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Hello everyone,
In this update I'll be covering a few top level tournaments, such as the World Championship match, the Russian championship, the London Classic and finally, one of the strongest open tournaments in the world, the Qatar Open. So top level chess, as usual, while opening-wise you're gonna see some older openings: a King's Gambit, some side lines of the Italian, Giri's remarkable 4.h3 in the Four Knights and, of course, the Spanish.

Download PGN of December '14 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish - The Archangel with 10.a5 [C78]

The game Kryvoruchko, Y - Duraberli, V Qatar Masters 2014, saw the 10.a5-line of the Archangel variation.

The Azeri player introduced an interesting novelty in the diagram position, 15...exd4. White's reaction was wrong and Black obtained a slight edge. An interesting fighting game, Black's novelty 15...exd4 makes sense and deserves more practical tests.

Spanish - The Berlin Wall with 9...Bd7 [C67]

The 11th game of the world championship match Carlsen, M - Anand, V Sochi 2014, featured an interesting opening setup in the 9...Bd7 branch of the Berlin.

Anand introduced the logical novelty 14...Be6 in the position given above. His spectacular 23...b5 is worth mentioning, as it allowed him to seize the initiative, however, a little later he played three dubious moves in a row 26...Rb8, 27...Rb4 and 28...cxb4. Carlsen was merciless and ended the match with a win in what could have been a tough game for him.

A very interesting game! Anand obtained a very promising position from the opening, but couldn't hold his nerves. Meanwhile, the World Champion kept his cool and met Black's gamble with very strong play and then converted his material advantage convincingly despite the complexity of the ensuing position.

Spanish - Anti-Berlin with 4.d3 [C65]

The popular Anti-Berlin line with 4.d3 occurred in the game Yu Yangyi-Kramnik,V Qatar Masters 2014.

The Chinese GM chose the 5.Bxc6 line, which is gaining popularity, introduced an interesting novelty in the diagram position, 12.Nd2, and then outplayed the former world champ in good positional style. An uncharacteristic loss for Kramnik, who created weaknesses in his own position and then lost them all. However, we should give credit to Yu Yangyi as he managed to put Kramnik in this unpleasant situation, in which Vladimir was unable to solve his opening problems in a more standard way. The ball is in Black's court, but I would recommend either playing 12...Qd7 or 7...d6.

Italian - Jobava's line with 7.Be2 [C54]

The Georgian GM played his pet line with 7.Be2 in the game Jobava,B-Anton Guijarro,D Qatar Masters 2014. The players followed the game Jobava-Malakhov for the first 11 moves and reached the diagram position:

Here Baadur prepared the novelty 12.Be3 (instead of 12.a3, which he played against Malakhov). Then the young Spaniard fell into a well-hidden trap, his 14...Raf8 was strongly met by 15.Nxb6 axb6 15.Ne5! and White seized the initiative. Soon White returned the favour, but won the game thanks to Black's later mistakes, possibly made in time-trouble. White's novelty 12.Be3 leads to a playable, but roughly equal position, as Black's play can be improved by means of 14...Rg6 instead of 14...Rf8.

Italian with 5.b4 [C54]

An old line of the Italian with 5.b4 was seen in Jobava, B - Hovhannisyan, R Qatar Masters 2014.

Here Jobava played an uncommon line with 7.Nd2, instead of 7.a4, and then introduced the weird looking 12.g3. However, Black then committed a number of mistakes, which White exploited skilfully.

A convincing win for the Georgian GM. The line with 7.Nd2 was insufficiently studied and deserves more attention than it attracted before. Nevertheless, Black shouldn't have any problems.

Scotch Four Knights with 10.h3 [C47]

Kramnik's line with 10.h3 occurred in the game Morozevich, A - Karjakin, S RUS-ch 2014.

In the quite rare diagram position Karjakin played 13...Be7 instead of the 13...Bd6 which was played in Kryvoruchko, Y - Pashikian, A. Morozevich managed to set Black some problems, but missed a nice escape. Lucky Karjakin! After misplaying a rather equal position he got the favour returned and escaped with a draw. The ball is now in Black's court, who has to demonstrate a more accurate way to equalise.

Four Knights with 4.h3 [C47]

The game Giri, A - Kramnik, V London Classic 2014, saw a surprising idea very early in the game:

In this position, which has been known for centuries, Giri played the extremely rare 4.h3. Kramnik got over-ambitious and his gambling 17...Nxh3? led to irreversible effects. A brilliant win for Giri, who completely outplayed Kramnik and struck back after his recent loss in Qatar. Even though 4.h3 was played only in rapid games I won't be surprised to see it played with the classical time rate too, as the tendency nowadays is to play 'playable' positions instead of trying to win the game straight from the opening.

King's Gambit Accepted with 3...d5 [C36]

In the game Zvjagintsev, V - Jakovenko, D 67th ch-RUS 2014, White played the line with 5.Bb5, but Black was up to date and obtained a good position.

In this extremely rare position White improved upon two preceding games from low-rated players with 11.Bd3, but his inaccuracy 14.Bd2?! led to an inferior position. A tough game. The players couldn't avoid mistakes, but the character of the position suggests that it's difficult to play correctly as most of the positional lines were avoided. Opening-wise Jakovenko proved that one shouldn't expect to hope for any advantage in the King's Gambit if Black knows what he is doing. The line chosen by Jakovenko was at least sufficient for equality.


See you next month, Victor.

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