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Hello everyone,
This time I decided to mix top-level online chess with a few examples from my own practice. One of the games was even played in the regular Israeli Team championship, which was resumed after a long, half-year break. It’s curious that two of my suggestions saw the light of day in games between top players, see the games Nepomniachtchi, I - Anand, V and Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H.

Download PGN of September ’20 1 e4 e5 games

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Exchange Spanish 5...f6 6.d4 Bg4 7.c3 Bd6 8.Nbd2 [C69]

The game Guseinov, G - Mikhalevski, V World Open online ICC 2020, saw a hidden positional trap in the Exchange Variation of the Spanish with 5...f6.

I was surprised to see just how many players, including Alexey Shirov, went for 8...Ne7?! in the diagram position. Yours truly was no exception and fell into this trap. Now after 9.h3 Bh5 10.dxe5 I recaptured with the pawn, 10...fxe5? and had to answer 11.Nc4 with 11...Bxf3. Obviously, this exchange favours White, but Black can’t protect the e5-pawn by any other means. 10...Bxe5 is necessary, although White is already better. An important game for the Exchange variation of the Spanish with 5...f6 and 6...Bg4, Black has to improve on his play earlier. I can suggest either 7...Qe7 or 8...exd4 9.cxd4 Qd7.

Berlin Defence 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.Nbd2 Be6 7.Nb3 Bb6 [C65]

In the game Nakamura, H - Firouzja, A Titled Tuesday Sept 2020, White decided to surprise his young opponent with a rare move in a sideline of the Berlin.

Nakamura played 8.Qe2 in the position given above. Curiously, he already met this line once before, but on the other side of the board. Alireza answered with 8...Nd7, while Hikaru preferred 8...Qe7!? in his game against Caruana. Here the American introduced 9.Be3 (9.Ng5, which had been seen in the game Caruana,F (2835)-Grischuk,A (2777) INT 2020 also didn’t bring any advantage), Black continued with the natural 9...Qe7 and after 10.Nfd2?! (10.Ng5 was objectively better, but promised no edge either) 10...0-0-0 11.a4 Bxe3 12.Qxe3 Kb8 Black obtained a good position. Only his later mistake 14...f5? allowed his opponent to turn the tables with 15.exf5 gxf5 16.f4! Despite White's fast win, it's clear that Black won the opening battle and so the ball is in White's court: 8.Qe2 doesn't promise any advantage. Maybe even 7.0-0 has to be preferred to 7.Nb3.

Smyslov System 9.Bc2 0-0 10.d5 Na5 [C70]

As you know, I play the Smyslov (or Aronian) System quite a lot, and is also what I played in the game Grinberg, E - Mikhalevski, V Artist Point Open 2020.

Eyal went for the most challenging 11.Bd2! in the diagram position and after 11...Nc4!, which I believe is better than 11...c5, 12.Bc3. Now Black has to accept the pawn sacrifice by means of 12...Nxb2 and after the correct 13.Qe1 retreat the knight to c4, 13...Nc4. This position has been seen in a correspondence game, which now featured the correct 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Qc3 Kg8 16.Nbd2 with a strong initiative for the pawn. Instead, Grinberg played 14.a4 c6 15.axb5, which I could have met by 15...cxd5 with roughly equal chances. This game proves that 9...0-0 is dangerous for Black in view of 10.d5 and so he should prefer an advance of the d-pawn instead.

Scotch Four Knights 10.h3 c6 11.Qf3 Bd6 12.Bf4 [C47]

In the game Caspi, I - Mikhalevski, V ISR-Tch 2020, the players reached a well-known position in the diagram given below:

I believe the most accurate here is 12...Be6! The game continued 13.Rad1 Bxf4, (13...Qb8 is also possible, but I prefer the text) 14.Qxf4 Qb8 15.Qf3. Now I introduced a new idea, 15...Re8! Soon Black at least equalised and 21...a4 would have allowed me to even look for more. 15...Re8! equalises and so the ball is now in White's court.

