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The main feature of this month's update is a subscriber-requested look at another interesting line of Richard Rapport's, but there is also a 24-year old exchange sacrifice from Ivanchuk, an interesting alternative to the mainlines in the Scotch, some brilliant tactical play, and a first look at 2 Qg4!?

Download PGN of March ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Unusual 2nd moves, 2 Qg4 [C20]

Wow! I looked at 2 Qh5 a few months ago, but 2 Qg4!? seems really unusual - more than 20 other moves are played more often, and even 2 Ke1-e2 is more common! Still, the move is not that bad, the queen is aiming for g3 where it eyes e5 and g7:

In Van Foreest, L - So, W White was doing OK out of the opening, but his 18th move was very ugly and his illustrious opponent never gave him a chance after that.

Rapport System/Reversed Larsen Philidor 3 g3 [C44]

We recently received an email from subscriber Saro, who wrote: “I saw your coverage of the following line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3. Recently Rapport and other strong players played it. Is there any overview or coverage planned?”

So I had a look and, indeed, Rapport played it an awful lot in 2021 and 2022, and it was even tried by several other super GMs such as Carlsen and Caruana.

Following 3 g3 Nf5 4 d3 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 we reach a Reversed Larsen Philidor position with an extra move:

I used to like playing this way as Black, many years ago, and covered it in my Philidor book, but the Yugoslav Attack-style line put me off, especially after Michael Adams showed me how White could gain a clear advantage. However, with colours reversed the extra move means that Black cannot play the same way (see the notes) and so White doesn't have to worry so much about being mated on the kingside. Play often transposes into a Four Knights, Glek System, once White plays Nc3, but White has some interesting options along the way.

In Rapport, R - Caruana, F I have a look at the mainline, and in particular Rapport's speciality involving 8 a3:

Rapport, R - Mamedyarov, S from a few months ago caught my eye as, instead of capturing with the knight on d5, Black played 5...Qxd5 and after 6 Bg2 e4!?:

and Black went on to win brilliantly in just 16 moves! However, on closer examination it was clear that Rapport was excellently prepared and had a clear advantage just after the opening phase, and only lost because of what looks like a finger-slip.

Scotch Game 4...Nf6 5 Nxc6 bxc6 6 e5 Nd5 [C45]

I was surprised to see that after 6...Nd5 is actually the 2nd most popular move here, played nearly 2000 times!

Definitely time to have a good look at it!

Objectively it may not be quite so strong as the mainline 6...Qe7, but it is really very playable, and easier to remember. Have a look at So, W - Nakamura, H to see my conclusions.

Spanish, Demchenko System 3...a6 4 Ba4 Nge7 5 Nc3 [C70]

After 4...Nge7 the 3rd most popular move is 5 Nc3 and in Firouzja, A - Demchenko, A 5...d6 6 a3 followed, creating a retreat square for the light-squared bishop:

Later on, after the original opening phase, we reached the following position:

With the black king forced to stay in the centre White wants to avoid the exchange of queens, but his 18 Qe2? allowed a devastating reply, what was it?

Yurtaev 6...Bc5 7 a4 Rb8 8 Nxe5 Nxe5 9 d4 Bxd4 10 Qxd4 d6 11 axb5 axb5 12 f4 [C78]

In Nakamura, H - Caruana, F we look at the line 8 Nxe5 Nxe5 9 d4 Bxd4 10 Qxd4 d6 11 axb5 axb5 12 f4 Nc6 13 Qc3 Ne7 and now the critical 14 e5:

Nakamura is a specialist with this line as Black, so it is interesting to see how he handles the white pieces. Black has to be a little careful, but objectively he is fine and later he managed to diffuse White's novelty and gain an advantage.

Closed Spanish 6 d3 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 8 Nc3 d6 9 a3 Na5 10 Ba2 Be6 [C84]

Victor has looked at this line many times in the past, but in Abdusattorov, N - Nguyen, T, after 11 Bxe6 fxe6 12 b4 Nc6, instead of the 'automatic' 13 Bd2, White played the rare 13 Qe1!?:

This also prepares Ne2 and a3-a4, but hinders the natural reply 13...d5, which would now lose (sacrifice?) a pawn. The game quickly became very sharp and White played an interesting combination which exchanged 3 minor pieces for Black's queen. The resulting position, which had to be accurately calculated by both players, was actually equal but tricky to play correctly, and the higher-rated player finally came out on top.

Marshall Gambit 11...c6 12 Re1 Bd6 13 d3 Qh4 14 g3 Qh3 15 Re4 Nf6 [C89]

Finally, in the game Paravyan, D - Kravtsiv, M, after 15...Nf6 16 Rh4 Qf5 17 Nd2 g5 White tried a creative idea of Ivanchuck's that hasn't been played since 1999, the exchange sacrifice 18 Rd4!?:

In the only previous time this was on the board Timman (as Black) played excellently, refused both Ivanchuck's 'gifts' and exchanged into a superior endgame - see the notes. In this current game both sides were either on top at various stages, or should have been on top, but Black made the last important mistake and succumbed.

Will we have to wait another 24 years to see this line played again?

Until next month, Tony.

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