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Hello everyone,
If last time I had to choose from the hundreds and thousands of games played in the 2016 Olympiad in Baku, this time my task was much easier, as I focused on the Tal memorial in Moscow. This tournament saw a rise in popularity for the Giuoco Piano and so you're going to see no less than three games in this opening plus one game in the Two knights, which also started with 3.Bc4.

Download PGN of October ’16 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish - Zaitsev Variation 11...exd4 [C92]

As usual, we'll start with the Spanish and our first game is Anand, V - Mamedyarov, S, 10th Tal memorial Moscow 2016.

The players followed a recent game between two Chinese players, Hou Yifan - Bu Xiangzhi Danzhou CHN 2016, which saw 19.Ng3 in the diagram position. Instead, Anand decided to place his knight on e3, 19.Ne3. Black introduced a new move, 19...Bc8, instead of the 19...Bc3 that was played in a couple of preceding games. A well-played game by both players, where Anand exploited his opponent's slight inaccuracies with very strong play. The opening idea with 19.Ne3 deserves further practical tests.

Spanish - Smyslov variation with 4.c3 [C60]

I also decided to add my own game, Sutovsky, E - Mikhalevski, V Tel-Aviv championship rapid 2016, which saw a very rare line of the Smyslov Variation.

In the diagram position Emil chose a very rare retreat of the bishop, 7.Be2, but I reacted pretty well and with the later pawn sacrifice 16...Rfe8 obtained sufficient compensation, and then even an edge. However, a few mistakes in time trouble cancelled out my previous play and I eventually lost. An interesting game with a very rare opening line, which deserves more practical tests.

Scotch with 4...Nf6 [C45]

The Russian GM Nepomnichtchi has been in very good form recently, and the game Nepomnichtchi, I - Tomashevsky, E, 10th Tal memorial Moscow 2016, is further proof.

Ian didn't choose the most popular line of the Scotch and it seems that Tomashevsky hasn't studied it properly, as he answered 10.f4 with 10...Bg7. Even though this is the second most popular move in the position, it seems to be dubious, which White proved in the game. A surprisingly easy win for Nepomniachtchi, who continues his good form from the Olympiad and enters the top 10 live list. I believe 10...Bg7?! is the source of Black's problems in this game and so 10...d6 is a must.

Two Knights with 4.d3 Be7 [C55]

The game Nepomnichtchi, I - Aronian, L, 10th Tal memorial Moscow 2016, saw Levon deviating from the Italian with 3...Nf6 and 4...Be7.

Here Black avoided the main line, 5...0-0 and instead played 5...d6, which White answered with the even more uncommon 6.a3. Despite exchanging mistakes with 15...Qh3? and 16.Qh5? this was a well-played game by both players. 6.a3 seems to be a playable alternative to the main line and I wouldn't be surprised to see it again in the near future.

Italian - the old line of the Giuoco Piano [C54]

In the game between two former world champions, Kramnik, V - Anand, V 10th Tal memorial Moscow 2016, the younger one decided to employ a pet-line from his childhood, the Giuoco Piano.

In the position given above Black has three possible recaptures. Anand preferred 13...Bxd5, but his next move, 14...Bc5?!, was dubious and led to some problems. A nice technical win for Kramnik. Black should prefer either 14...Qd7 or 14...Qd6.

Italian with 6...h6 7.a4 [C54]

The lines with a4 are gaining a lot of popularity, and the game Nepomnichtchi, I - Mamedyarov, S Tal memorial Moscow 2016, featured one of its branches.

In the above position the Azeri GM followed in the footsteps of Navara and fell into the same positional mistake, 13...d5, which weakens the c5-square. A great win for the Russian player! Black experiences some problems in the line which occurred in the game and so I would like to suggest the immediate 9...Be6, as played by Anand.

Italian with 6...h6 7.Re1 [C54]

The game Giri, A - Mamedyarov, S Tal memorial Moscow 2016, saw the Dutch GM trying to delay the Bb3 move, as also occurred in Kramnik's game above.

Here Shakhriar decided to go for the principled 9...Na5. The players later exchanged inaccuracies with 19...Nxd5?! and 20.Rxb5?!, although the rest of the game was played very well. This game revealed how many hidden resources can exist in a visibly simple position. I expect the positions with a delayed Bb3 and without a4 to occur more often in tournament practice.

Petroff with 3.Nxe5 and 8.Nbd2 [C42]

This safe line occurred in the game Kramnik, V - Li Chao Tal memorial Moscow 2016. In this line White usually tries to outplay his opponent from a position with a very slight edge thanks to his control over the only open file.

Kramnik introduced a new move in the diagram position, 13.Re2, but didn't manage to set his opponent any serious problems and the game was eventually drawn. So, White should look for improvements if he wants to play this line.

See you next month, Victor.

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