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Hello everyone,
Finally, top-level chess broke through COVID-19 and we witnessed the first real tournament in over half a year. Obviously, I couldn’t resist taking all eight games from it for the current update. Curiously, you’ll find only two players answered 1.e4 with 1...e5, Levon Aronian and the Norwegian player Aryen Tari. You’ll also find many decisive games, as the players were hungry for chess after such a long break.

Download PGN of October ’20 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish, Marshall 12.Re1 Bd6 13.g3 Bf5 14.d4 [C89]

The game Aronian, L - Tari, A 8th Norway Chess 2020, saw a relatively rare line of the Marshall attack with 13.g3.

Black went for the very rare 14...Qf6 in the diagram position - the main line 14...Qd7 can also be found on our pages. The game continued with the logical 15.Be3 Qg6 16.Nd2, and now Black could have played 16...Bg4, which looks more accurate than the 16...Rae8 of the game. Nevertheless, Black retained compensation for the first 27 moves, but his 27...Bf3? turned out to be the decisive mistake. The exchange sacrifice 27...Nxe3!!, which was offered by Tari’s coach, Evgeny Romanov, was necessary and promised good compensation. This game demonstrates that 14...Qf6 is playable. 17.a4 looks like a better chance to set problems, while after 17.h4 play is roughly equal and Black could equalise by means of 27...Nxe3!!

Spanish, Anti-Marshall 8.a4 b4 9.a5 d6 10.c3 Rb8 11.Bc4 [C88]

In the game Caruana, F - Tari, A 8th Norway Chess 2020, the players reached the important position give below:

In this critical position Black has tested several different moves, and the Norwegian chose 11...d5, which has scored pretty well for Black. After the moves 12.exd5 Nxd5 Fabiano played 13.h3!?, an interesting, but rare move, which prepares 14.d4. Black replied with the correct 13...h6!, but after 14.d4 went for 14...bxc3 when it was more accurate to start with 14...Be6. In the game White obtained a slight edge and after the players exchanged mistakes by 18...Bb3?! 19.Qg4?! White was unable to break through Black’s defence and the game was eventually drawn. A pretty good game, which is also important for theory: 13...h6! is a good novelty, but 14...Be6! is more accurate than 14...bxc3.

Spanish 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bd7 9.c3 Na5 [C84]

The game Carlsen, M - Tari, A 8th Norway Chess 2020, saw White avoiding the Marshall Attack with 6.d3.

Black has just played 9...Na5, which is gaining in popularity. Carlsen answered with the pretty rare 10.Ba2, which he previously played against Ding Liren (10.Bc2 is the main line). Tari replied with 10...c5, while Ding Liren preferred 10...bxa4. After 11.Bg5 0-0 White introduced the novelty 12.Nbd2 (instead of 12.axb5 in Caruana,F (2807)-Topalov,V (2761) Saint Louis USA 2016 [Mikhalevski,V]) The Norwegian then played 12...Rb8, which was the beginning of a wrong plan. The alternatives include 12...bxa4 and 12...Nc6. After 13.axb5 axb5 14.Re1 Black’s 14...b4? was a positional mistake, which White exploited with exemplary precision. A classical win from the World Champion and a good lesson for his countryman. Carlsen's novelty 12.Nbd2!? is very interesting and puts the ball in Black's court, as not everyone will be happy to play an exchange up after 12...bxa4.

Spanish, Delayed Schliemann 4...f5 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 [C70]

In the game Duda, JK - Tari, A 8th Norway Chess 2020, featured a very rare system of the Spanish, the Delayed Schliemann.

In the position given above Black went for the extremely rare, but nevertheless interesting, 6...b5 (6...Bc5 is more popular) 7.Bb3 Bb7. White replied with the natural 8.0-0, although 8.a4 looks stronger, as it saves the light-squared bishop from exchange. Black continued with 8...Na5 and Duda went for the principled 9.Nxd4 c5 10.Nxf5, sacrificing a piece for the initiative. Now after 10...c4 a very sharp position appeared on the board. The Polish GM played 11.Nc3, while in the only preceding game White played 11.Qg4, but erred on the next move. 11.Qh5!? looks interesting. In our game Black continued with 11...Qb6, but after 12.Nd5 erred with 12...Bxd5? when instead, 12...Qc6 was necessary. Despite a crushing win, the line chosen by the Norwegian player is not without venom. At least White's path to an advantage is still to be shown, as in case of 12...Qc6! the position remains very unclear. Probably 8.a4 is the most accurate.

