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Hello everyone,
This update will be completely dedicated to the first super tournament of the year- the 79th Tata Steel in Wijk aan Zee. There's a wide variety of openings, including the King's Gambit, and, as usual a lot of interesting opening ideas.

Download PGN of February ’16 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. Marshall with 12.d3 Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14. Qf3 Qh4 [C89]

The game Harikrishna, P - Aronian, L, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017, saw a well-known line of the Marshall with the popular 13...Bf5.

Hariskrishna followed the game Adams, M - Aronian, L/Tromso NOR 2014 for the first 20 moves, deviating only with 21.Nxf3 and reaching the diagram position. Here Aronian introduced a slightly risky novelty, 21...Bf5, but managed to hold without too many problems. Aronian's 21...Bf5 worked out well, but if White had played 29.Kf3! he would have to face a difficult defence. So, I think the alternatives to 21...Bf5, such as 21...Rc8 and 21...Rxe1, are more reliable.

Spanish. The Yurtaev Variation with 9.Be3 0-0 10.h3 [C78]

The game Harikrishna, P - Adhiban, B Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017, featured an important critical line for White's setup with 10.h3:

Black reacted with the principled 10...exd4 11. cxd4 Nxe4, accepting the pawn sacrifice. The players followed the game Kuzubov, Y - Adhiban, B/Dubai 2011, for the first 17 moves, and then Harikrishna introduced the novelty 18.Rad1. Black reacted correctly (18...a5!, 19...Nc2!) and with 21...f6 he obtained a slight edge.

A painful loss for Adhiban who was well-prepared and played the game pretty well, but blundered in time trouble. It seems that 10.h3 doesn't promise any opening advantage because of the idea played by Adhiban, so 10.Nbd2 has to be preferred.

Spanish. Anti-Berlin with 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.Bxc6 bxc6 7.Nxe5 [C65]

Another important line occurred in the game Wei Yi - Karjakin, S, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017. We see a certain tendency here as, if in the previous game Black captured the e4-pawn and went for some concrete play, in this one White was the one to capture the central pawn on e5. In both games the play is very tactical and so it's easier to analyse it at home.

In the diagram position White has some choice. Thus, he tried 10.f4? in 1862(!), 10.b4 and 10.Nxc6 over 10 years ago, but the move played in the game, 10.Bg5 is the mainline and is the most critical continuation. After the natural 10...c5 11.Nbd2 Karjakin (untypically for him) committed a serious mistake in the opening, 10...cxd4?, and after the obvious 11.Nxe4 he came under serious pressure and has never recovered. A surprisingly easy win for the young Chinese GM. 11...cxd4? is a clear mistake, Black should play 11...Bb7.

Scotch with 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 [C45]

The game Jones, G - Ragger, M, Tata Steel B Wijk aan Zee 2017, saw a long theoretical line with a pawn sacrifice, which led to the diagram position:

Jones surprised his opponent with the extremely rare, but interesting 16.a4, and although Black's immediate reaction 16...d6! was good, his next move 17...Re8?! was inaccurate and he came under pressure. An exchange of favours didn't change anything and eventually White managed to convert his advantage. 16.a4 is an interesting novelty, which requires accurate defence from Black. Instead of 17...Re8?!, 17... Nd7 has to be preferred.

Italian with 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.h3 d5 [C50]

In the game Karjakin, S - Aronian, L, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017, Black tried to solve his opening problems with the early 6...d5.

Here the Armenian player prepared the strong idea 8...Be6!, which had been seen in just a few preceding games and only once at the GM level. After 9.c3 Bb6! 10.Bb3 Aronian blundered horribly with 10...f6??, but Karjakin returned the favour by 11.d4?? instead of winning the game immediately with 11.c4! In the end a rather convincing win for the Russian GM, although we shouldn't forget the unexploited blunder in the opening, and Black's chance to equalise by means of 25...Bxe4. Nevertheless, the opening line with 6...d5 is playable, Black just has to proceed with 10...Re8.

Four Knights with 4...Bd6 5.d3 0-0 6.0-0 h6 [C48]

The world champion answered the Four Knights opening with the popular (at the top level) 4...Bd6 system in the game Harikrishna, P - Carlsen, M, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017.

In the position given above White introduced the novelty 9.Be3, which transposed to 9.Bc4 after 9...Nd4 10.Bc4 c6. Once again the Indian GM was the first to surprise his opponent with another novelty, 11.Re1?!, although this latter doesn't promise any opening advantage. Carlsen equalised comfortably with 11...Nxf3 12.Qxf3 Bxe3 13.fxe3 b5 and even tried to push for a win, but didn't have enough resources and the game was eventually drawn. A very interesting and well-played game by both players, despite a mutual slip on the 20th move. The only try to set problems in the opening seems to be 10 or 11.Bxd5.

Bishop's Opening with 3...c6 4.Nf3 d6 [C24]

The game Carlsen, M - Wei Yi, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017, saw the Chinese youngster playing a modest line with 4...d6, instead of the more popular 4...d5.

In the diagram position Magnus chose the extremely rare 13.g4 (instead of 13.Ng3, as in Gelfand, B - Jussupow, A /Munich 1994 and Ghaem Maghami, E - Bu, X/Moscow 2012). His 15.Bxg5 was surprising, but not without venom, and soon Wei Yi erred (18...exd4?!) and came under pressure. The champ was now at his best, although it has to be said that Black helped with 29...g5? A very interesting strategical concept from the world champion brought the full point. Nevertheless, I believe Black shouldn't have problems in the line with 13.g4, 18...Rfe8 is a way to improve upon Black's play in this game, and 16...Bf4 isn't forced either.

The Bishop's Gambit with 3.Bc4 d5 [C33]

Last, but not least, the game Adhiban, B - So, Wesley, Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2017, saw a pretty rare opening for a tournament of the highest level.

Here Black played 7...0-0, underestimating White's reaction 8.d4!, and after 8...Re8 9.e5 introduced a bad novelty 9...c6? which after 10.Nxf4 led to a clear edge for White. An interesting fighting draw despite the numerous inaccuracies. Black's play in the opening has to be improved. 9...Bf8 was way better than 9...c6?, and 7...c6 is also a good alternative. In both cases Black should be able to equalise.

See you next month, Victor.

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