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Hello everyone,
The current update is based entirely on the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee 2020. You’ll find a lot of decisive results here and a big variety of opening lines. Don't miss Carlsen’s 8.Bd2 against Vitiugov in a well-known position and his exemplary win against Firouzja.

Download PGN of February ’20 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish Opening. Zaitsev variation 12.a4 h6 13.Bc2 cxd4 14.exd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 [C92]

The game Firouzja, A - Kovalev, V 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, saw a well-known line of the Zaitsev Variation.

Black’s main line in the diagram position is 16...Nd7. Instead the GM from Belarus played 16...c4?, which is a mistake, and got into trouble after 17.Nd4. The game continued 17...Nd7 18.axb5 axb5 19.Rxa8 Qxa8 20.Nxb5 Qb8 21.Na3 with a won position for White. Black could try to complicate matters with 17...Qb6 or 18...Nd3, but 16...c4 has to be avoided. 16...Nd7 is the way to play.

Spanish Opening. 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 [C84]

Our next game, Carlsen, M - Vitiugov, N 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, saw an interesting idea from the world champion at an early part of the game.

The well-known diagram position saw many different tests, and White usually chooses between 8.a4, 8.c3 and 8.a3. Instead, Magnus surprised his opponent with the extremely rare 8.Bd2, which hasn’t been seen at the top level. Black reacted with 8...0-0, while 8...Bg4 is an interesting try. The game continued 9.h3 h6 10.Re1 Re8 11.a3 (11 a4 is worth a try). The position remained roughly equal, but Black’s 19...Rb7 and 22...Rxd1?! were the first steps in a wrong direction, although the position remained only slightly worse. However, his 29...f6? was a huge positional mistake and instantly ruined a worse position. The Russian player missed a few opportunities to shut down White’s light-squared bishop with the ...c5-c4 plan. An interesting game, which demonstrates that 8.Bd2 is not without venom. Nevertheless, Black is capable of retaining equal chances with accurate play.

Berlin variation 4.d3 d6 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 Re8 9.Nbd2 Bf8 10.h3 b5 11.Bc2 Bb7 12.d4 [C84]

In the game Firouzja, A - Carlsen, M 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, the players obtained the rather popular position after 12.d4 by a relatively rare move order.

Now Carlsen played the useful waiting move 12...g6!? and after 13.a3 Nb8! Firouzja committed the mistake 14.d5? The world champion took advantage of White’s mistake with a series of precise moves: 14...c6, 16...Qc7!, 18...bxc4 and 19...a5! and obtained a comfortable advantage. An exemplary win for Magnus! White had to prefer either 13.d5 or 14.b4.

Two Knights Opening 8.Bd3 Nd5 9.h4 [C58]

The game Mamedov,R - Grandelius, N 82nd Tata Steel Gp B Wijk aan Zee 2020, featured the Two Knights Opening, which is rarely seen at the high level.

White has just played 9.h4, instead of the more popular 9.Nf3, and Black answered it with the rare 9...h6, instead of the main line 9...Nf4. After the moves 10.Qh5! Qf6 Mamedov played 11.Ne4, which had only one predecessor, instead of 11.Nh7, which was played in all the other preceding games and which leads to a complicated position with roughly equal chances. Play developed rather logically before the players exchanged mistakes on move 14. So, 14.Ng3? was played and Black answered it with 14...e4? when the game lost its theoretical value. Instead, White had to continue with 14.Nec3, while Black should prefer 14...Bg7! This game proved that 9.h4 promises no advantage for White and 9...h6!? is a good way to meet it.

Italian Opening 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 a6 [C54]

In the game Giri,A - Kovalev, V 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, the Dutch GM played an interesting move order with 8.Nbd2, delaying 8.a4.

In the diagram position Kovalev played the most popular 8...Ba7 and the game continued 9.0-0 0-0 10.a4 g5 11.Bg3 Kg7 12.Re1 Nh7 The players followed the game Anand,V (2757)-Nakamura,H (2741) Kolkata (blitz) 2019 for the first 18 moves and Giri was the first to deviate with 19.bxa6!? bxa6 20.Nf1 and obtained a slight edge. Soon Black committed the decisive mistake, 22...f5? and eventually lost the game, although not without a fight. The move order chosen by Giri was interesting and Black didn't manage to equalise from the opening. I may suggest trying 8...Na5 or 9...g5.

Italian Opening 6.Nbd2 0-0 7.h3 a6 8.Bb3 Be6 9.Bc2 d5 [C54]

The game So, Wesley - Anand,V 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, saw a fascinating tactical battle early in the opening.

In the position given above the 960 World Champion introduced a new move to the high level, 10.Ng5. It has been seen a couple of times before in games between low-rated players. The ex-champ answered it with 10...dxe4, although 10...Nxe4 looks safer. Then the game continued in the most critical way: 11.Nxe6! fxe6 12.dxe4 Bxf2!? 13.Kxf2 Ng4+ 14.Kg1 Ne3 Black won back the piece he sacrificed on move 12, but his knight on c2 started to feel lonely. Nevertheless, the position remained equal and Anand committed his mistake on move 22, when instead of 22...Nxg2! he played 22...Raf8. Later he committed another mistake and lost. A short, but very interesting game. Wesley's 10.Ng5 is interesting and leads to complications, but Black retains equal chances with precise play. Both 10...Nxe4 and 10...dxe4 are possible.

Scotch Four Knights 9...Bg4 10.f3 Bh5 [C47]

Our next game, Yu Yangyi - So, Wesley 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020, saw an important line of the Scotch Four Knights.

The entire line with 9...Bg4 started to gain popularity after it was introduced at a high level by the Indian GM Vidit in 2018. In that game White played 11.dxc6 in the diagram position, but obtained no advantage. The move 11.Bg5 has already been played a few times by Yu Yangyi and Wesley answered it with the main line 11...cxd5, although earlier the Chinese GM faced the rare 11...Qd6. The following sequence is rather forcing. So, 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Nxd5 Qxb2 14.Rb1 Bc5! 15.Kh1 Qe5! 16.f4! and the players followed the game Bruzon Batista,L (2643)-Nyzhnyk,I (2666) Orlando 2019 for a few more moves, when Yu was the first to deviate with 19.Rb7, instead of 19.Nxc7. Black’s 20...Rfd8?! and 21...Be6?! were inaccurate and White obtained some edge. The line with 9...Bg4 seems to equalise. After White's novelty 19.Rb7 Black has a couple of reasonable options, but if he continues with 19...Rac8 he should play 20...Rxc7 on the next move.

Petroff Defence 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.0-0 Nxe5 7.dxe5 Nc5 [C43]

Our last, but not least game in this update is Caruana, F - Yu Yangyi 82nd Tata Steel Gp A Wijk aan Zee 2020.

Earlier we considered 8.Nc3 in the diagram position, but Caruana preferred 8.Be3. Black answered it with 8...c6, while Gelfand preferred 8...Nxd3 9.Qxd3 c6. After 9.f4 Nxd3 10.Qxd3 g6 11.Nc3 b6 12.Rad1 Black played 12...Bg7, although 12...Bf5! looks more accurate. Nevertheless, the position remained roughly equal for a long time and Black’s first real inaccuracy came on move 24, when he played 24...Qc5?! Instead, 24...Qd4! would allow Black to hold a draw. Later in the game the Chinese player committed a few more mistakes and eventually lost. The 8.Be3 line doesn't seem to promise an advantage. Probably the most accurate for Black is 12...Bf5, although Black should also be able to hold after 12...Bg7.


See you next month, Victor.

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