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Hello everyone,
This update will be fully devoted to the recent Olympiad. As usual you will see a lot of top players in action and no less than seven decisive games out of eight. Curiously, the Open Spanish is gaining in popularity, we have two games with it this month, and of course the Italian is still one of the top choices.

Download PGN of October ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 [C84]

The game Nepomniachtchi, I - Wojtaszek, R 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, featured a rather popular line of the 6.d3 system.

Here Ian recaptured on a2 with his knight, 12.Nxa2, a move which was introduced by Karjakin last August. Earlier 12.Rxa2 was more popular and it has already been considered on our pages. After 12...Nc6 13.c4 Nd4 White played 14.Nc3, following a blitz game, which the world champion played with the black pieces against Grischuk. The only classical predecessor, Vachier Lagrave,M (2804)-Aronian,L (2799) Tbilisi 2017 saw 14.Be3. Now the Russian GM demonstrated an improvement, 16.Bd2, instead of the 16.Be3 which was played by Grischuk. Black’s first inaccuracy was 18...d5?!, which allowed White to set him many problems, but Black’s position was still in the defensive range. However, 33...Rf4? and 37...Rxa3? ruined Black’s hopes for a successful result.

After a quiet opening nothing promised serious winning chances for either of the two sides and, indeed, Black was close to equalising. However, his inaccuracies 18...d5?! and 29...Qd6?! led first to a White edge and after 35...Qd6?!, 37...Rxa3? to a disaster. Although the line which occurred in the game looks rather equal, accurate play is required from Black. In particular, 18...Bd8 promised equality.

Spanish Open variation with 6...Be7 7.Re1 b5 8.Rxe4 d5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.Rxe5 bxa4 [C84]

In the game Aronian, L - Mamedyarov, S 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, an important encounter between the best Armenian and Azeri players took place.

Black surprised his opponent with the relatively unusual line of the Open Spanish involving 6...Be7. In reply Levon chose the extremely rare 11.Qe1, instead of the 11.c4 or 11.b3 that we studied earlier. However, this experiment didn’t work out well, maybe because Aronian played 12.Re3, instead of the 12.Re2 from the only preceding game. Shakh reacted correctly with 12...c5 and obtained equal chances, but his 14...Rb8 was inaccurate and could have given White a slight edge, should he have played 15.Re1. Instead, Black had to prefer 14...a3! with roughly equal chances. Black’s over-optimistic 16...Bd6? could have cost him dearly. In order to change the course of the game he sacrificed a piece and eventually forced Levon to err, 26.Re1? and 27.Ke2?? turned the tables. A very interesting fighting game, but White's best chance to set problems is 12.Re2.

Spanish Open variation 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Bc2 f5 12.Nb3 Qd7 [C83]

The game Vitiugov, N - Vidit, S 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, saw a surprising novelty in the diagram position given below:

Here the Russian player played 13.Qe1 in a well-known position. Black reacted by the rather standard 13...a5, when 13...Bf7 deserved serious attention. However, White didn’t take advantage of Black’s last move with 14.Nbd4, playing instead 14.a4 and probably underestimating 14...bxa4! followed by 16...Nc5! and 17...Nb3! This strong sequence allowed the Indian player to equalise. 13.Qe1 is an interesting new idea, but White has to proceed with 14.Nbd4.

Spanish. Yurtaev Defence 8.d4 Bb6 9.a4 [C78]

The game Navara, D - Morovic Fernandez, I 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, featured a line which hasn’t been seen on our pages for quite a while:

White has just advanced the a-pawn to a4 and Black reacted with 9...Bg4. After the moves 10.h3 Bh5 Navara introduced a novelty in what is already a rare position in itself, 11.g4. Earlier White played mostly 11.Bg5, which I annotated here for you 10 years ago. The play took on a forced character, 11...Bg6 12.g5 Nxe4! 13.Bd5 Ne7 14.Bxa8 Qxa8 and Black first obtained good compensation for the sacrificed material and then had a clear edge after White made two consecutive mistakes: 19.Qc4?! and 20.Qb4. Only a blunder in time trouble prevented him from winning the game. A well-played game by the Chilean GM who outplayed his strong opponent in the complications, but failed to convert a huge advantage. The novelty 11.g4 doesn't promise any opening advantage, while Black has to answer 15.axb5 with 15...Qc8!

