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Hello everyone,
This update will be mostly focused on the GCT tournament in Zagreb, Croatia. As usual there is a lot of top-level chess and interesting novelties. Some of the lines have never been seen on our site yet.

Download PGN of July ’19 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Yurtaev/Modern Archangel Defence 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 h6 [C78]

I would like to start with the game Vachier Lagrave, M - Caruana, F GCT Zagreb 2019.

MVL played 10.axb5 in the diagram position, which is a pretty rare option. Instead, 10.Re1 was played in a couple of recent games against Vishy Anand. After 10...axb5 11.Rxa8 Qxa8 12.Nh4 Black reacted correctly with 12...Bc8 13.Na3 Bg4! Now White went astray with 16.Nf5?, and after 16...Bxf5 17.exf5 0-0 Black started to take over. An interesting fighting game, but 10.axb5 doesn't seem to promise any opening advantage.

Spanish. Berlin endgame 9.h3 Be7 10.Nc3 Nh4 11.Nxh4 Bxh4 [C67]

The game Aronian, L - Karjakin, S GCT Zagreb 2019, saw the 9...Be7 line, which is gaining popularity.

Aronian surprised his opponent with a novelty in a well-known position. Here he played 12.f4, instead of the main line 12.Be3. The Russian player reacted with the modest, but playable, 12...Bd7, although 12...Bf5 is more critical, in my opinion. However, after 13.Bd2 Kc8?! was already inaccurate and White obtained an edge with the precise 14.Be1 Be7 15.f5!

12.f4 is a playable novelty, but it seems that Black can equalize with some precise play. 12...Bf5 or 13...g6 should be preferred to the game continuation.

Berlin 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nf5 8.Nf3 d5 9.d4 0-0 [C67]

In the game So, W - Nakamura, H GCT Zagreb 2019, White chose a relatively rare line in the diagram position below:

Now he played 10.Nc3, where earlier we had considered 10.g3 and 10.Bf4. Hikaru reacted with his favourite 10...Nh4 and after 11.Nxh4 Bxh4 Wesley introduced the novelty, 12.Bb5!?. Black reacted with 12...Ne7, while 12...Bf5 deserved attention as well. Now after 13.Bd3! Bf6 14.Qh5 g6 15.Qf3 Bg7 16.Bg5! f6 17.Bd2 Black played 17...c6 18.Ne2 Nf5 19.g3 , but then erred with 19...Nh6?!. Instead, after the correct 19...Re8 he would be close to solving his opening problems.

I don't think that 12.Bb5 is better than the alternatives, but it definitely had some surprise value in this game. I would recommend 12...Bf5 or 19...Re8.

Berlin 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Nd4 Bc5 11.Rd1 Re8 [C67]

The game Wei Yi - Rapport, R 10th Danzhou GM 2019, saw the 6...Be7 line, which is out of fashion.

In the diagram position White played 12.Qh5, which hasn’t been seen for at least 9 years. Rapport reacted with 12...Qe7, although 12...Bxd4 is a reasonable alternative. After the moves 13.Bf4 Bxf4 14.Rxf4 d5 15.Re1 Nc5 White played the clever 16.Bd2, but 16.Rdd1 looks like a way to put some pressure on. Then he had a couple of options to improve on his play before making a risky move, 19.Nxd5?!, and had to fight for a draw. The line with 5...Be7 is a reasonable alternative to the Berlin endgame, while 12...Bxd4 looks slightly more accurate than 12...Qe7.

Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.Nbd2 [C65]

The game Nepomniachtchi, I - So, W GCT Zagreb 2019, featured 5...Nd4 in the diagram position given below, a move which is gaining popularity:

After Black’s fifth move the play became rather concrete: 6.Nxd4 Bxd4 7.c3 Bb6 8.d4 c6 (Kramnik’s novelty) 9.dxe5 cxb5 10.exf6 Qxf6 11.0-0 0-0 12.a4 bxa4 13.Nc4 and here So introduced the interesting novelty 13...d5!?, instead of Kramnik’s 13...Bc7. Both players then played pretty well before Black started to go astray with 22...Qd7?! and White obtained an edge. Instead, 22...Qb7 would be better. Chess is a cruel game - White played a good game, outplayed his opponent, reached a completely won position and then one inaccurate move allowed Black to escape with a draw. 13...d5 is an interesting novelty, which should lead to equality, but Black has to prefer 18...Qxe4 to 18..f6.

Two Knights 4.d3 h6 5.c3 d6 6.Nbd2 [C55]

Our next game, Anand, V - Nepomniachtchi, I GCT Zagreb 2019, saw the interesting but risky new line 6...g5 in the diagram position. See below:

White continued with 7.h3 (In a recent game White tested 7.Nf1) 7...Bg7 8.Bb3 0-0 9.Nf1 Ne7 The players had followed the rapid game Dominguez,L-Mamedyarov,S Saint louis 2018, which saw 10.Ne3. Instead Anand played the dubious 10.h4?!, but the correct reaction would be 10.g4!, which promised White an advantage. Black's opening experiment with 6...g5 was justified, but its objective assessment is questionable. Thus, 9...Na5 looks better than 9...Ne7, but White seems to retain an edge there as well.

Giuoco Piano 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 Bg4 [C54]

In the game Aronian, L - So, W GCT Zagreb 2019, the players discussed a rather popular line of the Italian with 5.d4.

After Black played 12...Nxc3 in the diagram position above (when the main alternative is 12...Bg6) the players followed the recent game Anand,V (2767)-Aronian,L (2752) Stavanger 2019, for the first 16 moves. After 16.0-0 Black decided to improve on the aforementioned game with 16...Rae8!? instead of Aronian’s 16...Bxf3. White reacted correctly with 17.Ne5!, but his 20.Nxc4 was inaccurate and Black equalised. 16...Rae8 is an interesting novelty and in order to fight for an advantage White has to play 20.f4. After 20.Nxc4 the position remained equal for the rest of the game.

Italian Game 5.Bg5 [C50]

The game Yu Yangyi - Vidit, S 10th Danzhou GM 2019, featured an Italian with 5.Bg5, which has never been seen on our pages before. So, the current game is a good opportunity to fill this gap:

Black reacted with the pretty rare 5...Be7, 5...h6 6.Bh6 Be7, which was already tested by Vidit, is more popular. The game continued 6.a4 0-0 7.Nc3 d6 8.h3 Be6 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.0-0. The players have reached a typical position in which Black doesn’t seem to have any problems. Soon Black equalized, but then started to commit mistakes: 22...Bc5?!, 24...Rf6? and eventually lost the game.

5...Be7 is a reasonable way to meet the 5.Bg5 line, but a dull position after the opening is not to everyone's liking.


See you next month, Victor.

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