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Hello everyone,
The current update will be based on games from the ongoing World Cup, which I also played in. I’ve added my own game from the recently finished Israeli league (our team from Beer-Sheva won) and a couple of games from the German Grand Prix. Please pay particular attention to the game Kasimdzhanov-Kollars.

Download PGN of July ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Open Variation 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Bg4 12.h3 [C83]

The game Shankland, S - Areshchenko, A World Cup Krasnaya Poliana 2021 (3.1), saw a well-known line of the Open Spanish with 9.Be3.

White has just played 12.h3, instead of the main line 12.Nxe4. Black’s retreat 12...Bh5 was risky, as after 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Qd5! White obtained a better version of 12.Nxe4. Black followed with the dubious 14...Qxd5?! and obtained a worse position, and two subsequent mistakes 18...f6?! and 19...f5? were already too much. 12.h3 looks like an interesting way to set problems, so probably Black should stick to the main line with 12...Nxd2.

Spanish, 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.a4 Rb8 8.axb5 axb5 9.0-0 d6 10.h3 h6 11.Nc3 0-0 [C77]

In the game Smirin, I - Mikhalevski, V ISR-Tch 2021, the players discussed a well-known position in the Closed Spanish with 5.d3.

In this equal position, in the diagram given above, White played 12.Ne2, a move which had been seen in a couple of recent games. After the logical sequence 12...Ne7 13.Ng3 Ng6 14.c3 Bb6 White’s next move, 15.Be3, was inaccurate and Black started to take over by means of 15...Bxe3! 16.fxe3 b4! Ilya then made a few inaccuracies in a row under some pressure: 17.Kh2?!, 18.Qc2?! and 19.cxb4?! and after 19...Rxb4 I was better. Only my mistakes in time trouble allowed Smirin to turn the tables and win the game. An interesting game, but White's 7.a4 doesn't promise White any opening advantage.

Spanish, Berlin Defence, 6.Ba4 [C67]

The game Iniyan, P - Tomashevsky, E World Cup Krasnaya Poliana (2.1), featured a relatively rare retreat of the bishop to a4, instead of the main line 6.Bxc6 or the well-known 6.dxe5.

The Russian GM was aware of the line and reacted with the computer’s recommendation 6...exd4, where 6...e4 is a more popular alternative. The game continued 7.c3 Be7! 8.cxd4 0-0 9.Nc3 Instead, the correct move, 9.Re1! was played by one of the heroes of the current World Cup Ivic, although Black was still doing fine in the game Ivic-Motylev, FIDE World Cup Europe Hybrid 2021. In this game Tomashevsky introduced an interesting novelty 9...b5, which is sufficient for equality, but 9...Nc4!, which was played in a few preceding games, was even stronger. White had to accept the pawn sacrifice, but after 10.Bc2?! Nb4 11.Bb1 Bb7 12.Re1 he was already under pressure. Black could play 12...g6!, but his 12...Nd5 wasn’t bad either and even provoked the mistake 13.Nxd5?!, which led to a clear advantage for Black (13.Ne5 would be the lesser evil). A relatively easy win for the experienced Russian grandmaster, the line with 6.Ba4 leads to some complications, but if Black is well-prepared White should be careful in order to equalise. The 9...b5 novelty is interesting, but 9...Nc4! looks even stronger.

Giuoco Piano, 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 a6 8.a4 Qe7 9.0-0 Ba7 10.Nbd2 [C54]

Tabatabaei, M - Yu Yangyi World Cup Krasnaya Poliana 2021 (3.1)

This game saw the theoretical line with 6.Bg5, and in the well-known diagram position Black played the very rare 10...0-0, instead of 10...g5. However, the players soon transposed to a more popular position after the following sequence: 11.Re1 Be6 12.b4 Bxc4 13.Nxc4 Qe6 14.b5 Ne7. This position occurred in a recent game by the World Champion, So, W – Carlsen, M/2021 . That game saw 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Rb1 and later in the game Black was under some pressure, but his play could be improved. In our game the immediate 15.Rb1 was played, which might be more challenging. Black’s reaction, 15...Nd7 was slightly inaccurate (15...g5 deserved attention) and after 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.d4 White obtained a slight edge and eventually led the game to a win. A very convincing win for the Iranian player, who didn't give his strong opponent any chances. After 10...0-0 Black seems to be under some pressure and so the main line 10...g5 can be recommended.

