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Hello everyone,
This year is already rich in high level tournaments: first Wijk aan Zee, then the 1st Grenke Chess Classic in Germany, and the Zurich super tournament, while the candidates tournament is coming.
So, we have a lot of material of the highest quality and plenty of interesting opening ideas at our disposal, but, as usual, the emphasis in this update is on the Spanish.

Download PGN of March '13 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish - Archangel Variation [C78]

Adams, M - Caruana, F 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013, featured an interesting novelty in a rather uncommon position:

Here, instead of the 16...Nxg3 that was played in Sutovsky, E - Shirov, A/Poikovsky RUS 2008, Black played 16...Bg4, the move of a not very well-known player named Simek. After good play from both sides a position of dynamic equality occurred and only Caruana's mistake in time trouble yielded White chances for a win. However, Michael then returned the favour and the game was eventually drawn.

White's novelty 17.Nd5 requires a lot of analytical work and practical tests. The entire line is extremely complex, and each mistake is very costly.

Berlin with 4.d3 Bc5 [C65]

The game Adams, M - Anand, V 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013, saw a popular line with 7.h3.

The players followed the game Dominguez Perez, L - Cheparinov, I/Leon 2012, until they reached the diagram position given above. Here Anand played 11...c6, instead of 11...h6, and followed it with a rather risky central break 12...d5. Mickey obtained some chances for an advantage thanks to the slightly vulnerable black king on f7, but let it slip away with the inaccurate 21.Nd2, which allowed Black to equalize with some precise play.

An interesting fighting game, although superficially it may look boring. 21.Bc2 seems to be White's best chance to fight for an advantage, although Black could have deviated from the game earlier with ...Nh5 at some moment. Anyway, the line deserves further practical tests.

Berlin with 4.d3 d6 [C65]

In Anand, V - Naiditsch, A 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013, the German player preferred the less popular 4...d6 over the 4...Bc5 of the preceding game.

Here the World Champion played a novelty, 14.c4, in a position where at least four different moves were already tested. Black's reaction was dubious and so Vishy seized an advantage and converted this into a full point. A nice technical win, but 14...exd4 looks like a logical improvement over 14...c5?!, while in my opinion both 4...Bc5 and 5...g6 are preferable to 4...d6 and 5...Be7.

Anti-Marshall with 6.d3 [C84]

A rather rare line with 8.a3 occurred in the game Anand, V - Adams, M 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013:

Vishy then further surprised Black with 9.Nc3, a move which is almost non-existent at the GM level. Michael's next move, 9...Na5, was already slightly inaccurate and allowed White to obtain chances for an advantage. However, the World Champion returned the favour and then had to be precise to level the game. The line with 8.a3 may look modest, but it's not without poison and so I expect more practical tests with it.

Zaitsev Variation [C92]

The game Anand, V - Caruana, F 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013, featured a long and important theoretical line of the Zaitsev variation and led to the following position:

Here Fabiano introduced the strong novelty 20...a5!, sacrificed a pawn and obtained the initiative. White had to be cautious not to get into trouble, but Vishy was up to the task and held the draw. Nevertheless, Caruana has solved Black's opening problems in this line with this strong novelty 20...a5, and so the ball is now in White's court.

The Exchange Variation 5...Qf6 [C68]

In Naiditsch, A - Caruana, F 1st Grenke Chess Classic 2013, Black played the weird (in my opinion) line with 5...Qf6.

This time Caruana's novelty, 11...c5, came in this very rare position but, alas, its quality wasn't superb. Two inaccurate moves afterwards, 13...Qe8?! and 14...b5?!, allowed White to obtain a dangerous attack and later a winning position. Here Arkady started to err, first with 25.Neg4?, then 28.Nxf6?, and threw away a well-played game. However Caruana also deserves some credit for staying calm in an extremely dangerous position and taking his chance.

Unconvincing play from Caruana in the opening led to White's advantage, and only mistakes before the time control allowed Black to stop White's attack. In my opinion 11...Rd8 should be preferred to 11...c5.

Scotch with 4...Nf6 [C45]

In the rapid game Wang Hao-Karjakin,S Aeroflot Open 2013, the players followed a game of Karjakin's from last year for the first 16 moves and reached the following position:

Here Black introduced 16...Re3, an interesting improvement upon the game Karjakin, S - Kramnik, V Dortmung 2012, which featured 16...Re8 and in fact allowed Black to equalize without big problems. The Chinese number one player then went astray with 19.Ne4 and was unable to solve the ensuing problems. A well-played game from Karjakin! After the important novelty 16...Re3 the opening line which occurred in the game will hardly find followers. The ball is in White's court.

Four Knights with 4.Be2 [C47]

An extremely rare line occurred in the rapid game Grischuk, A - Karjakin, S Aeroflot Open 2013.

In this basic diagram position White surprised his opponent with 4.Be2. This interesting concept - playing the Four Knights with the Black pieces, but with an extra tempo, brought its fruits surprisingly fast. Black's 7...Bb6?! was inaccurate and yielded White the upper hand. Grischuk then returned the favour with 24.Bxe4?!, instead of 24.Bg4, and Black managed to save half a point with a few accurate moves.

Grischuk managed to pose some problems with the rare 4.Be2 and so I expect to see it more often in the elite tournaments, well, at least at rapid time rates.


See you next month, Victor.

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