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Hello everyone,
In this update you're going to see a lot of top level chess, as usual. Some of the lines are popular, some are well-forgotten, but none of the games will be boring.

Download PGN of May ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Anti-Marshall with 8.a3 d6 9.c3 [C88]

The game Navara, D - Ding Liren Vugar Gashimov memorial Shamkir 2018, saw a line which hasn't been seen on our pages for a while.

In this known, but not very popular position White chooses between 10.Bc2, the main line, and 10.Ba2. The latter was Navara's choice in this game. Now after the natural 10...c5 11.d4 Black shut-out the light-squared bishop with 11...c4. Surprisingly, in most of the preceding games Black played 11...Qc7. After the text Black obtained a comfortable position and outplayed White slowly, but surely. A solid performance from Ding Liren, who refuted White's opening setup. The line with 8.a3 doesn't promise White any advantage, to say the very least.

Spanish, Open variation 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Nxd2 12.Qxd2 Na5 [C83]

In the game Topalov, V - Mamedyarov, S Gashimov memorial Shamkir 2018, the players discussed an important line in the 9.Be3 system.

The players reached the diagram position after a rather forced sequence of moves. White sacrificed a pawn for the initiative and the very complicated diagram position ensued. Here White played the most natural 17.Nd4, which the Azeri player answered by the correct 17...Bd7! 18.f4 c5 19.Nf3 Qb6! Both players did their best before White erred with 24.f5?! and allowed Black to obtain the upper hand. Instead 24.Be4 is better and promises roughly equal chances, although the position remains very complicated. Veselin kept fighting and eventually Shahriyar started to err and instead of converting his advantage lost the game. A very interesting fighting game, which is also important for the theory of the line.with 11...Nxd2. Black seems to equalise with precise play, as demonstrated by Mamedyarov.

Spanish, Yurtaev Variation 5...Bc5 6.c3 0-0 7.d4 Ba7 8.Re1 [C78]

A pretty rare line of the Yurtaev Variation with 8.Re1 ocurred in the game Topalov, V - Wojtacek, R Gashimov memorial Shamkir 2018. After the natural 8...b5 9.Bb3 d6 10.h3 Bb7 11.a4 Black responded with the clever 11...Ne7, transferring the knight to g6, and equalised the position easily. Topalov's play in the opening wasn't convincing and it seems that 8.Bg5 should be preferred to 8.Re1.

Berlin Defence with 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 Re8 7.Nbd2 a6 8.Bxc6 dxc6 9.Nc4 [C65]

The game Caruana, F - Nakamura, H ch-USA Saint Louis 2018, featured an important line of the Berlin system with 4.d3.

In this well-known diagram position Hikaru introduced the interesting novelty 9...Bd6. Caruana tried to prove White's edge with 10.Bg5, but Nakamura equalised with ease and after 22.Rd2 started to take over, only to eventually miss the winning 46...Qxe4! A very interesting game, in which White was slowly outplayed, but Black missed the decisive blow. Nakamura's novelty 9...Bd6 is playable, but anyway Caruana didn't show a clear way to set problems and so the ball is now in White's court.

Berlin 4.d3 Bc5 5.Nbd2 d6 6.c3 0-0 7.0-0 Ne7 8.d4 exd4 9.cxd4 Bb6 10.Re1 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.a4 [C67]

Another long theoretical line was seen in the game Saric, I - Bacrot, E, Bundesliga 2017-18.

In Anand's line with 12.a4 Black introduced an early novelty after the moves 12...a6 13.Bf1. He played 13...Bg6, instead of the 13..Re8, 13...Ba5 and 13...Nc6 which had been tested before. White reacted with the natural 14.a5, but probably 14.e5 is the critical test of Black's novelty. Bacrot could have equalised had he played 17...Re8 instead of 17...Nd7. Soon he came under pressure and eventually collapsed under a strong attack. Black's novelty 13...Bg6 is interesting, but probably doesn't equalise in view of 14.e5!, which still has to be seen. In the game 17...Re8 promised equal chances.

Italian Four Knights with 6.Na4 [C50]

The game Karjakin, S - Topalov, V Gashimov memorial Shamkir 2018, saw the Four Knights version of the Italian, instead of the Giuoco Piano, which is more common these days.

Here Karjakin surprised his opponent with the extremely rare 7.a3, which Topalov tried to answer with the standard (for the Giuoco Piano) transfer of the c6-knight to g6, 8...Ne7, after the moves 7...0-0 8.0-0, but the knight didn't get to g6 and Black soon found himself under pressure, although he had a chance to equalise after the slightly inaccurate 14.d4. Instead, 14.g3! secured a stable advantage. A convincing win for the Russian player, although he gave Black a chance when he played 34.Ke3? This game proved that 7.a3 is interesting and is worth more attention. Meanwhile Black should avoid 8...Ne7. Instead 8...h6 looks like a logical improvement.

Four Knights with 4...Bd6 5.d3 a6 6.Ba4 0-0 7.Bg5 b5 8.Bb3 Be7 [C48]

In the game Hoolt, S - Adams, M Bundesliga 2017-18, the players reached a position which is typical for the Spanish with an early d3.

I believe that here 9.0-0 was already slightly inaccurate. Instead, I would recommend starting with 8.a3 in order to save the light-squared bishop. In the game the players reached an equal position after the series of exchanges 9...d6 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.Bxd5 Bxg5 12.Bxc6 Rb8 13.Nxg5 Qxg5 which were initiated by White. Nevertheless, Adams outplayed his less-experienced opponent and won the game surprisingly easy. You can't hope to fight for an edge after 10.Nd5. However, 9.a3 d6 10.h3 deserved serious attention.

Vienna 3...d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bc5 [C47]

The Vienna Game, which is rarely seen at the top level, was tested in the game Nakamura, H - Xiong, Jeffrey ch-USA Saint Louis 2018.

The players reached the important theoretical position in the diagram below after the moves 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Re1 Qf6 10.d3 h6:

Here Nakamura came up with 11.Rb1, instead of the main line 11.Be3. Black reacted well with 11...Bb6 12.Be3 h6, but his 18...Bd5? was a mistake. However, Hikaru failed to exploit it, playing 19.Rxb4? when instead 19.Nb3! promised him a healthy extra pawn. A well-played game by both players, except for one mistake from each side, which led to a logical outcome. The line which occurred in the game doesn't promise White an opening advantage, but leads to playable positions.

See you next month, Victor.

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