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Hey guys, I hope you have been enjoying your chess in the last month! It’s easier when you have a regular inflow of fresh ideas, and after seeing the Champions Showdown matches in St Louis, I was inspired to take you through the main theoretical discussions that took place, as well as a couple of relevant super-GM games in the European Team Championship. Now let’s learn from some great blitz and rapid games!

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

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Slow Slav with 4...Bg4 [D11]

In our game Ding Liren - Carlsen, M, it feels as though Black may have been improvising, as he quickly ended up in a worse position out of the opening:

Once you find White’s best move here, I’d explore 10...Ne4, which should still equalise, but White has a few ideas to place slight pressure on Black. I have a feeling the trend will move away from 4...Bg4 as this line is practically a bit unpleasant for him, at least compared to some of the options within 4...e6 and 4...a6.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e4 Nf6 [D20]

One of the main theoretical discussions in the Grischuk, A - Caruana, F match was the currently very trendy line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, with 3.e4 Nf6:

This is the key position, from which Grischuk tried a few different moves. Can you find all three for me, and say which one you think is best? As for the results, the first four games were drawn before Grischuk struck in the fifth game, but theoretically speaking Black has sufficient resources to maintain the balance - a key idea in many positions is timing ...f5 to kick the bishop away, or ...f6 to chip away at White’s centre.

QGA Main Line with 7.Qe2 [D28]

It is not the first time that I have shown a nice Mamedyarov win on the site, and the game Mamedyarov, S - Navara, D will be of interest, given White’s recent troubles in proving an advantage against the QGA.

What move do you think Mamedyarov played here? In the notes you’ll get my thoughts of Mamedyarov’s subsequent pawn sacrifice, which might only be equal from the computer’s perspective, but places Black under a lot of pressure in a practical game, and Navara was unable to handle the challenges.

Blackburne QGD with 6...c5 [D37]

In the match Topalov, V - Nakamura, H, we saw both players using the classical QGD in several games, and doing quite well as Black! I have focused more on Nakamura’s Black games, where he scored 2.5/3 against three unusual tries by Topalov. The following position was a good example of how Nakamura showed his class in the faster time controls:

What is the correct way for White to maintain the balance here? You can see how you did, compared to Topalov, in the notes.

Ragozin Main Line with 8...Bf5 [D38]

The trend of meeting 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 in the Ragozin with 6...h6 7.Bh4 0-0 8.e3 Bf5 has continued, and I suspect the main reason we aren’t seeing more of it is because of White choosing to avoid it in various ways. The latest game Aronian, L - Wojtaszek, R only served to confirm the conclusions of previous games. As a test of your understanding of this variation, I want you to consider the following position:

It is Black to play. How would you assess it, and what move should Black play? What pieces should we exchange? As always, you can check your ideas against my notes.

Semi-Tarrasch Main Line [D41]

In the So, W - Dominguez Perez, L match, we saw two Semi-Tarrasch games, both ending in draws. I particularly liked the one with the almost unknown ...Ba6 concept, leading to the following position:

I invite you to ponder what happens after the critical 17.Qb5 Nb8 18.d5, since in the game Black equalised easily after quieter play. I expect to see more of this variation, though the usual disclaimer applies that Black is playing mainly for a draw with this setup.

Catalan with 4...Bb4 5.Bd2 Bd6 [E01]

In Grischuk, A - Caruana, F Caruana did quite well with this variation, scoring 2.5/4 in the match. In one of the games, we even reached a Queen’s Indian type of position:

In this position, you can find a better move than two of the best players in the world! Did you get it right? You can check my notes for the answer, as well as some original ways for Black to equalise in this variation.

6.Qc2 Closed Catalan [E06]

Our final game for this update might be my favourite, as Ding Liren - Carlsen, M saw the World Champion play a very powerful game from start to finish. I really like Black’s approach of playing for ...c5 in a typical middlegame position for an active hanging pawns structure, as in the following position:

Can you find the move Carlsen played here as Black, or something just as good? You can check the theoretical conclusions in the notes, where I suggest a few new ideas that might set your opponents some problems :)

Thank you very much for your time in reading this update, and I would love to hear from you regarding any variations you would like me to cover! Next month is the last update of the year, and I will make it count! Max.

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If you have any questions, then please post a message at the 1 d4 d5 Forum, or subscribers can email