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Hello everyone,
This update will be based on games from the recent St Louis tournaments and will include a lot of new and interesting ideas, including Carlsen’s 13...Ne7 in the Giuoco Piano and more. This last opening remains very popular in top-level events.

Download PGN of September ’18 1 e4 e5 games

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Spanish Open Variation 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 Be7 11.Bc2 d4 12.Nb3 d3 13.Bb1 [C83]

The game Anand, V - Mamedyarov, S 6th Sinquefield Cup 2018, saw a long theoretical duel in the principle line with 13.Bb1.

In the diagram position Mamedyarov deviated from my recommendation in my book ”Open Spanish“ and played 24...Bh6 instead of 24...Bxh4. The game continued 25.h5 Qxh5 26.Rxd2 Qxe5 27.Rd5 Qf6 following two correspondence games. Only Anand’s 28.Ra1 was new. Earlier White had tested 28.Qh5 and 28.Rxc5. White managed to obtain a slight edge, but Black defended well and the game ended in a draw. After 24...Bh6 Black comes under some pressure and so I still prefer 24...Bxh4.

Spanish, Aronian Variation 8.Bb3 Bg7 9.Nc3 d6 10.h3 0-0 11.0-0 Na5 12.Bc2 c5 13.Bf4 [C70]

Recently I played a few rapid tournaments and so I want to bring the game Ben Artzi, I - Mikhalevski, V Dov Porath memorial 2018, to your attention.

I was familiar with this line and answered White’s 13.Bf4 with 13...cxd4 14.Nxd4 Nc4 15.Rb1 Bb7. Now White improved on the game Zhang,X (2279)-Li,R (2446) Las Vegas 2015 with 18.Nde2, but his position was already worse. This game proved once again that the line with 13.Bf4 doesn't promise White any advantage.

Modern Giuoco Piano 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.a4 Bf5 9.Nbd2 [C54]

The game Vachier Largave, M - Nakamura, H 6th Sinquefield Cup 2018, saw an important line of the modern Giuoco Piano with 6...d5.

Here Nakamura introduced a new and logical idea 10...Bxd3, instead of the 10...Ne7 from the game Fressinet,L (2657)-Adams,M (2738) Douglas 2017. After the sequence 11.Re1 e4 12.Nxe4 Bxe4 13.Qxd8 Rfxd8 14.Rxe4 Rd1+ 15.Re1 Rxe1+ 16.Nxe1 the players reached an endgame which was slightly better for White. Hikaru continued with 16...a6, when 16...Nd5 looks like an interesting alternative. After 19.a5 White was better and Black’s 20...Ne5?! could have made things even worse. However, Maxime didn’t take all of his chances and the game was eventually drawn. An important game for the theory of the 6...d5 line. 9.Nbd2 requires more practical tests and looks like the way to set some problems.

Modern Giuoco Piano 8.Re1 Bg4 9.Nbd2 [C55]

The game Nakamura, H - Grischuk, A 6th Sinquefield Cup 2018, featured another line of the Giuoco Piano with 6...d5.

The players followed the game Carlsen,M (2855)-Aronian,L (2792) Leuven 2016 for the first 16 moves and then, in the diagram position, Nakamura introduced an improvement over Carlsen’s 17.d4, with 17.c4! Nevertheless, White obtained a slightly worse position and after a couple of inaccuracies he was already fighting for his life. A comfortable win for Grischuk who obtained a good position from the opening and slowly, but surely outplayed his opponent. 8.Re1 doesn't seem to promise any advantage.

Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 [C54]

In the game Anand, V - Grischuk, A 6th Sinquefield Cup 2018, the players discussed another modern branch of the Giuoco Piano, this time with 7.a4.

The players followed the world championship match game Muzychuk,M (2554)-Hou,Y (2673) Lvov 2016, for the first 15 moves, before Grischuk deviated with 15...a5! instead of 15...Qd7. A few more accurate moves from Black and the position was entirely equal. A well-played game, which proves that White can't set serious problems in the line with 11.Nf1. 11.b4 is a better try.

Giuoco Piano 7.Re1 h6 8.b4 Ba7 9.a4 0-0 10.Nbd2 [C54]

Another top-level game, Aronian, L - Carlsen, M 6th Sinquefield Cup 2018, featured a line with a4. This time White saved a tempo on h3 and the followed diagram position occurred:

With his last move, 13.Ng3, Aronian deviated from 13.h3 and 13.Be3, which we considered earlier on our pages. Now it was Carlsen’s turn to demonstrate his home preparation. His 13...Ne7!? was a deviation from the 13...d5 which was played in the games Anand,V (2770)-Wei,Y (2694) Leon 2016 and Aronian,L (2764)-Anand,V (2760) Stavanger 2018. After the further moves 14.d4! Ng6 15.Qc2 c6 16.h3 Qc7 Black prepared 17...d5 and equalised. Despite the slight inaccuracy 19...Qxe5?! Carlsen then managed to hold the position. A well-played game by both players. 13...Ne7 looks like a good novelty, while 19...Qxe5?! is slightly inaccurate. Black can improve with 19...Bxe3.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3 Qe6 10.Qe4 Ba6 11.b3 Bb4 [C45]

My game Bakalchuk, J - Mikhalevski, V 4th Avner Adar memorial 2018, saw a long and old theoretical line.

During the game I remembered that White is supposed to start with 15.Rc1, instead of 15.Be2, but answered it with 15...0-0 anyway. However, 15...Nd5 is the reason why White started playing 15.Rc1. After 16.0-0 I played 16...Nd5, but erred with 18...Nxc3?!, when instead 18...a5 was accurate and promised good chances to equalise. However, White then returned the favour with 20.Rac1?! and I managed to hold a rook endgame a pawn down. The most accurate way to meet 15.Be2 is 15...Nd5, although Black still has to solve some problems.

Petroff 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 Nd7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 c6 [C42]

The blitz game Aronian, L - Anand, V Saint Louis blitz 2018, saw a very sharp line of the Petroff with opposite castling.

In the critical diagram position Anand played 13...h6, which looks a little risky as it gives White a hook for his kingside attack. Both players played well and only 19...Ng3? turned out to be wrong. Levon returned the favour with 24.Bd4?, but Vishy didn’t find how to stay in the game and lost. A very interesting fighting game with unavoidable mistakes, but still at a very high level despite the limited time control. 10...Re8 and 11...Re8 look a little safer, and 13...c5 also deserves attention. However, only 19...Ng3? led to White's advantage, and instead 19...Nxf4! was necessary.

See you next month, Victor.

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