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Hello everyone,
This update is mostly based on the European Team Championships. You’re going to see a fascinating battle in Ding’s Liren’s warm up match against Lu Shanglei, Mamedov’s Guioco Piano with 5.d4 and 7.Nbd2, a fashionable line with 9.Bd2 in the Four Knights Scotch and no less than three games from the Azeri wizard Mamedyarov.
Due to personal reasons this will be my last update after roughly 20 years with ChessPublishing. I hope you enjoyed my analysis all these years. Anyway, I tried to do my best and offer you a quality product. Thank you for being part of my section!

Download PGN of November ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Anti-Marshall 8.d4 Nxd4 9.Nxd4 exd4 10.e5 Ne8 11.Qxd4 [C88]

Lu Shanglei - Ding Liren, GM Warm-up match, Hangzhou(1st game) 2021.

In the not so popular Anti-Marshall line with 8.d4 the players reached the above diagram position. Black answered with the old 11...c5, introduced back in 1896, and after the forced 12.Qe4 he played 12...Rb8. White’s 13.c4 was very logical and after 13...Bb7 White chose the aggressive 14.Qg4!? In the very sharp play White overestimated his chances with 18.f5?!, when 18.Nd2 was correct, but Black’s reaction 18...Bg5 wasn’t the best either - 18...d6! was preferable. Complicated play led to a better endgame for Black, which he converted into a full point. The line with 8.d4 doesn't promise White any advantage, moreover, White is the side which has to fight for equality. So, I suggest other Anti-Marshall lines, such as 8.a4.

Spanish, Berlin endgame 9.Nc3 Be7 [C67]

Shankland, S - So, W ch-USA Saint Louis 2021.

In the well-known diagram position Black has just played a sideline with 9...Be7. After 10.Rd1 Ke8 the players first transposed to 9.Rd1. A few moves later another transposition occurred, this time to the 9.h3 line after the moves 11.g4 Nh4 12.Nxh4 Bxh4 13.f3 h5 14.h3. Now Black chose a dubious move order, 14...hxg4?! (14...f6 is more accurate), but White returned the favour with 15.hxg4 f6 16.exf6 gxf6 17.Bf4 when 17.Kg2! was the way to exploit Black’s move order. The players obtained a position which was already discussed in correspondence chess and Black held it with ease.

In the line with 9...Be7 White can choose between transposing to the 9.h3 line and 11.Bg5. Shankland chose the former. Black's 14...hxg4?! was slightly inaccurate, but White allowed him to transpose back to 14...f6. Wesley defended well and equalised comfortably.

Guioco Piano, Pomtow Attack 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4 7.Nbd2 Nxe4 8.d5 Ne7 9.0-0 [C54]

Mamedov, R - Alekseenko, K 23rd European Teams Terme Catez 2021.

After employing the rare 7.Nbd2 line in the European Club Cups against yours truly, Mamedov repeated it again against a strong Russian GM. In the well-known diagram position Black went for the slightly surprising 9...Bxd2, when 9...Nxd2! looks more accurate and promises roughly equal chances. After 10.Nxd2 he retreated the knight to f6 with 10...Nf6, when instead, 10...Nxd2 would lead to a sideline of 9...Nxd2. White continued with 11.Nf3 and Black presented a good novelty, 11...0-0! which was an improvement over 11...h6? from the only preceding game. However, after 12.Bg5 his 12...d6?! was inaccurate and he came under pressure, 12...Ng6 was better with just a nominal edge for White. Rauf missed his chances with 15.Nf3?, when 15.Rc1! yielded him a clear edge. The bottom line is that 9...Nxd2 looks better than 9...Bxd2.

Giuoco Piano, 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 [C54]

Duda, J - Shirov, A 23rd European Teams Terme Catez 2021.

