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Hello everyone,
I focused entirely on the recent World Cup this time, and it offered us a lot of interesting opening ideas. As usual, the Giuoco Piano remains very popular, as well as the Spanish. Please pay particular attention to the principled encounters of Vachier Lagrave against the Russians and against Aronian.

Download PGN of October ’17 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Bg4 [C84]

I would like to start this update with the game Vachier Lagrave, M - Aronian, L 2017 World Cup 6.3 Tbilisi.

Levon played the least popular of the four moves which were tried in the diagram position, 12...Nxd5, the same move he has already tested on the previous day in the classical part of the match. After the natural 13.Bxd5 Rc8 the French GM offered an improvement upon the aforementioned game with 14.Bc6 instead of the 14.h3, which led to a quick draw, and set some problems. A well-played game by Vachier-Lagrave, who demonstrated that Black has some practical problems in the line with 9...Bg4.

Spanish 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Na5 [C84]

Our next game is Vachier Lagrave, M - Aronian, L 2017 World Cup 6.8 Tbilisi.

The players reached the above diagram position after Levon deviated from the previously played (in this match) 9...Bg4 with 9...Na5 and followed the game Vachier-Lagrave, M - Mamedyarov, S, which saw 14.Be3. This time Maxime prepared 14.Bd2 and after 14...Nf6 introduced 15.Qb1 instead of the 15.Re1 which was previously played. However, Aronian reacted well with 15...d5! and comfortably equalized. Up to date the line with 9...Na5 looks safer than 9...Bg4, which was played in the other game between the same players. White is still to show how to set problems there and so the ball is in his court.

Spanish with 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.c3 d6 8.Nbd2 [C77]

The game Caruana, F - Najer, E 2017 World Cup 3.4 Tbilisi, saw a line which I offered as Black’s answer to 5.d3 in my book ”The Open Spanish“.

In the aforementioned book my recommendation was 8...0-0, but 8...Bb6, which was played by the Russian GM, is also interesting. After 9.Nf1 Najer offered the novelty 9...Ng4, in what is already a very rare position. Caruana’s immediate reaction 10.d4! was good, but his subsequent play was less than convincing and led to a disaster. Very poor play from Caruana in this rapid game. 8...Bb6 is an interesting opening idea, which requires more practical tests, while White should meet it with 11.cxd4.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.d3 Nf6 5.c3 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 a5 [C54]

In the game So, Wesley - Ding Liren 2017 World Cup 6.1 Tbilisi, the players tested a line which started to gain in popularity after Eljanov reintroduced it at the high level last year. It has to be mentioned that Spassky was the first to defend this idea back in 1989.

The players soon reached the diagram position after the moves 8.Nbd2 Be6 and now Wesley was the first to introduce a novelty, 9.Bb5 instead of the 9.Bb3 in the game Fang, Y - Zhou Weiqi/China CHN 2017. The Chinese player reacted with the original 9...Qb8 and after 10.Nf1 Qa7 11.Be3 Bxe3 12.Nxe3 Ne7 transferred the knight to g6 and equalised, although he later erred with 18...Qxb5?! (instead of 18...Ne6! with equal chances) and came under pressure. The line with 7...a5 looks perfectly playable, when 9...Qb8, with the idea of 10...Qa7, is a clever way to meet 9.Bb5.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.d3 Nf6 5.c3 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.h3 [C54]

The game Giri, A - Sethuraman, SP 2017 World Cup 3.3 Tbilisi, saw another branch of the Giuoco Piano, this time with 7.h3, although it was reached by a different move order.

The Indian GM applied a standard plan of ...Ne7-g6 reaching the diagram position after the moves 7...Ne7 8.Nbd2 Ng6 9.Re1 c6 10.Bb3 Bb6 11.Nf1 Re8 12.Ng3. Here he reacted precisely with 12...Be6! and Giri replied with 13.Bxe6!, which is the only critical test of Black’s setup. Nevertheless, Black equalised with the timely 14...d5!, but then started to play inaccurately and after mutual mistakes White ended up on top. Black's opening plan with 7...Ne7 and 12...Be6 equalises and so the ball is in White's court.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.d3 Nf6 5.c3 d6 6.0-0 a6 7.a4 h6 8.Re1 0-0 9.h3 [C54]

Vachier Lagrave, M - Svidler, P 2017 World Cup 5.3 Tbilisi.

The Russian GMs, first Grischuk and then Svidler, defended the new idea 9...a5 in the diagram position, although it was actually introduced by Grischuk on the previous 4th stage of the 2017 World Cup. In total five games in this line were played by the French GM in the 2017 World Cup, three of them against Grischuk and two against Svidler. After the moves 10.Nbd2 Be6 11.Bb5 we reach a major junction. In the current game Peter played 11...Na7, while in the other the main alternative11...Ne7 was tested. I had a close look at both options while analysing this game. The Russian GM held the game without visible problems. An interesting game, which demonstrates the latest developments in the opening theory of the Giuoco Piano. It seems that both knight retreats 11...Ne7 and 11...Na7 are sufficient for equality.

Two Knights 4.d3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Bb3 d6 7.c3 [C55]

The game Carlsen, M - Bu Xiangzhi 2017 World Cup 3.1 Tbilisi, is a golden opportunity to fill a gap, as we haven’t analysed the discussed position since 2004!

The Chinese GM chose the fourth most popular move in the diagram position, 7...Be6 and after 8.Re1 Qd7 9.Nbd2 introduced a new move, 9...Rab8. Who could believe at this moment that this novelty would lead to a crushing win over the world champion! For the record, earlier Black tested different alternatives, including 9...Bxb3. The game continued 10.Bc2 d5!? offering the Marshall gambit in a Two Knights opening. Carlsen reacted with 11.h3?! when the critical test is 11.exd5! Soon Magnus would regret this decision, as it would lead to a strong attack for the Chinese player after he'd sacrificed a piece with 15...Bxh3! and forced the Norwegian to err. A must-see game!

To be fair, 11.exd5! promises White the upper hand and so Black's setup doesn't look like the safest one.

Four Knights. 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Bc4 Bc5 6.d3 c6 [C48]

The game Fedoseev, V - Nakamura, H 2017 World Cup 3.2 Tbilisi, saw an important line of the Four Knights opening.

Here the young Russian GM went for the critical 7.Nxe5! and after 7...0-0 (7...d5 is the main alternative, although it also seems to yield White some edge) 'sacrificed' two pieces for a rook with 8.Nxf7! The forced 8...Rxf7 9.Bxf7 Kxf7 10.Be3! seriously tested Black’s opening setup and Nakamura immediately erred with 10...Ne6? Instead 10...d5! was necessary, but 11.h3! promises White a slight edge. A convincing victory for Fedoseev! The opening line chosen by Nakamura with 6...c6 and 7...0-0 is dubious and is not recommended, as White obtains a clear edge after 8.Nxf7! 6...d6 is safer.

See you next month, Victor.

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