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As usual the main accent this month will be on the Ruy Lopez, with highly important games in the Marshal, Breyer and Open Variations. There is a major White improvement in the Italian, and I also cover the Scotch.

Download PGN of November '08 1 e4 e5 games

The Marshall Variation [C89]

If the last few years White has generally tried to avoid this system, but this year we are seeing a lot of attempts to prove that 'a pawn is a pawn'!

Naiditsch, A - Onischuk, A, 24th ECC Kallithea 2008, is another test of Kramnik's 19.f3, and featured a highly important line:

In the October update I analysed 19...Rf6 and 19...Bf5, which didn't allow Black to fully equalise. This time Black played 19...Nxe3, which was also played by Aronian in the original game against Kramnik. White introduced the strong novelty 25.Qd3 (instead of Kramnik's 25.Qe2) and put some pressure on Black, who had to be very precise to equalise. Eventually the game was drawn, but White missed a good chance. This game shows that Kramnik's novelty is still a serious weapon against the Marshall Attack, and I'm sure soon we'll see more tests of this interesting line soon.

Our second game Sutovsky, E - Heimann, An, 24th ECC Kallithea 2008, saw a deviation from 17...Re6 and 17...f5 with the relatively rare 17...Qh5:

In the position after 20.Bf2! Black introduced the novelty 20...Qg5, instead of 20...Qg6 as in Ponomariov,R (2718)-Gustafsson,J (2620)/Cala Mayor ESP 2008. Sutovsky's reaction was correct and Black started to err (24...h4 and 26...Bxf1) and soon found himself in a lost position. A nice win from Sutovsky, which underlines the problems Black has in this line.

The Open Variation [C81]

The game Ivanchuk, V - Nakamura, H, Trophee CCAS KO rapid 2008, featured a relatively rare guest in modern tournament practice: the 9.Qe2 system.

In the diagram position (which arose after 19.Rc1) Black played 19...Qb4, which was introduced in a correspondence game, instead of Euwe's 19...c5?! and Korchnoi's 19...a5. After a high level game a draw was agreed, but I don't believe the last word in this line has been said yet, as 19...Qb4 may not solve all Black's problems. So I'm expecting to see more tests of this line in the future.

The Breyer variation [C95]

Two interesting games were played in this system, and while analysing them I received the strange impression that it is in fact White who has to fight for equality here. This is of course a joke, but let's see what happens in reality.

Let's start with Jakovenko, D - Svidler, P, ch-RUS Playoff rapid 2008.

In the diagram position White played the relatively rare line with 13.a4, but Svidler equalized without any visible problems. White's only chance to fight for spme advantage was 26.Qa5.

In the game Karjakin, S - Harikrishna, P, TCh-ESP CECLUB Final 2008, White played the 13.Nf1 main line and soon a fashionable (for this year, at least) position arose:

After two unsuccessful experiences earlier this year Karjakin returned with the novelty 17.Bd2, but once again this line turns out to be unlucky for him, as he was convincingly outplayed. A brilliant win from the Indian GM. Nevertheless, Karjakin's novelty deserves attention and further tests.

The positions that arise in this system are very complicated and it's very difficult to play them precisely. Everything is based on nuances and so the player with the better positional understanding usually prevails.

The Scotch [C45]

There are two main lines in the Scotch: 4...Nf6 and 4...Bc5, and we are going to look at both of them here.

First, 4...Nf6 in Radjabov, T - Ivanchuk, V, Trophee CCAS KO rapid 2008.

In the diagram position Ivanchuk played 9...Bb7, instead of the two more popular alternatives 9...a5 and 9...Qe6. Soon White sacrificed a pawn to obtain the initiative, but before long it was Black who was fighting for a win. This game proves that the line with 9...Bb7 deserves serious attention, though we need more practical tests to be more certain in this evaluation.

In the game Amonatov, F - Aleksandrov, A, Zvenigorodskaya Open A 2008, it was White who played a very interesting but rare line, 12.f4!? (instead of 12.Nd2):

Black accepted the challenge by 12...Qxe4, but already went wrong on the very next move (by 13...Qxe3?) and fell into a trap. 14...f6 was his last chance to stay in the game, but after missing it Black was already hopelessly lost, despite some clever defense. An important game, as White's idea has a chance to be a serious blow to Black's setup. However, more practical tests are necessary.

The Italian Game [C54]

The last, but definitely not least, game in this update is Hou,Yifan-Karpov,A, Trophee CCAS GpB TB blitz(2) 2008, which is a nice victory from the Chinese girl over the ex-World Champion!

In the diagram position, which arose after 12...Be6, White played the strong 13.d4 (instead, in the October update I analysed 13.Bc2 in Lahno-Ivanchuk). Karpov managed to withstand the pressure for a while, but blundered with 17...h5?, instead of 17...Bb6, and was crushed in good style. A good knowledge of theory plus a brilliant eye for tactics allowed the Chinese super star to beat the ex-World Champion. It seems that Black experiences some problems in this line and a clear way to equality hasn't yet been found.

Enjoy the issue and see you soon in December, Victor.

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