A rather forced line of the Guioco Piano with 6...d5 led to the diagram position given above. Here Shirov introduced the slightly risky 17...Bxf3, instead of 17...Qxd4. The ensuing endgame after 18. Qxd6 cxd6 19.gxf3 Rfd8 is slightly better for White if he continues with 20.b3! Instead, he played 20.Re7 and Black equalised the game. 17...Qxd4 looks like a safer line than Shirov's 17...Bxf3. The best attempt for White to create problems is 20.b3!

Giuoco Piano, 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 h6 6.c3 d6 7.Re1 0-0 8.h3 a5 9.Nbd2 Be6 [C50]

Firouzja, A - Mamedyarov, S 23rd European Teams Terme Catez 2021.

In the given position Firouzja surprised his opponent with the very rare bishop trade, 10.Bxe6, instead of the common 10.Bb5. After 10...fxe6 he played 11.Nb3, which was recently tested in Demchenko,A (2651)-Kollars,D (2621) Riga 2021. Black’s retreat, 11...Ba7 was already new, as 11...Bb6 has been seen in the aforementioned game. Play continued 12.Be3 Bxe3 13.Rxe3 a4 14.Nbd2 d5! 15.Re2 and here Mamedyarov started to play too ambitiously with 15...b5. The text is not yet bad, but instead 15...d4 would have led to roughly equal chances. Black’s mistake came on move 18, when he played 18...Qe8? and came under pressure - 18...Nd5! was necessary and led to a repetition of moves. The rare 10.Bxe6 doesn't promise any opening advantage, Mamedyarov reacted correctly and only his 18...Qe8? allowed Firouzja to obtain an edge. Instead, 18...Nd5 led to equality.

Giuoco Piano, 5...0-0 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 Be7 8.Bg3 d6 9.a4 [C50]

Giri, A - Mamedyarov, S 23rd European Teams Terme Catez 2021.

The Azeri GM answered the previous move, 9.a4, with 9...g6?!, which seems to be inaccurate. Black tested many different moves in the diagram position, but my computer suggests a new move, 9...g5!? After 10.h3! Kg7?! (10...Nh5 was worthy of attention) 11.a5 a6 12.Nc3 Be6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.d4!? White obtained a better position, but later missed his chance to set serious problems with 20.f5! and the game was eventually drawn.

6.Bg5 is an interesting way to create some problems, but Black shouldn't play 9...g6. Instead, 9...Nh7 and 9...g5 deserve attention.

Four Knights Scotch 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 d5 9.Bd2 [C47]

The main line with 9.Bd2:

Lagarde, M - Esipenko, A European Teams Terme Catez 2021, saw 9...Rb8 in the diagram position. After 10.Re1 Bg4 11.Qc1 Black played 11...Re8 - earlier we considered 11...Be6. After 12.exd5 Esipenko introduced a good novelty, 12...Rxe1! instead of 12...cxd5, and soon equalised by means of 13.Qxe1 cxd5 14.h3 Be6 (instead of 14...Bh5 in Chigaev,M (2615)-Esipenko,A (2683) Sochi 2020). The line with 9.Bd2 is not as innocent as it may appear and Black has to defend accurately. 12...Rxe1! looks like a good improvement over 12...cxd5, and allowed him to equalise.

Erdos, V - Mamedyarov, S European Teams Terme Catez 2021, featured the extremely rare, but interesting 9...a5, which has the point of protecting the bishop on b4 and thus avoiding 10.Nxd5! After 10.Re1 Mamedyarov deviated from the only preceding game, Csonka,B (2496)-McShane,L (2674) Douglas 2021, which saw the dubious 10...Be6?!, with 10...Bg4! However, after 11.Qc1 Re8 12.a3 Bxc3 13.bxc3 he captured the e4-pawn with the wrong piece, 13...Nxe4?! Instead, 13...dxe4 was better and promised equal chances. 9...a5 is an interesting idea, but Black must improve on his play with 13...dxe4.


Good bye and good luck! Victor.

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