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Hello everyone,
The recent Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee gave us a lot of food for thought. It saw a rise in popularity of my favourite Open Variation of the Spanish, and also the Italian game. Probably the top players got tired of Berlin endgames and the "Spanish torture". So this update will mostly focus on the aforementioned systems, noting that all the games were taken from the A-group of the Tata Steel tournament.

Download PGN of February ’16 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. Marshall attack with 12.d3 [C89]

I would like to start this update with the game Wey Yi-Carlsen,M Tata Steel A-group 2016. After a long theoretical line the players reached an important position in the 12.d3 Marshall:

Here the World champion introduced a novelty, 19...Qxf3 instead of Adams' 19...h6, but his 21...h6 was slightly inaccurate and allowed White to set him some problems. 19...Qxf3 is a reasonable alternative to 19...h6, but one should then proceed with 21...Bg6.

Spanish. Open variation with 9.Nbd2 and 13.Bb1 [C83]

I was surprised to see many games played in this system in Wijk aan Zee. My first game will be Wey Yi-So, W Tata Steel A-group 2016.

In this diagram position Wesley So deviated from some forced theoretical lines, which start with 17...d2, and instead played 17...Rfd8. The players followed the game Svidler, P - Motylev, A/Moscow 2004 for the first 21 moves and then the Chinese superstar was the first to deviate with 22.Rd2. However, he obtained no advantage and soon had to defend a slightly worse rook endgame. This game proved that 17...Rfd8 is a good alternative to 17...d2 and also promises equal chances.

Spanish. Open variation with 9.Nbd2 and 13.Nxc5 [C83]

Another game in the 9.Nbd2 system, Carlsen,M-Ding Liren Tata Steel A-group 2016, saw the well-known theoretical endgame which ensues after 13.Nxc5. The players followed my book "The Open Spanish" for 27 moves and reached the diagram position given below:

Here the top Chinese player continued with 27...Bf6, as in Potkin, V - Amin, B/Abu Dhabi 2006, and got a slightly worse position. However, it has to be said that he defended it very well and held a draw. Nevertheless, 27...e5, which I offered in my book, looks stronger and allows Black to equalise much more easily. Ding Liren proved that 27...Bf6 is sufficient for a draw, but I still prefer 27...e5. All in all, the endgame which ensues after 13.Nxc5 should be equal, though White can try to play it for a while without running any risks.

Spanish. Open variation with 9.c3 Be7 [C83]

The game Caruana,F-Wei Yi Tata Steel A-group 2016, saw a rare idea in an early part of the game.

Here Caruana surprised his opponent with the rare 10.Bc2. Black was up to the task for the next few moves, but then went astray (13...Qd7, 16...0-0) and eventually lost. An interesting game from a theoretical point of view, though Black seems to equalise with 13...Nxd4!

Delayed Steinitz [C79]

In the game Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M Tata Steel A-group 2016, Magnus played a line with 8...Nf6, which is recently gaining popularity.

The World champion chose a very rare idea in the diagram position (11...Ng8) and equalised surprisingly easily. I think White should try 13.Bxh6 with a better version of the game.

Spanish. The Berlin with 4.d3 [C65]

Another game from the young Chinese superstar, Wei Yi-Navara,D Tata Steel A-group 2016, featured a rather annoying line for Black with 5.Bxc6.

Wei Yi introduced an interesting novelty in the above diagram position, 10.h4. Black's reaction wasn't the best and he soon came under a very strong attack. 9.Bd2 seems to set Black some problems and so the ball is now in Black's court.

Giuoco Piano with 8...Be6 [C54]

In the game Hou Yifan-Eljanov,P Tata Steel A-group 2016, the players followed a game from the B-group, which took place just a few days before the current game.

Here Hou Yifan repeated a novelty from the Dutch GM Bok (from the game Bok, B - Abasov, N/Wijk aan Zee NED 2016), 15.Bb2. Black's reaction was inaccurate (15...Qb8, 16...Qb6?!) and White could have claimed an edge had she played 18.axb5! Instead she played 18.a5 and was outplayed in the ensuing complications. A very interesting game despite the numerous mistakes. I think 15...Qd6 has to be preferred over 15...Qb8, as it leads to an equal position.

Giuoco Piano with 7...a5 [C54]

The game Karjakin, S - Tomashevsky, E Tata Steel A-group 2016, saw an interesting computer line with 7...a5.

I would like to offer 9...a4 in the diagram position instead of 9...h6, as the latter, accompanied by a few other small inaccuracies, allowed White to seize a small, but long-lasting advantage. A nice positional squeeze by Karjakin as Tomashevsky was completely outplayed. Nevertheless, the line with 7...a5 is playable and 9...a4 looks like an interesting way to improve upon Black's play in this game.


See you next month, Victor.

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