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Lots of intriguing lines covered this month for both Black and White that will cause opponents big practical problems OTB. Plus, Nepomniachtchi playing the King's Gambit again!

Download PGN of June ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Bishop's Opening 2...Nf6 3 d3 c6 4 Nf3 d5 5 Bb3 Bd6 [C24]

While tempting for Black to expand in the centre with 4...d5, I always thought that it wasn't very good because of 6 Nc3 when there is too much pressure on Black's centre:

But is there really? In Vlassov, N - Paravyan, D Black simply played 6...0-0! and it turns out that grabbing the d-pawn is actually advantageous for Black!

King's Gambit Declined 2...Bc5 3 Nf3 d6 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 [C30]

Last month I, somewhat jokingly, complained about Nepomniachtchi not playing his 'pet King's Gambit lines' in his World Championship match, but in less important quick games he is still giving it a punt. In Nepomniachtchi, I - Nihal, S, after 4 c3 (best, in my opinion) 4...Nf6 5 d4 Black played 5...cxd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+:

I wasn't aware of this move, personally preferring to play lines with ...Bb6 (we have seen the more common 6...Bb6 before on this site) so I thought it was time to have a look at it. Actually, I don't like it, and think White obtains a big advantage quite easily - see the note involving a young Judit Polgar game from nearly 40 years ago!

The game swung backwards and forwards quite dramatically towards the end but Nepo made the last two blunders and lost.

Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Bd6 [C42]

Van Foreest, J - Esipenko, A involves a rare but interesting move that has been played by Vachier Lagrave a few times, 12 Ng5:

This looks a little ridiculous, but is actually the introduction to a tactical sequence involving a temporary pawn sacrifice. On move 20 Van Foreest plays a good positional innovation, transposes into a promising rook endgame and goes on to win convincingly.

Italian Opening 3...Nf6 4 d3 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 0-0 Nb6 [C55]

When I analysed So, W - Mamedyarov, S last December I was rather dismissive of the 2nd most common move, 8 d4, writing that it 'is easily met by 8... e4 9. Re1 f5 10. Bg5 Qd7':

So, I was intrigued to see White try this in Fedoseev, V - Mamedyarov, S, and it is clear that he had done his homework, introducing a good novelty on move 13. This surprise had the desired effect and White could have gained some advantage in the opening. Still, as my analysis shows, Black is fine with best play.

A little later in the game White obviously missed Black's excellent 16th move, and on move 19 Mamedyarov could have won material, and the game, with a fairly obvious skewer ... but somehow both players missed this, too.

Spanish, 3...Nge7 4 0-0 Ng6 5 d4 [C60]

In the past I have occasionally been tempted into playing the tricky line 5...exd4 6 Nxd4 Bc5 as Black in quick games:

In Psyk, R - Pechac, J White manages to avoid the trap (as shown in Kosztolanczi,G-Csapo,Z, see the PGN Archive) by playing 7 Nb3, but Black demonstrated a very nice way to diffuse this.

Spanish, Schliemann Gambit 4 d3 fxe4 5 dxe4 Nf6 6 0-0 d6 7 Bc4 [C63]

Naroditsky, D - Timmermans, M demonstrates a dangerous line that hinders Black from castling and culminates in the diagram position after 12 f4:

This is tempting for White as Black can quickly find himself in trouble in this line if he doesn't know exactly what he is doing. Here Black played a good novelty, but went astray immediately afterwards and was crushed.

Spanish, Zaitsev Variation mainline 12 a4 exd4 13 cxd4 Qd7 [C92]

12 a4 is the critical move against the Zaitsev, but rather than go in to the over-analysed complications following 12...h6 13 Bc2 exd4 14 cxd4 Nb4, Black can also play the immediate 12...exd4 13 cxd4 Qd7, ready to defend the f7-pawn with ...Nd8.

However, Black also has other resources, and Cheparinov, I - Azarov, S features a sharp tactical line after 14 Ng5 involving an amazing piece sacrifice, that scores really well. Definitely a line to add to ones black opening repertoire.

Spanish, Breyer Variation mainline 15 a3 [C95]

15 a3 is a rare move that has been championed by Maghsoodloo and also tried by some other really strong GMs:

In the upset Petrosyan, M - Trifan, A, however, Black introduced a good novelty on move 16 which equalises, in my opinion.

The rest of the game is quite interesting as White gained the advantage but then played a flashy, but totally unnecessary combination with a large hole in it! Black was then winning easily but then blundered himself and lost material. However, White soon played the decisive final mistake and lost.

Until next month, Tony.

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