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Hello everyone,
COVID-19 is still hindering live chess and so I decided to annotate the recent top-level online tournaments, instead of looking at older games or live games from lower-rated players. At least, online chess offers us a lot of decisive and hard-fought games: there is not a single draw in the current update with all the games played by the very best in the world.

Download PGN of July ’20 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Moller Defence 6.c3 0-0 7.d4 Bb6 [C78]

The game Nepomniachtchi, I - Caruana, F Chessable Masters Gr B 2020, saw a rare retreat of the dark-squared bishop to b6:

7...Ba7 instead is much more common. Ian reacted with the principled 8.Bg5, White also plays like this after 7...Ba7. The game continued 8...h6 9.Bh4 d6 10.h3, which is very interesting and should work especially well at shorter time controls. Black accepted the challenge, but after 10...g5 11.Nxg5! hxg5 12.Bxg5 it turned out that Black’s defence is not easy at all. Unfortunately, Caruana missed some tactics, 12...Kh7?, which after 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.dxe5 allowed White to win some material. However, he kept setting problems and White had to overcome serious difficulties on his way to a win. A very interesting game despite Black's possible blunder in the opening. 10.h3!? is interesting and sets difficult practical problems, Black had to react with 12...exd4 or 12...Kg7.

Delayed Steinitz Defence 5...d6 6.d4 Bd7 7.0-0 Bg7 8.h3 Nf6 9.Re1 0-0 10.Nbd2 Re8 [C76]

In the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Artemiev, V Chessable Masters Final 8 2020, the players discussed a logical line of the Fianchetto Deferred.

White played 11.d5 in the diagram position, instead of the more popular 11.Bc2 which has been seen in Caruana,F (2774)-Andreikin,D (2713) Moscow RUS 2013 [Mikhalevski,V]. After 11...Ne7 White played 12.Bc2, as 12.Bxd7 doesn’t promise an opening advantage, and Vladislav reacted with 12...Bh6, although 12...b5, preparing 13...c6, was interesting. Ian's next move, 13.Nf1, was inaccurate as instead 13.a4!, which makes Black play on the queenside more difficult, deserved serious attention. In the game Artemiev was able to equalise by means of 15...c6! However, he would have kept equal chances if he had played the correct 20...Nxc6!, instead of 20..bxc6? which led to White’s advantage. 11.d5 looks premature, and Black should answer it with a quick preparation of ...c6, in particular 12...b5 deserved attention.

Spanish, Anti-Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 [C65/48]

The game Carlsen, M - Giri, A Chessable Masters Final 8 2020, featured a rare line of the Anti-Berlin.

In the position given above White played the rare 6.Nc3, which he had already tested on a couple of occasions. Giri answered with 6...Qe7, while Grischuk preferred 6...0-0 in a recent game. After 7.h3 Anish played 7...b6, which I suppose can be replaced by 7...h6, as in Nakamura,H (2769)-Anand,V (2759) Leuven 2018. Nevertheless, after the moves 8.a3 h6 9.Qe2 Bd7 10.Be3 Bxe3 11.fxe3 0-0-0 12.Qf2 Ne8! Black equalised. White could try to improve on his play by means of 12.0-0-0, but Carlsen managed to obtain a slightly better endgame anyway. Giri was up to the task for the most part and would have drawn if he had played 43...Ra4!, but instead he went for 43...Rc1? and the World Champion didn’t leave him any chances. 6.Nc3 is not without poison, but Black demonstrated a reasonable way to deal with it - 12...Ne8 is an important idea.

Spanish, Schliemann Gambit 4.d3 fxe4 5.dxe4 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.Nc3 Be7 [C63]

Another game Nepomniachtchi, I - Artemiev, V, Chessable Masters Final 8 2020, featured the Schliemann Gambit.

