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I wish all our subscribers a healthy and successful 2023. Anyone who is not a subscriber will unfortunately have a less successful year, opening-wise, at least!
Since last month's update I played a well-run open tournament in Beirut, Lebanon, which was jointly won by Azerbaijani GM Azer Mirzoev and Iranian GM Shahin Lorparizangeneh, both with the superb score of 8 out of 9. I was happy to finish equal 3rd with GMs Abdelrahman (from Egypt), and Nikolov (from Bulgaria). Curiously, everyone in third place is a vegetarian!
I have included two of my own games, which may seem rather self-indulgent, but I did play 2 novelties and I wanted to show how my opening investigations for ChessPublishing have translated onto the board.

Download PGN of December ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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Danish Gambit 3...Qe7 [C21]

I noticed that Stockfish liked the move 3...Qe7 a lot against the Danish Gambit, so I was intrigued when I saw Gawain Jones play it as black against a specialist with the white pieces. Best play continues 4 cxd4 Qxe4+ 5 Be3 Nf6 6 Nc3 Bb4 and now, instead of the normal 7 Nf3 White played the very rare 7 Nge2!?:

The surprise value of this move was obviously considerable, especially in a blitz game, as Gawain immediately went astray, then grabbed a very hot g-pawn and was soon quite lost, see the exciting Theodorou, N - Jones, G.

Vienna Game: 2...Nf6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d3 [C26]

In Hauge, L - Romanov, E, following 2...Nf6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d3, rather than transpose into a King's Gambit Declined with 4...d6 5 f4, Black played the combative 4...c6, intending ...d7-d5 in one go, and after 5 f4 d5 6 exd5 0-0!?:

It looks like White can play 7 fxe5 Ng4 8 d4 and drive the black pieces a way, but Black has a sharp counter tactic. The game later became a fine illustration of why opposite-colour bishop positions favour the attacker.

Four Knights, Rubinstein's Variation 5 Bc4 Bc5 6 Nxe5 Qe7 7 Nf3 d5 8 Nxd5 [C48]

In my preparation for my 7th round game against WGM Diamente Cornette I decided to look at Rubinstein's Variation. I used to avoid this because of the drawish endgame that arises after 5 Nxd4 exd4 6 e5, but now I'm so much lower rated it doesn't seem to matter any more if I only draw!

Anyway, she didn't play the Four Knights but I was curious about the game Nakamura, H - So, W where White preferred 8 Nxd5 to the somewhat more popular 8 Bxd5 that we've analysed several times in the past. The game continued 8...Qxe4+ 9 Ne3 Bg4 10 Be2 Nxe2 11 Qxe2 0-0-0 12 d3:

Black has enough compensation for the pawn if he knows what he is doing. The game was strange, as at first Nakamura consolidated his extra pawn and was on top, but then he slipped-up, but rather than repeat moves to his credit he sacrificed an exchange. It was still fairly level, but then one more mistake, allowing the exchange of queens, and White was lost.

Bishop's Opening 3...Nf6 4 d3 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 0-0 Nb6 [C55]

The next game is another victory for Wesley So's technique. When I analysed Demchenko,A-Erigaisi,A a few months ago I didn't consider the 5th most common move, 6...Nb6 but it does score better than the others, and in some key lines Black gets a very aggressive setup involving queenside castling.

So, W - Mamedyarov, S featured almost perfect play from both players until Black made a slight slip in the endgame and then there was no way back.

Incidentally, I did think about naming this the Kujawski Variation as he has played it so many times recently and introduced some important improvements.

Spanish, Berlin Defence 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 Re1 Nd6 6 Nxe5 Be7 7 Bf1 Nxe5 8 Rxe5 0-0 [C67]

Another dangerous line against the solid Berlin! In the mainline after 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 Re1 Nd6 6 Nxe5 Be7 7 Bf1 Nxe5 8 Rxe5 0-0 9 d4 Bf6 we've looked at the main move 10 Re1 several times, and also 10 Re2, a favourite of French GM Vachier Lagrave, but the highest scoring move, by far, is actually the exchange sacrifice 10 Bd3!?:

This is a tricky line for Black to face. After 10...Bxe5 11 dxe5 the knight is forced to retreat and White obtains a lead in development and a dangerous initiative which has claimed several very strong scalps. Don't miss the analysis in Ivic, V - Lazavik, D.

Spanish 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 c3 Ng6 6 d4 [C70]

My third round game in Beirut started 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 c3 Ng6 6 d4 exd4 7 cxd4, and now, instead of the mainline 7...Bb4+, I tried 7...d5 8 exd5 Bb4+!?:

I'd played this novelty in a couple of blitz games and it worked out quite well as Black has some neat tactical resources. However, in Assaad, J - Kosten, A my young Lebanese opponent sunk into deep thought and then produced a series of very strong moves. We later reached this position where Black is winning, but has to be very careful:

Unfortunately, and not for the first time recently, I played very carelessly in my opponent's extreme time trouble, and captured the poisoned bishop by 32...Qxc2??. Can you see how White forced immediate resignation?

Spanish, Deferred Steinitz 5 c3 Bd7 6 0-0 Nge7 7 d4 Ng6 8 Re1 [C75]

My ninth-round opponent was the young Syrian player Koniahli. He had an excellent tournament and was up with the leaders until he showed his lack of experience by losing a completely drawn opposite-colour bishop ending against GM Mirzoev in round 8. Like a lot of the Lebanese players he was clearly under-rated by 300 points or more, due to the difficulty of playing international chess tournaments.

Following the standard 8...Be7 9 Nbd2 0-0 we reached a position that I'd already analysed in the April 2022 update:

Here my opponent surprised me with 10 dxe5, giving Black an interesting choice of recaptures. Which is best? To understand how I tackled the position see Koniahli, M - Kosten, A.

Spanish, Deferred Steinitz: 5 c3 Bd7 6 0-0 g6 7 d4 Bg7 [C76]

I always thought that 8 d5 was a critical way to handle this position, playing a King's Indian position without light-squared bishops, but Black has his own reasons to be happy, for one thing, after 8...Nce7 the queen's knight retreats to this natural square, rather than b8 as in some variations. Secondly, following 9 c4 h6 10 Nc3 Black can play the thematic move 10...f5 directly without having to first move the f6-knight out of the way, as in the mainline King's Indians.

In Ortiz Suarez, I - Sambuev, B Black's g7-bishop manages to zigzag its way to a powerful outpost on b6 where it could have captured either white knight, but eventually lost influence and became a bystander after a couple of black mistakes.

Still, this line is very playable for Black, as shown by the number of super GMs, such as Caruana, who are willing to play it.

Until next month, Tony.

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