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This month I'm mostly looking at various exciting gambit lines, some that haven't been covered here for a long time, plus answering an interesting question from a subscriber.
I have to admit that I'm quite enjoying doing king pawn updates again, it is forcing me to analyse a lot of lines that I wasn't too sure about before. I hope you find the material interesting, but if not do feel free to suggest other variations on the ChessPub Forum.

Download PGN of February ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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The King's Gambit 2...d5 3 exd5 exf4 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bb5+ c6 6 dxc6 Nxc6 7 Nc3 [C36]

When I first started this update I downloaded all the games from the last few weeks and then first deleted all the blitz and rapid games. However, a lot of the games between the World's best were not in classical time limits, and, further, I couldn't help but notice that Ian Nepomniachtchi had been playing a lot of King's Gambits recently, and that theory had advanced since the last time we examined the Modern line 2...d5 3 exd5 exf4 4 Nf3 Nf6, which is one of my favourite lines for Black as it is so much easier to play than lines with 2...exf4.

Due to the influence of strong computers 5 Bb5+ has become the mainline once again, and after 5...c6 6 dxc6 Nxc6 the move 7 Nc3 is now considered more accurate than 7 d4. Following 7...Bd6 White's best move is 8 Qe2+:

This was rare, but it's the preferred line of Stockfish and strong players have taken note! See Nepomniachtchi, I - Mitusov, S for an examination of the recent games, and in particular White's idea of playing b2-b3, Bb2 and 0-0-0 in favourable situations.

The end of the game is a 'comedy of errors', which goes to show that even the very best make big mistakes when short of time in a complicated position.

Goring Gambit 6...Bg4 7 Be2 Bb4+ 8 Nc3 Bxf3 9 Bxf3 Qc4 10 Bxc6+ bxc6 11 Qe2+ Qxe2+ 12 Kxe2 [C44]

Following 2 d4 exd4 3 c3 d5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 cxd4 Nc6 6 Nf3 (or 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 d5 etc.) 6...Bg4 7 Be2 Bb4+ 8 Nc3 Bxf3 9 Bxf3 Qc4 10 Bxc6+ bxc6 11 Qe2+ Qxe2+ 12 Kxe2 we reach a key position:

Black is fine, but he is obviously hampered by the doubled isolated c-pawns, and I wondered whether it is possible to get any serious winning chances with Black. If White plays sensibly it is certainly difficult, but I really like Black's plan in Kowalczyk, P - Pniaczek, M and I would be happy to repeat it - he did manage to achieve a winning position but unfortunately let it slip right at the end.

The Scotch Gambit 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d4 exd4 5 Ng5 [C44]

Following 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d4 exd4 the crude move 5 Ng5 looks ridiculous:

However, it is not bad at all and has been played by some very strong players, such as Grischuk and Mamedov. Black really has to know what he is doing, see Pason, A - Garcia, J.

The Scotch Gambit 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 Bb4+ [C44]

After 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 the greedy 4...Bb4+!? is favoured by Stockfish:

I was impressed by Black's smooth win in Petrovskiy, V - Sychev, K, so decided to have a closer look. It is certainly playable, and worth trying as Black if you can remember the analysis and are fairly good at calculating tactics.

Scotch Four Knights 4 a4 and 4 d4 exd4 5 Nxd4 Nxe4 [C47]

Did you know that 5...Nxe4!? is not only possible, but is actually quite good? Long-time readers may remember GM Nigel Davies discussing this line in some depth in the May 2004 update.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is that I noticed that 4 a4!?! has been played quite a lot recently by GM Kravtsiv and that in his game against Aronian, after 4...a6 5 d4 exd4 6 Nxd4, Black played the same idea, 6...Nxe4?, figuring that ...a6 is more useful than a4:

The game continued 7 Nxc6 Nxc3 8 Nxd8 Nxd1 9 Nxf7 Kxf7 10 Kxd1 d5 with equality, but from the diagram position can you see how White could have used the addition of a2-a4 to win?

