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Hello everyone,
In this update you can see a short but interesting tactical battle in Aronian's pet line (in Aronian-Karjakin), a nice positional win of Topalov's against Nakamura in the Berlin, a convincing equalization from Carlsen in his game against MVL, in an Open Spanish sideline, and many more instructive examples from elite players.

Download PGN of December ’19 1 e4 e5 games

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Open Spanish 6...Be7 7.Re1 b5 8.Rxe4 d5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.Rxe5 bxa4 11.b3 [C84]

The game Vachier Lagrave, M - Carlsen, M 11th London Classic 2019, featured a sideline of the Open Spanish with 6...Be7, which I recently played against Blomquist in The European Team Championships 2019.

I played 13...Qd6 in the diagram position, while Magnus followed my recommendation and preferred 13...Re8, played by Radjabov in 2013. After 14.Rxe8 Qxe8 Maxime played a new move 15.Qd2, but failed to obtain any advantage after 15...Bf5!. Balogh’s 15.Nb1 doesn’t promise any advantage either. Conclusion: 11.b3 promises no advantage for White.

Berlin Defence 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.h3 Nd7 [C65]

Our next Spanish game, Nakamura, H - Topalov, V FIDE Grand Prix Hamburg 2019, is a nice positional squeeze by Topalov.

In the diagram position Hikaru decided to surprise his opponent with 7.Bg5, instead of 7.Be3, but Veselin was up to the task. He reacted with 7...f6 8.Be3 Bxe3 9.fxe3 Qe7 10.Nc3 b6 11.0-0 Bb7 and, after castling long, created an attack on the kingside and obtained a clear positional advantage. A well-played game by Topalov, who outplayed his opponent out of the opening and didn't leave many chances. The idea of 7.Bg5 doesn't seem to work so White should come back to 7.Be3.

Giuoco Piano 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.Qc2 Nxc3 [C54]

In the game Aronian, L- Karjakin, S Superbet TB Bucharest 2019, the players discussed a popular line of the Giuoco Piano with 5.d4.

In the position given above the Russian player chose 15...Re8 (which he did three times in Bucharest) and after 16.0-0 he played 16...h6, with which he beat Giri on the previous day. However, Levon was ready for it and reacted correctly with 17.Rae1 Qd6 18.Bc1! This way he improved on Giri’s 18.Nd2 and obtained a slight edge. An easy win for Aronian, but the line 15...Rae8, applied by Black, looks playable.

Giuoco Piano 5.d3 d6 6.a4 a6 7.0-0 h6 [C54]

The game Harikrishna, P - Svidler, P FIDE Grand Prix Hamburg 2019, featured a quiet line of the Giuoco Piano with 5.d3.

In the diagram position Harikrishna played the rare 8.Be3. After 8...Bxe3 9.fxe3 0-0 10.Nbd2 Peter played the slightly inaccurate 10...Be6, and following 11.Bxe6 fxe6 a critical position was reached on the board. Pentala continued 12.Qb3 Qd7 13.d4 Kh7 14.Rad1 Rb8 and Black eventually equalised. 8.Be3 is not such a bad line and requires some accuracy from Black, although it shouldn't promise any advantage. 10...Na5 is one possible way to play with black.

Another game between the same players, this time with reversed colours, Svidler, P - Harikrishna, P FIDE Grand Prix Hamburg 2019, which in fact preceded the previous game, featured the very rare 8.a5 in the same diagram position. After the moves 8...0-0 9.h3 Ba7 10.Be3 Black introduced a strong improvement over two preceding games, 10...d5! where Grischuk had played 10...Bxe3. The game continued 11.exd5 Nxd5 12.Bxa7 Rxa7 13.Re1 Nf4! 14.Nxe5 Qg5! and Black equalised. Harikrishna introduced a strong novelty, but a couple of inaccuracies in the middlegame led to White's advantage.

Giuoco Piano 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 h6 8.Nbd2 a6 9.Nf1 [C54]

The game Grischuk, A - Wen Yang TCh-China 2019, saw a different branch of the Giuoco Piano.

The Chinese player played the pretty rare 9...Ba7 in the diagram position - earlier we considered 9...Na5 and 9...Re8. After some logical play, 10.a4 Ne7 11.Ng3 Ng6, Alex tried to save a tempo on 12.h3 and played the immediate 12.d4, but after 12...c6!? 13.Bd3 Bg4! 14.Be2! Re8! 15.h3 Bxf3 16.Bxf3 d5! Black liquidated into an equal endgame and only some mistakes towards the end stopped Black from drawing the game. 12.d4 doesn't seem to promise any advantage and so White should prefer 12.h3.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.b3 g6 [C45]

In the game Xiong, J - Sevian, S St Louis Winter A 2019, the players discussed a well-known line of the Scotch with 4...Nf6.

Here Xiong played 10.Ba3, a line which gained some popularity in 2019, for some unknown reason. I’m more than a little surprised as it seems to lead to a forced draw, as in the current game. I’ve decided to analyse it for you, as we haven’t considered this line before. So, 10...Nb4 (10...d6 is a reasonable alternative) 11.Bb2 Bg7 12.a3 Nd5 13.Nd2 0-0 14.0-0-0 Rfe8 and now White has to play 15.Qf3! in order to equalise. After 15...Nb6 16.Ne4 Bxe5 a forced line led to a draw. A theoretical draw, which demonstrates that the line with 10.Ba3 promises no advantage for White.

Scotch Four Knights 5...Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 [C47]

The last, but not least, game Wen Yang - Wang Hao, TCh-China 2019, saw an interesting line of the Scotch Four Knights.

In order to avoid the drawish tendencies of 8...d5, which is the main line, Wang Hao played 8...Re8. After 9.Re1 d6 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 the Chinese GM played the aggressive 11...g5, which doesn’t seem to be fully justified as Wen Yang obtained a slight edge with 12.Bg3 Ng4 13.Qd2!

8...Re8 is a playable line, while 11...Qe7 looks slightly better than 11...g5. White can also deviate from 9.Re1 with 9.Bg5 or 9.Qf3.


See you next month, Victor.

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