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Hello everyone,
We continue to cover the World Cup, this time its more advanced stages. In this update you’ll see games from the World Champion, the World Cup winner and other top players. I also added my own game that I played in an open tournament in the US. As usual, the focus is on the Spanish and the Italian Game. If you want to understand what modern chess is all about please pay attention to the game Duda-Vidit, World Cup 2021.

Download PGN of August ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Anti-Marshall 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 d6 [C88]

Bacrot, E - Carlsen, M World Cup (6.1) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In the diagram position above the French GM chose a relatively rare line with 10.Bd2, which the World Champion met with 10...Qd7, instead of more popular 10...b4. Bacrot answered it with the almost automatic 11.Nc3, although the old 11.h3 looks interesting. After 11...Na5 12.Ba2 Magnus played 12...c5, when the computer prefers 12...b4 and probably rightly so. Etienne replied with 13.Ne2, but 13.axb5! seems to set more problems. The players followed a correspondence game from 2004 for a few more moves, when Bacrot introduced a logical novelty 16.c3, instead of the 16.c4 seen in Louro,E-Giurgiu,N 2004. The position remained dynamically equal for the first 23 moves, but 24.f4? was a mistake and led to big problems for White.

10...Qd7 is a good way to meet the 10.Bd2 line, but 12...b4 looks safer than the 12...c5 of the game. White could try to take advantage of Black's move order by means of 13.axb5.

Spanish, Yurtaev system 7.a4 Rb8 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.d4 Bxd4 10.Qxd4 d6 [C78]

Durarbayli, V - Vidit, S World Cup (5.2) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In the well-known diagram position the Azeri player went for the 11.Bf4 line, which hasn’t scored well for White lately. Last year Nakamura beat the world champion with 11.f4. After the logical 11...c5 (Durarbayli preferred 11...0-0 in 2019) 12.Qe3 c4 13.Ba2 Black introduced a strong novelty, 13...Nh5!, instead of 13...0-0, which was played recently by Aronian. White answered with the slightly provocative 14.Nc3, when 14.Bxe5 deserved attention and led to a position of dynamic equality. Black continued logically 14...Nxf4 15.Qxf4 0-0 16.axb5 axb5 17.Rad1 Be6, but here 18.b4! would be more accurate than 18.Bb1, as in the game. However, the main mistake came on the next move after 18...b4, White played 19.Ne2?, when 19.Nd5 was necessary and still promised equal play. In the game the bishop on b1 got into a trap and was eventually lost.

A nice positional achievement for the Indian Grandmaster, 13...Nh5 looks like a strong novelty, which promises Black equal chances. Probably 11.f4 is a better attempt to fight for an opening advantage.

Spanish, Yurtaev system 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6 10.a5 Ba7 11.h3 Bb7 [C78]

Duda, JK - Vidit, S World Cup (6.2) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In the rather popular diagram position White played the fashionable 12.Be3. Earlier this year we considered 12.Re1. Vidit accepted the challenge and went for the most principled 12...Nxe4. The following sequence is forced: 13.d5 Bxe3 14.dxc6 Nxf2 15.Qe2! Nh3 16.Kh1 Nf2! 17.Rxf2 Bxf2. Only here White has some choice: he can either play 18.cxb7 or 18.Qxf2. The latter was chosen by the Polish player and the forced play continued up to 24...Kxf7. In the ensuing endgame Black has three pawns for a piece and the position is equal, but Black must be very precise and retain the balance and that’s exactly what Black failed to do. Black defended well for a while, but 31...Rf8 and 32...Re8 were slightly inaccurate. Nevertheless, Vidit retained chances for a draw had he played 34...c5, but instead he made a mistake, 34...Re2? and after 35.Kh1! it was all over.

A well-played game by Duda! Strong opening preparation and good endgame technique made their deal. Black's main mistake came on move 34, when Vidit played 34...Re2?, instead of the correct 34...c5. Black's play can also be improved by means of 31...Kh6. Also 25...b4 and 29...Re5 make sense.

Berlin endgame 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Be6 13.Ng5 Rh6 14.Rfe1 [C67]

Vachier Lagrave, M - Karjakin, S World Cup (5.1) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In the well-known diagram position given above Karjakin played a very rare move, 14...Rd8, instead of the common 14...Bb4. After 15.Rxd8 Black recaptured by 15...Kxd8, following a recent game of Radjabov, but 15...Bxd8 is also playable. Maxime replied with the critical 16.g4 and the Russian player deviated from the only preceding correspondence game, which saw 16...Nh4, by 16...hxg4 and after 17.hxg4 Nd4 18.Rd1 c5 19.Nxe6 Rxe6 20.Ne2 White won a pawn, but it turned out that Black was ready for this and had just enough play for the pawn. His attack on the queenside pawns with 24...Rc6!, 25....Rb6!, 26...Rc6! provoked a weakening of the queenside and soon White had to force a draw by a repetition of moves.

A well-played game, although most of it was Black's home preparation.14...Rd8 looks like a good way to equalise, so the ball is in White’s court.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3 [C45]

Melikyan, G - Mikhalevski, V Pacific Coast Open, Irvine 2021.

In the diagram position I decided to surprise my opponent with the not very popular 9...Bb7, but after 10.Bf4 0-0-0 11.0-0-0 my 11...Re8?! was inaccurate - I considered the correct 11...g5! in the game Nakamura,H-Sasikiran,K Istanbul TUR 2012. Fortunately, White returned the favour immediately with 12.Qc2?! when instead, 12.h4! promised White a clear edge. The game continued 12...g5! 13.Bg3 Bg7 and here White erred with 14.Bd3? (14.Re1 was necessary with good compensation for a pawn). After 14...h5! 15.h3 h4 16.Bh2 Bxe5 17.Re1 Qf6 I won a pawn and converted it into a win. Despite Black's win his 11...Re8 is dubious and leads to White's advantage after 10.h4! So 11...g5! is the way to go.

Italian, Giuoco Piano 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 a5 8.Nbd2 Be6 [C54]

Svidler, P - Cheparinov, I World Cup (3.3) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In the very popular position given above White played 9.Bxe6, instead of the main line 9.Bb5. After 9...fxe6 10.Nf1 Cheparinov continued with the rather logical 10...a4, but after 11.h3 Bb6 12.Be3 Bxe3 13.Rxe3 his 13...Qe8 was probably a little slow, 13...d5 creating tension in the centre deserved serious attention. In the game after 14.Ng3! Kh8 15.d4 White created favourable tension in the centre, 16.b4 looks a little premature, though, and 16.Qe2 was preferable. However, Ivan erred right away with 16...exd4? and came under serious pressure. Instead, 16...axb3 was necessary.

A convincing win by the 8-time Russian Champion. The opening line doesn't look dangerous for Black, whose play can be improved by means of either 11...Nh5 or 13...d5.

Giuoco Piano 5...a6 6.0-0 d6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.a4 h6 9.Nbd2 0-0 10.Nf1 Ne7 11.Ng3 [C54]

Grischuk, A - Korobov, A World Cup (4.2) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

In this already not very popular position Korobov chose a rare move order, 11...c6, although after 12.Bb3 Ng6 the players transposed to the more popular 11...Ng6, and after the next move 13.h3 to an even more popular position with an early h3. Black answered this with the most logical 13...d5 and after 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.d4 exd4 16.Nxd4 the players obtained a virtually symmetric position. The Ukrainian GM was up to the task and played the correct 16...Be6!, and so after a few more accurate moves he fully equalised.

Logical play by both sides. White needs to improve on his play if he wants to create opening problems. 13.d4 is one of the attempts to do so, but meanwhile the ball is in White 's court.

Giuoco Piano 5...d6 6.0-0 h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.h3 [C54]

Esipenko, A - Carlsen, M World Cup (5.2) Krasnaya Polyana 2021.

Since White delayed the move Nbd2 Carlsen decided to retreat his bishop to b6 with 8...Bb6, instead of more popular options 8...a5 and 8...a6. The game continued 9.Nbd2 Ne7 10.a4 c6 11.d4 Ng6 12.Bf1 Re8. Up to this moment the players followed the recent game Svidler,P (2714)-So,W (2770) Paris 2021, but here the young Russian star introduced a new move, 13.dxe5, when the 13. Qc2! played by Svidler looks stronger. Magnus’ reaction was correct, 13...Nxe5! 14.Nxe5, but 14...Rxe5! was more accurate than his 14...dxe5. Esipenko played 15.Qc2 and after accurate play from both sides the position was equal and the game was eventually drawn. The immediate 15.Nc4!? deserved serious attention.

The 13.dxe5 novelty doesn't seem to promise much if it's answered by means of 13...Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Rxe5! At the same time 13.Qc2!? seems to be a better attempt to set some problems.


See you next month, Victor.

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