Giuoco Piano, 5.Bg5 Be7 [C50]

Pichot, A - Grischuk, A World Cup Krashnaya Poliana 2021 (3.2).

In the well-known diagram position given above the Argentinian player introduced the new move 6.Bh4. White brings the bishop to h4 without being attacked by the h-pawn which may turn out to be a loss of one tempo. White's idea is to play 7.Bg3, but I don't understand why he had to rush with it. After some natural moves: 6...0-0 7.Bg3 d6 8.a4 Kh8 9.Nc3 Ng8 10.Nd5 f5 Black was already fine. White started to play carelessly 11.h3?!, 12.Qe2? and if Grischuk needed more than a draw it could well have ended badly for White, but Alexander was in a drawish mood and led the game to a safe haven with an iron hand. This game demonstrates how one can play for a draw without taking any risks. White's play, starting with 6.Bh4, cannot be recommended.

Giuoco Piano 5...0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1 Bg4 9.h3 Bh5 10.Nbd2 Nb6 11.Bb5 Bd6 12.Ne4 [C54]

Vokhidov, S - Karjakin, S World Cup Krasnaya Poliana 2021(2.2).

In the diagram position, which has been seen plenty of times, Black proceeded with the main line 12...f5, which is a good way to play for a win - earlier we considered 12...Re8 in the game Nakamura,H (2777)-Grischuk,A (2766) Saint Louis USA 2018. After 13.Ng3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Qd7 the players reached a well-known position, in which it’s easier to play with Black. Indeed, after 15.Nf1 Rae8 16.Bxc6 (novelty) 16...bxc6 Black was already better, as White was lacking space. 19.c4? only made things worse, which Karjakin underlined with the spectacular 19...Na8! The opening line which occurred in the game is good for Black and so White should prefer 11.Bb3, as after 11.Bb5 White is fighting for equality.

Scotch, 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.g3 g6 9.c4 Ba6 10.b3 Bg7 11.Bb2 0-0 12.Bg2 Rfe8 13.0-0 [C45]

Kasimdzhanov, R - Kollars, D German Grand Prix Dortmund 2021.

Here the players discussed a well-known endgame position, which has at least four different versions. In the current one the Uzbek player went for the critical 18.f4! Re3! 19.Bxd5 Rae8 20.Nd2! It was only here that Black played a new move, 20...Kf8 instead of 20...Rd3 and 20...Re2. White reacted precisely and Black was the first to err, with 24...Re3?!, which after 25.Bd3 led to a stable advantage for White. A nice positional win by the Uzbek grandmaster. I think 19...c6 must be preferred to 19...Rae8. Later in the game 23...a5 or 24...Rc5 had to be played. All in all, a tricky endgame, which must be studied deeply.

Scotch Four Knights, 5...Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.Bd2 [C47]

Kollars, D - Eljanov, P German Grand Prix Dortmund 2021.

The game saw an offbeat line of the Scotch with 8.Bd2. However, it has been seen at a high level and couldn’t have come as a surprise for the strong Ukrainian player. He continued 8...0-0 9.0-0 Rb8, one of the several good lines for Black in the current position, together with 9...Bxc3, which was played by the World Champion. After 10.Re1 Pavel went for 10...Bg4. The latter was tried by the young Russian star Esipenko half a year ago. White played the obvious 11.Qc1 and Black introduced a novelty, 11...Be6, which is probably not of the highest quality. Instead, Esipenko preferred the more natural 11...Re8. After 12.a3 Be7 13.Bf4!? Nh5 14.exd5 Eljanov played 14...Nxf4, when 14...cxd5 might have equalised. However, a mistake came after 15.dxe6, as here Pavel played the risky 15...fxe6?!, when after 15...Nxe6 he could have reached a defendable endgame. White almost let it slip with 16.Ne4?!, when, instead, 16.Bb1! would be strong. Anyway, Black returned the favour with 17...Rf5? and after 18.Bf1! didn’t get a chance to come back into the game. A great strategical win for the young German player. Black's novelty 11...Be6 is not recommended, 11...Re8 is better, while 10...Re8 also looks fine for Black.


See you next month, Victor.

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