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Hello everyone,
This time I mostly focused on the Wijk aan Zee tournament and also the Scotch, which is becoming extremely popular.

Download PGN of February '11 1 e4 e5 games

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Archangel Variation [C78]

Nepomniachtchi, I - Shirov, A 73rd Tata Steel GMA 2011, saw an important and popular Archangel line, which Shirov had to face no less than three times in Wijk aan Zee 2011. This third attempt was finally successful and Black managed to draw.

Here White played 23.Qc2, which was an attempt to improve upon 23.Na7. The latter was introduced by Smeets in the first round of the same tournament against Shirov and worked extremely well. However Shirov was well-prepared this time and after 38 moves the following position arose on the board:

Shirov's fantastic opening preparation has led to this fortress. Despite a slight inaccuracy Shirov managed to draw without any visible problems. However, I believe the last word in this line hasn't yet been said and one move can change the evaluation of the opening position drastically.

Open Spanish 9.Be3 [C83]

Shirov.A-L'Ami,E 73rd Tata Steel GMA 2011, saw the 9.Be3 System in the Open Spanish.

This position, which arose after 16.Re1, has already been tested a couple of times. Earlier Black played 16...Qd5 and 16...Qd7, but this time the Dutch GM prepared the novelty 16...Bg6 and equalised easily. A couple of inaccurate moves then allowed Black to take the initiative, but he returned the favour and eventually the game was drawn. Right now it seems that Black has at least two good options to deal with Karjakin's line 15.b4 and so White needs a good idea to claim any advantage.

Closed Spanish with 5.d3 [C84]

Caruana, F - Korchnoi, V Gibraltar Masters 2011, featured a rare line of the Closed Spanish with 5.d3.

In the diagram position given above Korchnoi surprised his young opponent with 8...Nd7 and obtained a comfortable position. White can improve upon his play with 14.Nc4 instead of 14.h3?!, but anyway, Black's opening setup is interesting and requires further practical tests.

Scotch 4...Nf6 [C45]

In Vallejo, F - Onischuk, A Tata Steel GMB 2011, White tried to surprise his opponent with the relatively rare 8.Nd2, which Black answered with Karjakin's 8...Bb7.

A few moves later, in the above position, White introduced the obvious novelty 11.Be2, instead of 11.Qe2 which leads to a repetition. Then, instead of 13...Qf5?!, which allowed White to develop an initiative, Black had to play 13...f5. Black committed a few more mistakes, and the last one, 23...Qxh4?, lost on the spot. I'm expecting to see 13...f5 in the very near future.

The game Carlsen, M - Aronian, L Tata Steel GMA 2011, featured 9.Nd2 after the preliminary 8.c4 Ba6.

Aronian just played 11...Nb4 instead of the main line 11...0-0, and Carlsen introduced the novelty 12.0-0-0, which led to an interesting battle. However, it seems that Carlsen's novelty doesn't set Black any problems, and in fact the entirely line doesn't look dangerous for Black, who is also doing fine after 12.Nf3.

Shirov, A - Kramnik, V Tata Steel GMA 2011, saw 9...Bb7, which is becoming popular in various different lines of the Scotch.

In this position, which arose after 10.Bd2, Kramnik introduced the interesting novelty 10...g6, which led to a great tactical battle. Vladimir was well-prepared, while Shirov had to find the only moves in a very sharp position. After some good moves he eventually went astray, first with 17.a5?! and then with 26.exd5?, which led to a disaster. Despite returning the favour Kramnik won the game. A great game! Kramnik's opening preparation was at the highest possible level once again and I believe the line with 9...Bb7 will see more practical tests in the near future.

Four Knights Rubinstein's Variation [C48]

Short, N - Mikhalevski, V Gibraltar Masters 2011, saw a relatively rare line in the Four Knights.

In this position, which arose after 10.c3, I introduced a new move, 10...h6, which was an over the board improvisation, and soon obtained a good position. However, instead of the normal 18...Bd6 I played the over optimistic 18...Nh5 and was eventually punished. Despite my loss, the opening line with 5...Nxf3+ looks playable.

Evans Gambit [C51]

Fressinet, L - Efimenko, Z Tata Steel GMB 2011, featured the Evans Gambit, which is rarely seen at the higher levels.

13. Bd2, which was very successful in Robson-Perelshteyn, Lubbock 2010, after 13...Qh5?? 14.Nd5!, was this time met by 13...Bb4, and I also see nothing wrong with 13...Qa6. Later Efimenko played a few accurate moves and fully equalised. The game reached the drawish harbour without any complications. It seems that Black is doing perfectly well in this line of the Evans gambit, so the ball is in White's court.


See you next month, Victor.

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