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A focus on the Grand Swiss for this month, where unsurprisingly there is a distinct lack of creative sidelines being tried within 1.e4 e5 and instead a focus on the most solid main lines. Having said that, we see two unusually interesting games in the Scotch Four Knights including the crucial Nakamura-Caruana game, as well as a fresh look at 3...Bc5 in the Ruy Lopez.

Download PGN of November ’23 1 e4 e5 games

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Four Knights 4.a4!? [C47]

The newly crowned World Junior Champion demonstrated a fresh idea in Maurizzi, M - Wojtaszek, R.

My choice as Black would still be to head for something resembling a Reversed Scotch Four Knights with 4...d5. Instead following 4...a6 5.d4 the a4/a6 inclusion seemed slightly useful for White in some of the following positions but unfortunately a single blunder later turned the game in Black’s favour.

Scotch Four Knights 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 0-0 9.0-0 cxd6 10.h3 Be6 [C47]

The vital Round 10 clash Nakamura, H - Caruana, F started with an opening with a generally quiet reputation but in this case we saw strong attacking play from White result in a crushing win.

Already choosing 10...Be6 over the more common 10...c6 hinted at Fabi’s intentions to play a more ambitious setup, but following 11.Qf3 c5 12.Rd1 I would prefer 12...Qe7! over the 12...Bxc3?! of the game. Hikaru soon built up a strong attack with opposite-coloured bishops to win an important game.

Spanish 3...Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 [C64]

Surprisingly this rare sideline was seen twice in the event, with good results for Black. Following the critical line 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 Nd5 7.0-0 Be7:

Firstly in Fawzy, A - Kollars, D the natural 8.cxd4 was played, but following 8...d6 9.Nc3 Be6 10.exd6 cxd6 we reach an unbalanced structure which seems quite pleasant for Black and he managed to outplay his slightly lower-rated opponent in the game.

More impressive preparation was displayed with 8.a4!? in Santos Latasa, J - Iturrizaga Bonelli, E. This useful waiting move has several points which I analyse in the notes - after 8...a5 9.Nxd4 in the game, the structure after capturing with the knight feels easier to play for White than the previous game although both sides had winning chances in this hard-fought draw.

Berlin Defence 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nxe5 8.Rxe5 0-0 9.d4 Bf6 [C67]

An easy choice to included in this month’s column was the stunning Huschenbeth, N - Navara, D of Round 1 in the Grand Swiss. After the further 10.Re1 Re8 11.Bf4 Rxe1 12.Qxe1 Ne8 Niclas eschewed the solid 13.c3 in favour of the pawn sacrifice line 13.Nc3!? Bxd4 14.Nd5 d6 15.Bg5 f6 16.Bh4:

Here Black has a choice between two wild lines, where I would prefer 16...g5!? over Navara’s choice of grabbing a second pawn with 16...Bxb2. In either case there are fascinating lines to analyse with Huschenbeth remaining within his preparation until move 29 and eventually winning a great game.

Spanish, Open Variation 9.Be3 [C83]

The game Petrosyan, M - Sadhwani, R first caught my eye for Black promoting a pawn on move 15, but fortunately it also turned out to contain an interesting opening idea by White followed by an unbalanced ending where White had more than enough compensation for the exchange. Following 9...Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Bg4 12.Nxe4 dxe4:

13.Qd5 has almost always been seen here but the endings seem very equal. Manuel’s 13.Bd5!? involves an interesting exchange sacrifice which Sadhwani accepted, albeit Black has a very solid alternative which probably renders this as just a one-game try.

Open Spanish, Dilworth 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 Nxf2 [C82]

This incredibly complex line has seen a few more tests of late. Nearly all games now follow 12.Rxf2 f6 13.Nf1!? Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 fxe5 15.Kg1:

Perhaps I would prefer 15...Qd6 over the most common 15...Bg4 16.Ne3 Be6 seen in Kuybokarov, T - Matlakov, M, where both sides have many options making the position difficult to analyse exhaustively. The game should have ended in a fairly early repetition but Matalkov made a fairly inexplicable decision and instead lost in short order.

Spanish, Breyer Variation 10.d4 Nbd7 11.c4!? [C95]

The standout performance of the Grand Swiss was undoubtedly the 5/11 scored by Kazakh IM Ramazan Zhalmakhanov against all 2650+ opposition. He got off to a fast start with 2/2 in Zhalmakhanov, R - Amin, B:

This sideline was undoubtedly still familiar to Breyer expert Bassem Amin, but following 11...c6 12.Qc2!? Bb7 13.a3 he deviated from one of his own games with 13...exd4, whilst I include a note about 13...d5! which seems to do a better job of solving Black’s opening problems. In either case the position remains complicated, and White impressively outplayed his 2680-rated opponent.

All the best, Harry

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