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Hello everyone,
As the last update was based on games from Wijk aan Zee it seemed logical to me to concentrate on Linares this time, which promises a high level of play and many new opening ideas.

Download PGN of March '10 1 e4 e5 games

Anti-Marshall [C88]

Allow me to start with the game Gashimov, V - Aronian, L Linares 2010.

White has just played 12.c3, which Aronian met with the strong novelty 12...d5!, which seems to solve Black's opening problems easily. Moreover, White was on the defensive throughout the game. After Aronian's novelty I doubt White is going to want to repeat this line again. Probably he has to look for an advantage after 12.Nf1 or even 11.Nc3.

Breyer [C95]

Vallejo, F - Topalov, V, Linares 2010, featured one of the most popular lines of the Breyer.

In the above position White introduced the novelty 24.g3, instead of 24.Rc1, but only achieved an equal position. The entire line doesn't look dangerous for Black, and White needs a good idea if he wants to set his opponent opening problems.

Vachier - Lagrave, M - Sasikiran, K, Aeroflot Open 2010, saw a relatively rare line:

in the diagram position White played the rare 15.Nf1, instead of 15.b3 from the Topalov game given above. I think there are two reasons why this line promises no advantage for White: 1) 15...d5 and 2) 15...g6, which was actually played in the game. After just one inaccuracy White was on the defensive and only a mistake from Black allowed him to make a draw. Sasikiran proved that a mixture of two plans (a4, Bd3 with Nf1-g3) is not dangerous for Black, at the very least, and so 15.b3 is better.

Berlin [C67]

Vallejo, F - Aronian, L, Linares 2010, saw White choosing the unusual line 10.Ne2.

After White's further 11.Nf4 (diagram) Black introduced the logical novelty 11...Bb7 and obtained a good position. Despite blundering a pawn Black achieved a draw without visible problems, though not without a little help from his opponent. The rare line 10...b6 which was chosen by Aronian looks very interesting. Probably 10.Ne2 doesn't promise any advantage and so White has to choose between 10.h3 and 10.b3.

Berlin with 4...Bc5 [C65]

Gashimov, V - Topalov, V, Linares 2010, was one of the most interesting games played in Linares.

In the diagram position White introduced the strong novelty 10.Qg3! which is an improvement on the 10.Qxg7 which was recently played by Svidler. Gashimov managed to set Black problems with a series of strong moves, but Topalov was up to the task and defended extremely well. As a result the game was drawn after the first time control. A must see game! I'm pretty sure we'll see more practical tests of 10.Qg3! in the very near future.

Petroff [C42]

Shirov, A - Kramnik, V, Wijk aan Zee 2010, saw an important theoretical line. The key position of the 16...Be4 line occurred after Black's 19...Bh4:

Previously White had played 20.Rf1 and 20.Rxe8, but achieved nothing. Instead Shirov introduced the interesting novelty 20.Re4. However, Kramnik defended pretty well and could have equalised a number of times, but eventually went wrong with 34...Nc5?! and 35...Nd3? However, Shirov returned the favour and Kramnik managed to escape with a draw. An interesting and well played game despite some inaccuracies. Shirov's 20.Re4 deserves further practical tests, though it seems that Black should be able to equalise with accurate play.

Gashimov, V - Gelfand, B, Linares 2010, saw another important line for modern theory:

Here Gashimov introduced the interesting novelty 16.a4, but it seems that Gelfand was prepared for it and equalised with some precise play. A well played draw - it's not easy to beat a player of Gelfand's class in this line, though Black has to be accurate as the position is not without poison.

Finally, the only decisive game of this update, Topalov, V - Gelfand, B, Linares 2010.

In this well-known position from the 5.Nc3 line Gelfand decided to test a very uncommon idea, 9...Re8, possibly inspired by a recent game Caruana-Kramnik, Wijk aan Zee 2010. A mistake came on move 16, when Gelfand played 16...Nxh2 instead of 16...Ne5. Soon Black came under strong pressure and decided to sacrifice an exchange to try to build a fortress, which White should have been able to break without returning an exchange, as this only led to a slightly worse endgame for Black, which he should have been able to hold. A very interesting game despite, or thanks to, some mistakes from both sides. It proved that the line with 9...Re8 is risky. I would recommend coming back to the main lines 9...Nc5 and 9...Ne5.


See you next month, Victor.

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