 22.c3 was a silent draw offer. 22.Re2 is the only way to set some problems in this line, but even here Black equalises with a series of accurate moves. An important game for the theory of the Anti-Marshall with 8.h3. At the moment it seems that Carlsen has closed the 12.Nc3 line with his superb home preparation. The ball is definitely in White's court.

Spanish. The Yurtaev Variation Mainline with 13.Bc2 [C78]

Our following game, Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M World Championship match (game 9) New York 2016, saw the world champion avoiding the safe haven of 5...Be7 in order to look for chances in the Yurtaev (or Archangel) Variation after losing the previous game of the match.

This game saw another novelty from the Norwegian in the diagram position, as 21...cxb3! is an improvement on the 21...c3?! from Nakamura,H (2787)-Kasimdzhanov,R (2700) Tromso NOR 2014 [Mikhalevski,V]. After some logical play from both sides Carlsen played the inaccurate 33...Ra8 (instead of 33...Rb4!, which was offered by Svidler), and came under pressure. A well-played game by both players, which this time saw Karjakin obtaining a slightly better position from the opening (which didn't actually occur earlier in the match), and then setting some problems for the world champion. However, the latter was on top form and saved the game. The line which occurred in this game is equal, but there are a lot of hidden resources which one has to be aware of.

Spanish. Berlin with 5.Re1 and 10.Re2!? [C67]

Our next game is Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S World Championship match (game 3) New York 2016. This time the world champion deviated from the Berlin endgame with 5.Re1 and then went for the very rare 10.Re2!?, which leads us to the diagram position:

Karjakin took some time and answered it with 10...b6, when White's reply 11.Re1! had only been seen once before at the GM level in the game Kasimdzhanov,R - Melkumyan, H/Berlin GER 2016. Magnus then outplayed his opponent in his trademark style, but the big surprise was that he failed to convert a winning advantage. A very interesting fighting draw despite the unavoidable mistakes. Carlsen proved that the idea of 10.Re2 is very interesting, although in order to prove its advantages one needs to have very good endgame technique.

Spanish. Anti-Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.Bg5 [C65]

The game Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S World Championship match (game 10), saw Carlsen trying to win in his penultimate white game, while trailing in the match by one point.

Magnus again surprised his opponent in the already pretty rare diagram position with 8.0-0, instead of 8.Nbd2 which he faced on the other side of the board in Shirov, A - Carlsen, M Biel 2011. He continued with 10.Bxe7, an obvious improvement upon 10.Bg3, but miscalculated with 19.Bxe6, instead of 19.Nd2, and allowed Black to force a draw. In fact, Karjakin missed two opportunities to do so on moves 20 and 21, playing first 20...d5 and then 21...Ng5? instead of 20...or 21...Nxf2. This cost him the lead in the match as the world champion went on to win the game and later the entire match. In the opening White didn't get any objective advantage, but the type of position he likes. So, if you're looking for a playable position the opening line which occurred in the game could be your choice.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.a4 [C54]

Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S World Championship match (game 5) featured another surprise from the world champion:

In the position given above White played 8.b4, which was mostly played in online chess, although it had a blitz predecessor at the top level: Anand, V - Nakamura, H Leuven BEL 2016. First Carlsen tried to complicate matters in the opening, but Sergey was up to the task and right after time trouble Magnus committed a mistake 41.Kg2?, then continued with 43.Qxd4? and 44.e6?! , but the Russian played missed his chances: 43...Bd5? and 45...Qe7 and allowed White to escape with a draw. The opening line chosen by Carlsen is interesting and deserves more practical tests, in particular White can consider 14.Nxe4. Black also has ways to deviate from the game. Finally the second tie-break game, which can be found in the annotations to the fifth game, saw Carlsen deviating from 8.b4 with 8.Re1 and obtaining an advantage. Soon Black came under severe pressure and was close to collapsing, when Carlsen missed a forced win. Black has to look for improvements, but for now the ball is in his court.

See you next month, Victor.

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