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Hello everyone,
This time there were no top-level offline events, so I focused on the US Championships, played online, and added a few games I played in the Continental Open, which was also an online event. You are going to see a few lines we haven’t seen yet on our pages and a few important novelties.

Download PGN of November ’20 1 e4 e5 games

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Open Spanish 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 f5 12.Nb3 Qd7 13.Nfd4 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 c5 15.Ne2 [C83]

Our first game, So, W - Sevian, S ch-USA 2020 rapid, saw a tricky line of the Open Spanish.

In the diagram position Black played 15...Rad8 and after 16.Nf4 introduced the strong novelty 16...d4 - earlier we'd analysed 16...c4?! Leko,P (2744)-Kamsky,G (2741) Zug SUI 2013 [Mikhalevski,V]. After the sequence 17.cxd4 Bc4 18.d5! Bxd5 19.f3 Ng5 White entered an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops and rooks. Soon the rooks were exchanged and a draw was agreed. A well-played game by both players, 16...d4 is an important improvement, which leaves the ball in White's court.

Spanish, Berlin endgame 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Be6 [C67]

The game Sevian, S - Nakamura, H ch-USA 2020 rapid, featured a popular Berlin endgame:

In the position given above White played the rare 13.Ne4, instead of the common 13.Ng5, which hasn’t been considered on our pages yet. Black reacted with the logical 13...Rd8 and after 14.b3 Rxd1 15.Rxd1 Bd5 16.Re1 Nakamura erred with 16...h4?! Instead Hikaru had to start with 16...Bb4 and only after 17.Re2 h4 or 17...Kd7, equalising. The text allowed 17.Nf6!, which led to White’s advantage. 13.Ne4 doesn't promise much, although Black should stay alert, 16...Bb4 must be preferred over 16...h4?!

Spanish, Berlin 5.Re1 Nd6 6.a4 [C67]

In the game Swiercz, D - Dominguez, L ch-USA 2020 rapid, White tried to surprised his experienced opponent with the rare option 6.a4:

The former Cuban GM was well-prepared, as usual, and played 6...Be7 7.Nc3 a6 8.Bf1 before he introduced an interesting novelty, 8...f6. Black wants to keep his extra pawn and that is what he easily achieved, although not without help from his opponent. The game continued 9.d4 Nf7 10.Bc4 d6 11.Nd5! 0-0 12.c3 Kh8! and now White started to go astray. First, 13.b4 wasn’t necessary, as instead he could play 13.Ba2!, preventing 13...Be6. Then, after 13...Be6 he had to play 14.Ba2! but instead he went for 14.Bb3? and after 14...Qd7 Black soon consolidated and converted his extra pawn easily. An easy win for Dominguez, who grabbed a pawn in the opening and then kept it. 8...f6 was an interesting novelty, while White can try to improve his play by means of either 13.Ba2 or 14.Ba2!

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

Our next game, Robson, R - So, W ch-USA 2020 rapid, featured an Anti-Berlin with 5.c3.

The 5.c3 line is not particularly popular because of Black’s central break 5...d5, which was played in the current game. The game saw a long forced line, which starts with 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Bc4 Qd6 8.b4 Bb6 9.a4 0-0 10.Nbd2 Bf5 11.Ba3 e4! and so on. Wesley confirmed that he knew the theory of the line when he played 19...Rfd8!, a known way to improve on the game Caruana, F - Aronian, L, in which Black captured the f2-pawn. After 20.Rhd1 another precise move was played, 20...e4!. Black equalised and soon the players agreed to a draw. This game confirmed that 5...d5 promises equality, it seems that White should either avoid 5.c3 or meet 5...d5 with 6.Nbd2 in order to avoid simplifications.

Spanish, Smyslov 4.d4 exd4 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Bg4 [C60]

The game Guseinov, G - Mikhalevski,V Continental Open ICC 2020, was a continuation of our duel in an interesting line of Smyslov's system with 4.d4.

