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Spanish, Anti-Berlin: 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 [C65]
Unsurprisingly given the knockout format we saw many Berlins throughout the tournament from players looking to be solid with Black. This one was the opposite and led to fireworks after 6.0-0 Bg4!?:
Following 7.h3 Bh5 8.g4 Nxg4! 9.hxg4 Bxg4 we reach a very complicated position and the game Sindarov, J - Ragger, M included several instructive moments, eventually reaching a hard-fought draw.
Open Spanish: 6.d4 Be7 7.Re1 b5 8.Bb3 [C83]
Instead of the independent option with 8.Rxe4, White headed back to more normal paths with 8.Bb3. Following 8...d5 9.dxe5 Be6 10.c3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Nc5 12.Nd4:
White has good attacking prospects on the kingside which were certainly demonstrated with a crushing win in Gurel, E - Ivic, V in the first round of the World Cup.
Spanish, Yurtaev Variation 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.a4 [C78]
The game that knocked MVL out of the World Cup was also highly theoretical. Following 8...dxe4 9.axb5:
Black has three main options here but after 9...exf3 all previous games have followed the same path down a long forced line. Instead in Vachier-Lagrave, M - Sindarov, J, after 10.Qxf3 e4 11.Bxe4 Ne5 12.Qe2 0-0 13.d4 Bg4 14.Qc2 Nxe4 15.Qxe4 Black unleashed the novelty 15...Bd7!?. This can lead to some wild play where Black turned out to be the better-prepared and ended his prestigious opponent’s stay in Baku.
Spanish, Anti-Marshall: 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 Na5 [C88]
This is the same idea as 8...Na5 from the well-known Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen World Championship game.
Following 10.Nxe5 Nxb3 11.axb3 d5 we reach the aforementioned game, which via another transposition was followed right up to move 19 in Hossain, E - Kollars, D when the Bangladeshi GM deviated with an interesting alternative to Nepomniachtchi’s play. Black remains with good compensation however and the game was eventually drawn, but not without some incredible swings late in the endgame.
Spanish, Zaitsev Variation: 10 d4 Re8 11.Bc2 [C95]
An interesting idea I really like for White, aiming to bolster the centre after d4-d5 with b2-b3 and c3-c4. The exact move order is inaccurate, with 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.Bc2 the correct way.
However following 11...Bf8?! 12.Nbd2 h6 13.d5! Nb8 14.b3 c6 15.c4 White achieved exactly the kind of position she was aiming for in Narva, M - Bulmaga, I and went on to win a nice game. I explore an interesting idea with the a-pawn push which might be the best way for Black to create counterplay in this structure.
Italian Opening: 3...Nf6 4.d3 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.0-0 Be7 7.Re1 f6 [C55]
The forcing attempt 4...d5 continues to gain popularity as a way to avoid the normal slow Italian-style positions. Following 8.d4 Nb6 9.Bb3 a5!?
Black showed good preparation to reach a slightly passive but solid endgame in Nguyen, V - Tari, A which he was holding without too much trouble until White allowed a stunning piece sacrifice and Black even won the game. The opening still looks in good shape as an equalising attempt although Black has few winning chances in some lines.
Petroff: 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 d5 5.Nbd2 [C43]
A dangerous idea from White led to his 2700-strength opponent landing in serious trouble as early as move 7! Following the main move 5...Qd7:
6.Nd4!? proves to be a venomous idea preparing a nice response to ...Nc6, whilst Black’s choice was also unsatisfactory in Erigaisi, A - Fedoseev, V although the game was eventually drawn.
Petroff: 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Qc2 [C42]
White’s slightly rare choice of 9.Qc2 in Vidit, S - Nepomniachtchi, I obviously wasn’t new to his opponent who has prepared the opening to World Championship depth, but possibly the follow-up 9...h6 10.c5!? was:
Nepo reacted reasonably for the next few moves but quickly ended up in serious danger, only for one slip by Vidit to allow the game to fizzle out to equality.
Until next month, Harry
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