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Hello everyone,
This update will mostly focus on the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir. In most of the king pawn games the discussion concerned the Italian, which is becoming more popular than the Spanish, at least in the top events.

Download PGN of April ’19 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Marshall Gambit 12.d3 Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14.Qf3 Qh4 15.g3 Qh3 [C89]

Our first game in this update is Radjabov, T - Ding Liren Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir.

In the well-known diagram position White mostly plays 16.Be3. However, in the current game White preferred the old line,16.Nd2, which had been considered to lead to equality. The players followed the game Nakamura, H - Aronian, L Caleta 2005 for the first 30 moves and only 31.Bc4 was a novelty, as Nakamura played 31.a4. A couple of moves later the game entered a rook endgame in which Black equalised comfortably, proving once again that 16.Nd2 doesn’t promise White any advantage. A well-played, mistake-free game. Probably Radjabov wanted to see if Ding Liren remembered the line. White's new idea of 31.Bc4 doesn't promise White much, who can still try to set problems, but they can be solved. Meanwhile, the ball is still on White's side in the Marshall.

Spanish, Berlin defence 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.0-0 Qe7 7.Nbd2 [C65]

This popular line of the Berlin Defence was seen in the game Giri, A - Topalov, V Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir.

Giri employed a pet-line of Vishy Anand's, 9.a3, which Topalov ignored by replying with 9...Nd7 (9...a5 looks safer.) After 10.b4 Bd6 11.Nc4 Veselin deviated from a correspondence game, the only one which reached the text, by means of 11...f6. Play was rather logical for the first 21 moves, but White’s 22.d5 turned out to be inaccurate and Black could have equalised with 23...c6. Nakamura's 9...a5 looks safer than the game's 9...Nd7.

Giuoco Piano 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 a5 8.Bg5 [C54]

In the game Karjakin, S - Ding Liren Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir, the Russian GM decided to test Black’s play in the recent game Van Foreest, J - Ding Liren Wijk aan Zee NED 2019.

However, instead of 16...Bxf3 in the aforementioned game Black was the first to deviate with 16...Re8. White reacted correctly, with 17.Qd2!, but Ding was also up to the task and soon the players repeated moves. A short, but important game for the theory. After Black's novelty 16...Re8 an improvement for White is still to be found and so the ball remains in his court.

Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 Ba7 8.Na3 [C54]

The game Anand, V - Mamedyarov, S Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir, saw another popular branch of the Italian.

Black played 8...Ne7 in the position given above, following my game against Bachmann. Later the Azeri GM deviated with 10...Bxe3 and after 11.Nxe3 0-0 Anand played 12.Qc2, also deviating from Carlsen’s 12.a5, from Carlsen, M - Anand, V Leuven 2016. Black reacted correctly with 12...c6 13.a5 d5, soon equalised and even started to take over. Mamedyarov played very well, outplayed Anand and obtained a winning position, but then committed a few mistakes towards the first time control allowing Vishy to turn the tables. This game proved that 10...Bxe3 is perfectly playable and so now the ball is in White's court.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0-0 a6 7.a4 h6 8.Re1 0-0 9.h3 a5 [C54]

Our next game in this update is Giri, A - Karjakin, S Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir.

In the diagram position White introduced virtually a novelty, 10.d4, and after a few precise moves Black went astray with 13...Qc8? Giri obtained the upper hand, but started to err towards the first time control and even lost the game. An important game for the theory of this line. Giri introduced an interesting novelty and after 13...Qc8 obtained a clear edge. Black has to play ...exd4 on either the 12th or 13th move, and 10...Bb6 is also an important alternative.

Another game in this line, Grandelius, N - Karjakin, S WchT Astana 2019, saw a novelty from the Swede, 10.Bb5. After 10...Na7 White avoided a possible repetition (by means of 11.Bc4 Nc6) and continued with 11.d4. Probably 15...Bxb5 was then inaccurate, as instead 15....Bxd2 promised equal chances. 10.Bb5 doesn't seem to set serious problems, so White has to prefer either the main line 10.Nbd2 or Giri's 10.d4.

Italian 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 [C53]

The game Karjakin, S - Topalov, V Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir, featured a popular alternative to the Giuoco Piano, 5.d4.

In the position given above Topalov played an extremely rare move, 10...Ba5, and Karjakin’s reaction, 11.Qb3, was inaccurate. Instead 11.Rc1! was better and it seems to promise White a slight edge. Veselin’s reply wasn’t the best either, he played 11...Bxc3, when 11...Bg4 promised at least equal chances. A complex strategical battle in the game led to a fair result. 11.Rc1 is a more challenging way to meet 10...Ba5.

Two Knights 4.d3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 [C55]

Finally, the game Radjabov T - Carlsen, M Gashimov memorial 2019 Shamkir, featured a rare line of the Two Knights Opening.

In the diagram position White played the rare 6.h3. Earlier we have considered three other options. After the moves 6...d6 7.a4 a5 White introduced a novelty, 8.Nbd2, in what was already a very rare position. Magnus equalised with the manoeuvre ...Nd7-b6, ...Kh8 and finally ...f5. However, his 15...d5 was too optimistic and 17...Qf5 dubious. This allowed White to obtain the better chances with the strong 18.Qd2! I think White's opening setup doesn't set serious problems and Black could equalise if he plays 15...Bh5!

See you next month, Victor.

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