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Lots of interesting games to enjoy this month, including a couple of high-level King's Gambit lines that we haven't seen before, a risky but playable pawn grab in the Scotch Four Knights, the latest developments in a critical and trendy Giuoco Piano line, and plenty of important novelties - though not all of them are good!

Download PGN of October ’22 1 e4 e5 games

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King's Gambit Accepted, Cunningham Defence 3 Nf3 Be7 4 Bc4 Nf6 5 e5 Nh5 [C35]

We haven't really looked at this line since GM Paul Motwani analysed a couple of his games more than two decades ago, with the exception of Micawber's Forum analysis from 2008 which is actually still very relevant. So, when I saw two of the very strongest players in the world battling it out in a Cunningham I had to look deeper. In Nepomniachtchi, I - Caruana, F, after 2...exf4 3 Nf3 Be7 4 Bc4 Nf6 5 e5 Black played the rare 5...Nh5:

The knight is not particularly well placed on the edge of the board, but it does defend the extra f-pawn and this move scores well. Both players seemed well prepared and on move 10 Caruana played an interesting, if slightly provocative, innovation. The middlegame was very exciting and both players managed to win their opponent's queen at some point, due to a knight on g6 and later a knight on g3.

The Cunningham is a good defence and both this line and Euwe's 5...Ng4 stand up to today's computer analysis.

King's Gambit Accepted: Modern Defence 3 Nf3 d5 4 exd5 Nf6 5 Bb5+ Nbd7 [C36]

As I mentioned in a note a few months ago, the rare move 5...Nbd7 is a perfectly playable alternative to the overwhelming mainline with 5...c6.

It is perhaps no great surprise that Nakamura played this as Black as he had problems against it himself more than a decade ago (when he played the KG as White), and obviously hadn't forgotten. Nepomniachtchi seemed ready anyway, and played a good novelty on move 7, gained some advantage then slipped-up.

Don't miss the complicated game Nepomniachtchi, I - Nakamura, H.

Scotch Four Knights 7 Bd3 0-0 8 0-0 Re8 [C47]

I often play this line instead of the over-analysed, and occasionally rather drawish, mainline with 8...d5. Following the principled 9 Bg5 h6 10 Bh4 I normally play 10...Rb8, but occasionally grab the e-pawn with 10...Bxc3 11 bxc3 g5 12 Bg3 Nxe4:

I always thought that there was nothing wrong with this but that Black must really know what he is doing, as the slightest slip can prove fatal. However, in Yoo, C - Aronian, L Christopher Yoo plays an interesting novelty on move 15 which poses some new problems for Black, and in the note to move 13 we can see that, just a couple of weeks before, Paravyan also introduced a dangerous new computer-approved move for White.

So, the ball is back in Black's court at the moment.

Giuoco Piano 5 c3 d6 6 0-0 a5 7 Bg5 [C54]

Just like London buses, you wait ages for one and then several come along at once! Last month I said that 'it is really unusual to see Black castle queenside in the Giuoco Piano' and this month it happens again, and played by the World Champion, no less!

Erigaisi, A - Carlsen, M started 5...d6 6 0-0 a5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 and now 8...Bd7:

This has never been played at a high level before, but it's really quite good. Black continued in the game with ...Ba7 and ...g5 followed by the standard regrouping ...Ne7-g6, when the bishop could be usefully-placed to support ...b7-b5 or ...a5-a4. However, in the game the Champ actually preferred ...Qe7 and ...0-0-0 with a ready-made kingside attack.

Later things got a bit messy, but then Carlsen unleashed a fantastic interference move to block the d-file and win the game with a mating attack.

Giuoco Piano 4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 d6 6 0-0 0-0 7 h3 a5 8 Re1 h6 9 Nbd2 Be6 10 Bb5 [C54]

This line has been really popular these last few years, mostly at the very top level, and theory has developed a lot. Black's next move, 10...Qb8, is logical when you see it, but wouldn't be obvious to me if I saw this position for the first time. The queen will be well placed on an open file should White capture on c6, and after the main move 11 Nf1 Black plays 11...Qa7 which attacks f2 and controls d4 while possibly supporting ...a5-a4 to gain space on the queenside.

White has tried 12 Be3 and 12 Re2 to defend f2, but Black has managed to equalise against both, so the current favourite is the sharp 12 d4!?:

Following 12...exd4 13 Bxc6 dxc3!? 14 Ba4 Bxf2+ a position of dynamic equilibrium is reached where Black has rook and 3 pawns for the two white minor pieces. In Aryan, C - Sindarov, J Black played an important novelty which adds to his defensive resources. Look at the notes for all the details.

Spanish 3...Nge7 4 Nc3 Ng6 [C60]

After 5 d4 exd4 6 Nxd4 I have tried 6...Bc5 in some quick games in the past, hoping to spring a tricky trap. However, it's easily countered if White spots it, so Black's best move is 6...Nxd4, followed by 7 Qxd4 c6, intending ...Qb6, taking advantage of the fact that Black hasn't played ...a6.

This line scores well for Black, probably because knowledge of the typical themes is so important. In Vokhidov, S - Nihal, S Black introduced an important novelty in the mainline which could allow him to play ...f7-f5 in improved circumstances. White stopped this by playing g2-g4 but this created weaknesses on the kingside which Black exploited to win an impressive game.

Spanish, Steinitz Deferred, 5 c3 Bd7 6 d4 Nge7 7 d4 Ng6 8 d5 [C75]

Although 8 d5 is only the 3rd most popular move here, it is positionally critical. White aims for a King's Indian type setup where he can force the strategically desirable exchange of the light-squared bishops.

In the instructive game Harikrishna, P - Alekseenko, K Black played the thematic ...f7-f5 but White installed a knight on e4 and even managed to force the queens off. However, the endgame turned out to be fine for Black, and with clever play it was he who was pushing for the win.

Spanish, Archangel Defence 7 Re1 Bc5 8 c3 0-0 9 d4 Bb6 10 Bg5 [C78]

The Archangel is not that popular these days, probably because Black prefers to play the Yurtaev System and keep the possibility of playing his light-squared bishop elsewhere. After 7 Re1 Bc5 8 c3 0-0 9 d4 Bb6 the move 10 Bg5 is critical, pinning the f6-knight. Following 10...h6 11 Bh4 d6 12 a4 the mainline continues 12...exd4 13 cxd4 g5:

Can White capture on g5, and if so should he? All is revealed in Vokhidov, S - Yakubboev, N.

Until next month, Tony.

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