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Hello everyone,
This update is slightly different from the previous ones as I have concentrated on an opening which I hadn't personally covered on our pages yet, namely the Philidor Defence. This is due to a request from one of our subscribers, Philip Adams, who correctly pointed out my omission. However, you're also gonna see a big variety of other opening lines and some important novelties from recent top level chess.

Download PGN of December '13 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish - The Marshall Attack [C89]

The game Saric, I - Topalov, V 2nd Danube Cup 2013, featured an old line of the Marshall Attack.

White introduced a dubious novelty in the diagram position, 20.Bd1?!, but Topalov's reaction was wrong and White obtained an advantage. Nevertheless, Black retained good drawing chances throughout the game, but his mistake at the very end allowed White to win the game. Basically, nothing new was introduced in this game as Black could have transposed to the game Vachier Lagrave, M - Svidler, P/Donostia ESP 2009 by means of 20...f3!, obtaining a promising position.

Norwegian or Aronian Variation 4...Nge7 [C70]

This rare opening line occurred in the game Pavasovic, D - Aronian, L 19th European Team Championships 2013.

In the diagram position White erred first with 8.0-0, and then with 11.Ne2, and got into trouble. Black converted his advantage into a win without any visible problems. A relatively easy win for the Armenian player which fully justified his opening tactics. I believe 4...Nge7 may gain more popularity in the near future as players are getting tired of playing the classical lines.

Scotch Four Knights 8...Re8 [C47]

The game Areshchenko, A - Aronian, L 19th European Team Championships 2013, featured a rare line in a well-known position.

In the diagram position Black played 8...Re8, instead of 8...d5, but this time Aronian's tactics didn't work the way he intended and White obtained a slight edge after Black's slight inaccurate 19...Ba6. However, White returned the favour by 30.Rd2 and 31.e6 and despite Black's extra pawn the game was eventually drawn. The line with 8...Re8 is playable and can serve as a surprise weapon.

Four Knights Mainline 7...Ne7 [C49]

I recently played in the Israel Open Championship 2013, which featured a lot of young, but promising players. The following is a game from that tournament: Reshef, O - Mikhalevski, V Israel Open Championship 2013.

I've just played the old 7...Ne7 line, which is gaining popularity, and Reshef answered it with the extremely rare 8.Ba4. I reacted pretty well and obtained an extra piece for two pawns, but underestimated his attacking potential (16...Be6 instead of 16....Bd7!) and White equalised. White's opening idea 8.Ba4 and 9.Bb3 doesn't set Black any problems and so White is still to find a way to deal with the old line of 7...Ne7.

The King's Bishop's Gambit 3.Bc4 d5 [C33]

Axelrod, A - Mikhalevski, V Israel Open Championship 2013, saw an old line of the King's Gambit Accepted. I was well-prepared and reached a good position, see the following diagram:

Here I played 10...Bf5!?, when 10...Nbd7! would be even better, but 12...Nd7?! and 14...f6?! could have cost me dearly. Fortunately White returned the favour and I won a piece and obtained a winning position - it was only my later inaccuracy in time trouble that allowed White to equalise. The opening line with 3...d5 can be recommended for Black and leads to a comfortable position - the current game hasn't changed this evaluation.

Philidor Defence Hanham Variation with 5...Be7 [C41]

The game Navara, D - Jobava, B 19th European Team Championships 2013, featured the Philidor Defence with 10.b3.

In the diagram position White introduced the novelty 16.Qe3, but Black was up to the task and equalised with accurate play. When Black started to take over the initiative he was already short of time and his three consecutive mistakes on moves 28-30 turned the tables. The opening line explored in this game leads to long manoeuvring play, where a better understanding of typical positions is of a higher importance than concrete lines. I will not be surprised to see many more practical tests of this slightly passive, but solid position from Black's perspective.

In the game Kamsky, G - Ivanchuk, V 19th European Team Championships 2013, Black introduced a dubious novelty:

Here he played 13...f6?! and then erred again with 14...Nc7? in an already unpleasant position. Kamsky exploited these mistakes convincingly and won in style. A crushing victory for the American GM, but Black's dubious novelty 13...f6 can't be recommended.

Philidor Defence with 5...exd4 [C41]

The rather uncommon 5....exd4 line occurred in the game Wang Hao-Giri,A FIDE GP Beijing 2013.

In this critical diagram position White decided to sacrifice a piece to gain the initiative by 7.Bxf7+!?, and his play was justified as Black very soon started to err. A great win for the Chinese super GM! Instead, in a recent game Black's 13th move ...d5 was improved by 13...Rg8 and Black won convincingly in Horvath, A - Berkes, F/Gyula HUN 2013. Although the line with 5...exd4 is playable, you have to be ready to patiently defend a position with an extra piece for two pawns, where your king is coming under attack.

Season's Greetings!

See you next month, Victor.

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