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Welcome to my last update for a while, featuring the usual selection of interesting novelties and exciting attacks. Also, I mentioned last month that I had received an interesting subscriber email on the optimum move order in the 3...Nge7 Spanish and I have answered that down below.

Download PGN of August ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Scotch Four Knights Belgrade Gambit 5 Nd5 Nb4 [C47]

It's been a while since we last looked at the Belgrade Gambit, it might not be so trendy but it still has its adherents and can be very dangerous. Following 5 Nd5 the reply 5...Nb4 is Black's highest scoring move, but after 6 Bc4 Nbxd5 7 exd5 Bb4+, rather than the limp 8 Bd2 that GM Paul Motwani looked at two decades ago, White's best move is 8 Kf1!:

In Mazur, S - Pechac, J White then played a powerful novelty and was soon completely winning, but somehow allowed his strong opponent to wriggle out in an opposite-coloured bishop endgame.

Giuoco Piano 5 c3 0-0 6 Nbd2 a6 7 0-0 Ba7 8 Re1 d6 9 Bb3 Ng4 [C54]

Right at the very beginning of ChessPublishing GM Paul Motwani considered the position after 8 Re1 d6 9 Bb3 Ng4 10 Re2 Kh8 11 h3 followed by 11...Nh6 12 Nf1 f5 and Black won a brilliancy in Bus,M-Dubiel,J. However, what if Black doesn't even bother to move the knight back but instead plays 11...f5:

White can't capture the knight, so has to take on f5 when the knight must surely move. Normally it drops back to h6, but in Radzhabov, R - Bernadskiy, V Black sacrificed on f2 instead! This had worked well in the only previous outing, but here White found a strong improvement that casts doubt on Black's idea. Still, the practical problems are considerable and Black soon got back into the game, and eventually triumphed.

Giuoco Piano 5 d3 d6 6 0-0 a5 7 Re1 h6 8 Nbd2 0-0 9 h3 a4 [C54]

After 6 0-0 a5 7 Re1 h6 8 Nbd2 0-0 9 h3 the space-gaining advance 9...a4 is a high-scoring move for Black. Black can advance this pawn even further, bring his queen to a7 and sometimes even use the freed a5 square for a rook lift across to e5.

However, Rapport came well prepared and soon innovated with a strong prophylaxis move. Black was caught off guard and a few moves later White managed to use the e4 square to swing his own rook across to the kingside with a winning attack. Don't miss the brilliant game Rapport, R - Gukesh, D.

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

Back to the modern 'tabia' 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 18 Qc3:

Here 18...Nb7 is the most common, but it's passive and so Black often prefers to simply leave the knight hanging. In Moussard, J - Keymer, V the strong young German GM played the rare but interesting 18...c5!? and won an exciting game, but in the notes I also have a good look at Demchenko's preferred 18...Qh4, aiming for a kingside attack.

Spanish, Demchenko System move order [C60]

On to the 'pièce de résistance'. One of our subscribers asked: “I am a bit confused for Black in the move order of the Demchenko system. Black sometimes delays ...a7-a6, which I liked at first, but I am concerned with White playing Bc4 instead of Ba4.” He kindly sent a base to explain further, and his questions set me thinking quite a bit.

Spanish 3...Nge7 4 c3 d5 [C60]

We start with 3...Nge7, and after 4 c3 d5 he writes: “If I understood correctly, this version of ...d5 against c3 is nice for black with the bishop still on b5.”

Well, this was intriguing as I wasn't even aware of this line, so I found a couple of recent games from Tari and I have had a good look at the position. The conclusion? He is right, Black is fine! See Katz, A - Tari, A for all the details.

Note that this position is actually bad for Black with the black pawn on a6 and white bishop on a4, see the notes for the reason why.

Spanish 3...Nge7 4 0-0 Ng6 5 c3 a6 6 Bc4 [C60]

After 4 0-0, instead of 4 c3, 4...a6 5 Bc4 “is the move my computer seems to like a lot (over 70%!)” Indeed, it reminds me of the line 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 Bb3 which we saw in Pavasovic,D-Aronian,L, but here White gets to the a2-g8 diagonal a move earlier, and Black has to defend against the threat of Ng5. I agree that this should be avoided.

Instead of 4...a6 Black should play 4...Ng6, in my opinion, and only after 5 c3 a6. Now our intrepid subscriber mentions that 6 Ba4 d5 “once again is good for Black” and 6...Bc5 “is also very appealing to me”, me too, for what it's worth! However, he points out that White scores 61% with 6 Bc4, instead, but I have had a long think about this and I am very happy with Black's chances for several reasons. Firstly, now there is no threat to capture on c6 and so Black needn't bother with ...Bd7 after ...d6. Second, the threat of Ng5 is easily dealt with by natural development, 6...Be7, controlling g5. On the further 7 d4 d6 Black also doesn't have to worry about a later d4-d5 and an exchange of light-squared bishops.

You can find all this in the brilliant attacking game Kamsky, G - Sadhwani, R which also illustrates Black's coming plan: ...Kh8 and ...f7-f5, or even a possible alternative involving ...g7-g5 and ...Rg8 - see the notes.

So. many thanks for the thought-provoking question. Curiously, the conclusion is that Black should only play ...a7-a6 when his knight is not on e7!

Spanish 3...Nge7 4 Nc3 Ng6 5 d4 Nxd4 6 Nxd4 exd4 7 Qxd4 [C60]

On a similar theme, but completely by chance, the only World Cup game I actually followed was Lagarde, M - Praggnanandhaa, R which started 3...Nge7 4 Nc3 Ng6 5 d4 Nxd4 6 Nxd4 exd4 7 Qxd4 c6 8 Be2 Qb6 9 Qd3 Be7 10 f4 (a novelty) 10...0-0 11 h4!?:

This looks very dangerous, offering the h-pawn to open the h-file or else advancing it to h5 to dislodge the g6 knight and then break up the black king's protection. However, Black wasn't phased, struck back in the centre and then sacrificed material in return for a raging attack. His subsequent play was absolutely brilliant, almost tactical perfection, this game is a must see!

Closed Spanish 5 d3 d6 6 c3 g6 7 h3 Bg7 [C60]

Finally, I was undecided about including the next game, but it does illustrate a strong plan for Black that was also favoured by Victor in similar positions. Following 8 Be3 0-0 9 Nbd2, Black's best move, in my opinion, is the rare 9...Nd7!:

Black's main threat is ...f7-f5-f4, trapping the bishop, but there is also the potential manoeuvre ...Nc5-e6, controlling d4 and f4. White is soon objectively lost in Martinez Alcantara, J - Jones, G, although he does try to create maximum confusion with a double piece sacrifice to expose the black king. Exciting!

Next month I am handing the section over to former British Champion Harry Grieve, who will doubtless bring his own personal king pawn point of view. Tony.

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Please post your Kingpawn Opening queries on the 1 e4 e5 Forum, or subscribers can write to if you have any questions.