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Hello everyone,
I've based this update entirely on the Gashimov memorial in Baku. There are a lot of Italians, which illustrates the current trend in modern top level chess- most players are tired of forced lines and simply want to play chess.

Download PGN of May ’17 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish. The line 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Nb8 [C84]

The game Kramnik, V - Harikrishna, P Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, featured the line with 9...Nb8, which is gaining popularity.

In the diagram position, after 11.c3, Harikrishna introduced the logical novelty 11...Bb7. After rather principled play from both sides the players reached an interesting and unbalanced position. Kramnik's 23.Rad1?! was dubious and led to a slight edge for Black, instead, 23.Nd4 should be preferred with roughly equal chances. This would have been the end of story if not for White's rook sacrifice. Kramnik managed to set serious practical problems with it and outplay his opponent in the complications - a must-see game! From the opening point of view Black didn't have any problems and so the line with 9...Nb8 definitely requires more practical tests.

Spanish. Berlin with 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 [C67]

In the introduction I was talking about the trend of playing more chess rather than checking each other's opening preparation. So, the game Karjakin, S - Eljanov, P Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, confirms this statement. This time the players are clearly tired of the over-analysed Berlin endgame and so White looks for a slight edge in the Anti-Berlin line with 5.Re1.

In the position given above, after 13.Bd3, Eljanov introduced a strong improvement upon Carlsen's play (in the game Karjakin, S - Carlsen, M/Moscow RUS 2013), which is also part of our PGN archive, with 13...Qh4! Eljanov soon equalised and could have played 22...Qh1+! forcing a draw, but overestimated his chances and first went for an endgame, which should still be equal by means of 22...Qg3, but came under some pressure and started to err (34...Ke7?!, 38...Ke7?). Despite Black's loss in this game his opening idea of 13...Qh4 is good and promises equal chances. So, the ball is in White's court.

Spanish. Anti-Berlin with 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.0-0 [C65]

The line which occurred in the game Eljanov, P - Radjabov, T Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, hasn't been seen much lately as White has mainly preferred 6.Nbd2.

Here Eljanov went for the rare 7.c3 and after 7...0-0 8.d4 Bd6 introduced a new approach, 9.Bg5 instead of 9.Nbd2. After a few reasonable moves Radjabov went astray (14...Nxe5?!) and then Pavel converted his positional advantage, although not without some help from his opponent. I can recommend that Black play ...a5 on the 11th or 12th moves. 14...Nxe5?! was also dubious, as Black had to prefer 14...Bxe5.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.Nd2 [C45]

The game So, W - Mamedyarov, S Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, was very important for the standings at the top of the list. Wesley lost his first game since last summer, while Shakhriyar got a strong boost, which eventually raised him up over 2800!

In the diagram position the Azeri GM played the rather rare 8...a5 instead of the more common 8...g6 or 8...Bb7. In reply White chose a side line, 10.b3, instead of 10.g3, but Black soon won a pawn and could have kept it by means of 19...g6!, although White would still retain compensation. Instead he played 19...Bg4 and White managed to equalise. The position remained balanced up to the very end, when Wesley blundered by 39.Qxf3?? and had to resign instantly after 39...e4. Probably White should prefer the main line with 9.g3.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 Ba7 8.Na3 [C54]

In this update we are going to see different variations of White's a4 move. One such variation occurred in the game Adams, M - Eljanov, P Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017.

Here Eljanov played 11...Be6, which is natural, but probably not the best. Both 11...a5 and 11...Ne7 look interesting - this latter was tested in the game Cornette, M - Bacrot, E/London ENG 2016. Eventually White obtained a slight edge, thanks to Black's inaccuracy, and had a chance to convert it but the game was eventually drawn. It seems that White can set some problems with 13.b4 instead of 13.a5, while Black can try to deviate from the game with either 11...a5 or 11...Ne7.

Giuoco Piano 7.Re1 Ba7 8.a4 [C54]

The game Kramnik, V - Mamedyarov, S Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, saw a deviation from the previous game with the rare 7.Re1.

Here Kramnik introduced the novelty 9.Be3 in what was already a very rare position, although a couple of moves later they transposed into a recent game of the current Women's World Champion, Padmini,R-Tan Zhongyi/Tehran IRI 2017. This time Mamedyrov deviated with 11...Re8, but his 13...Bg4 was slightly inaccurate and White managed to obtain a slight edge. Instead 13...d5 seems to solve Black's problems in this line. A very interesting fighting game - Kramnik's 9.Be3 is playable, but it doesn't seem to set serious problems.

Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Nbd2 a6 [C54]

Another Kramnik game Kramnik, V - Adams, M Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, saw a similar line with another 7.Re1.

In the diagram position the 14th World Champion played a very rare move, 9.Nf1 keeping his light-squared bishop on c4. After 9...Re8 10.a4 Ba7 he demonstrated that White can take space on the queenside by means of 11.b4 and not necessarily 11.a5, as Adams did in the similar position against Eljanov, above. Michael's 17...c6?! was dubious and allowed the Russian to obtain a slight, but lasting edge, which was eventually converted in style. A well-played game by Kramnik. 15...Bxe3 looks like an interesting attempt to improve upon Black's 15...bxa6 and 17...Nc6 also promised a defendable position.

Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.a4 h6 7.c3 a5 [C50]

And last, but definitely not least, the game Karjakin, S - Kramnik, V Vugar Gashimov memorial 2017, saw the interesting idea of 7...a5, which is gaining popularity in different lines with a4. Once again Kramnik was the first to deviate from the only preceding game (Geller, J - Kryvoruchko, Y/Novi Sad SRB 2016), when he played 10...Ne7, instead of 10...Be6. Even though Karjakin was the first to create some tension in the centre, by 13.d4, Vlad equalised with a few accurate moves. He even tried to set White some problems, but Karjakin was accurate and the game was drawn. An interesting positional fight. The rare setup which was chosen by Kramnik looks pretty safe and so the ball is in White's court.

See you next month, Victor.

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