In the diagram position White has two main options, he either retreats the knight to d2 or plays 10.0-0-0, ignoring the doubling of his pawns. The Azeri player preferred the latter, and after 10...Bxf3 11.gxf3 0-0 12.Qe3 I deviated from a game we played a week earlier with 12...Rfe8. White continued with 13.Ne2 and here I introduced the novelty 13...Qe6, which is probably not the most precise. Anyway, after 14.Kb1 Rad8! the position remained complicated. Gadir played 15.Rdg1, when 15.h4! promised more, and I reacted with 15...Qc4! and soon the complications led us to an equal, but complicated queen endgame. A little later four queens could be seen on the board and then a regular queen endgame again. A very interesting game with a lot of events. I managed to win after White’s mistake in time trouble. The line with 10.0-0-0 is pretty complicated and requires further practical tests. At the moment, it seems that Black should be able to equalise, and 13...Rad8 is a possible improvement.

Spanish, Smyslov System 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.0-0 [C60]

In the game Wen, T - Mikhalevski, V Continental Open ICC 2020, White went for a line which doesn’t promise much.

In the position given above I played 8...Ng4, which was my over-the-board improvisation, although the move isn’t new. Steinitz’s 8...Ne7! may still be the most accurate way to play and promises Black equal chances. In the game, after 9.Qxg4 Nxd4 White followed preceding games with 10.Bd3, while 10.Qg3! promises slightly the better chances. I could equalise immediately by means of 10...d5!, but preferred a more complicated position after 10...d6. The game remained equal before the moment he played 24.Be3?, which I could exploit by means of 24...Qd3! Instead I played 24...Qg4?, but he returned the favour with 25.Qxg4? and soon it was all over. White's setup in the game doesn't set problems for Black. After 4.d4 White's most challenging line is 5.Bg5.

Scotch, 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 [C45]

The game Krishnakumar, S - Mikhalevski, V Continental Open ICC 2020, saw an interesting line of the Scotch with 8.h4, which mainly entered tournament practice thanks to the efforts of the Russian GM Morozevich.

I decided to try 8...d6 in the diagram position, which is now out of fashion - earlier we considered 8...a5, 8...Bb7 and 8...Qe6. White replied with 9.c4 Nb6 10.exd6 cxd6 11.Nc3. Usually White chooses between the text and 11.Be3. After the further moves 11...Be6 12.b3 d5! 13.cxd5 I introduced a bad novelty 13...cxd5?, when instead 13...Nxd5 was better and promised Black equal chances. Fortunately, White started to err right away, first with 14.Qe5?! then 15.Bb5?! and finally 16.Qe2? and Black developed a strong initiative and won the game easily. 8...d6 is a reasonable alternative to more fashionable lines, although 13...Nxd5 has to be preferred to 13...cxd5.

Scotch, 6.Bd3 d5 [C45]

And last, but not least, the game Xiong,J - Robson,R ch-USA 2020, saw a quite rare line of the 4...Nf6 Scotch.

First of all, White played 6.Bd3, which is less popular than 6.e5, but then he met 6...d5 in the diagram position with 7.Qe2, which may come as a surprise weapon. Black reacted correctly with a good pawn sacrifice: 7...dxe4 8.Nc3 Bb4! 9.Bxe4 0-0!. The game continued 10.Bxc6 Rb8 11.0-0 Qd6! 12.Bb5! Ng4! 13.g3 and here Black played a new move, 13...Qc5, when 13...Bxc3!, which was played earlier, seems to set White some problems. Nevertheless, Black would be fine if after 14.Bd3 Bxc3 15.bxc3 he didn’t play 15...Ne5?, which turned out to be a tactical blunder, as after 16.Ba3! White exchanged a strong knight and obtained a ”healthy“ extra pawn. 15...Bd7! promised good compensation for the pawn.

6.Bd3 d5 7.Qe2 is hardly a good line for White. 13...Bxc3 is a way to set some problems for White and so I doubt White is going to repeat this opening experiment.


See you next month, Victor.

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