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Hi everyone,
I am once again virtually ignoring the Spanish Opening this month, and instead looking at lines discussed on the Forum, and in particular the Scotch Game with 4...Nf6.

Download PGN of December '07 1 e4 e5 games

Bishop's Opening [C24]

It might be a bad sign for Scotch Game aficionados that Rublevsky seems to have switched to playing 2 Bc4 just recently!

It may be, on the other hand, that he decided to switch openings simply for surprise value - you can't afford to be too predictable in match play. In Rublevsky, S - Svidler, P, Peter played the critical continuation for Black, then introduced an interesting new move, before making an unclear piece for pawns sacrifice.

Scotch Game [C45]

I was very surprised to see Kamsky play the extremely unusual 4...Bxc5 5 Nxc6 bxc6!? in the game Carlsen, M - Kamsky, G:

So I quickly looked to see what John Emms says in his Scotch eBook: "although not that popular, it cannot be dismissed lightly", and indeed Kamsky equalised very easily with simple moves. Another arm for Black!


There was some comment on the Forum about the current penchant for 4...Bc5 (at least at the very highest levels), and asking quite what is wrong with 4...Nf6:

Actually, this is the move I've played most often myself, and I think the problem is that Black wastes a lot of time moving his knight to a very bad square (b6), and often finds that his light-squared bishop is misplaced on a6, too, when there is a solidly defended pawn on c4. Black's only hope is that he gets a sufficient lead in development to compensate for this, and his ruined queenside pawn structure as well, but my own experience is that Black can often get some interesting tactics, win a pawn, and still not be better, because of these very factors! Two of this month's games illustrate this point very well.

So, I think that Black has to play very sharply, and should also try to avoid playing ...Nb6 if he can help it. This brings me to the line 5 Nxc6 bxc6 6 e5 Qe7 7 Qe2 Nd5 8 c4 Ba6 9 b3 O-O-O!? 10 g3 g5 11 Bb2 Bg7:

Play usually continues 12 Nd2 Nb4 13 Nf3 Rhe8 and we see that Black has finished his development while attacking the e5-pawn (note that the g-pawn usefully threatens ...g4 to displace the defending knight):

Note that the black knight has managed to avoid retreating to b6 and has actually managed to take up a much more aggressive post. Furthermore, if White manages to navigate the tactics, Black has the strategic plan of ...c5, ...Nc6 and ...Bb7 to fall back on, when both these pieces will fulfill useful roles.

I think the critical move is 14 a3, here, leading to some exciting tactics, and an endgame where I think I may have found a way for Black to press for more than half a point, see Rublevsky, S - Onischuk, A.

Instead, the alternative 14 Bh3 was played in Jones, G - Gajewski, G, but a strong novelty from our 2007 king pawn hero seems to have put paid to this line for White!

Returning to the mainline, 9...g6, Gawain successfully tries a new idea for White in Jones, G - Ragger, M, and makes an interesting pawn sacrifice. Despite being a pawn up Black's poor queenside structure and misplaced knight mean that it is White who has all the chances.

Mieses Variation

Zelcic,R-Van den Doel,E revisits a line first played by Adams against Kasparov, 8...Nb6 9. Nc3 Qe6 10. Qe4 Ba6 11. b3 O-O-O 12. Bb2 Bb7 13. O-O-O Re8 14. f4 d5:

Black can get rid of his doubled pawn like this, but his pawn structure remains weaker than White's anyway, and although Black won this game I still think White has a theoretical edge out of the opening.

Two Knights [C78]

Again on the Forum, some time ago there was discussion of the move 8 Qf3!?, which was used by Short to beat Mark Hebden last year:

I think Black should answer this with 8...Rb8 9 Bd3 Be7, and to see the reasons why, click on Vallejo Pons, F - Inarkiev, E.

Siesta Variation [C74]

It is not often we see this played at super-GM level, so Grischuk, A - Najer, E was a real treat. Grischuk essayed Kasparov's dangerous line 6 exf5 Bxf5 7 d4 e4 8 d5 exf3 9 Qxf3!:

And won fairly easily, but could perhaps have won even more emphatically. I think Lautier's move 11...Qf7 is Black's only try.

I wish all my subscribers, past, present and future, a great Christmas! Till next year, Tony

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