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One interesting defence to the Spanish which has fallen out of favour is the Archangel Variation with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7 rather than 6...Bc5. But the signs are that it could be making a comeback.

A few strong Grandmasters have been seen playing the Black side of late, such as Grigory Kaidanov, Larry Christiansen and Jonny Hector. Black certainly has an active game but how are his chances in the dangerous main lines?

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Spanish Opening, Archangel Variation [C78]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7:

The key variation is 7.c3 Nxe4 8.d4 Na5 9.Bc2 exd4 10.b4 Nc4 11.Bxe4 Bxe4 12.Re1 d5 13.Nxd4 when Black should sacrifice a piece with 13...c5 14.bxc5 Bxc5 15.f3 0-0 16.fxe4 dxe4:

Does he have enough? Well the critical line is probably 17.Rxe4 Qd5 18.Rh4 Rad8 19.Qd3 f5 20.Bg5 Rde8 as in Dvoirys - Belyavsky and as current theory stands it seems OK for Black. 20...Rd6 was condemned on the basis of Ulibin - Hauchard but Black's 28th move was the real culprit.

19.Nd2 was giving Black some trouble until the discovery of 22...g6 as in Vehi Bach - Mikhalchishin. White gets two minor pieces against a rook in the endgame, but they don't co-ordinate together well.

White's main alternative to 18.Rh4 is 18.Qf3:

, but both 18...b4 (Emms - Rausis) and 18...Ne5 (Koch - Degraeve) look adequate for Black here.

White's other 18th moves (18.Qd3, 18.Rf4 and 18.Re1) all seem rather harmless for Black and are covered within Howell - Mortazavi.

On the 17th move he can try 17.Kh1 instead of capturing on e4, but this can be handled by 17...Re8 as in Nunn - Belyavsky.

It would be interesting to know what Thomas Ernst had in mind in venturing 13.Qxd4 (instead of 13.Nxd4) against Jonny Hector (Ernst - Hector). As it was Hector got his new move in first, the surprising 14...Kd7!?. It looks very good for Black and should be enough to prevent a repeat of White's experiment.

There does seem to be growing respect for Black's chances after 10.b4 which is apparent in the fact that many White players have been going 10.Nxd4 instead:

After 10...c5 11.Nf5 Black's choice is between the 11...d5 of Karjakin - Hector and the 11...Qf6 of Svidler - Christiansen. The former can lead to great complications, the latter seems to give White some initiative. So I know which one I would prefer.

All in all I'd say that the Archangel is back in business and we should be seeing more of it in the next couple of years. It's one of the most enterprising and aggressive defences to the so-called Spanish torture.

That's all for this month.

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Nigel Davies