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Hello everyone,
After two months in the US I’m finally back home. In the current update you’ll find five of my own games and three games from the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Curiously, this time I faced two old but fascinating openings, the King’s Gambit and the Two Knights Defence, which you rarely see at the GM level.

Download PGN of September ’19 1 e4 e5 games

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Smyslov System, Mikhalevski line (9...Nf6) 10.Nc3 0-0 11.0-0 Bb7 12.Re1 Re8 13.Bf4 Na5 [C70]

The game Lee, M - Mikhalevski, V Endgame Seattle 2019, saw my very own line in the Smyslov System.

The current game is my fifth test of this 9...Nf6 line and the second time that I reached the diagram position. Here White played 14.a3, instead of the 14.d5 from Hansen,M (2445)-Mikhalevski,V (2523) Bastia 2016 [Mikhalevski,V]. After the further 14...Nc4 15.Qc1 c5! 16.d5 Nh5! White committed a mistake 17.Bd2?, which led to a clear edge for Black. Instead, 17.Bh6 was necessary, but Black’s chances are already at least not worse. In my opinion, 9...Nf6 offers Black good play and so the ball remains in White’s court.

Two Knights Defence 8.Bd3 Nd5 9.Nf3 Nf4 10.0-0 Bd6 11.Re1 Nxd3 12.cxd3 0-0 13.Nc3 [C58]

In the game Shubin, D- Mikhalevski, V Endgame Seattle 2019, I faced 4.Ng5 for the first time in a game with a classical time control.

We reached the above diagram position after a slightly inaccurate move order from my side. I played 9...Nf4, which allows 10.Bf1. It’s more precise to start with 9...Bd6. 11.Nc3 is also an interesting alternative to 11.Re1. I played 13...c5 in the diagram position, when 13...Re8 is a good alternative and has the point of saving the dark-squared bishop from exchange. After 14.b3 14...Re8 is still good and transposes to 13...Re8. However, I played 14...Nc6 instead, and after 15.Ne4 Ba6, when 15...Bg4 looks more accurate. In the game White obtained a slight edge by means of 16.Ba3! Bxd3 17.Nxd6 Qxd6 18.Rc1. In the line which occurred in the game Black has to play 9...Bd6 instead of 9...Nf4, then 13...Re8 makes sense and finally 15...Bg4 was critical.

Giuoco Piano 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.Re1 [C54]

Our next game, Kadric, D - Mikhalevski, V Fall Classic B St Louis 2019, saw a relatively rare move in the following diagram position:

White played 6.Re1 and only after 6...d6 7.c3, which had the point of preventing 6...d5. Now I played the rather rare, but nevertheless logical 7...Bb6, instead of at least four other more popular options. White’s novelty came early after the moves 8.a4 a5 9.Nbd2 Ne7 when Kadric played 10.Bb3, instead of the 10.Nf1 from all the preceding games. However, it led to a transposition after 10...c6 11.h3 Ng6 12.d4 and only 12...exd4! was a novelty, and in fact a good one. His 16.Bxf4 was inaccurate (16.Bc2 was better) and soon Black was already better.

7...Bb6 is a reasonable alternative to 7...a6 and 7...a5 and requires more practical tests, while 11.d4 is an attempt to improve on White’s play in this game.

Italian 6...d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1 Bg4 9.Nbd2 Nb6 10.h3 Bh5 11.Bb3 Kh8 [C54]

A popular line of the Italian Opening was seen in the game Matlakov, M - Aronian, L World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk 2019.

Levon has just played 11...Kh8, instead of 11...Bxd3 in Giri,A (2797)-Harikrishna,P (2723) Shenzhen CHN 2019 [Mikhalevski,V] This line has also been seen a few times in the 2019 World Cup. After 12.Ne4 Black introduced the interesting novelty 12...Be7, instead of 12...Bd6, although the position itself has been seen before by transposition. The real novelty came after the moves 13.Ng3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 f5 when Matlakov played the strong 15.a4! instead of 15.Bc2 in the two preceding games. After 15...a5 16.d4 the players reached the critical position and in fact I couldn’t find anything sufficient for equality. Aronian played 16...f4, which could be strongly met by 17.Ne2!, although Matlakov preferred 17.Nh5?! and the players exchanged a couple of mistakes, which eventually led to a Black edge.

