ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Hi everybody,
This month I decided to look exclusively at the Open Spanish, which should prove very popular. However, I promise I will look at other lines next month! Olivier

Download PGN of November '06 1 e4 e5 games

Open Spanish [C80-83]

First of all I will summarise the recent evolution, and then give the evaluation of this line today. In the past, after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6, the move 9 c3 was considered the main and strongest move. Black usually replied 9...Be7 and White's position was (and still is) considered favourable.

But under the influence of Larsen, Korchnoi, Yusupov and Anand 9...Bc5 became more and more popular. After 9...Bc5 10 Nbd2 0-0 11 Bc2 both 11...Bf5 and 11...Nxf2 were supposed to give Black equal chances.

This was the nightmare for Karpov and the USSR against Korchnoi in Baguio 1978. But in Merano 1981 Karpov's team came up with two fantastic ideas to rehabilitate the old 9 Nbd2! After 9...Nc5 10 c3 d4 they played both 11 Ng5! (Tal) and also 11 Bxe6 Nxe6 12 cxd4 Nxd4 13 a4! (Karpov) with success.

This was a severe blow for the Open Spanish and for a long time it was abandoned. But Yusupov, and later on Anand, found improvements and rehabilitated many lines. Then came the match for the World Championship between Kasparov and Anand in 1995. Kasparov came up with an incredible novelty in the Tal line and again the open Spanish was dismissed.

But 9 years later Kasparov's line has been definitively evaluated as a forced draw. The funny thing is that in my database the drawing line was discovered for the first time by Eynon (2057 ELO!) in his game against Barry, played at Grangemouth in 1999! He found an improvement on an old idea of Timman's. It is rather possible that the correspondence world new of it before but I am not a specialist. In the game Morozevich-Ponomariov 2004 (see the archive) you can follow the forced draw if you want.

So the Open Spanish is reborn again! And everybody has started to play it once more. Korchnoi, Yusupov, Mamedyarov, Bruzon, Ponomariov, Shirov, and of course one of my fellow collaborators at ChessPublishing, Victor Mikhalevski, one of the leading experts on the line.

Nowadays the trend is to play 9 Be3 like Alekhine, and Kasparov in his youth, or 9 Nbd2 as in the Karpov line. It is true that White always has a tiny edge in many endings but it doesn't seem enough.

So, this explains why I still have not looked at 9 c3 here, but mainly at 9 Nbd2 and 9 Be3.

Later, in another update, we will study the position after 9 Nbd2 Be7 10 c3 0-0 11 Bc2 which transposes into the old main lines of 9 c3 with the very important difference that White has avoided 9...Bc5 in the process.

I hope this is clear enough and that you will enjoy this update. :)

Part 1: 9 Be3

In Sebag - Radulski, Cappelle 02/2006, Black tried the old move 9...Na5 (which has a bad reputation) to surprise his opponent:

Sebag played very well and the black king got stuck in the centre. Black managed to protect his king but had to enter a very bad ending. White did not play very well but won with a trap in a drawish position.

In Kryvoruchko - Simacek Black played 9...Bc5, which is a very interesting way to play against 9 Be3, in my opinion. White replied 10 Qe2 (transposing into the Kéres line, 9 Qe2) and then Black played 10...Qe7:

The middle game was very interesting and typical, each side attacking on his own wing. The position was balanced and at one point White make a faulty sacrifice but Black lost his way in the complications and was completely crushed.

The game Felgaer - Kaidonov, Fide world cup 2005, starts like the previous one with the difference that Black played 10...0-0 instead of 10...Qe7. This is a very safe way to play and I believe we will see in the next game that Black has real chances to equalize. On the 16th move Black misplaced his rook on d8, then White managed to push e6 on the 20th move:

This proved to be decisive, and a cascade of combinations followed from White to bring play to an endgame with an extra pawn. Felgaer's technique was excellent and he scored a deserved win.

In Kotronias - Mamedyarov Black wanted too much from his position and at the end this unjustified optimism was punished by Kotronias who slowly but surely built a very strong position. A very didactic game to understand White's plan in the Open Spanish.

Korneev - Mikhalevski was a big fight between two Open Spanish specialists. Black chose the more classical 9...Be7, and this provides an opportunity to look at other directions that Black may choose.

Here in the diagram position White is better thanks to the fantastic position of his knight on e4:

Black suffered but managed to save a very difficult endgame. I give a game of Bruzon with black in the notes where I think he showed an interesting way to handle the position. In any case Black needs to be a good endgame player to defend this position. So for those who aren't, I would advise giving preference to 9...Bc5.

Part 2: 9 Nbd2

In Palac - Yusupov Black chose an old line starting with 9...Be7 and followed with ...Nc5, ...Bg4 and ...Ne6. Palac showed his complete mastery of this type of position and realized a perfect game. I rarely saw Jussupow losing like this in an Open Spanish.

In Klovan - Korchnoi, Korchnoï played a very interesting line starting with ...Nc5 and ...Be7 and then ...d4-d3:

He equalized very easily. In fact this line might be seen more and more often in the future thanks to De-Jong who found a very strong improvement on an old Topalov-Piket game (see the notes). If I was Black this would be my choice.

In Sutovsky - Mikhalevski, White chose the old Karpov line which is still very efficient. Black was the first to play a new move which provoked some sharp tactics:

Sutovsky entered an endgame with two pawns for the exchange where I think that the position is still in equilibrium, but Sutovsky played with a lot of energy and got the best of it at the very end. A very interesting battle to look at!

Thanks for sending me your remarks and see you next month. Olivier Renet

Please post your Kingpawn Opening queries on the 1 e4 e5 Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions.