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Every month there seem to be more strong OTB tournaments, together with all the usual Internet ones, and even more interesting king pawn games for me to analyse! In this update I have looked at several rare lines for Black that are actually rather good, and which often catch-out unsuspecting opponents!

Download PGN of August ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 Nxe4 [C42]

I always thought that this move was just a beginner's blunder until someone played it against me in a blitz game and I didn't get any advantage. So I had a look at it and played it myself as black in a few blitz games with good results. 2600+ GM Ponkratov is the main specialist and has very good results with it. The mainline continues 4 Qe2 Qe7 5 Qxe4 d6 6 d4 dxe5 7 dxe5 Nc6:

Black attacks e5 and plans to move his c8-bishop and castle queenside with good development. See Popilski, G - Dardha, D which should teach you everything you need to know to play this as Black.

A word of warning for anyone who has this position as White: be careful about putting your dark-squared bishop on f4!

Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nd3 Nxe4 5 Qe2 Qe7 6 Nf4 Nf6 [C42]

Only a couple of months ago I looked at Van Foreest, J - Bjerre, J which continued with 6...Nc6, and I mentioned that 6...Nf6 “might be safer”:

Matthias Bluebaum is a very, very strong GM and yet in McShane, L - Bluebaum, M he gets positionally crushed after 7 d4 Qxe2+ 8 Bxe2 Nc6 9 c3 d5 and now the novelty 10 h4!?. Still, objectively Black is probably OK, although I wouldn't fancy playing this line as black myself.

Scotch Four Knights 5...Nxe4 6 Nxe4 Qe7 7 f3 [C47]

I mentioned this possibility a few months ago, in the February update and actually tried it myself in a few blitz games, winning easily each time. The key position occurs after 7...d5 8 Bb5 Bd7 9 Bxc6 bxc6 10 0-0 dxe4 11 Re1 0-0-0 12 Rxe4:

Many years ago Nigel Davies only considered 12...Qf6, but now Black has two other interesting queen moves. Which one is best? To find out have a look at the extensive notes to Mahdavi, R - Bluebaum, M where the German GM comes out on top this time.

Giuoco Piano, Pomtow Attack 7 Nbd2 Nxe4 8 d5 Bxd2+ [C54]

I thought last month that I probably wouldn't need to look at the Pomtow Attack again for a while. However, after 7 Nbd2 Nxe4 8 d5 Nxd2 9 Bxd2 Bxd2+ 10 Qxd2 Ne7, rather than 11 d6, Van Foreest, J - Navara, D continued with 11 0-0-0:

Later the young Dutch GM sacrificed a piece and won a spectacular battle. Another interesting novelty (in the notes) from Kosteniuk, involving a Greek gift, scored a win for White but, as I mentioned last month, White has a far stronger move just before which renders this novelty rather pointless!

Incidentally, I mentioned the possibility of 11 h4 in March and this has now received some tests, see the notes again.

Two Knights 5...Na5 6 Bb5+ c6 7 dxc6 bxc6 8 Be2 h6 9 Nh3 [C59]

I noticed that Aronian has been playing Steinitz's move quite a lot recently, with good results, so I decided to have a look at some of these in Aronian, L - Tari, A.

White will often continue with 10 d3, 11 0-0 and then 12 Kh1 to relocate the offside knight via g1, and should Black capture on h3 (as here) then White can bring his rook to g1 and exploit the open g-file.

Meanwhile, nowadays Back normally refrains from capturing on h3, and often prefers ...Na6-b7-c5/d6 or ...c6-c5 and ...Na5-c6, with adequate play for the pawn, see the notes.

Spanish, Exchange Variation 5 O-O Bg4 6 h3 Bh5 7 g4 Bg6 8 Nxe5 Bd6 [C68]

In the March update I looked at the game Leonova, A - Repka, C, and I wrote that “In fact, it seems that Black can play the computer-approved ...f7-f5 even earlier, with excellent chances”. So, it was no great surprise when I saw that this move received its first outing in July:

And, as you will see in Kucza, K - Janik, I, the move passed its first test with flying colours! Black played very well and was completely winning, but White never gave up and somehow managed to setup a strange fortress after Black slipped up.

Spanish 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 d3 b5 6 Bb3 Bc5 7 Bg5 [C77]

Rapport, R - Ding, L was played in round 10 of the candidates and features really nice opening play from Black after the following diagram position:

Black was doing well but then he took a hot pawn and the game exploded into life. Rapport finding amazing attacking resources and Ding finding tough defensive moves. Objectively the game should have been drawn, there are so many potential perpetual checks in the notes, but White took one risk too many, which allowed Black to brilliantly sacrifice a piece and transpose into a winning endgame an exchange down.

Closed Spanish, 7...d6 8 c3 Na5 9 Bc2 c5 10 d4 cxd4 11 cxd4 Bg4 [C90]

In his October 2021 update Victor looked at the fantastic game Maghsoodloo, P - Santos Latasa, where Black sacrificed a piece with 14...Nxg4!?. In his notes he mentioned that 12 dxe5 “is the critical test of Black's play” and so I was happy to get a chance to look at this move with the strong Ukrainian GM Vitaly Bernadskiy handling the black pieces. The line continues 12...Bxf3 13 Qxf3 dxe5:

Here White has the bishop pair, but Black will castle and then centralise his knight by ...Nc6-d4. To me this line looks perfectly playable for Black, see the analysis in Samant, A - Bernadskiy, V.

Until next month, Tony.

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