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To my surprise I've just noticed that all the games in this month's update are in the Spanish Opening, certainly a first for me. The fact that I decided to look at 3 games from the recent World Championship, even though they have all been analysed many times elsewhere, might have something to do with that. Of course, I never really expected Nepomniachtchi to play his pet King's Gambit lines in such an important match, pity!

Download PGN of May ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Berlin 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 Re1 Nd6 6 Nxe5 Be7 7 Bf1 Nxe5 8 Rxe5 0-0 9 d4 Bf6 [C67]

However, first up the former World Champion, and still number one, of course, Magnus Carlsen playing one of those annoying lines of his where White always seems to keep a nagging advantage:

Not soon after the diagram position he played a fine positional queen sacrifice, but there were still some ups and downs before he finally managed to eke out the win. See Carlsen, M - Dardha, D.

Spanish, Yurtaev Variation 6 d4 [C78]

I was a bit taken aback when I first played through Bernadskiy, V - Shevchenko, K, as 6 d4!? attacks a square that is controlled several times by Black:

However, this move is tricky and scores very well, Black players really need to be prepared for it.

Spanish, Yurtaev Variation 9 Be3 0-0 10 Nbd2 Re8 [C78]

In Gukesh, D - Keymer, V, following 9 Be3 0-0 10 Nbd2 Re8 11 h3 h6, White played the unusual 12 Qe2!?:

In one way the queen is awkwardly placed opposite the black rook, but it does also allow White to bring a rook to d1 opposite the black queen. In the game Black expanded thematically on the queenside, but suddenly found his king short of defenders and fell to a neat sacrificial attack.

Open Spanish 9 Be3 Be7 10 c3 Qd7 [C83]

I noticed that 1...e5 maestro Mamedyarov has been deferring ...0-0 in the Open Spanish recently, and after 9 Be3 Be7 10 c3 Qd7 11 Nbd2:

He has been capturing on d2, which is quite rare, but probably best. In Kasimdzhanov, R - Mamedyarov, S, however, something soon went wrong in the opening and Black was close to lost, but went for activity at the cost of material and somehow managed to turn things around. Then he neatly transposed into a winning rook endgame, but, as we know: “All rook endings are drawn” even sometimes winning ones, apparently!

Open Spanish 6 d4 Be7 7 Re1 b5 8 Rxe4 d5 [C84]

We've examined this position after 6 d4 Be7 7 Re1 b5 8 Rxe4 d5 9 Nxe5 Nxe5 10 Rxe5 bxa4 many times in the past:

However, we've never looked at 11 Qe2, which is not only the most popular move, but also the highest scoring. White doubles on the e-file and temporarily prevents Black from castling. In Wieczorek, O - Hagner, B we look at a key idea for White, an exchange sacrifice to gain control of the dark squares.

Closed Spanish 6 d3 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 0-0 9 h3 Bb7 [C84]

Ding Liren's attempt to become World Champion didn't start too well and in Nepomniachtchi, I - Ding Liren (game 5) he was completely crushed. The opening seemed insipid enough, though, after 6 d3 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 0-0 9 h3 Bb7 White played the relatively rare 10 a4 Na5 11 Ba2:

The game continued with the obvious 11...c5 and instead of Firouzja's 12 Na3 Nepomniachtchi played 12 Bg5, fighting for control of d5. This worked perfectly and he soon had powerful light-squared control, which he converted into a winning kingside attack.

Closed Spanish 6 d3 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 a4 Bd7 9 h3 0-0 [C84]

Two weeks later we are into the rapid play-offs and another fairly similar position after 8 a4 Bd7 9 h3 0-0 10 Be3 Na5 11 Ba2:

This game swung back and forth with plenty of errors (down to the tension and lack of time) and finally Black triumphed. See Nepomniachtchi, I - Ding Liren.

Spanish, Delayed Exchange Variation 7 Re1 [C85]

The match started somewhat surprisingly with the 'The dreaded DERLD (Delayed Exchange of the Spanish Deferred)' as Nigel Davies wrote here some years ago. However, rather than playing the most common moves, 7 d3 or 7 Qe1, Nepomniachtchi essayed 7 Re1, planning d2-d4:

Black then played a novelty at move 11, but White soon gained a stable advantage with his typical superior Exchange Spanish structure (as Black's extra queenside pawn is doubled) and was close to winning the opposite-colour bishop ending in Nepomniachtchi, I - Ding Liren.

Until next month, Tony.

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