Scotch Four Knights Mainline 7 Bd3 0-0 8 0-0 d5 9 Bd2 Rb8 10 Re1 Bg4 [C47]

Probably the reason moves like 5...Nxe4 aren't played more often is that the mainline is currently so comfortable for Black. After 9 Bd2 Rb8 10 Re1 Bg4 11 Qc1 Re8 the move 12 a3 has been tried a few times recently:

However, as you can see from the notes to Kobo, O - Nabaty, T Black seems to have several reasonable replies.

The answer to the question above, and some examination of 5...Nxe4!?, can also be found in my annotations here.

Giuoco Piano 5...0-0 6 0-0 d5 7 exd5 Nxd5 8 Re1 Bg4 [C54]

I like this line for Black, and I've played it quite a bit since GM Yannik Gozzoli played it against me (I was White) some years ago in a club match, and got a very good position.

In Esipenko, A - Giri, A, following 9 Nbd2 Nb6 10 h3 Bh5 11 Bb3 (the current preference) 11...Qxd3 12 Nxe5 Qf5 13 Nef3:

Now, instead of the 13...Rad8 that Victor covered in the March update, Giri played 13...Rfe8!? which, after 14 g4 led to the following endgame of knight versus three connected pawns:

As the pawns are far back the extra piece must be worth a little more, but should the pawns manage to advance together they will gain in value. Actually, this might be easier for Black to play than White, as once the pawns got going White's position became very difficult, and he lost.

Spanish, Steinitz Defence 3...Nf6 4 d3 d6 5 O-O Bd7 6 Re1 g6 7 d4 Bg7 8 d5 [C66]

It's been years since we looked at a real Steinitz Defence, rather than a Steinitz deferred with ...a6 and Ba4, which is strange considering it has become more important these last few years as it can be reached via 3...Nf6 4 d3 when White tries to avoid a Berlin Wall. After 4...d6 5 O-O Bd7 (Victor covered 5...Be7 6 c4 back in August 2013) 6 Re1 g6 GM Olivier Renet looked at the position after 7 c3 way back in 2007, but the critical and most common move is 7 d4.

Now, White has played this advance in two moves, so it must be less effective than had he had played it in one, which makes this version of the Steinitz that much more interesting from Black's point of view.

After 7...Bg7 8 d5 Ne7 9 Bxd7+ Subscriber Jerome asks: "I played 9...Nxd7 here. Later, I wished that I had played 9...Qxd7, reasoning that now, my Queen could counterattack in the direction of White's Kingside. Was I right?"

Have a look at Vokhidov, S - Hussein, A, to see my conclusions. Actually, I really like the plan Black utilized in this game, and I think that White should avoid this by playing f2-f3 to be able to retreat his bishop.

If White does play perfectly he will have a theoretical advantage (a King's Indian position where he has exchanged Black's light-squared bishop) but just like a King's Indian Mar del Plata the player who understands the position better will often triumph. Black's thematic plans of ...f7-f5-f4, ...g6-g5, ...h7-h5, ...Ng6, ...Rf8-f7-g7, ...Bg7-f8 etc. are easy to play and difficult to counter.

This line should definitely appeal to King's Indian players.

The Smyslov Variation of the Spanish 9...h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bd7 12 Nf1 a5 [C93]

In Anand, V - Caruana, F, after 9...h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2, instead of the standard 11...Bf8, Black played 11...Bd7 12 Nf1 a5!?:

Black wants to play actively on the queenside with ...a5-a4, followed by ...Na5 or ...Qb8-b7. This reminds me of the Morovic Fernandez, I - Esipenko, A game I looked at last month, and could have transposed into it at one point.

Black played well and got an active setup, but then was outplayed after a couple of imprecisions. However, time trouble intervened and Black received a lucky gift.

Until next month, Tony.

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