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Hello everyone,
In this update you're going to see a big variety of openings and lots of top level chess, as usual. The main point of interest is that Carlsen's challenger Caruana lost two games recently, one in his favourite Petroff and the other in Bishop’s Opening, getting slowly outplayed in both games.

Download PGN of June ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Zaitsev Variation 10.d4 Bb7 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a3 h6 [C92]

The game Mista, A - Wojtaszek, R ch-POL 2018, saw a long theoretical line of the Zaitsev Variation.

After 16...h6, which in fact should have been 12...h6, if White hadn’t repeated the position twice, White continued with 17.d5 Nb8 18.Nh2 Nbd7 reaching the diagram position. Here Mista played 19.Ng4 instead of the 19. Qf3 from Karjakin, S - Grischuk, A, Bilbao ESP 2009 [Mikhalevski,V] Both players were well prepared and followed the game Matinian, N - Predke,A, Saratov 2013, for the first 22 moves when Black’s 22...Ra7! was a good novelty. They continued to play logically and then Wojtaszek started to err, first with 27...d5? and then with 30...Qe7? and eventually lost the game.

The long theoretical line which occurred in the game leads to a complicated strategical battle with roughly equal chances. 22...Ra7 is a good novelty, but 24...Ne6 is safer than 24...Na4.

Spanish Open variation 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Qd7 12.Bc2 Nxd2 13.Bxd2 [C83]

In the game Bacrot, E - Wagner, D TCh-FRA Top 12 Brest 2018, the players discussed the pretty rare but interesting recapture 13.Bxd2, instead of the more common 13.Qxd2.

Wagner reacted with the pretty logical 13...Bf5, although 13...d4, which was played in Ivetic, S - Petek, P, Ljubljana 2007, seems to equalise even more easily.

Nevertheless, the game continuation was reasonable and after 14.Re1 Rfe8 15.Qb1 Bxc2 16.Qxc2 Nd8 he obtained a comfortable position by the 20th move and eventually could even hope for more than equality. 13.Bxd2 may be no worse than 13.Qxd2, but in both cases Black shouldn't have problems, as the game proved. The ball is in White's court.

Spanish, Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d5 6.Nbd2 [C65]

One of the most topical lines in the Berlin was seen in the game Anand, V - Aronian, L 6th Norway Chess Stavanger 2018:

In the diagram position the game continued with the pretty logical 6...0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8.cxd5 and then 8...a6! This clever idea was introduced by Levon’s countryman Melkumian in 2016. Vishy reacted with the novelty 9.Bxc6 instead of the 9.Bc4!? in Gopal, G - Melkumyan, H, Bad Wiessee 2016. The subsequent moves weren’t forced, but still made sense, 9..bxc6 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.dxe4 cxd5 12.Qxd5 Qxd5 13.exd5 e4. Here White had to try 14.Nd4 with some slight chances. Instead, Anand played 14.Nd2 and the Armenian player equalised with ease by means of 14...e3.

An easy game for Aronian, White's novelty 9.Bxc6 doesn't promise any opening advantage. Still, the best chance to set some problems after that seems to be 10.d4.

Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.a4 a5 7.Bg5 [C54]

The game Tsydypov, Z - Matlakov, M Tch-RUS Premier League 2018, saw a fashionable branch of the Giuoco Piano with 6.a4.

In the above diagram position White deviated from all the previous games with 10.Nf1, instead of 10.Bg3. Matlakov reacted correctly with 10...Nh5 and after 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.Ne3 Be6 White went astray with 13.Qb3 and 14.Qxb7? when Black trapped the queen and proved that White’s compensation was insufficient with very powerful play.

10.Nf1 doesn't seem to promise much, anyway, so White had to try 13.Nd2.

Four Knights 4...Bd6 5.d3 h6 6.0-0 0-0 7.a3 a6 8.Bc4 Bc5 9.Be3 d6 [C48/50]

In the game Gao Rui - Harikrishna, P TCh-China 2018, the players discussed the rather popular Four Knights system with 4...Bd6, which then transposed to an Italian Four Knights after both players lost a tempo by Bf1-b5-c4 and ...Bf8-d6-c5.

Here White introduced the novelty 10.Nd5, trying to simplify the position. Earlier White had tested 10.b4, 10.Bxc5 and 10.h3. The continuation 10...Nxd5 11.Bxd5 Ne7 12.Bb3 Ng6 was pretty logical, and then White played the natural looking 13.d4, but Black managed to put some pressure on the centre and slowly, but surely outplayed his less-experienced opponent.

13.Nxe5 seems to be the only try to create some problems.

Scotch Four Knights 5...Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 Re8 9.Qf3 d5 10.exd5 cxd5 11.h3 c6 12.Bf4 [C47]

The game Piorun, K - Duda,J Tch-POL 2018, saw an important line of the Scotch Four Knights:

In the diagram position after 12.Bf4 Black played the rare 12...Bxc3 13.bxc3 Ne4 14.Rfe1 Qf6 with a clever tactical idea to meet 15.c4 with the brilliant novelty 15...Bxh3!!, instead of 15...Ba6. White reacted correctly with 16.cxd5! and the position remained equal by Black’s 20th move, but Piorun’s 21.Qb7? was a mistake, allowing Black to create an attack on the kingside which eventually decided the game.

A well-played game by Duda! 12...Bxc3 is an interesting option, when White's only chance to create some problems is 15.Bxe4.

Petroff Defence 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Bf5 [C42]

The game Giri, A - Caruana, F Bundesliga TB 2017-18, saw a well-known theoretical line:

In the position given above Giri went for the pretty rare 12.Bg5, and after 12...Qa5 White’s idea was to play 13.Nh4 Then, after the logical 13...Be6 14.Bxe6 Qxg5 15.Nf3 Black retreated the queen to d8, when 15...Qa5, which I recommended in my annotations to the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Li,C, Sharjah UAE 2017 and which was later tested in Cornette, M - Tregubov, P, Brest FRA 2018, looks more accurate. Nevertheless, Fabiano was close to equalising had he played 31...b6 instead of 31...Kg8?!, but after this Black found himself under pressure and one more mistake led to a disaster.

A nice technical win for Giri, although the line with 12.Bg5 doesn't promise much for White. The most accurate way to defend seems to be 15...Qa5.

Bishop’s Opening 2...Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4 6.Bd2 [C24]

The last, but definitely not the least game, Carlsen, M - Caruana, F 6th Norway Chess Stavanger 2018, saw a topical line of Bishop’s Opening.

Here the World Champion introduced a novelty, 9.exd5, but after 9...cxd5 10.0-0 0-0 11.Re1 Re8 12.Nf1 they transposed to 9.0-0 anyway. The real novelty was introduced by Caruana, 12...b5!? instead of 12...Qc7 from Pirs, M - Akdag, M, ICCF email 2011. Carlsen answered this with the most challenging 13.a4 and after 13...b4 14.cxb4 axb4 15.Ne3 Bb7 16.d4 e4 offered an interesting pawn sacrifice with 17.Ne5! Fabiano accepted it and soon was under some pressure, but it was only 25...Rc7? that yielded White a big edge. A very nice technical win for the world champion over his contender. Caruana's 12...b5 is playable, but his play can be improved either by means of 17...Rxe5 or 25...Qa6.


See you next month, Victor.

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