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Hello everyone,
This time the opening choice is wider, and I also decided to include two of my recent wins from the Israel Individual Championship 2010. You'll also see the very top of the chess world in action, as always.

Download PGN of December '10 1 e4 e5 games

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The Breyer Variation [C95]

Gashimov, V - Carlsen, M Nanjing 2010, saw a very interesting novelty in a line which has recently gained some popularity thanks to Gashimov himself:

In the diagram position given above White played 16.Ng3, instead of 16.Bg3 or 16.a4. This aggressive continuation is very interesting and allowed him to set Black some problems. Later probably 18.a4 is even more precise than 18.Rad1, but anyway, I'm expecting the 14.Bg5 line to gain more popularity.

The Exchange Variation [C68]

Caruana, F - Carlsen, M VI World Blitz Moscow 2010, featured a double-edged line of the Exchange Variation.

In this well-known position Carlsen suddenly played 11...Qg4 instead of the common 11...b6. Surprised by his opponent's choice Caruana played inaccurately, allowed Black to obtain the initiative and eventually win. Objectively speaking, starting with 11...b6 looks like the most precise move order, but Carlsen's 11...Qg4 may serve as a good surprise weapon.

The Berlin Wall [C67]

Polgar, J - Topalov, V Ajedrez UNAM KO rapid, saw a rare line chosen by Judith in a very popular position:

In this position, where White usually chooses between 11.b3 (the main line), 11.Bf4, and well, sometimes 11.Rd1 as you'll see below, Judith played 11.Ne4. Topalov reacted in a typical way and obtained a good position and only a later one move blunder allowed White to win the game. 11.Ne4 doesn't look like a real challenge to the Berlin.

I don't play the Berlin often, but on this occasion it seemed like a good choice: Gruenfeld, Y - Mikhalevski, V Israel Championship 2010. As I mentioned above White played the relatively rare 11.Rd1 here, which I met in a similar way to Topalov's play against Polgar and Ponomariov's against Svidler (the latter was annotated by Ponomariov in the previous update). I managed to achieve a dream position in this system:

White suffered from the weakness of the queenside and eventually succumbed to Black's pressure. The position which arose in Grischuk, A - Eljanov, P seems to be the most critical for the entire line, while Gruenfeld's 16.Nb5 is hardly a good idea.

Scotch [C45]

Sometimes blitz games turn out to be very important for theory, as is the case with the following encounter, Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S VI World Blitz Moscow 2010. The players were following the game Wang Hao-Karjakin,S/Al Ain 2008, for the first 17 moves, which led to the diagram position below:

Here Carlsen came with the improvement 18.Qf3. Some inaccuracies from Karjakin allowed Carlsen to obtain a very pleasant position with good chances for a win. However, White then returned the favour and thanks to some tough defending Karjakin saved half a point. In the line which occurred in the game Black has good chances to equalise, but it still requires further practical tests.

Nabaty, T - Mikhalevski, V Israel Championship 2010, saw another branch of this system - 10...g6 instead of Karjakin's 10...Ba6. The critical position arose after White's 12.Qc2:

I answered in a mistaken way and had to defend for a long time, and so my eventual win was in no way a result of good opening play. An interesting game with mutual mistakes. The opening line deserves further practical tests, but Black has to deviate from this game on move 12.

Four Knights [C49]

Caruana, F - Aronian, L VI World Blitz Moscow 2010, is another example of how a blitz game can be important for opening theory.

This position, which arose after White's 11.f4, has been known for almost a century! Aronian improved upon Yates' play from 1912 (!) by playing 11...Bxc3. An exchange of mistakes yielded Black an advantage, which he converted into a win, although not without some help from his opponent. Another confirmation that 7...Ne7 is a good weapon versus the Four Knights.

King's Gambit [C33]

Polgar, J - Topalov, V Ajedrez UNAM KO rapid, sees another rare appearance from the King's Gambit at a high level, though in a rapid game.

In the diagram position above, which arose after Black's 9...Nd7, Polgar improved upon her sister's play with 10.Re1. Topalov reacted pretty well and was in possession of the initiative until 15...Bf5?, from where on the game went downhill. The 3.Bc4 line chosen by Judith can hardly be recommended, but it may sometimes serve as a surprise weapon.


See you next month, Victor.

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