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Well, the New Year has arrived, let's hope it is better than the last! All these games were from 2021, of course, There are some new ideas here, but also some old moves that have suddenly become fashionable again. I've mostly been looking at tricky lines that are recently popular, but that haven't been covered here on ChessPub very much.

Download PGN of January ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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Scotch 4...Bc5 5 Nb3 Bb6 6 Nc3 d6 7 Qe2 a5 [C45]

After 4...Bc5 5 Nb3 Bb6 6 Nc3 Black's current preference is to play the aggressive line 6...d6 7 Qe2 a5!:

This was rare, but it's the preferred line of Stockfish and strong players have taken note! The threat of ...a5-a4 is annoying for White, who doesn't want to retreat his b3-knight to d2, and so far Black has scored well, see Corrales Jimenez, F - Artemiev, V for the analysis.

Evans Gambit Accepted 5...Ba5 Mainline 6 d4 d6 7 Qb3 Qd7 [C52]

It's been quite a while since we considered the Evans mainline - looking at the Previous King Pawn Updates page it was back in 2015, and before that 2008! Just recently many strong players have been trying it, but in particular Zhigalko who has played it many times. After 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Ba5 6 d4 d6 7 Qb3 Qd7! 8 O-O Bb6 he plays 9 Nbd2!:

White allows Black to gain the bishop pair, but at the cost of development. Black should be fine, but he really has to know what he is doing, and the smallest slip can be curtains, see Sindarov, J - Erdos, V for the critical analysis.

Giuoco Piano 5...a5 6 0-0 d6 7 Re1 h6 8 Nbd2 0-0 9 Nf1 Re8 [C54]

I had originally planned to avoid looking at any Giuoco Pianos for a while, but then I saw our Victor had played 1...e5 against the future World Rapid Champion on Boxing Day, and that the game was quite brilliant, so I just couldn't ignore it ...

White has just played 16 Ra3, ready to swing his rook along the third rank. What was he planning? Don't miss Abdusattorov, N - Mikhalevski, V!

Max Lange Attack 5 d4 exd4 6 e5 d5 7 exf6 dxc4 8 Re1+Be6 9 fxg7 [C56]

The last time there was a Max Lange Attack on these pages was probably 2010, which is more than a decade ago. This is a tricky opening and personally I have always avoided it (with my move order) for Black, as it seems like just the sort of opening where you can lose to someone much weaker if he is well prepared and you aren't.

Al Bulushi, R - Al Fayyadh, Z is not the greatest of games, but it does illustrate the sort of catastrophe that can easily befall Black if she doesn't know what she is doing.

As you can see from the notes I've analysed this quite deeply, and worked out the best lines for both colours, but even so I would still prefer to avoid playing the Max Lange as Black!

Two Knights 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 Qe2 Be7 8 Nc3 O-O 9 O-O [C58]

As I mentioned last month, I definitely think Black should prefer 3...Nf6 to 3...Bc5 for various reasons ... like avoiding the three previous openings, for example!

Last month I looked at 4 Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6 Bb5+ and the main move 6...c6, but an alternative that I've always quite liked as Black is 6...Bd7:

Moussard, J - Romanov, E continued 7 Qe2 Be7 8 Nc3 O-O 9 O-O Bxb5 10 Qxb5 c6 11 dxc6 Nxc6 12 Qe2 Nd4 and now Jules played the very unusual 13 Qd3!? keeping his queen active, but on the 'wrong' side of his pawns.

Black almost invariably obtains enough compensation for his pawn due to his development advantage and pressure on c2, but White is solid, and indeed went on to win here after a tactical exchange.

Spanish, Exchange Variation 5...Bd6 6 d4 exd4 7 Qxd4 f6 8 Be3 [C68]

Against the Exchange Ruy I have always liked the old line of Mark Hebden's with 5...Bd6, and not just because it is so natural and also one of Carlsen's favourites. However, I was surprised to see that I was actually making a small error with my move order on move 10, here:

What could it be?

All is revealed in the annotations to Kuegel, T - Bayo Milagro, A.

Closed Spanish Opening 9...a5 [C92]

9...a5 is only the 8th most popular move in the Closed Ruy Lopez, and one we've never considered before on ChessPublishing, but it has become quite trendy recently.

It was actually a favourite of Paul Keres around the time I was born, and, as you can see from Morovic Fernandez, I - Esipenko, A, Black's plan is to expand on the queenside with ...Bd7, followed by ...a5-a4 and a later ...Na5 and ...c7-c5. White should keep a small advantage, but has to know what he is doing.

Spanish, Breyer's Variation 9 h3 Nb8 10 d4 Nbd7 11 c4 [C95]

Following 9 h3 Nb8 10 d4 Nbd7 I seem to remember getting the impression that the move 11 c4 was almost a refutation of the Breyer in one of the first chess books I ever bought, by Leonard Barden, many, many years ago. It also featured in the second Fischer-Spassky match, but has been fairly rare since:

However, there were quite a few high-level games this past few weeks, with some new ideas. Santos Latasa, J - Topalov, V continued 11...c6 12 Qc2 which is the current preference, although in the mainline 12 Nc3 there also some interesting new plans, see the notes.

I would like to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2022!

Until next month, Tony.

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