11.Bb3 is a serious attempt to set problems in the line with 6...d5, which 11...Kh8 doesn't seem to solve, although play in this line is very complicated.

Italian 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.Qc2 [C54]

Another popular line of the Italian occurred in the game Dominguez Perez, L - Grischuk, A World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk 2019.

The game continued 13.bxc3 f6 14.exf6 Qxf6 15.Be2 Na5 16.0-0 Bxf3 Earlier we saw 16...Rae8 in Aronian,L (2752)-So,W (2754) Zagreb CRO 2019 [Mikhalevski,V], but the text has been seen in a another recent game of Aronian's, which the players followed: 17.Bxf3 c6 18.Rae1 Nc4 19.Bc1. Now Grischuk was the first to deviate from the 19...Rae8 which occurred in the game Anand,V (2767)-Aronian,L (2752) Stavanger 2019 with 19...Bc7. Play was then rather logical before White underestimated 23...Ba3!, when he played 23.h5?! Instead, 23.Rxe8 promised an edge. A well-played game by both players, which is also important for the theory of the 5.d4 system. 23.Rxe8! looks like an improvement, which may set some problems for Black, but he can also play Aronian's 19...Rae8.

Another branch of the same line with 5.d4, this time with 12...Bg6, took place in the game Zierk, S - Mikhalevski, V Fall Classic B St Louis 2019:

My opponent introduced a novelty in the well-known diagram position, 13.Qe2. I reacted incorrectly with 13...Nxc3?!, but instead Black had a few better alternatives: 13...Ne7, 13...Ba5 and 13...Nb4. In the game after 14.bxc3 White is slightly better, but I managed to equalize with precise play by means of 14...f6 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.exf6 Qxf6 17.Ne5 c5! 18.0-0! Qd6! and so on. 13.Qe2 doesn't promise an opening advantage, but Black shouldn't play 13...Nxc3. All of 13...Ne7, 13...Ba5 and 13...Nb4 are interesting and give Black equal chances.

Bishop's Opening 2...Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 [C24]

In the game Xiong, J - Duda, J World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk 2019, Black went for the 7...Qd6 branch of the 5...Bb4+ line, which he played earlier this year against Svidler:

White was prepared for it and continued with 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.exd5 cxd5 10.d4 Surprisingly the Polish GM repeated his inaccuracy from the aforementioned game against Svidler, 10...e4?! and after 11.Ne5! (Svidler played 11.Nh4) 0-0 12.Nc3! Nb6 13.f3! Be6 and here the youg American star introduced an improvement on the game Vitiugov,N (2721)-Zubov,A (2612) Gjakova 2016, (which saw 14.Qe3) with 14.0-0-0! and obtained an advantage. 14.0-0-0 is a strong novelty, which promises White the better chances and so Black should prefer 10...exd4 over 10...e4?!.

King’s Gambit Accepted 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5 6.0-0 Be6 7.Bb3 [C36]

The game Fier, A - Mikhalevski, V Fall Classic B St Louis 2019, featured the King’s gambit.

My opponent’s opening choice came as a surprise and so I had to spend a lot of time over the board. So, in the diagram position I decided to go for 7...Bd6, instead of the main line 7...c5, which I analysed for you eight years ago. After the instant reply 8.c4 Black has to retreat the knight to e7, 8...Ne7. Instead I played 8...Nb6?, which is dangerous if after 9.d4! Nxc4 White plays 10.d5! Fier played 10.Re1?, instead, which leads to a roughly equal position. 7...Bd6 is a reasonable alternative to 7...c5, but 8...Ne7 is necessary instead of 8...Nb6.


See you next month, Victor.

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