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Hello everyone,
This update is entirely based on the recent European Online Club Cup, which I also took part in. So, I decided to share four of my own games with you plus four games from top players. Most of the games in this update were played in the Giuoco Piano, which is one of the most popular choices against 1...e5 these days.

Download PGN of April ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Open Spanish, Dilworth Variation 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 f6 13.Nf1 [C82]

The game Grandelius, N - Mikhalevski, V ECU Online Club Cup: Playoff 2021, featured a rather rare line of the 9.c3 Open Spanish with 13.Nf1.

In the critical diagram position I played a dubious move, 15...Bg4?!, which after 16.Ne3 Bxf3? (16...Be6 is necessary) 17.gxf3 led to a clear edge for White. The 13.Nf1 line is interesting, but Black has to react with 15...Qd6!, otherwise White is better.

Spanish, Yurtaev System 9.a4 Bb7 [C78]

In the game Fedoseev, Vl - Vachier Lagrave, M ECU Online Club Cup: Final 2021, the French player chose a pet line of the Russian GM Matlakov, 9...Bb7:

In the diagram position White played 10.Re1, instead of the former main line, 10.Bg5. However, after 10...0-0 he came up with the very rare 11.h3, although it transposed to a more popular position. The most popular 11.Bg5 leads to big complications and eventually to an equal position at the end. Black also answered this with a rare move, 11...Re8, when instead Black normally preferred 11...h6 in order to stop 12.Bg5. Here White initiated some concrete play 12.Ng5 Re7 (12...Rf8 is also fine) 13.d5, which MVL met inaccurately with 13...Nb8?! and would be worse if after 14.axb5 axb5 15.Rxa8 Rxa8 White had played 16.Nf3! 9...Bb7 is a reasonable alternative to 9...Rb8, Black just had to play 13...Na5 instead of 13...Nb8.

Giuoco Piano, 6.Nbd2 d6 7.h3 Ne7 [C54]

The game Duda, J - Tomashevsky, E ECU Online Club Cup: Final 2021, featured a rather rare line of Giuoco Piano with an early 7...Ne7:

Duda answered Black’s last move with the most principled 8.0-0 Ng6 9.d4 and after 9...Bb6 10.Bd3, which was already a new move in a rather rare position. The game continued 10...Re8 11.Re1 c6 12.Qc2, which Black met with the dubious 12...Nf4?! After the correct 12...Nh5! Black wouldn’t have any problems. 7...Ne7 is rare, but playable, however, 12...Nh5! would be better than 12...Nf4?!

Giuoco Piano, 6...h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Nbd2 a5 9.Nf1 [C54]

In the game Amin, B - Mikhalevski, V ECU Online Club Cup: Playoff 2021, a well-known position was reached after 9 moves:

In the well-known position given above I played 9...Ne7, instead of Nakamura’s pet line 9...Be6 10.Bb5 Ne7. After 10.Ng3 Ng6 11.h3!? c6 it turned out that I followed one of Nakamura’s games. Here White improved on Nepomniachtchi’s play with 12.Bb3! (first played by a 2200 player in 2017), instead of the 12.d4 played by Ian. I reacted with the pretty logical 12...d5, but after 13.exd5 my natural recapture 13...Nxd5 might not have been the best. Instead, the surprising 13...Qb6 was interesting. Now White could set problems by means of 14.Nh5!, but after 14.Nxe5 I had to play 14...Bxf2!, which seems to equalise. The line with 9...Ne7 looks playable, while 13...Qb6 deserves serious attention.

Giuoco Piano 5.Qe2 [C54]

The game Westerberg, J - Mikhalevski, V ECU Online Club Cup: Playoff 2021, saw the rare 5.Qe2?! early in the game:

I decided to meet White’s move order with 5...0-0 6.Bb3?! d5!, as I didn’t believe in White’s 5th and 6th moves I thought I could try to set problems from the very beginning. After 7.d3 h6 8.Nbd2 Re8 9.h3 I played 9...Nh5, which wasn’t the best, objectively, but took my opponent by surprise and he started to make mistakes. The most accurate way to play is 9...a5! 10.a4 Be6! My opponent continued 10.g3 Be6 and then committed a mistake, 11.Nf1?, when 11.exd5 was necessary and promised roughly equal chances. I met this with the aggressive 11...f5?! (11...a5 was again better) and once again my surprise paid off. White committed the decisive mistake 12.Be3 and after 12...d4! he was already in trouble. 5.Qe2 can't promise any advantage and may only serve as a surprise weapon.

Giuoco Piano, 4.d3 Nf6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Be7 7.Bg3 d6 [C50]

In the game Oparin, G - Mikhalevski, V ECU Online Club Cup: Playoff 2021, the Russian player chose an aggressive line with the early 5.Bg5.

In the diagram position Oparin played an extremely rare move, 8.c3, where 8.a4 is the main line. I answered it with 8...g6, which I played in a similar position against Sam Sevian a year and a half ago. Now White played 9.a4 (9.h3!?) and allowed 9...Nh5. He didn’t seem to mind and continued with 10.a5 a6 11.Nbd2 My reaction, 11...Bf6, was inaccurate and after 12.h3! Nxg3 13.fxg3 White obtained a slight edge. 11...0-0 12.0-0 would transpose to the game Piorun,K-Matlakov,M Germany 2016 and promised Black roughly equal chances. 8.c3 shouldn't set serious problems, but Black has to answer it with the accurate 8...Na5!

Two Knights, 3...d6 4.d4 Nf6 [C50]

A pretty rare line of the Two Knights Opening took place in the game Duda, J - Artemiev, V ECU Online Club Cup: Final 2021:

The players have reached a side line of the Four Knights with 4...d6, as a more common move after 4.d4 in Two Knights is 4...exd4. However, the players reached the position through a different move order, and the game continued like a Fried Liver Attack with the d-pawn on d4 instead of d2. It has its advantages and drawbacks. Thus, after 5.Ng5 d5 Black can answer 6.exd5 with 6...Nxd4. So, Duda played 6.dxe5, although 6.exd5 is still the main line. Artemiev answered this with 6...Bg4, which is sufficient for equality, but the simple 6...Nxe5 deserved serious attention and could lead to a position with more than sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material. In the game after 7.Be2 Bxe2 8.Qxe2 Nxe4 9.Nxe4 dxe4 the position was equal. I don't believe that Black can equalise by means of 3...d6, but it can serve as a surprise weapon. Curiously, the Fried Liver Attack with an extra tempo (the d-pawn on d4) doesn't promise White any advantage!

Vienna Game 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd3 [C26]

Our last game in this update is Mamedyarov, S - Adams, M ECU Online Club Cup: Final 2021.

The last couple of years this setup has gained some popularity at the high level with shorter time controls. Adams followed the computer’s recommendation 5...Bc5, when 5...d5, which we considered in the game Dubov,D-So,W INT 2020 [Mikhalevski,V], is an interesting alternative. After 6.Bf4 d6 7.Qd2 Black played the natural 7...0-0, although 7...Be6 would be more accurate. White continued with 8.0-0-0 Be6 9.f3! and Michael started to err, first when he played 9...Nd7?!, then 11...a6? and, the final mistake, 16...c5? which already led to a lost position. After the first two he got an amnesty, but the final one led to a quick disaster. The 5.Qd3 line is a poisonous weapon and has to be given all due respect, 7...Be6 is a possible improvement on the game, while 5...d5!? is also interesting.


See you next month, Victor.

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