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Hello everyone,
In this update I would like to share my experience of playing in the World Rapid and Blitz championships in St Petersburg, Russia. You’ll see no less than five games from yours truly (I’ve never annotated so many of my own games for one update) and three more games from the top guns in the same tournament. Carlsen’s early novelty, 5.Ba4, is something worth looking at.

Download PGN of January ’19 1 e4 e5 games

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Open Spanish 9.c3 Bc5 10.Qe2 [C82]

The game Yu Yangyi - Mikhalevski, V World Blitz St. Petersburg 2018, saw a pretty rare line of the Open Spanish with 10.Qe2.

After a series of exchanges we reached the diagram position, which more commonly arises from the 10.Qd3 line, and which we actually transposed into after 14.Qxe3. In my ”Open Spanish“ book I recommended 16...Qd7, but instead I played the reasonable alternative16...Bf7 here. Soon Black had fully equalised and after 23.cxd4? White was even struggling for equality. An interesting fighting game. The opening line chosen by White doesn't promise any advantage, as both 16...Qd7 and the new move 16...Bf7 offer equal chances.

Open Spanish 6...Be7 7.Re1 b5 8.Rxe4 d5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.Rxe5 bxa4 [C84]

The only game with a classical time control in this update is Sidorenko, I - Mikhalevski, V ISR-Tch 2019.

I surprised my opponent with 6...Be7, instead of the main line 6...b5, and a few moves later we reached the diagram position. White has tested a few different options at this juncture, but my opponent chose the most common 11.Nc3. After the sequence 11...0-0! 12.Rxd5 Bd6 13.Bf4 Be6 14.Bxd6 cxd6 15.Rh5 g6 White found himself in a dangerous position, 14.Rxd6!? was better. A good game! Although the line with 6...Be7 is risky, it may come as an unpleasant surprise to an unprepared opponent.

Spanish, Berlin Defence 4.d3 Bc5 [C65]

The following game, Carlsen, M - Andreikin, D World Rapid St. Petersburg 2018, featured a surprising novelty from the world champion early in the game.

The diagram position has been seen thousands of times and yet Magnus still managed to surprise his opponent with a new idea, 5.Ba4!? Play was rather logical up to 12...axb6, when Carlsen sacrificed a pawn with 13.d4, although 13.a3 deserved attention. Dmitry declined the sacrifice for a few moves, but when everything was ready for the capture White played 16.a3!, obtained a slight edge and converted his slight positional advantage into a full point with his well-known technique. ...Bxa2 was critical on moves 13-15 and promised Black good chances to equalise. As usual, a brilliant technical win from the world champion. 6.Ba4 is an interesting attempt to deviate from well-known theory and I expect it to be tested more in the near future.

Italian 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 [C54]

In the game Anton Guijarro, D - Mikhalevski, V World Rapid St. Petersburg 2018, a rather popular position was reached:

Now I played the rare 10...Be6, which was tested by Leko in 2017, instead of the more popular 10...Bg4. White deviated from the game Amonatov,F-Leko,P, Riadh 2017, with 13.Bxc6, instead of 13.Bd3, and after 13...bxc6 14.Qa4 I played the mistake 14...c5? which lost a pawn, although I did retain good drawing chances throughout the game. 10...Bg4 looks like a safer choice than 10...Be6, while 14...Bf5 was necessary instead of 14...c5..

Italian, Giuoco Piano 4.d3 Nf6 5.0-0 0-0 6.c3 d5 [C54]

In the game Ragger, M - Mikhalevski, V World Rapid St. Petersburg 2018, the players followed their recent game for the first 20 moves and reached the diagram position:

The Austrian GM prepared a strong novelty, 21.Bd4!, which I mentioned in my annotations to that game, and after 21...Nc4 the riposte 22.Bxf6! came as a surprise to me. My 22...gxf6? was dangerous and White could have achieved a big advantage, but soon erred (24.Rd7?) when Black was fine. 22...Qf5 was necessary, while White could punish me with 24.b3! 21.Bd4! is a strong improvement over 21.b3?! and so Black has to prefer 17...Nb6 to 17...Bf7.

Italian, Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 a6 6.c3 d6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.Bb3 h6 9.Nbd2 [C50]

The game Amin, B - Fedoseev, Vl World Blitz St. Petersburg 2018, featured the relatively rare line of the Giuoco Piano with 7.Re1.

The Russian GM went for the aggressive 9...g5 in the diagram position, instead of the more common 9...0-0. White played rather logically and 12...b5?!, instead of 12...h4, could have worsened Black’s position even more. After 13.Nce3 h4 White introduced a novelty, 14.Bd5!?, although it has to be mentioned that White is also better after the 14.Nd5 and 14.a4 which were played earlier. However, 18.Qxd7? was wrong and allowed Black to obtain sufficient counterplay, whereas 18.Qf3 promised White a clear edge. An interesting game! The line with 9...g5 looks provocative and seems to yield White the upper hand, but play may become sharp and some precise moves may be required from White. In any case, 12...h4 looks better than 12...b5.

Scotch Opening 4...Qf6 5.Nb3 Qg6 6.f3 [C45]

In the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Cheparinov, I World Blitz St. Petersburg 2018, a pretty rare line of the Scotch was discussed.

In the diagram position Ian played the bizarre 7.g4, which he had already tested in a couple of blitz games. Black reacted correctly with 7...h5! 8. g5 f6! 9.Nc3 fxg5 and then White was the first to err with 10.Rg1?, when instead 10.Qe2 was correct. Soon the game went out of control and Black went wrong. A very interesting line of the Scotch, it seems that 7.g3 is a safer option for White. If White plays 7.g4 he has to continue with 10.Qe2.

Scotch Opening 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 dxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.b3 a5 [C45]

Finally, the game Iljiushenok, I - Mikhalevski, V World Blitz St. Petersburg 2018, saw a risky line from Black.

I chose the very risky 12...axb3 in the diagram position and after 13.axb3 Bb4+? 14.Bxb4 Rxa1 15.0-0 found myself in an extremely dangerous position with my king stuck in the centre. I soon realised that I had followed the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Onischuk, A, Moscow RUS 2015, which I had analysed for you a few years back! Although my 15...d5! improved upon Onischuk’s 15...Bb7 the position remained dodgy, and 17...Qh6? made things even worse. This game proved once again that 13...Bb4+? is a bad line, and that 12...Bxa3 has to be preferred.


See you next month, Victor.

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