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Hello subscribers and other chess enthusiasts! If last month’s column featured a quite wide spread of lines, this time I’ve focused my efforts on the Slav and especially the Semi-Slav. That said, variety can still be found in the update, from a game in a ‘repertoire file’ format to some introductory prose in the notes for those relatively new to the Queen’s Gambit. There are also a few sidelines you may like to add to your repertoire - I invite you to check this month’s analysed games for yourself!

Download PGN of August ’17 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Double Queen’s Gambit 2.c4 c5 [D06]

In the first game I avail the opportunity to update the ChessPub coverage of both the Chigorin and 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c5, which continue to be seen in the occasional Grandmaster game. My conclusions remain quite similar, but I noticed that it’s quite rare for White to meet 2...c5 in the best way over the board, so I’ve gone into more details in case you wish to employ it as a surprise weapon as Black. Whichever side you want to champion, you should make sure you are comfortable in the following position:

It’s White to move, what do you think is the best choice, and why? Check my analysis to Vallejo Pons, F - Mamedyarov, S for the answer, among other key points.

3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.Qc2 Chebanenko Slav [D15]

There are many different ways to approach the search for opening shortcuts, but I think most would agree that a shortcut can be considered good if it is not any worse than the main lines after best play by both sides. It’s made even better if normal moves by the opponent lead to difficulties, and the theory in the sideline is not fully established. I feel the 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.Qc2 sideline of the Chebanenko Slav meets all these criteria, and deserves to be seen again at GM level, despite Pelletier, Y - Anand, V leading to a quick win for Black. For instructional purposes I’ll give you the chance to improve on Pelletier’s play, with White to move:

We have a fairly standard structure for White, though you might be more used to seeing the bishop on g2! Anyway, I don’t just want White’s next move, but also how you would place the pieces afterwards. In the notes I show the trouble I had finding a way for Black to equalise against 5.Qc2 - why hasn’t it been played more often?

Main Slav, Soultanbeieff Variation with 6.e4 [D31]

I’ve done something different from the norm with the next game, creating a repertoire file for Black based on the 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 e6 variation. Granted, it doesn’t cover everything as I’ve already covered a lot of ground in the Archives (not to mention the efforts of previous columnists), but hopefully it will provide some guidance and understanding for those players still getting the hang of the Queen’s Gambit complex. That said, the file 5...e6 Slav w/o 6.e3-Repertoire File & Novelty is in no way limited to amateurs, as the next position should demonstrate:

It might seem crazy to enter such a position, where White wins most of the games and Black faces a strong attack, but I have a novelty here for Black that I feel gives him equality (granted, after some more accurate moves). I invite you to improve on the play of some 2350-2750 players as Black, and you can see if you were right in the notes!

QGD Blackburne Variation with 6...c5/9...Re8 [D37]

In the last six months, the trend against the Blackburne Variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3) has shifted to 6...c5, although in the game Topalov, V - Anand, V we’ll see a less common interpretation, supported by Anand’s novelty 12...b5! to reach the following position:

My recent online blitz games have taught me the importance of strong defensive ability in chess, so I invite you to decide how you would meet this dynamic sacrifice in White’s shoes. Admittedly, White can improve earlier with a rarely played idea to earn a small edge, which might explain the focus on 9...Qa5, but I am sure the discussion will be continued at some point! For now I include my ideas in the file which vastly expand on both my old notes and what’s previously been played.

Vienna Variation with 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bg5 b5 [D39]

With the main lines becoming increasingly explored in general (be it in tournament practice, this site, engine analysis or in the overall literature), an interesting sideline might be the better practical option for some players. Such is the case with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5, where Black makes the claim that, compared to a Botvinnik Semi-Slav, the developing ...Bb4 can’t be worse than ...c6. In Jarmula, L - Piorun, K this works to perfection as White doesn’t react suitably, but let’s test your understanding of the positions where Black sacrifices a pawn for long-term compensation:

It is Black to play, and White has just played 13.Nb3. In what manner can Black make use of his trumps? The answer and more can be found in the game, but in conclusion I can recommend 6...b5 for players discouraged by the memorisation required to play 6...c5 (and who don’t mind the diagram position for Black).

5.g3 Semi-Slav with ...dxc4/...Nbd7 [D43/E01]

We have reached the Semi-Slav section, which comprises half of this month’s update! We begin with an update of the 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.g3 variation, which admittedly has seen its popularity wane after a Harikrishna win at last year’s Olympiad, but my focus is on the 5...Nbd7 6.Bg2 dxc4 variation played in Lalith, B -Vitiugov, N. It is not easy to summarise all the options for both sides, especially as they tend to be about equal in objective merit, so let’s fast forward to a critical position from the game, after 13.Nd2:

These Catalan gambit positions are tricky for both sides to play, and here Vitiugov’s move was playable, but not best. Can you do better and hit on Black’s key sequence to generate counterplay?

Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav [D43]

The correspondence game Wegelin, R - Mrkvicka, J presents mixed news in that, while I present a repertoire for White against the Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3), there are a few variations where Black achieves full equality! I was going with the engine’s first choices in general too, so you have an idea of just how great an opening the Semi-Slav is. Even so, I did find a few nice ideas against the previously covered 7...g6 variation, the most important of which I give as a puzzle here (White to play):

White has clear compensation for the pawn, but what should his move and overall plan be?

Anti-Meran Semi-Slav with 6...Bd6 7.b3 [D45]

I already covered one of the branches of this variation (by transposition) in my previous update, but in Pelletier, Y - Gelfand, B I go into a bit more detail on the main line of 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3, a positional variation that continues to be employed semi-regularly at a high level. As is usual in the Semi-Slav, Black is doing theoretically fine, but the game brought up some interesting questions:

Black to play. Since this game is all about Greek Gift sacrifices, do you think Black should take on h2 instead? And from White’s point of view, how should he meet 17...Bxh2 18.Kxh2 Ng4? This as well as some strategic pointers can be found in the game link.

Cambridge Springs with 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Rc1 [D52]

Our final game for this update presents a White repertoire after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5, with the exception of 5...h6 covered earlier. We can already say that White’s chances of an advantage are greater after Black’s alternatives to 5...h6, although even in Moiseenko, A - Agrest, E Black had succeeded in neutralising White’s space advantage and equalising when the position below was reached:

It is Black to play, and your task is to keep the position at a +0.3 or lower assessment with your move. I hope with this exercise you appreciate that while the engine holds without any trouble, in practice it is easy for Black to mistime his pawn breaks and give White real chances.

Till next month, Max.

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