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With Tony busy on the tournament circuit, I've teamed up with Peter Wells to cover a number of high-level encounters in the Open Games this month. Computer-assisted preparation may rather over dominate in the Marshall Gambit these days, but one can still be creative elsewhere, as we'll see both Ivanchuk and Naiditsch demonstrate in the Petroff.

Download PGN of July '08 1 e4 e5 games

The Petroff Defence [C42]

A popular choice is still 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 Nc3 Nxc3 6 dxc3 when 6...Be7 is Black's main move. However, 6...Nc6 gives him greater flexibility against both 7 Be3 and 7 Bf4. Black has usually transposed after the latter with 7...Be7, but in Karjakin - Ivanchuk he came up with a completely new plan: 7...Qf6!?:

Not only does the queen bolster Black's kingside defences, but he may also be able to get in the active manoeuvre ...Qf5-a5, as indeed Ivanchuk did.

I really like Ivanchuk's novelty, but am less convinced by another which has received somewhat more attention of late, namely that rook sacrifice from Naiditsch - Kramnik: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Nc6 7 0-0 Be7 8 Re1 Bg4 9 c4 Nf6 10 Nc3 Bxf3 11 Qxf3 Nxd4 12 Qd1 Ne6 13 cxd5 Nxd5 14 Bb5+ c6 15 Nxd5 cxb5 16 Bf4 Nxf4 17 Rxe7+ Kf8 18 Re5 Qd6 19 Qd2!?:

White's novelty certainly came as a massive shock to Kramnik who collapsed with remarkable speed. Here he appeared overly worried about White's possible preparation and it turns out that the rook can and should be taken - Black is fine after 19...Qxe5 20 Qb4+ Ke8.

The Scotch [C45]

Peter Wells writes:

After 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Bc5 5 Be3 Qf6 6 c3 Nge7 for years 7 Bc4 was regarded as White's best try, but Black's super-accurate move order of 7...Ne5 8 Be2 Qg6 9 0-0 d6! has rather put the onus on White to get creative at this point:

Though short, Rublevsky - Khenkin features an apparently very sensible novelty (16...b5) in this theoretically crucial variation. Some have abandoned 7 Bc4 for the scarcely more impressive 7 g3, but there have been surprisingly many high-level games specifically in the line examined here. I have to say, it's more complex (and more fun) than I used to think, but I still reckon Black should be doing fine.

White's major alternative is, of course, 5 Nxc6 Qf6 when 6 Qf3 has been pretty topical for a while now. In Radjabov - Inarkiev White introduces the novelty 6...bxc6 7 Qg3 h5 8 Nc3!?, allowing the h-pawn to rush on:

According to ChessBase, Sergey Shipov remarked of this game: 'If I had seen these moves in an amateur game I would have told the players that they didn't know the opening principles.' It is difficult not to sympathise! But in fact White's fascinating novelty on move 8 asks a very fundamental question: in the basic structure typical of this now fashionable variation, where both sides hope to generate some dynamic compensation for their doubled pawns, does Black's h-pawn advance actually contribute very much to his cause?

The Ruy Lopez: The Anti-Marshall [C88]

Richard writes:

Recent updates have seen a fair amount of coverage devoted to the fairly popular line 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 8 h3 Bb7 9 d3 and especially here 9...d6 10 a3. However, I've long wondered what's wrong with the more active, Marshall-like 9...d5!?:

This has recently received some high-level attention and seems fine for Black - see the notes to Ivanchuk - Svidler.

The Ruy Lopez: The Marshall Gambit [C89]

The fashionable line in the Marshall runs 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 8 c3 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Rxe5 c6 12 d3 Bd6 13 Re1 Bf5 14 Qf3:

Shirov has been to the fore here and so this position cannot have come as a surprise to Black in Shirov - Onischuk. There 14...Re8!? 15 Rxe8+ Qxe8 16 Nd2 was debated, but even Onischuk's novelty 16...Qe6!? doesn't appear to suffice for full equality, and Shirov later won with some fine Steinitz-like king play.

Black's main move remains 14...Qh4 and I've rounded up a number of developments here in the notes to Sutovsky - Jakovenko. That game itself is, though, a little puzzling: White never had any real winning chances, although he did manage to show that a line previously considered rather bad for him should actually be drawn.

The Ruy Lopez: The Breyer Defence [C95]

Peter Wells writes:

Following 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 0-0 9 h3 Nb8 10 d4 Nbd7 11 Nbd2 Bb7 12 Bc2 Re8 13 Nf1 Bf8 14 Ng3 g6 a key tabiya is reached:

The last year or so has witnessed a discernible resurgence of interest in the old main line with 15 a4 and away from 15 b3 which has dominated practice for some years. Both are likely to lead to quite heavy manoeuvring, but the former tends to invite a closure of the centre, as we'll see in Timofeev - Azarov.

Many thanks to Richard and Peter, and see you next month, Tony

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