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Hello everyone,
This update will be a little unusual. You are going to see no less than seven games played by the World Champion. Moreover, five of these are against Nakamura. The champ demonstrates how deep and clever his opening preparation is. You can also note that all the games in this update were played in either the Spanish or the Italian - the champions choice! Another interesting tendency - in most of the games the players tried to surprise each other with some rare lines early in the game. Top-level chess is yours to enjoy!

Download PGN of June ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, The Open Variation 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Bc2 f5 12 exf6 Nxf6 13.a4 [C83]

Our first, and the only non Carlsen game, in this update is Vachier-Lagrave, M -Deac, B-D Superbet Classic 2021.

MVL decided to surprise his young opponent with the rare 13.a4, reaching the above diagram position. However, the Romanian was familiar with the line and answered it correctly with 13...b4 14.Re1! Bg4! Here comes the novelty, 15.Nf1. Earlier White tested 15.h3 in Firouzja, A – Fedoseev, V. The game continued 15...Bc5! 16.Be3 d4! 17.cxd4 Nxd4 18.Bxd4 Bxf3 19.Qxf3 and here Black’s recapture 19...Qxd4?! was inaccurate.

The rare 13.a4 is not without venom. Black should play 19...Bxd4! instead of 19...Qxd4 in order to have real chances to equalise.

Spanish, Open Variation 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 Be7 11.Bc2 d4 12.Nb3 dxc3 [C83]

The game Nakamura, H - Carlsen, M FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (1.11), featured a rare line against 9.Nbd2 with 12...dxc3, instead of the main line 12...d3.

Carlsen had already played this line against his future opponent in the world championship match earlier this year. Nepo replied with 13.bxc3, but obtained no advantage. Nakamura, however, preferred the critical 13.Nxc5! with the following sequence: 13...Bxc5 14.Be4! Qd7! Now instead of 15.Bg5! he played 15.bxc3 showing that his preparation in this system is not too deep. However, after 15...Rd8 16.Qc2 Carlsen erred with 16...Ne7? faced serious problems and eventually lost the game. A rare case where the world champion was clearly outplayed. The line with 12...dxc3 is a little risky, but 16...Ne7? is a mistake, Black had to play 16...Bd5 instead. White's play can also be improved by means of 15.Bg5!

Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 d6 7.Re1 a6 8.Ba4 Ba7 9.h3 Ne7 10.Nbd2 Ng6 11.Nf1 d5 [C65]

In the game Nakamura, H - Carlsen, M FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (1.32), the world champion chose a rare move order with 11...d5:

Usually, Black prefers 11...c6 instead, although a transposition to the text can occur. In the diagram position White introduced a novelty, 12.Qe2 instead of 12.Bg5 and after 12...c6 Black already obtained a good version of 11...c6. Hikaru started to play passively with 12.Bd2?!, 16.Qf1? and soon Black’s pressure was unbearable. A nice one-sided win by Carlsen. 12.Qe2 is hardly a good idea, but the entire line doesn't offer White any advantage. 7.h3 is a more critical continuation.

Giuoco Piano 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 [C54]

The game So, W - Carlsen, M FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (3.13), featured an important line of the Italian with 5.d4.

In the position given above Wesley tried a very rare idea, 12.Rc1, which was earlier played by the young Dutch player, Jordan Van Foreest - the main line is 12.Qc2. It turned out that Magnus was unfamiliar with the idea so his reaction 12...Ba5?! was inaccurate. Instead, Black should choose between 12...Ne7 and 12...f6. In the game the champ continued making mistakes (14...Na5?, 16...f6?) and soon found himself in a lost position.

White's opening surprise 12.Rc1 caught the world champion unprepared and led to a few mistakes. Black should have answered the text with 12...Ne7 or 12...f6 with roughly equal chances. Nevertheless, I expect this line to appear again in tournament practice.

Giuoco Piano 11.Qc2 Bf5 12.Qb3 Ne7 13.0-0 c6 14.Be2 [C54]

In So, W - Carlsen, M FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (3.11), Wesley tried to surprise Magnus in the same system with another side line, 11.Qc2, as usually White starts with 11.h3.

In the diagram position Carlsen introduced a new, but slightly dubious idea, 14...Rb8?!, when instead 14...f6! is more accurate. White’s reaction, 15.Na4 wasn’t clear to me either. I would prefer the immediate 15.Nh4! with a slight edge for White. Later in the game White missed a kingside attack and eventually lost.

11.Qc2 doesn't look like a serious attempt to set problems, and 12...Na5 is a strong way to meet it.

Italian Opening 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.Re1 [C50]

Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (1.21).

Carlsen chose a rare move order, but Nakamura was well-prepared this time, playing the aggressive 6...Ng4 in the diagram position, and after 7.Re2 Kh8, which initiates complications. So, the game continued 8.h3 f5! 9.Bg5! Nf6 10.Nc3 d6 The position started to look like a reversed King's Gambit 2...Bc5 line. Magnus went for the most challenging 11.Nd5!, and the players followed the game Abrahamyan,T -Kosteniuk,A, 2020 for a few more moves, when the world champion improved White’s play with 15.c3! Soon Black erred with 16...Ne7?! and White obtained a slight edge. 6...Ng4!? is an interesting line, which sharpens the position. Black seems to be able to equalise if he plays 16...a5 instead of 16...Ne7?!

Italian Opening 6.h3 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 [C50]

Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (1.14).

In the well-known diagram position given above Carlsen played the extremely rare 8.a4, although he had earlier played it against Karjakin in 2017 - 8.Re1 is the main line here. Nakamura answered it with a new move 8...Be6, when Karjakin played 8...f6. After 9.Ng5! Bf5 10.Qf3! Hikaru played the natural, but inaccurate 10...Nde7?!, which after 11.c3 led to White’s edge and Black’s further inaccuracies 14...Kh8?! and 15...Bg6?! made the position even more difficult.

A well-played game by Carlsen despite some inaccuracies. The opening plan he employed deserves serious attention. Black had to prefer either 8...h6 or 8...f6 to 8...Be6.

Giuoco Piano 6...h6 7.c3 d6 8.Re1 a5 [C54]

Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H FTX Crypto Cup KO 2021 (1.12).

Once again Carlsen chooses a rare option in a well-known position. This time he played 9.d4 in the diagram position following Caruana’s game against the same opponent in 2020. Earlier I analysed 9.b3 and 9.Nbd2for you . The next few moves were 9...Bb6 10.Be3! exd4! 11.cxd4 d5 12.exd5 Ne7! 13.Nc3, when the players reached the first junction. Nakamura continued following his game against Caruana with 13...Nexd5, but after 14.Qd2 deviated with the computer’s choice, 14...c6, where earlier he played 14...Nxe3. Magnus was ready for it and played a very interesting piece sacrifice, 15.Bxh6!?, which sets difficult practical problems. Although Stockfish recommends 15.Rad1 instead, with a slight edge. Black’s very first independent move, 16...Bf5? turned out to be the decisive mistake. The only defence is 16...Nh7! In fact, 13...Nfxd5!? is also interesting.

A one-sided win by Carlsen. Black's improvement 14...c6 leads to a complicated position after 15.Bxh6!?, in which Black's defence is far from easy. A deep analysis may prove that Black is doing fine, but such a defence is not to everyone's liking.


See you next month, Victor.

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