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Hello everyone,
Finally, the regular top tournament in Wijk aan Zee took place and so half of the games will be taken from there. I have also added a few interesting games from the Opera Euro Rapid. Enjoy impressive novelties and pay particular attention to Dominguez’s home preparation, in particular his games against Grischuk and Duda.

Download PGN of February ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Smyslov Variation 5.d4 b5 6.Bb3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Na5 8.a4 [C70]

I would like to start with the game Dominguez, L - Nakamura, H Opera Euro Rapid Prelim 2021.

We have seen the diagram position once before on our pages. In that game, Karjakin, S -Ponomariov, R Nice 2010 [Mikhalevski,V] Ponomariov played 8...Nxb3. This time Nakamura preferred 8...b4, which Dominguez met strongly with 9.Bd5! c6 10.Ba2 and obtained a slight edge. A few moves later Hikaru avoided 13...Nb7, played twice by the Iranian player Khademalsharieh, and went for 13...Nxb3, which looks stronger. However, after 17.Bf4 he committed a mistake, 17..Rb6?, which could have cost him dearly. A lucky escape for Nakamura, the line with 5...b5 is dangerous, but playable, 17...d6 had to be played instead of 17...Rb6.

Spanish, Anti-Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 bxc6 6.0-0 Bg4 [C65]

The game Giri, A - Tari, A, 83rd Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee 2021, featured an aggressive setup against the Anti-Berlin with 6...Bg4, which was tested a couple of times by the World Champion.

Giri met the text with the principled 7.h3 Bh5 8.g4 Nxg4 9.hxg4 Bxg4 10.Be3, and Tari followed his countryman with 10...Be7. Next, Anish improved White’s play in Nakamura, H – Carlsen, M 2020 with 11.Kg2!, instead of 11.Kh1?. Black's first reaction, 11...f5!, was correct, but after 12.Qe1! Bxf3! 13.Kxf3 f4! 14.Bd2 g5! 15.Bc3 Bf6 16.Nd2 he first played the inaccurate 16...Qe7 and then after 17.Rh1 h5 18.Ke2 he committed a mistake, 18...g4? This led to a risk-free position for White, which he led to a win with a series of interesting manoeuvres. Good opening preparation and clever maneuvering allowed the Dutch GM to win comfortably. Black can improve his play by means of 16...h5, when he seems to have sufficient compensation for the sacrificed piece. This means that the line with 6...Bg4 is perfectly playable.

Giuoco Piano, 6.0-0 h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Nbd2 a6 9.a4 [C54]

In the game Van Foreest, J - Harikrishna, P 83rd Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee 2021, Black went for a very aggressive, but dubious line in the diagram position given below:

Here Pentala decided to surprise his young opponent with 9...Ng4, instead of the more popular lines 9...Re8 and 9...Ba7. After 10.Re2 he played 10...Kh8?! preparing a piece sacrifice. So, the game continued 11.h3 f5?! and in this critical position White found the precise 12.d4! exd4 13.hxg4 and won a piece. Black’s attempts to complicate matters failed after 13...d3 14.Bxd3 hxg4 15.Nd4 Nxd4 16.cxd4 Bxd4 17.Nf1 and White converted his advantage without major problems. The idea of 9...Ng4 looks wrong and can't be recommended, Black should choose between 9...Re8 and 9...Ba7.

Giuoco Piano, 5...0-0 6.b4 Be7 7.Nbd2 d5 8.Bb3 [C54]

Carlsen, M - Giri, A , 83rd Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee 2021, reached the pretty rare position in the diagram below after only 8 moves:

Black tried different moves here, but Giri chose 8...Bg4. This move has been seen only once at the GM level. Carlsen improved on Dubov’s game against Shirov played in Moscow in 2016 with 9.Qc2 as Dubov’s 9.h3 was dubious and led to a slight edge for Black. Anish answered this by means of 9...dxe4 10.dxe4 Bd6, when instead 10...Qd7 looks strong. After the moves 11.h3 Bh5 12.Rb1 a5 13.a3 axb4 14.axb4 Black played the slightly slow 14...b5. Instead, 14...Ne7 15.0-0 Ng6 deserved serious attention. Later both sides committed inaccuracies, but the assessment of the position didn’t go too far from equality. The line with 6.b4 doesn't offer White any opening advantage, while 8...Bg4 is a good way to show this.

