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Most of the games featured in this month's update were played in the European Championships, where it seems to me that a lot of the tricky lines that proved successful in quick games these last few years are now being played OTB. Lots of amazing tactics and surprising reversals of fortune to enjoy!

Download PGN of April ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Danish Gambit 2 d4 exd4 3 Nf3 Bb4+ [C21]

Following the tricky move order 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Nf3 Black normally plays 3...Nc6 transposing into other lines, most probably the Scotch, but it could also become a Scotch Gambit or a Goring Gambit, for instance. However, Black can also try to take advantage of this move order and delay ...Nc6. One good way is by playing 3...Bb4+ and after 4 c3 dxc3 5 Nxc3 we reach a position where White has a small advantage in development, and free play, but Black has a good extra pawn:

I think that Black should now play a combination of ...Nc6, ...d6 and ...Bxc3+ with a solid setup and good control of e5 (see the notes) but in Bartel, M - Skvortsov, A play went in a different direction and Black was soon close to lost. However, White played imprecisely and Black found a terrific defensive resource that left him with a superior endgame.

Incidentally, many of the positions can also be reached from other move orders: 3 c3 dxc3 4 Nxc3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bb4 or 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 c3 dxc3 5 Nxc3 Bb4, etc.

Vienna Game 2...Nf6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d3 c6 5 f4 exf4 [C27]

I analysed 5...d5 a few months ago, and mentioned that 5...exf4 was also possible, and after 6 e5 d5 7 exf6 Black could play 7...Qxf6! when the threat of ...Qh4+ regains the piece.

In Najer, E - Bulmaga, I Black soon introduced an interesting novelty and play became very sharp with both kings misplaced, on d1 and d8, respectively. A little later Black won the a1-rook but his king was too exposed and White had various forced mates in 15 moves or more. Although rated 2666 White didn't actually find any of these mates, and maybe didn't even look for them, but won easily anyway.

Vienna Game: 2...Nf6 3 Bc4 c6 [C27]

Instead of the 3...Bc5 4 d3 c6 in the previous game, 3...c6 first is a similarly ambitious move, planning to expand in the centre with ...d7-d5 to attack the c4-bishop and block the a2-g8 diagonal:

However, already on move 7 White played a strong innovation in Nakamura, H - Grigoriants, S and should have been much better. This being a quick game, though, he slipped up and then to compound matters he castled long which should have lost immediately. Black to play and win:

Nevertheless, somehow White survived, first reaching a level position and then a clear advantage, but the game see-sawed dramatically towards the end and, even when White queened his a-pawn and was a queen for a bishop ahead, Black first missed a forced win, then a forced draw involving a standard fortress, before losing. Exciting stuff!

Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 c4 Be7 [C42]

Following 5 c4 Be7 White's most popular move is 6 d4, but 6 Nc3 is played almost as often, and after the further 6...Nxc3 7 dxc3 0-0 8 Bd3 the position resembles the 5 Nc3 mainline, except that the c2-pawn is on c4, which gives White more control of the centre:

White often puts his queen on c2 to attack h7 and then prepares to castle queenside, just as in the 5 Nc3 line, but Black has plenty of resources. In Saric, I - Milosevic, M White played a new move and soon transposed into a favourable endgame with an extra, albeit doubled and isolated, pawn. After that his technique was impeccable.

Giuoco Piano 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 b4 [C54]

Victor analysed the tricky line 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 b4 Bb6 7 e5 in a Dubov game a couple of years ago, but there Karjakin played 7...Ne4. In Beerdsen, T - Kovalev, V we consider the mainline 7...d5 8 exf6 dxc4 which looks a bit like a Max Lange Attack:

Black is fine, and may even be better, but he really has to know what he is doing, see my annotations.

Two Knights 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 d5 6 Bb5 Nd7 7 0-0 Be7 8 Bxc6 bxc6 9 Nxd4 Nb8 [C56]

Following 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 d5 6 Bb5 Nd7 7 O-O Be7 8 Bxc6 bxc6 9 Nxd4 Nb8 10 Nc3 O-O 11 Qf3 a5 12 Bf4 Ra6! 13 Rad1:

Two interesting and successful novelties for Black feature in the game Pap, M - Vocaturo, D - White is definitely in need of some good ideas in this line. Notice that it is positionally correct to place the black centre pawns on dark squares as they then both impede the white bishop and allow Black's other, light-squared, bishop to dominate the light squares.

This game is a good example of how you should never let your concentration slip for an instant, as Black was grinding out a win in the endgame but then carelessly allowed a drawing tactic, literally from nowhere. Very fortunately for Black, White missed it too!

Two Knights 8 Bd3 Nd5 9 Nf3 Bd6 10 0-0 0-0 11 Re1 f5!? [C58]

After 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 Na5 6 Bb5+ c6 7 dxc6 bxc6 8 Bd3 Nd5 9 Nf3 Bd6 10 O-O O-O 11 Re1 f5 12 Nxe5 Qf6 13 Nf3 g5 14 c4 Nf4 15 Bf1 g4 16 d4 gxf3 17 Qxf3 Ne6 I've examined the main move 18 Qc3 a couple of times, but recently I noticed that 18 c5!? was scoring much better:

White always gets a lot of play for his piece, but, on closer examination I believe that Black is (at least) fine in a couple of different ways.

The game Guliyev, N - Kollars, D is a must-see from move 36 onwards, with clever and surprising tactics for both players (including a discovered check from a king!), and where Black probably should have been happy with a draw by perpetual, as his winning attempt could have backfired and succumbed to some more amazing tactics.

I should also mention the 'simple' endgame with a piece more for Black from move 57 on, which turned out to be so difficult, in fact, that the game swung back and forth from drawn to won several times.

Spanish 3...Nge7 4 0-0 Ng6 5 c3 a6 6 Ba4 d5 [C70]

After 3...Nge7 4 0-0 Ng6 5 c3 a6 6 Ba4 (3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 0-0 Ng6 6 c3 is an alternative move order) the central counter 6...d5! has recently become even more popular than the classical Steinitz move 6...d6. Alonso Garcia, A - Kollars, D continued 7 exd5 Qxd5 8 d4 Bg4:

White soon introduced a novelty, but Black was quickly better and converted inexorably.

White will have to look elsewhere for an advantage.

Until next month, Tony.

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