Giuoco Piano, 6...a6 7.a4 h6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.h3 a5 10.Re1 Be6 11.b3 Re8 [C54]

The game Nepomniachtchi, I - Anand, V Online Olympiad KO stage 2020, saw an important line of the Giuoco Piano with 6...a6.

The players reached the diagram position by following the game Le Quang Liem -Vidit,S Moscow RUS 2019 [Mikhalevski,V] Now Anand followed my recommendation of 14...Nb8! and after 15.Bxd7 Nbxd7 16.Ng3 d5! he equalised. The game was level up to the moment Ian played 23.axb5?!, which yielded Black a slight edge after 23...cxb5. This game showed that my improvement of 14...Nb8! Equalises, and so the line in the game seems to be a dead end for White.

Giuoco Piano 6...0-0 7.Re1 a5 8.h3 [C54]

In the game So, W- Grischuk, A Online Olympiad KO stage 2020, Black decided to surprise his opponent with a very rare move in the following well-known diagram position:

Here Alexander played 8...Ba7, instead of the main line, 8...h6. After the moves 9.Bb3 h6! 10.Nbd2 they transposed to a more popular, but still quite rare position. The game continued 10...Be6 11.Bc2 Re8 12.Nf1 d5 13.exd5! This capture is the only way to set some problems. Black recaptured with 13...Bxd5, when 13...Qxd5 would also be fine. However, after 14.Ng3 Qd6! 15.Nf5 Black chose an inaccurate retreat, 15...Qd7?! (when instead 15...Qe6! would equalise) and after 16.N3h4! was under some pressure. This game confirms that the early 7...a5 and 8...Ba7 is perfectly playable, Black just needs to meet 15.Nf5 with 15...Qe6!

Giuoco Piano 6...h6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Nbd2 a5 9.Nf1 Be6 10.Bb5 Ne7 11.d4 [C54]

In the game Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H Carlsen Tour Final 2020, the American followed my suggestion in the diagram position given below:

Here he played 11...exd4, see my analysis of the game Jakovenko,D (2710)-Svidler,P (2760) Baden Baden GER 2017, where 11...Ba7?! was played.

After the moves 12.cxd4 Bb6! 13.Ng3 d5 14.e5 Ne4 the players reached an important position, in which several different moves were tested. Carlsen preferred 15.Bd3, deviating from the 15.Be3 which he played against Nakamura earlier this year. However, Hikaru was well-prepared and answered it with 15...Nxg3 16.hxg3 16...Bg4, avoiding the 16...a4 which he played against Magnus on the previous day! White played 17.Bc2, which was strongly met by 17...c5 and Black equalised. A high-quality game from both players, which is also important for the theory of the line with 8...a5. Nakamura managed to solve Black's problems after 15.Be3 and so the ball here is in White's court.

Petroff 3.Nxe5, 6...Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Qc2 h6 10.Re1 Be6 [C42]

The game Anand, V - Aronian, L Online Olympiad KO stage 2020, saw a repeat of the recent game Dominguez Perez,L (2758)-Aronian,L (2773) INT 2020 [Mikhalevski,V]

Here Anand introduced 18.Kf1, instead of Dominguez’s 18.Bd2. Levon reacted with the automatic 18...Nb6, although 18...Rac8! would have give him good compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Vishy continued with 19.Be3 Rac8 20. Rec1!, but after 20...Bxc3 recaptured with the wrong piece, 21.Rxc3?, when instead 21.bxc3 promised him an advantage. In the game Black was doing fine and White was on the defensive for the rest of the game. Vishy's 18.Kf1 doesn't seem to promise much if Black replies with 18...Rac8! After 18...Nb6 19.Be3 White obtains a slight edge. Probably, White can start with 18.Be3 with chances to transpose to the game.


See you next month, Victor.

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