In the popular diagram position White played 8.a4, which is extremely rare - earlier we considered 8.Be3 and also 8.Bc4, which seems to be the best option. Artemiev’s reaction 8...Bg4?! was inaccurate. White played 9.Qd3 and after 9...0-0 went for a faulty idea: 10.Bc4 Kh8 11.Ng5 Qe8?! (11...Nb4 is a more accurate move order) 12.Ne6? when after 12...Nb4 13.Qd2 Qf7! Black was already winning. However, after numerous mistakes from Black’s side White managed to win. This game proves that the Schliemann is still alive, and that 8.a4 doesn't seem to set big problems, although the best way to meet it is 8...0-0.

Giuoco Piano, 6.a4 a5 7.0-0 h6 8.Re1 0-0 9.h3 [C54]

The game Caruana, F - Carlsen, M Chessable Masters Final 8 2020, saw a typical Giuoco Piano.

However, the players reached the diagram position with Black to move, while mostly we see it with White to move. Carlsen now played 9...Be6, while earlier we analysed the position after 9...Ba7 in Karjakin,S (2783)-Kramnik,V (2811) Shamkir AZE 2017 [Mikhalevski,V]. The game continued 10.Bb5 (Caruana also chose a rare line) Na7! 11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 and now Magnus missed the intermediate 12...Bb4! which would give him some chances for an advantage. Instead, he went for 12..Nxb5?!, which could give White a slight edge had he played 17.Rd1! In the game Carlsen equalised and then outplayed his opponent slowly, but surely. What wonderful technique! Carlsen at his best. 10.Bb5 doesn't promise any opening advantage, but Black has to prefer 12...Bb4 to 12...Nxb5.

Giuoco Piano 6.Nbd2 g5 [C55]

Our next game, Alekseenko, K - Vitiugov, N Titled Tuesday 30th June blitz 2020, featured an interesting, but risky line with 6...g5:

Alekseenko demonstrated a new idea in the diagram position, he played 7.h4!? However, after the natural 7...g4 8.Nh2 h5 he went astray with 9.Nhf1?! when, instead, 9.Qb3 was strong and only after 9...Qe7 10.Nhf1 with slightly the better chances for White. After the text Black could have equalised by means of 9...d5! Vitiugov played 9...Bh6, came under pressure and was unable to recover. Black's early activity on the kingside backfired in this game. 7.h4 is interesting, but White has to continue with 9.Qb3!

Giuoco Piano 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 [C54]

The game Grischuk, A - Giri, A Chessable Masters Final 8 2020, also saw an extremely rare line in a well-known position:

Giri now played 7...a5!?, Grischuk continued with 8.Nbd2 Ba7 9.h3, which is a prophylactic move. Instead, White could have preferred 9.0-0, which occurred in Robson,N (2617)-Vesely,P (2574) ICCF email 2018, although Black’s play in that game can be improved. In the current game Black played 9...g5 10.Bg3 0-0 11.Qe2 Kg7?!, although probably it was more accurate to play 11...Nh5 12.Bh2 Ng7, preparing ...f5. After the text Alexander castled long and obtained the upper hand. A short, but very interesting game, Grischuk reacted well against Black's rare 7...a5 and obtained an edge, but then missed Black's counterattack and his position collapsed quickly. 11...Nh5 is worth a try for Black, as his slow play in the game led to a stable edge for White.

Giuoco Piano 6.a4 a5 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 [C54]

Finally, the game Harikrishna, P - Grischuk, A Chessable Masters Gr A 2020, was a mix of 6.a4 and 7.Bg5.

In the position given above the Russian GM played 9...0-0, although 9...Be6 looks like a safer choice. The game developed pretty logically: 10.Nbd2 Nh5! 11.h3! Qf6, but then both sides made slight inaccuracies. 12.Qe2 Kh8 (12...Ne7! was strong transferring the knight to f4) However, the serious mistake came later, when Grischuk played 15...Bd7? An interesting theoretical battle, which demonstrates a few important ideas in the lines with Bg5. 12.Bh2 is a more accurate move order, while 15...fxg3 is a must.


See you next month, Victor.

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