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A variety of fighting games from strong open tournaments this month, starting off in style with a wild encounter in the King’s Gambit.

Download PGN of June ’24 1 e4 e5 games

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King’s Gambit: 3.Nf3 h6!? [C34]

We start with a crazy game from one of the strongest Swiss tournaments in the calendar, the Sharjah Masters. Black’s third move is a very decent choice and already 4.Bc4?! in response was probably a step in the wrong direction:

Black was able to get the ideal setup following 4...g5 and obtained a big advantage, but it was White who perhaps had the most clear-cut winning chance of the exciting game Sivuk, V - Petrosyan, M.

Scotch Four Knights 4...Bb4 5.Nxe5 [C47]

Perhaps this 4...Bb4 sideline is a good choice as a winning attempt against a lower-rated player, but it seems strange to shy away from the main lines of the Scotch Four Knights otherwise. Following the most critical 5.Nxe5 Black demonstrated the rare 6...Bxc3+!? 6.bxc3 Qe7:

White has various options in this quite fresh position. His 7.Bd3!? is maybe not the most critical, but Black quickly ended up in trouble playing against a powerful bishop pair in Vetoshko, V - Willow, J.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.b4!? [C54]

The so-called ‘Dubov Italian’ leads to completely wild lines, and continues to be chosen by White players seeking a more tactical fight after 1.e4 e5. Following one of the main lines 6...Bb6 7.e5 d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.Qe2+ Be6 10.b5:

In Dolzhykova, K - Sokolovsky, Y, the player with the black pieces chose the most interesting 10...Nb4!?, sacrificing the piece for a menacing pawn majority and won a wild game en-route to completing his GM title at the Budapest Spring Festival.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 [C54]

Another trendy line within the Italian was essayed by one of Norway’s brightest talents in Amar, E - Zylka, S at the Norway Chess Open. Black played logically with 6...h6 7.Bh4 a6 8.Nbd2 Ba7 9.a4 g5 10.Bg3 Qe7 11.b4 Nd8!? 12.0-0 Nh5:

Here 13.Kh1! is essential to prepare the fxg3 recapture, but instead after 13.Re1? Nxg3 14.hxg3 h5 Black has a dangerous attack which was only evaded with a creative king walk to the queenside by the young Norwegian GM, eventually being rewarded with the full point.

Spanish, Siesta Variation: 4...d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.0-0 Bd3 [C74]

After mainly being focused on 5.0-0 here recently, I saw two high-level encounters featuring the complex 5.c3 f5 during the Sharjah Masters. Following 8.Re1 Be7, we first examine a major option of 9.Re3 e4 10.Ne1 in Zhalmakhanov, R - Yakubboev, N:

10.Na3 is definitely more testing these days and following 10...Bg5 best play is really just a repetition with 11.Rg3 Bh4 12.Re3. Instead 11.Rh3 b5! only seems to add danger to White’s position, and the Kazakh IM who was terrorising 2650s in the Grand Swiss this time lost a miniature in 21 moves.

White had more success in Niemann, H - Vakhidov, J with the rarer 9.Qb3!? which caught his strong opponent off-guard. 9...b5 is not too bad, but after 10.Qd5:

10...Bf5? was a critical error which Black never recovered from in the game, whilst 10...Qd7 should still see Black’s position within acceptable margins out of the opening. The response 9...Rb8 seems like a tougher nut for White to crack anyway, however.

Spanish, Open Variation: 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 Nc5 11.Bc2 d4 [C83]

White tries so many things against the Open Spanish these days that it was refreshing to see a fighting game in the absolute main line. After 12.Nb3 d3 13.Bb1 Nxb3 14.axb3 Bf5 15.b4:

Once White opts for a setup with b4, the system seems to revolve around how well White can fight against the ...a5 break. In Balakrishnan, P - Pourkashiyan, A, Black achieved this in excellent circumstances and had the better chances but let go of the win on move 40 and had to settle for a still-impressive draw with her GM opponent.

Spanish, Anti-Marshall 8.a4 b4 9.d4 [C88]

We further examine a sideline I looked at in the December update, following 9...d6 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nbd2!?. This time Black reacted with the optimal 11...Nfd7 12.Nd4 Bb7 13.Bd5 Bxd5! 14.exd5 Re8 15.f4 c5!?:

From this complex middlegame, White played an excellent first portion of the game to outplay his higher-rated opponent in Zemlyanskii, I - Sargsyan, S but Black fought back well and eventually converted a knight and pawn ending to pick up the full point.

See you next month, Harry

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