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Hello everyone,
In this update you’ll see a comeback for the Open Spanish with no less than three games at a very high level, two of them by the world number three, Mamedyarov. I mixed this with three more top level games in the Spanish, Scotch and Italian and two games of my own.

Download PGN of August ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish Open Variation 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 d4 11.Bxe6 Nxe6 12 cxd4 Ncxd4 13.a4 [C80]

I would like to start with the game Navara, D - Mamedyarov, S 51st Biel GM 2018.

In this important diagram position the Azeri GM avoided the main line 13...Bb4 in favour of 13...Rb8. After the moves 14.axb5 axb5 15.Ne4, instead of 15...Be7 Shakhriyar demonstrated his home preparation, 15...Qd5!?, an extremely rare move. The game developed pretty logically after 17.Ng3, but Black’s 21...Ne6? was a mistake, which put Black on the edge of a precipice. Instead 21...Rhe8 was correct. The line with 13...Rb8 looks playable and deserves more practical tests.

Spanish Open, Keres Line 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Rd1 0-0 11.c4 bxc4 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Bc5 13.Be3 Bxe3 14.Qxe3 Qb8 15.Bb3 Na5 16.Nd4 [C81]

The critical line of the 9.Qe2 system with 16.Nd4 occurred in the game Wei Yi - Vidit, S 9th Hainan Dainzhou 2018.

Here Black played the critical 16...c5, which leads to massive exchanges by force. The players followed the well-known game Caruana, F - Giri, A, Shamkir 2016, for the first 28 moves, before the Indian player finally deviated with 28...Qc4, instead of Giri’s 28...Re8. This forced a rook endgame with an extra pawn for White, but good drawing chances for Black, who is going to exchange most of the pawns and that’s indeed what happened. An important game for the theory, which confirms that the 16...c5 line leads to equality.

Spanish Open Variation 9.c3, Dilworth Attack 13.Nf1 [C82]

The game Vachier-Lagrave, M - Mamedyarov, S 51th Biel GM 2018, saw the well-forgotten Dilworth attack:

The French GM just played the very rare 13.Nf1, which looks doubtful to me, as it allows Black to create a strong pawn centre. After the moves 13...Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 fxe5 15.Kg1 Qd6 he continued with the new, but dubious 16.Ng3?!, when the only preceding game, Darga,K-Larsen,B Copenhagen 1953, saw 16.Ng5, which is better than MVL’s move, but still doesn’t promise White any advantage. Black answered with 16...h6?! which was also inaccurate, as instead 16...Bg4 promised Black the upper hand. The French GM's weird opening choice of 13.Nf1 doesn't promise White any advantage, 13.exf6 is better.

Spanish, Yurtaev Defence 6.c3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 [C78]

In the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Kramnik, V 46th GM Dortmund 2018, Black surprised his opponent with an extremely rare, but interesting move in the diagram position given below:

Here Kramnik played 8...b4, instead of the almost automatic 8...Rb8. Nepo answered with the critical 9.d4 Ba7 10.Bg5! Rb8! 11.Bd5!, and after the forced 11...Ne7 he won a pawn by means of 12.dxe5 Nfxd5 13.exd5. The ex-champ was ready for this, though, and continued with the correct 13...0-0! The critical position occurred after 15...Nf5, which White answered with the natural 16.Nbd2, but this doesn’t promise any opening advantage. Instead 16.Qc1! seems to be the only chance to fight for the advantage. However, Kramnik was the first to err and his 17...Qf4? yielded White a clear advantage, which he converted into a win. 17...Re8 was better and promised Black full compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Despite Black's loss in the game the idea of 8...b4 looks very interesting and requires more practical tests.

Spanish, Smyslov Defence 4.c3 Bg7 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 a6 7.Be2 [C60]

Instead of the more common 7.Ba4 or 7.Bc4 the game Preotu, R - Mikhalevski, V Quebec Open, Montreal 2018, saw the extremely rare 7.Be2 retreat:

I answered White’s last move with the timely 7...d5! and after 8.e5 f6! it was White who had to be accurate in order to retain equality. However, Preotu’s 9.Bf4 was inaccurate and after 9...fxe5 10.Nxe5 Nge7! Black started to take over. This game proved that 7.Be2 doesn't promise White any advantage.

Spanish, Smyslov Defence 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 [C60]

My other game in the Smyslov Defence, Findlay, I - Mikhalevski, V 11th Calgary International 2018, saw the 5.Nxd4 line:

In my opinion this recapture doesn’t promise White any advantage, and 5.Bg5 is a better line. I reacted with the natural 5...Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 and after the slightly slow 8.f3 Ne5! I seized the initiative. It has to be said, though, that after the immediate 8.0-0 Ne7 followed by 9...d5 Black is also doing fine. The line chosen by White in this game favours Black, so White should look for alternatives on either the 4th or 5th move.

Giuoco Piano 6.Re1 d6 7.c3 h6 8.Nbd2 a5 9.Nf1 [C54]

In the game Vachier-Lagrave, M - Navara, D the players discussed one of the more popular lines in the Giuoco Piano:

In the diagram position Black played 9...Ne7, instead of the 9...Be6 which we considered earlier in Jakovenko, D -Svidler, P. After the natural 10.Bb3 Ng6 11.d4 Black retreated the bishop to a7, 11...Ba7, which may turn out to be slightly inaccurate, as instead 11...exd4! 12.cxd4 Bb4! was critical. In the game, though, Black then chose the wrong plan by 14...Nh7?! and 15...Ng5?, came under a strong attack and eventually lost. A very convincing win for the French GM. Black's play in this game has to be improved, and one of my suggestions is 11...exd4.

Scotch Opening 4...Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 0-0 8.Bg5 [C45]

The game Le Quang Liem - Fedoseev, Vl3 9th Hainan Danzhou 2018, saw the popular line with 5.Nb3.

White has just played 8.Bg5, instead of 8.Be3 which we considered earlier. The Russian GM answered it with the popular 8...h6 9.Bh4 Nd4 However, 11...g5? was wrong and could lead to White’s advantage had Le Quang Liem played 14.Qc2! instead of 14.exd5?!. 8.Bg5 doesn't seem to promise any advantage, but Black should avoid 11...g5? Instead both 11...c6 and 11...d5 are sufficient for equality.

See you next month, Victor.

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