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Hello everyone,
This time I based my update on the extremely strong Saint Louis tournament, while adding a couple of my own games from Calgary, the last tournament on my summer tour. The Italian Opening is in fashion and so you will see three games in this old, but yet, ever new opening.

Download PGN of August ’16 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. Marshall Attack with 12.d3 [C89]

I'm trying hard not to miss important games in this opening, as these days White really needs a good idea in order to fight for any opening advantage in this line. In Vachier Lagrave, M - Svidler, P, Biel 2016, here is the position after 19.Rxe4:

Now Peter decided to go for a pretty rare line with 19...f5, instead of the more popular 19...Rae8 (as in Anand, V - Svidler, P/Khanty-Mansiysk RUS 2014). The French GM managed to consolidate his advantage and Black was under some pressure, as White had the bishop pair advantage. However, Svidler was still in the game before blundering into a lost bishop endgame with 29...a5?! and 30...bxc4? It has to be said that Black didn't manage to solve his opening problems and so the ball is now in his court, though Black has several ways to deviate from the line which occurred in the game.

Spanish. Anti-Marshall with 8.a4 [C88]

Another of Svidler's games,Topalov, V - Svidler, P 4th Sinquefield Cup 2016, saw a deviation from the Marshall with 8.a4.

Here Topalov went for 11.Bxe6, which was mostly tested by computers, instead of the more common 11.Nbd2. Svidler then introduced the novelty 12...d5, and though his position remained slightly worse he wasn't normally going to lose before blundering with 25...Rb4?? I expect more tests of the 11.Bxe6 line in human practice.

Spanish with 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 [C84]

The game Caruana, F - Topalov, V, 4th Sinquefield Cup 2016, saw a transposition into a Spanish with 5.d3.

Caruana introduced an early novelty in the diagram position, 10.Ba2, but Black was up to the task and White had to be happy with a draw. Caruana's 10.Ba2 didn't set Black problems in the current game, but White may come back to it later, looking for ways to improve upon his play. Nevertheless, the ball is in White's court.

Spanish. Berlin Wall with 9...Ke8 [C69]

In the game Vachier - Lagrave, M - Nakamura, H, 4th Sinquefield Cup 2016, the players went for a fashionable line of the Berlin system with 9...Ke8 and 10...h5.

Here Nakamura introduced a new idea, 18...Nd5 instead of the 18...Bxa2 that was played in a few preceding games, including the recent Vachier Lagrave, M - Carlsen, M/Stavanger NOR 2016. The idea has later been tested in a blitz match between the same players on Hikaru managed to solve his problems, but only after the inaccurate 28.Ke4? Instead, after 28.g5! Black would face serious problems. Black's plan can also be improved, in particular 26... and 27...Rd6 were worth attention. The Berlin endgame has been studied intensively, but there is still room for improvements and so I'm pretty sure we're going to see even more games with it, including the line which occurred in the game.

Four Knights with 7...Ne7 [C49]

In the game Shi, Diwen - Mikhalevski, V 9th Calgary international 2016, both players followed the important game Wei Yi - Mamedyarov, S/Tromso NOR 2013, and reached the following diagram position:

Here White deviated from the aforementioned game with 21.Rd6, though the move shouldn't change much and the position remains equal without any doubt. However, my opponent made a few inaccurate moves and eventually found himself in a lost, study-like endgame:

This game confirmed the assessment of this line as equal, and also showed that there is a place for mistakes even in positions which look dead-drawn.

Italian with 5.d4, Jobava line with 7.Be2 [C54]

The game Preotu, R - Mikhalevski, V 9th Calgary international 2016, saw a well-known transposition from the Scotch Gambit into the Italian with 5.d4.

In this already extremely rare position I came up with the strong novelty 13...Ne7. However, 16...c5 was a blunder. I got back into the game after White's mistakes 18.Ng4? and 21.Bg5?!, but miscalculated with 21...Qxg5?? and duly lost. The Jobava line with 7.Be2 shouldn't promise any opening advantage, though Black should undermine the centre by means of ...f6 and not ...f5.

Italian with 5.d3 and 6...h6 [C54]

In the game So, W - Aronian, L 4th Sinquefield Cup 2016, the Armenian GM played a rather rare line with 6...h6 and prepared an interesting novelty in the diagram position:

Here Levon played 9...Nxf2! which promises roughly equal chances. However, Wesley's inaccurate 14.Qd2?! could already have given Black some edge, but Aronian returned the favour with 14...g5?! (instead of 14...Ne5) and the game was eventually drawn. A very interesting game, which proves that the idea of 6...h6 is worth serious attention.

Italian with 5.d3 and 6...d5 [C54]

Finally, the game Anand, V - So, W 4th Sinquefield Cup 2016, featured the aggressive setup with 6...d5.

In the diagram position Black went for the pretty rare, but principled 8...Nb6. The players followed the recent game Milliet, S - Hammer, J/Drancy FRA 2016, for the first 14 moves before Anand introduced a new move, 15.Re1, but Black was up to the task and the game was eventually drawn. The idea of 8...Nb6 is interesting, but requires more practical tests as White hasn't exhausted all his options. In particular, both 18.d4 and 16.Nbd2 are worth a try.

See you next month, Victor.

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