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Hello everyone,
Keeping with the modern tendency of playing the Giuoco Piano I decided to analyse no less than four games in this opening this month. I have also shared three of my own games from a successful recent tournament in Hungary.

Download PGN of June ’17 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. The Aronian System with 5.c3 Bg7 6.d4 exd4 7.cxd4 b5 8.Bc2 d6 9.h3 Nf6 [C70]

The game Sadhwani, R - Mikhalevski, V Zalakaros Open 2017, saw my variation of the Aronian system with 9...Nf6.

In the diagram position after 10...0-0 White played 11.d5?!, which allowed me to exchange the light-squared bishop and obtain an initiative with 11...Nb4. Instead, 11.Nc3 would transpose in to two preceding games of mine. A relatively easy win for me - the line with 9...Nf6 deserves attention.

Scotch Opening 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.Nd2 [C45]

The game Danin, A - Mikhalevski, V Zalakaros Open 2017, featured the 9.Nd2 line of the 4...Nf6 Scotch. I answered it with 9...0-0-0, instead of the more popular 9...g6, and we soon reached the diagram position:

Here I repeated Jakovenko's 12...Nf6, without even knowing it, whereas 12...Re8 is an interesting alternative, trying to hold on to an extra pawn. As it turned out we followed the game Yu, Y - Stefansson, H/Reykjavik 2013 for the first 19 moves, and then my opponent deviated with 20.Bg6, instead of the more accurate 20.Kc2! which sets Black some problems. The line with 9...0-0-0 is a reasonable reply to 9.Nd2, but Black should proceed with 12...Re8, which promises at least equal chances.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.Qe4 [C45]

The same line, but with 9.Qe4 instead, occurred in the game Nataf, IA - Kryvoruchko, Y TCh-FRA Top 12 2017. The players soon transposed into a rare 8...Nb6 line and reached the diagram position below:

Here Nataf played 13.c5 instead of the 13.Bf4 from Nepomniachtchi, I - Svidler, P/Loo RUS 2014 (see the PGN Games Archive). Black was the first to go astray in the ensuing complications with 15...Rd8?!, but White returned the favour by 16.Qe3?!, when instead 16.Qa4! promised him the upper hand. The provocative line with 9.Qe4 is hardly a dangerous weapon for Black, who can choose between repeating moves with 9...Nf6 or playing for more with 9...Nb6.

Giuoco Piano 5.0-0 d6 6. c3 a6 7.a4 Ba7 8.Na3 0-0 [C54]

One of my games in Hungary, Nisipeanu, LD - Mikhalevski, V Zalakaros 2017, featured the rather popular setup with 7.a4.

We quickly reached the critical diagram position, where my opponent played 9.h3, when instead 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Nxg5 is the critical test of Black's setup. In the game Black equalised by move 20 and only some subsequent mistakes yielded White winning chances, although he failed to convert his advantage in to a win anyway. White can't set problems if he plays 9.h3, 9.Bg5 is critical.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a5 [C53]

The game Vachier Lagrave, M - Gledura, B TCh-FRA Top 12 2017, saw a very rare line of the Giuoco Piano:

In this early stage of the game Black surprised his opponent with the extremely rare 5...a5. After 6.0-0 d6 White pinned the f6-knight with 7.Bg5, which is gaining more and more popularity in this opening. Black played a little slowly, 12...Qd7 when 12...d5 was strong, and allowed White to seize an edge. A relatively easy win for the French number one player. The opening line with 5...a5 is interesting, although it is probably not the best way to deviate from known theory.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 [C54]

In the game Salem, AR - Inarkiev, E Moscow Grand Prix 2017, White tried the relatively rare idea of 6.Bg5, which was played by Carlsen in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year.

Here Inarkiev introduced a new move, 9...g6 instead of 9...Na5! His idea promises equal chances, but the aforementioned 9....Na5! yields Black a slight edge and has to be preferred. A short, but tense battle. The line with 6.Bg5 doesn't seem to set Black any problems whatsoever.

Old-fashioned Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Bb3 h6 9.Nbd2 [C54]

The old-fashioned setup of the Giuoco Piano was seen in the game Inarkiev, E - Hou Yifan Moscow Grand Prix 2017:

The number one women player started to set problems for White right from the diagram position by means of 9...Ng4, a move which has never been seen before in GM practice. She continued with the aggressive 11...f5 and 12...Nxf2!. After exchanging mistakes with 19.Bb2?, and then 20...Nxb4?!, White retained a slight edge, but later couldn't withstand the pressure, started to err and eventually lost the game. Although 9...Ng4 is interesting, 9...Be6 seems to be better.

Four Knights 4.Bb5 Bb4 with 6...Bxc3 [C49]

And our last, but definitely not least, game in this update is Naiditsch, A - Brunner, N TCh-FRA Top 12 2017.

Here White chose 8.h3 instead of the 8.Bg5 which he preferred earlier. Naiditsch then played very aggressively, but over-pressed with 16.Qg3?! If Black had reacted with 17...Nc6! then White would find himself on the defensive, but instead Brunner erred, 17...Nxc4?, came under a strong attack and soon resigned, not waiting for a forced mate. A short, but interesting battle, the line which occurred in the game doesn't look threatening for Black, who could have played 11...Nd7 or 12...a5 with good play in both cases.

See you next month, Victor.

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