Giuoco Piano 6.0-0 h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.h3 a6 9.a4 Re8 10.Nbd2 Be6 11.Bxe6 Rxe6 12.b4 Ba7 13.Qc2 Qd7 [C54]

The game Firouzja, A - Tari, A 8th Norway Chess 2020, saw a long theoretical line.

Firouzja went for the relatively rare 14.Rb1 in the diagram position, which only appeared at the GM level in 2019. Earlier we considered 14.Nf1 and 14.Nc4. Black has tried at least four different moves in the diagram position, and the Norwegian GM preferred 14...Ne7, which was earlier played by Anand and Tomashevsky. For some reason Alireza deviated from 15.Nf1!, which seems to promise White some edge, with 15.d4. The game continued 15...Ng6 16.b5 Nh5 17.Nf1 Rae8 18.bxa6 bxa6 19.a5 and here Black started to err. First, he played 19...Qc8?! and then 21...Rxe4?! and White obtained the upper hand. A good technical win for the former Iranian player. Despite White's win in this game I can't recommend 15.d4, 15.Nf1 looks more accurate and promises White a slight edge.

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

Tari, A - Aronian, L 8th Norway Chess 2020 Armageddon, saw a poisonous system of the Scotch with 8.h4:

Here Levon went for the popular 8...Qe6, but after 9.g3 he chose the uncommon 9...Bc5 (earlier we considered 9...Nb4, while 9...d6 is the main line). After the new 10.c4 the game continued logically: 10...Nb6 11.Nd2 0-0 12.Bh3 Qe7 13.0-0 Ba6 (13...d5 deserved attention) 14.Re1 Rae8 15.Ne4. Here Levon went astray with 15...Bd4?, but instead, he could choose between 15...Bxc4 and 15...Bb4. Black’s mistake could be exploited by means of 16.Bg5! However, Tari played 16.Nf6, first missing the advantage and later the equality. This game proved that 8.h4 is a dangerous weapon even against a well-prepared opponent. The position after 15.Ne4 is critical. Black had to choose between 15...Bxc4 and 15...Bb4.

Four Knights, Rubinstein Variation 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5 [C48]

The game Duda, JK - Aronian, L 8th Norway Chess 2020, saw a drawish line of the Four Knights with 5.Nxd4:

Most of the games in the diagram position ended in a draw, but there were some exceptions, I remember how Kramnik beat Short with the black pieces. In this game Aronian also showed great technique and outplayed White impressively. The players reached a well-known endgame after 5...exd4 6.e5 dxc3 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.dxc3 Qe5 9.Qe2 Qxe2 10.Kxe2. The position remained drawn for most of the game, even though White had to be accurate towards the end. Eventually Duda played the natural 48.Kf1?, which turned out to be the decisive mistake, instead 48.Kd1 would save the game. A good example of how endgame technique wins games. Obviously, it can't change the assessment of thise line as equal.

Four Knights 4.h3 [C46]

In the game Firouzja, A - Aronian, L 8th Norway Chess 2020 Armageddon, Alireza decided to surprise his dangerous opponent with 4.h3:

Aronian decided to avoid the main theory (4...Bb4, which we earlier considered in the game Giri,A (2768)-Kramnik,V (2769) London ENG 2014 [Mikhalevski,V]) and went for the passive 4...Be7. After 5.Bb5 (5.d4 looks critical) Levon played the modest 5...d6, although I believe Black should prefer 5...Nd4 or 5...0-0. In the game White obtained an edge with 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4. However, Levon first equalised, then obtained an edge himself and could even win at some point, but in the critical moment of the game played slower than his opponent and lost on time. A sad end to this dramatic game. 4.h3 is an interesting attempt to take your opponent out of book, while 4...Bb4 is the critical response.


See you next month, Victor.

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