Spanish. Exchange Variation 5...Bg4 6.h3 h5 7.d3 Qf6 8.Be3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Qxf3 10.gxf3 Bd6 [C69]

A rather rare guest in the games of 2700+ players these days, the Exchange Variation of the Spanish occurred in the game Priasmoro, N - Woitaszek, R 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018.

In the position given above White played the relatively rare 11.Rd1, instead of the main line 11.Nd2. Black reacted well with 11...Ne7 and 12...f5 and soon took over the initiative. Black’s inaccuracy 22...Re8?! allowed White to almost equalise, but after a long fight the Polish played managed to squeeze a win. 11.Rd1 doesn't seem to offer any chances for an opening advantage. In fact, it was White who tried to equalise for most of the game.

Spanish, Aronian Variation 5.c3 Bg7 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 exd4 8.cxd4 d6 9.h3 [C70]

The game Hansen, E - Anand, V 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, saw a rare version of the Aronian system in the Spanish.

In the diagram position Vishy developed his king's knight to f6, 9...Nf6, instead of the more common 9...Nge7, which is likely to transpose to a rather popular position of the Aronian system with the early 3...Nge7 after 10.0-0 0-0 11.Nc3. White chose an unorthodox plan for this system with 11.Re1, 12.Nbd2 and 13.Nf1. Play was rather logical and 19.Bf4, instead of 19.Rd1 in the game could set some practical problems, although they seem to be solvable. Only 20.Ng3? was a mistake and allowed Black to seize an edge, which he converted in good style. A well-played game by Vishy Anand, who clearly outplayed his young opponent. 9...Nf6 is interesting and requires more practical tests.

Italian. Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 Be7 8.Nbd2 d6 [C53]

In the game Anand, V - Ragger, M 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, the players discussed an important line of the Giuoco Piano with 6.Bg5.

Earlier we considered 9.Bb3 in the diagram position, but Vishy went for the fashionable 9.a4 and after 9...Nh5 followed a new idea of his countryman, Sethuraman, 10.g3, instead of 10.Bg3. After a logical sequence 10...Nf6 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.h4 Black deviated from the game Sethuraman,S (2646)-Inarkiev,E (2689) Riadh 2017, which saw 12...h5, with 12...Ne7! The latter looks like a good novelty. However, his next move 13...d5 is slightly inaccurate. It would be more accurate to first stop White from placing his knight on g4 with 13...Qd7. Nevertheless, the position remained equal up to 24.Ne3, but Black’s next move 24...Qf6?! yielded White the upper hand, 24...Qc7 was correct. Another well-played game by Vishy. Probably 10.g3 doesn't promise an opening advantage, while Black can try to improve upon his play with 13...Qd7.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 [C45]

Last, but definitely not least, the game Tomczak, J - Kramnik, V 43th Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018, saw a surprising defeat for the 14th world champion.

White played an aggressive line with 8.h4. Kramnik was well-prepared, as usual, and answered it with 8...Qe6 9.g3 and then 9...Nb4!?, which is the computer’s recommendation (last summer Vladimir played 9...d6 against Nepomniachtchi). After 10.c4 Ba6 White erred with 11.Bf4? and allowed Black to seize an edge with 11...d5! Two moves later Kramnik returned the favour, 13...Bxf1? and eventually lost after two consecutive mistakes in a good position, 25...Qa2?, 26...Rd5?? After a few accurate moves in the opening, Kramnik obtained a better position, but his mistakes 25...Qa2? and 26...Rd5?? turned the tables. 8...Qe6 and 9...Nb4 deserve serious attention, while White has to play 11.Nc3 instead of 11.Bf4. Anyway, the line with 8.h4 may mostly serve as a surprise weapon and doesn't promise White any advantage.

See you next month, Victor.

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