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Hello everyone,
As usual we are going to see a lot of Giuoco Pianos and a lot of top level chess. Recently many players have been employing rare opening lines to surprise their opponents.

Download PGN of November ’17 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Archangel/Yurtaev Variation 7.a4 Rb8 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6 10.axb5 axb5 11.Na3 [C78]

It has been a while we last looked at the Yurtaev Variation and so the game Harikrishna, P - Erdos, V 33rd ECC Open 2017, is a good chance to see some of the things we missed.

White has just played 17.f4, which is a pretty rare but interesting line. Black’s reaction was reasonable, 17...Qh4 18.Ra3 d5, but after 19.exd5 f5 20.Qf3 Black’s 20...Rbd8?! was dubious and White obtained some edge. Instead, 20...Qg4 deserved attention. This game demonstrated that the rare line with 17.f4 is not without poison. Black's best defence seems to be 18...Ra8!, which has not yet been tested in practice.

Spanish, Berlin Defence 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d5 [C65]

The game Navara, D - Grischuk, A 33rd ECC Open 2017, saw the early 5...d5 line.

White has just played the rare 6.0-0 and after 6...dxe4 7.Nxe5 0-0! he realised that he had already lost any advantage. So, he went for 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.d4 Bd6 10.Bg5 and managed to equalise. A well-played game by both players, and although the game was short, it was important and proved that 6.0-0 doesn't promise any opening advantage.

Giuoco Piano with 5.d3 d6 6.Bb3 0-0 7.h3 a6 8.Nbd2 [C54]

In the game Duda, J - Eljanov, P Bundesliga 2017-18, the players discussed the old-fashioned Giuoco Piano with 6.Bb3.

The young Polish GM went for the aggressive 11.g4 is the diagram position in order to exploit Black’s last move. Eljanov’s 11...Nh7 was probably not the most accurate, as 11...Be7 would have solved hiss problems. However, White’s reaction, 12.Rg1?! wasn’t the best either. Instead, 12.exd5 was correct and promised an edge. In the game after 12...d4 13.Nb3 Be7 Pavel obtained a plus, but then committed a few mistakes and eventually lost the game. A crushing, but not error free victory for the young Polish GM! Nevertheless, Black is able to withstand White's aggression on the kingside, the best way to meet 11.g4 is 11...Be7. Alternatively Black can play without 10...h6, for example, 10...Qe7.

Giuoco Piano 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a5 7.Re1 [C54]

The rather fresh line with 6...a5 occurred in the game Jakovenko, D - Svidler, P Bundesliga 2017-18.

Here Jakovenko introduced the strong novelty 12.dxe5! and after 12...Ng4 13.Be3 Nxe5 14.Bxa7 Rxa7 15.Nd4 obtained a very pleasant position, which he skilfully converted into a well-deserved win. An excellent game by Jakovenko, who introduced a strong novelty, obtained a clear positional edge and led the game to a win flawlessly. It seems that White obtains an unpleasant edge after 12.dxe5! and so Black should try 11...exd4.

Giuoco Piano 5.d3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.a4 a6 9.Re1 [C54]

The game Vachier-Lagrave, M - Leko, P Bundesliga 2017-18, saw another line with an early ...d5.

Leko introduced an interesting idea in the diagram position. He played 11...f6, instead of 11...Nb6, which isn’t bad either. After 12.Ne4 Bb6 13.Be3 Kh8! 14.Bxb6 Nxb6 15.Bb3 Nd5 he stabilized his position and White soon had to be accurate to retain equality. It seems that the line with 9.Re1 doesn't promise any opening advantage, and Black can choose between 11...Nb6 and 11...f6.

Italian Opening 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 [C54]

The line which occurred in the game Naiditsch, A - Kramnik, V 33rd ECC Open 2017, is gaining popularity.

This is the critical position after 15.Bd3. In this position Black has tried a couple moves, such as 15...Nf5 and 15...Nd2 and all of them were playable, but Kramnik found his own way, 15...Ng3. After the sequence 16.Rd1 Bxd3 17.Rxd3 Ngf5 18.Bd2 Ng6 19.Na4! he sacrificed a pawn with 19...f6. White accepted the challenge, but his 23.Bb4?! was dubious and allowed a nice combination which led to a position of dynamic equality. However, 23 .Ne5! promised White an edge. Kramnik's 15...Ng3 is a reasonable idea, but Black has a wide choice of options in this position and only practice will demonstrate which of them is Black's safest bet. So. I'm expecting more practical tests of this fresh line.

Scotch 4...Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Bg5 [C45]

The game Navara, D - Malakhov, V 33rd ECC Open 2017, saw a line which Navara had previously faced with the black pieces.

In the diagram position Malakhov played 10...Qe7 (instead of 10...a6 in Dominguez Perez,L - Andreikin, D Novi Sad SRB 2016), however, after 12.Qd2 his 12...Bd7?! looks passive. Instead, he should have developed the bishop to e6, 12...Be6, which promised Black equal chances. A comfortable win for Navara, 9...g5 is a playable line, but Black should develop his light-squared bishop to e6.

Bishop's Opening 2...Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 [C24]

In the game Karjakin, S - Yu Yangyi 33rd ECC Open 2017, the Chinese player surprised everyone with an early deviation from the main theory.

In the well-known diagram position he played 5...Qc7, which had only been previously played at the GM level by two of his compatriots earlier this year. After the moves 6.0-0 dxe4 7.Ng5 Bg4! 8.Qe1 Bh5 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.dxe4 Nd7 he obtained a reasonable position. His 11...Nc5 was slightly inaccurate, but he still equalised comfortably and after massive exchanges a draw was agreed on the 29th move. 11...Bc5 looks safer, but anyway easy equality for Yu Yangyi, who demonstrated that 5...Qc7 is an interesting weapon against the Bishop's Opening.

See you next month, Victor.

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