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Hello everyone,
As usual autumn is rich in big tournaments: the Tal Memorial in Moscow, the German Bundesliga, the World Cup and many others with a lot of great games.
I had a hard task making my choice this month, but hope you won't be disappointed. The highlight is Gelfand twice defending the Petroff without any problems.

Download PGN of December '09 1 e4 e5 games

Berlin with 4...Bc5 [C65]

Svidler, P - Ivanchuk, V Tal Memorial 2009, saw an uncommon, but very sharp line:

Black has just played 11...a6, which was usually met by 12.Bxc6, instead Svidler played 12.Bc4, but achieved no advantage. Moreover, he even had to be accurate to equalize. The line which occurred in the game looks ok for Black, but more practical tests are necessary. Anyway, White has a good alternative in 8.Nc3.

Chigorin Defence [C97]

In the game Vachier Lagrave, M - Postny, E Bundesliga 2009-10, Black played a rare line in the Chigorin system.

Here White introduced the novelty 16.g4!? and soon obtained a slight, but lasting advantage, though not without Black's help. Nevertheless, Black defended well till 42...Ke7?, which allowed White to penetrate the kingside. Another mistake (51...Qb7?) put Black on the edge of a precipice, but White returned the favour and the game was eventually drawn. A very interesting game, which can serve as a good lesson on how to play such positions. The rare line with 12...Be6 looks interesting and I'm expecting it to attract further interest.

Scotch [C45]

The game Morozevich, A - Leko, P reached a popular theoretical position:

Here White introduced an interesting novelty, 9.Bd2 instead of the 9.Bd3 which allowed Black to equalise easily in Radjabov, T - Aronian, L Wijk aan Zee 2009. Morozevich obtained a pleasant advantage, but some inaccuracies allowed Black to escape with a draw. An interesting game, in which Morozevich managed to seize the advantage with a new plan, so the onus is now on Black to improve.

Carlsen won the World Blitz Championship rather convincingly. Intriguingly he played the same rare line of the Scotch no less than 4(!) times, so I decided that I have to give this line some attention. In Carlsen, M - Naiditsch, A, World Blitz Championship 2009, White has just played 6.Qe2, preparing 7.Be3:

Black reacted logically and even introduced the novelty 10...Be6!? However, the unfortunate move 16...Ne7? led to big difficulties. Jakovenko, who played 12...Nd7, also couldn't fully equalise. So the opening line chosen by Carlsen deserves further tests, and not just in blitz games.

Four Knights [C48]

The important last round game Sutovsky, E - Eljanov, P 17th TCh-Eur 2009, featured a relatively uncommon line of the Four Knights, but one that has been treated in some detail on this site:

Black has just played 4...Bd6 and afterwards obtained a good position out of the opening. White's "aggressive" play with 14.g4? allowed Black to seize an advantage and lead the game to a win. This game confirms that the line with 4...Bd6 is playable and it's not easy for White to find a way to any advantage. 14.g4? was the reason for White's problems, while 14.h5 would have led to interesting and nonstandard play.

Petroff Defence [C43]

Akopian, V - Gashimov, V, 17th TCh-Eur 2009, saw an interesting idea from the Armenian GM in the most topical line of the Petroff:

With his last move (17.Qc1!?, which Vladimir introduced earlier this year against Kasimdzhanov) White prepares 18.c4 and so Black tried to fight it by means of 17...Bf6 18.Qb2 Be4. This last move is a novelty, which didn't allow Gashimov to equalize, however. Already 19...Na5 was a mistake and allowed White to set Black serious problems, and only some White inaccuracies and a tough defence allowed Black to escape with a draw. A great save from the Azeri player, but Akopian's idea 17.Qc1 still seems to set some problems. Probably the exchange sacrifice (19...b6) should be tried, otherwise 18...Be4 is wrong. Anyway, the ball is in Black's court.

Another important theoretical line was reached in Leko, P - Gelfand, B Tal Memorial 2009. Gelfand repeated Kramnik's novelty 19...Bxa3 and the diagram position was reached after 20.Ng5 g6 21.Ne4:

Here he introduced an interesting novelty, 21...Qf5 instead of Kramnik's 21...Be7. The idea worked well and Black achieved a draw without any problems. An important game, which virtually puts paid to the line with 16.Bd3. I could be wrong, but I think White needs a really good idea in order to play it again.

Svidler decided to check Gelfand's preparation in the line with 8.Re1 in Svidler, P - Gelfand, B Tal Memorial 2009.

Earlier this year Gelfand defended this position against Radjabov by means of 25...Qc5, and though he achieved a draw, the players considered the endgame position to be slightly better for White. So this time Boris prepared the surprise 25...Rad8!, achieved a better version of the same endgame and equalized easily.

Another important game. Once again Gelfand's preparation was at the highest level. After this game it seems that the line with 8.Re1 also doesn't promise White any advantage.


See you next month, Victor.

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