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The stars of this update are Mamedyarov, who has 3 games as Black from the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in which he shows his deep preparation by introducing good new moves in slightly offbeat lines, and Adhiban who scores 2/2 with his sharp tactical play, one with white and one with black.

Download PGN of January ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Scotch Game 4...Qf6 5 Nb3 [C45]

I was toying with the idea of adding 4...Qf6 to my repertoire, as it might give my opponents something to think about, especially if they normally answer 4...Bc5 with 5 Nb3.

In Papadiamandis, E - Adhiban, B White played 5 Nb3 anyway, but after Black's strong and dynamic play, involving leaving a whole rook hanging, he was blown away.

I've also has a look at the critical alternative 5 Nb5 in the notes, where Black should have no problems if he knows what he is doing.

Scotch Four Knights 4...Bb4 5 d5 [C47]

Mamedyarov has played 4...Bb4 several times in 2022, and so have some other strong players, but we haven't seen it on ChessPublishing since GM Olivier Renet analysed it extensively way back in 2006.

I think it is a good alternative to the 4...exd4 mainline, which is very fashionable and can tend to get a bit drawish, and, as you can see from the notes to Murzin, V - Mamedyarov, S, Black also has several other reasonable alternatives to Mamedyarov's sharp and interesting play.

Giuoco Piano 4 d3 Bc5 5 0-0 d6 6 c3 h6 7 Nbd2 a5 8 Re1 0-0 9 Nf1 a4 [C54]

Victor looked at this line in the May 2020 update, where Nakamura played 13...Ra8. Since then Black has preferred 13...d5:

However, Black was soon in trouble in Giri, A - Sargsyan, S and White won the exchange, although things did get a bit messy. I think that Black should prefer Victor's suggested 13...exd4 in the future.

Bishop's Opening 3...Nf6 4 d3 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 0-0 Nb6 [C55]

After last month's loss against Wesley So, I was slightly surprised to see Mamedyarov play this line again, but he obviously felt that he had been OK in that game. Adhiban, B - Mamedyarov, S featured the 7 Bb3 line which I had considered less critical last month and play soon reached a key position:

I think Black is for preference here, and, indeed, he was soon winning before things went awry and got very messy. In the ensuing complications White finally came out on top.

Spanish, Classical Berlin Defence 4 d3 Bc5 5 Bg5 [C65]

5 Bg5 is currently really trendy with super GMs. In Vokhidov, S - Hovhannisyan, R Black replied 5...h6 6 Bh4 Be7, a standard plan to force the white dark-squared bishop off the long c1-h6 diagonal before breaking the pin. Following 7 Nc3 0-0! White grabbed the e-pawn by 8 Bxc6 bxc6 9 Nxe5:

However, Black has the tactical riposte 9...Nxe4! and a little later this position occurred:

Here Black produced a fantastic novelty, which is even more remarkable considering that this was only a blitz game.

Spanish, Siesta Variation 5 c3 f5 6 exf5 Bxf5 7 0-0 Bd3 [C74]

A while ago a former student of mine recommanded this line to me and so I was keen to have a good look at it here. Following 5 c3 f5 6 exf5 Bxf5 7 0-0 Bd3 8 Re1 Be7 9 Re3 e4 10 Ne1 Bg5:

Black was soon much better in Zhalmakhanov, R - Anton Guijarro, D. I can see nothing wrong with this line for Black and I'm surprised that it is not more popular. It is definitely a good weapon to have in your arsenal if you like playing the Steinitz Deferred.

Spanish, 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bc5 [C77]

Even though it is only the 5th most popular move here you can't really call 5 Nc3 'rare' as it has already been played well over 3000 times! Following 5...Bc5 6 Bxc6 dxc6 7 d3 the e5-pawn is under threat, but Black can defend it with the aggressive 7...Ng4!?:

After 8 0-0 Qe7 (aiming to castle long) 9 h3 Black can simply maintain his steed on h4 by 9...h5 as White cannot capture. Having said that, White did actually take the knight a few moves later in Tologontegin, S - Gareev, T but got horribly mangled.

Objectively this line may be playable for White, but there are lots of practical difficulties, and in the real world Black scores 65%.

Open Spanish, Keres Variation 9 Qe2 Be7 10 Rd1 0-0 11 c4 bxc4 12 Bxc4 [C81]

We haven't looked at the Keres Variation for quite a while. It's not that popular at the moment, but when I was young it was given as the mainline in a book I had by Leonard Barden. A lot of the theory is based on old games from the 70s and 80s, which might make it a useful surprise weapon nowadays. In Amin, B - Mamedyarov, S, after 9 Qe2 Be7 10 Rd1 0-0 11 c4 bxc4 12 Bxc4 Black played 12...Qd7:

This might not be objectively the best move, but it is still close to equality after best play by both sides.

Until next month, Tony.

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