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Since last month I have actually played a tournament in the North of Italy, at the beautiful Lanzo D'Intelvi area, near Lake Como and overlooking Lugano and Lake Lugano in Switzerland. The town is only a few minutes from the Balcone d'Italia with its breathtaking views.
While I was working on this update the Candidates tournament has been in full swing and Nepo looks like he will win without playing a single King's Gambit! There are a couple of games from the tournament here, but I hope to have some more next month.

Download PGN of July ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Bd6 7 0-0 0-0 8 c4 c6 [C42]

So far during the candidates Nepo has been scoring very well indeed with the Petroff as Black, although mainly because two of his opponent's have been taking risks to win with White. Rapport, R - Nepomniachtchi, I is a case in point. After the rare 9 Qb3!? Black replied 9...Bg4!:

Following a few logical moves Black gave his b-pawn and a8-rook to force a draw by repetition ... except that the Hungarian GM was not in a peaceful mood, avoided the draw, and was soon losing!

Giuoco Piano, Pomtow Attack 7 Nbd2 Nxe4 8 d5 Bxd2+ [C54]

The Pomtow Attack is becoming rather trendy, and yet still has some surprise value as I saw in Lanzo D'Intelvi. In Kosteniuk, A - Durarbayli, V Black continued 7...Nxe4 8 d5 Bxd2+ 9 Bxd2 Ne7:

Two interesting novelties (one in the notes) scored wins for White, but in the cold light of day Black was much better early on in both games. 8...Bxd2+ looks like yet another sound line for Black so I fear the Pomtow may soon run its course.

Bishop's Opening 4...d5 [C55]

Curiously, we've never looked at the natural move 4...d5 before, but if Black can successfully play this freeing move then why not? Demchenko, A - Erigaisi, A continued 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 0-0 Be7 7 Re1 f6, solidly supporting e5:

The main problem is that the a2-g8 diagonal is weakened, but Erigaisi and Paravyan have been scoring well for Black recently against strong opponents.

Two Knights 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 Na5 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 Qe2 Be7 [C58]

One attraction of this line for Black, in my view, is that it is a lot easier to learn the theory than with 6...c6 where there are many complicated alternatives at move 8. After 6...Bd7 7 Qe2 Be7 8 Nc3 Bxb5 9 Qxb5+ c6 10 dxc6 Nxc6 11 0-0 0-0 12 Qe2 Nd4 13 Qd1 (I looked at the rare 13 Qd3!? a few months ago) 13...Rc8 is now being replaced by 13...Nd5:

With care White is a little better, but Black certainly has most of the fun, as you can see in Miron, L - Nisipeanu, L.

Two Knights, Ulvestad Variation 5...b5 6 Bf1 Nxd5 [C57]

Incidentally, in Italy I tried the Ulvestad Variation against the Two Knights, armed with Jonathan Tait's analysis. However, after confidently playing 6 Bf1 Nxd5 7 Bxb5 Bb7 8 d4 exd4! 9 0-0 Be7 my opponent couldn't remember any more theory and so played the fairly normal 10 Re1 0-0 11 Nf3:

The d4-pawn is attacked, and can't easily be defended. I wasn't sure quite what to do now (I didn't remember seeing this in the book!) and played 11...Bb4, as in a game Fernandez, G - Sarkar, J from May, apparently. White is a bit better, but in a complicated endgame he went astray and I managed to grind out the win.

The game isn't analysed here, I'm afraid it simply wasn't good enough!

Spanish, Berlin Defence 4 d3 Bc5 5 Nbd2 Nd4 [C65]

I really wanted to cover more games from the Candidates, but couldn't find many that really interested me, but I did like Nakamura, H - Radjabov, T. The players repeated the same opening from Nepomniachtchi,I-So,W a few years ago, and then White played 12 Qh5:

The b5-pawn is attacked and so Black defended it with 12...Qc6 and later suffered because of his worse pawn structure. However, I have suggested a couple of alternatives that may be better, or at least more active.

Spanish, Exchange Variation 5 0-0 Qf6 6 d4 exd4 7 Bg5 Qd6 8 Nxd4 [C68]

In the next game I was surprised at how such a very strong player could reach a totally lost position so quickly with White playing fairly normal-looking moves, and in a line where White had previously won some convincing games. Following 5 0-0 Qf6 6 d4 exd4 7 Bg5 Qd6 8 Nxd4 Be7 9 Be3 Black played 9...Nh6, preparing a later ...f7-f5:

Have a look at Fedoseev, V - Dardha, D for the impressive continuation.

Demchenko System 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 d4 [C70]

This line is not really a Delayed Steinitz if Black doesn't get to play a quick ...d6 and ... Bd7, and yet Steinitz often played with ...Nge7 himself. Anyway, I think I will start calling it the Demchenko System as he has played so many games with this line recently and introduced so many new moves and plans. Following 4...Nge7 5 d4 exd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 Qxd4 Nc6 8 Qe3 the first surprising move is 8...Bd6:

This original piece placement looks odd, blocking the d-pawn, but it is the 'mainline' and a speciality of Demchenko. Black will continue with ...0-0, ...Re8, ...b6 (or ...b5) and ...Bb7 with a harmonious setup. See Tan, Z - Demchenko, A which features a 'Demchenko medley'!

Spanish 3...a6 4 Ba4 Bc5 5 c3 Nge7 [C70]

Another line that caught my eye recently involves playing 4...Bc5 and then 5...Nge7-g6:

This is similar to the Demchenko line except that the black dark-squared bishop is outside the pawn chain, normally on a7 after White plays d2-d4. To see how both sides should play have a look at the opening of Martinez Alcantara, J - Makarian, R.

Until next month, Tony.

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