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Hello everyone,
This time I had a very wide choice of top level games, but decided to entirely focus on the 2017 London Chess Classic. I would like to draw your attention to the Nakamura-Carlsen game- 'future chess'.

Download PGN of January ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. Anti-Marshall 8.a4 b4 9.d4 d6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Nbd2 Bc5 12.a5 [C88]

I would like to start with the game So, W - Aronian, L 9th London Classic 2017.

Aronian played 12...Be6 in the diagram positon, which White used to meet with 13.Qe2. This time the American GM introduced a strong novelty, 13.Bxe6!, and after the moves 13...fxe6 14.Qe2 Ng4 15.Rf1 Levon went for the speculative 15...Bxf2? while 15...Nd4 was necessary. However, Wesley returned the favour with 17.Qc4?, when instead 17.Qd3 promised a clear edge. A very interesting fighting draw, but 13.Bxe6! looks like a strong novelty and Black still has to prove he has enough resources to equalise. I wouldn't be surprised if Black decided to avoid 12...Be6 in the future.

Spanish with 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Bg4 [C84]

Another Aronian game, Caruana, F - Aronian, L 9th London Classic 2017, saw an important theoretical line, which Aronian has already defended quite a few times.

The Armenian GM decided to deviate from 15...Bd7, which he played at least twice earlier in the position given above, and went for 15...Rb8. Caruana introduced the novelty 16.h3, instead of the 16.axb5 from Kashlinskaya, A - Guseva, M/Bilbao 2014. However, Aronian was up to the task and equalised with some precise play. 18.Ra6 seems to be the only try to set some problems in this line.

Spanish 5.d3 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nf1 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Ng3 [C77]

In the game Caruana, F - So, Wesley 9th London Classic 2017, the players followed a recommendation of mine from my book The Open Spanish.

Here Wesley deviated from the 11...a5 which I gave in the book with 11...f6. After White broke through in the centre by 14.d4 exd4 15.Nxd4 Nxd4 16. Qxd4 Bf7 Black equalised without any problems. The setup chosen by White in this game doesn't promise any opening advantage, while 9...d5 is an important idea to solve Black's problems. Wesley also demonstrated that 11...f6 is a solid way to equalise and even obtained a slight edge, while 11...a5, which I gave in my book, equalises as well.

Spanish Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bg5 [C65]

The game Carlsen, M - So, Wesley 9th London Classic 2017, saw a very rare line with 5.Bg5 in a well-known position:

So played 5...Nd4 in the diagram position, which turned out to be the first test of this move at the GM level. After logical play from both sides the American player was the first to go astray with 20...Bxb3?, when instead 20...Ng7 promised roughly equal chances. 5.Bg5 is an interesting deviation from more popular lines, while Black has a few ways to fight against it. More practical tests are required to determine the best defence.

Italian, Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 [C54]

Another pretty rare line was chosen by the world champion in the game Vachier-Lagrave, M - Carlsen, M 9th London Classic 2017.

Carlsen played 7...Ne7 in the diagram position, when 7...a6 and 7...a5 are more popular alternatives. After the critical 8.d4 Bb6 the French GM introduced a new idea with 9.a4. Magnus reacted with 9...c6, when 9...a5 looks safer, and after a sequence of rather forced moves White played 15.Re1, where 15.Nbd2 promised chances for some edge. In the game Black was about to equalise when his 18..Ne4?! was inaccurate and allowed White to obtain a plus. 18...Nf5 was better and promised good compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

7...Ne7 is an interesting line, but 9...a5 has to be preferred to 9...c6.

Italian, Modern Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 Ba7 8.Re1 h6 9.Nbd2 [C54]

The game Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M 9th London Classic 2017, saw the main line of the modern Giuoco Piano with a4.

In the position given above Magnus deviated from the main line 9...0-0 with the attractive 9...g5, but Karjakin met this with the strong novelty 10.b4! In all the preceding games Black was fine after 10.Nf1 g4. The subsequent play was of a very high standard, but after the moves 10...Nh5! 11.Nb3 g4 12.b5 gxf3 13.Qxf3 Qf6 14.Qxf6 Nxf6 15.bxc6 bxc6 the ensueing endgame was slightly better for White. However, already the next move 16.d4 was inaccurate and allowed Black to equalise, when instead White had to choose between 16.Kf1 and 16.Na5, retaining a slight edge in both cases. Despite the draw it seems that 10.b4! sets Black problems and so he should avoid 9...g5 in favour of 9...0-0.

Italian, Modern Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.a4 h6 7.c3 a5 [C50]

Another branch of the modern Giuoco Piano, this time with ...a5, was seen in the game Anand, V - So, Wesley 9th London Classic 2017.

Anand played 8.Nbd2 in the diagram position, while earlier we only considered 8.h3. After the moves 8...d6 9.h3 Be6 10.Re1 the players reached an unfortunate position for Anand, who had already lost a game with this on the black side as well. They followed the game Lorenzini, M - Anton Guijarro, D Neuquen ARG 2017 for the first 14 moves, when Wesley deviated with 14...Ne7 instead of 14...b6. Vishy played slightly inaccurately, came under pressure and eventually his position collapsed. The opening setup in the game doesn't promise White any advantage and so he should consider alternative ways of development or just a different move order.

Scotch with 4...Nf6 5. 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 [C45]

The last game in this update, Nakamura, H - Carlsen, M 9th London Classic 2017, is by no means the least. Moreover it's very special and highly recommended for a slow review.

It's curious we have never considered this line on our pages, although we did so with the inclusion of the moves 8.c4 Ba6, and so the current game is a good opportunity to fill the gap. This is a pet line of the Russian GM Morozevich, which was recently picked-up by Nepomniachtchi. However, it has to be said that they employed it mostly in faster time controls. Carlsen met it with 8...Bb7, which initiated very interesting and unusual play. Look at the position after 15.Kf2:

Here Magnus went astray with 15...Nxa5?!, when instead 15...Bc5 was interesting and promised roughly equal chances.

An unbelievable escape for the world champion. The line with 8.h4 shouldn't present a problem for Black, but he has to know how to meet it. I like the line with 8...Qe6.

See you next month, Victor.

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