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Hello everyone,
I’ve based this update on games from the recent European Club Cups, and this will also include two of my own games. The lines with ...g6 against the Spanish are currently gaining more and more popularity and so you’ll find no less than four such games in this update, two of them with 3...g6 and two with 4...g6.

Download PGN of November ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Anti-Marshall 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxe5 Nd4 [C88]

The game Wang Hao - Ding Liren 34th ECC Open 2018, saw an important line in the Ant-Marshall with 8.h3.

Wang Hao introduced a new idea in the diagram position, 17.Ng3, where White had previously played 17.Bxb4. Ding Liren reacted correctly with 17...Nc6 18.Re3 Nd4 and obtained the typical counterplay for this line. A pretty logical draw, which demonstrates that Black doesn't experience problems in the 12.Bd2 line.

Spanish, Aronian System 5.0-0 Bg7 6.c3 b5 [C70]

In the game Sadhwani, R - Anand, V IoM 2018, the ex-champ chose a rare move order with 6...b5.

Here White recaptured on d4 with his knight, 9.Nxd4, when 9.cxd4 Nge7 would have transposed to the early ...Nge7 line. Black reacted with 9...Bd7 (9...Bxb7 also deserved attention) and his young opponentr chose the most challenging 10.Bd5! Nge7 11.Bg5 and after 11....f6 12.Nxc6 Bxc6 13.Bxc6 Nxc6 14.Bh4 it may seem that White obtained an edge, but Vishy’s 14...Qd7 shows that it’s not yet certain. However, Black’s 17...Ne7?! and 18...Qg4?! were risky, while 20...Kd7? was already too much and Black came under a very strong attack and was close to losing the game. However, the talented youngster then started to err and even lost the game. An interesting fighting game, a 13 year-old player managed to create a lot of problems for the ex-world champ and even achieved a winning position, but wasn't able to deliver the final blow. Vishy proved that 6...b5 is playable and only his 17...Ne7 allowed White to seize an edge. Instead, 17...Ne5 was better and led to roughly equal chances, and 9...Bb7 also deserves serious attention.

Spanish, Aronian System 4...b5 5.Bb3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.c3 Nge7 8.d4 exd4 9.cxd4 d6 10.h3 0-0 11.Nc3 Na5 12.Bc2 [C70]

The game Vogt, L - Vitiugov, N 34th ECC Open 2018, featured a rare move order with 4...b5. However, White allowed transposition to the normal Aronian System with Bb3.

The Russian GM chose 12...Bb7, instead of the main line 12...c5, in the position given above. While White’s reaction was already inaccurate, 13.Bg5, his 15.exf5? was a mistake and led to a Black edge. Two more mistakes, 16.Be4? and 18.g3?, gave the Russian GM a very convincing win, which shows that the move order with 4...b5 is not without venom. If White wants to set opening problems he should look for an improvement on the 6th move (6.d4 or 6.a4).

Spanish, Smyslov System 4.d4 exd4 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Bf4 [C60]

Another rare move order occurred in the game Nikolic,M - Mikhalevski, V 34th ECC Open 2018.

White has just played 6.Bf4 instead of the more popular 6.Bxe7, which I annotated for you earlier this year. It came as a surprise to me and after spending some time I answered with 6...a6?!, which was inaccurate - instead 6...Nf6! was correct. After 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Qxd4 White obtained a slight edge. I was under pressure for most of the game and only managed to outplay my opponent in the rook endgame. 6.Bf4 is a rare, but interesting idea. Black has to react precisely with 6...Nf6 to retain equality. The endgame which occurred in the game is in White's favour.

Spanish, Smyslov System 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 [C60]

Another rare line of the Smyslov system occurred in the game Petenyi, T - Mamedyarov, S 34th ECC Open 2018.

This exchange variation of the Smyslov System with 5.d3 leads to a comfortable position for Black, who can protect the e5-pawn by means of 5...Bg7. Black then seized an initiative early in the game with 7...f5, when White’s positional mistake, 8.Qe2? (8.exf5 was necessary) made things even worse and after 8...f4 Black was already clearly better, and Shakhriyar converted his advantage with ease. An easy win for the world number three player. 4.Bxc6 can't be recommended, as it doesn't promise any opening advantage.

Italian, Giuoco Piano 5...0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.a4 a5 9.Re1 [C54]

An important theoretical discussion took place in the game Ragger, M - Mikhalevski, V 34th ECC Open 2018.

In the diagram position Ragger played the most unpleasant move for Black, 12.Ne4, and after 12...Na7 13.h3 Bh5 14.d4 Nxb5 15.axb5 I introduced the novelty 15...f6!?, instead of the move 15...exd4 which was played in the recent game Vachier Lagrave,M – So,W Paris 2018. Both players were up to the task before White went astray with 21. b3?!, when 21.Bd4! deserved attention and promised slightly the better chances for White. An interesting fighting game, which saw an important line of the Giuoco Piano with ...d5. 15...f6 requires more practical tests.

Scotch Four Knights 11.Qf3 Bd6 12.h3 h6 13.Bf4 [C47]

An old line of the Scotch Four knights occurred in the game Carlsen, M - Ding Liren 34th ECC Open 2018.

After 13...Rb8 14.b3 Rb4! 15.Bxd6 Qxd6 16.Re1 a5 the game was roughly equal, even though Black could prefer 16...Bd7 instead. Both players played well, but then 23.g4? was a very uncharacteristic blunder from the world champion, when after 23.Nb6 the chances would remain equal. The Chinese player obtained a winning advantage, but failed to convert it into a win. Four Knights Scotch doesn't promise any opening advantage, although the ensuing endgame is playable.

Scotch Four Knights 8.Bd2 [C47]

The game Vitiugov, N - Yu Yangui 34th ECC Open 2018, saw an early surprise from the Russian player, who played 8.Bd2, instead of the almost automatic 8.exd5.

Black’s reply, 8...Bg4, was even more uncommon, but nevertheless playable - usually Black answers 8.Bd2 with 8...0-0. However, after 9.f3 Black played the risky 9...Bxc3?, which could yield White a clear edge after 10.Bxc3 dxe4 11fxg4!. But instead, this time Vitiugov went astray with 11.Bxf6? and Black soon simplified into a draw. 8.Bd2 hardly promises White any advantage as Black can choose between the main line 8...0-0 and the 8...Bg4 played in the game. In the latter case Black should meet 9.f3 with 9...Be6.

See you next month, Victor.

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