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

In the game Grandelius, Nils - Tari, A , 83rd Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee 2021, the players discussed the well-known following diagram position:

In this important junction Black has a wide choice of options. The Norwegian player chose 12...Ba5, which after 13.0-0 Bxf3 14.gxf3 led to the theoretical piece sacrifice 14...Nxd4!? I recommended this idea in my annotations to the game Karjakin, S – Harikrishna, P Jerusalem ISR 2019 [Mikhalevski,V] After a forced sequence the players achieved a known position after 20.Be2. Here Tari improved on a preceding game, in which Black played 20...Nxf3?, with 20...Qh4. However, his subsequent 22...Qxf2?! was dubious and could have led to an edge for White. 22...Rae8 was better and promised roughly equal chances. An important game for the theory of this line, and 14...Nxd4 seems to work, Black just needs to either play 20...Qh6 or 21/22...Rae8.

Vienna Game/King’s Gambit, 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d3 Bc5 5.f4 0-0 6.Nf3 exf4 7.Bxf4 d6 [C28]

The game Grischuk, A - Dominguez, L Opera Euro Rapid Prelim 2021, saw a transposition from the Vienna game into the King’s Gambit.

In the position given above Grischuk played Chigorin’s 8.Na4?!, which Dominguez proved to be wrong by means of 8...d5!, a move that was never seen before at the GM level. After 9.Nxc5 dxc4 Alexander committed a mistake, 9.Qd2? and found himself on the ropes after 10...Qe7! 11.Na4 cxd3 12.cxd3 Nxe4! Black then converted his advantage easily. The entire setup with f4 doesn't promise White any advantage, while his 8.Na4?! is dubious and leads to a Black advantage.

Vienna Game 4...Na5 5.Bb3 Nxb3 6.axb3 d5 7.Nf3 dxe4 8.Nxe5 exd3 9.0-0 Be7 10.Nxd3 [C28]

In the game Dubov, D - Vidit, S Opera Euro Rapid Prelim 2021, the players followed the game Firouzja, A - Carlsen Banter Blitz Cup 2020, and reached the diagram position below:

Here Vidit came prepared with the strong novelty 10...Bg4!, instead of Carlsen’s 10...0-0, which allowed 11.Qf3, which Black obviously avoided with his move in the current game. After 11.Qe1! 0-0 12.Be3?! was inaccurate and led to a slight edge for Black after 12...Re8! A well-played game by the Indian GM. His novelty 10...Bg4! equalises and so the ball is in White's court now.

Petroff Defence Mainline 6...Bf5 7.0-0 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.Nbd2 Nd6 10.Nf1 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nd7 [C42]

The game Dominguez, L - Duda, J Opera Euro Rapid Prelim 2021, featured a pet line of the Polish GM with 6...Bf5.

In the diagram position after 12.Bf4 Black played the natural looking 12...Re8, which turned out to be inaccurate, 12...c6, which transposes to the game Esipenko, A – Duda, J Wijk aan Zee 2021, was more accurate. Here Lenier played the strong novelty 13.Qb3! where earlier White played 13.Re2, but achieved no advantage. Black continued 13...Nb6 14.Ne3 c6 15.a4! a5 16.h4! Ndc4 17.Nf5! but went astray with first 17...Bf8?! and then 18...Qd7? and was quickly crushed. A convincing win by Dominguez, Black should prefer either 11...c6 or 12...c6.


See you next month, Victor.

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