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English Defence 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.Nc3 Nb4 [A40]
In Vidit, S - Maghsoodloo, P I quite liked White's queen manoeuvre which involved switching from d3 to g3 at an early stage.
From here, the pressure on g7 (and even c7) can disrupt Black's development, with the additional the option of Bc1-g5 being another plus. Maghsoodloo never really solved his opening difficulties, as White's space bind turned into a dangerous initiative.
Dissecting the moves leading up to the diagram position, Nigel Short used to prefer 8...d6 (rather than 8...Nc6) followed by ...Qd7 with a generally highly-flexible approach. This would be my suggested way to handle Black's game.
English Defence 4.Qc2 Nc6 [A40]
We can almost call 4.Qc2 the Mikhalevski Variation, as he has played it at least nine times on the database. In Mikhalevski, V - Bartel, M he was able to obtain a significant advantage before blundering away his assets late on.
He was, however, no doubt surprised in the opening, as Bartel first of all replied with the rare 4...Nc6 and then after 5.Nf3 unleashed the novelty 5...e5:
At this point, 6.d4-d5 (preferring to annexe space rather than accepting the chance to snatch a pawn) is probably the most pragmatic. However, Mikhalevski opted for the principled 6.dxe5 (perhaps intrigued to see what the opponent then had up his sleeve), but after 6...Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nge7 8.Bf4 Bartel should have continued with 8...Ng6 9.Bg3 Qe7 to regain the pawn with an acceptable game. So (provisionally) for now, I think that the Polish GM's idea is fine, but if one day it's shown that this novel gambit turns out to be inadequate, then there is always 5...Nb4 6.Qe2 f5 with double-edged play.
The Accelerated QID 3.Nf3 Bb7 4.g3 g6 [A50]
In Esipenko, A - Timofeev, A with 3.Nf3 and 4.g3 White offers the chance to revert to a nomal QID with 4...e6. Timofeev instead prefers the double-fianchetto approach with 4...g6 which, once met by 5.Nc3, presents Black with some choice:
Here the offbeat options 5...Ne4 and 5...Bxf3 are radical ways of reacting, whereas, not so long ago, Carlsen stuck to the less extravagant 5...Bg7. In the featured game however, Timofeev played in the centre with 5...d5, which after 6.cxd5 Nxd5 led to something of a hotch-potch of systems (but with a definite Neo-Grünfeld flavour). Moving on, in the early middlegame, White was able to harness the energy of his central pawn majority and posed a few problems by creating a passed d-pawn. Along the way, I suggest a possible improvement or two, the first of these being on move ten when I prefer the immediate 10...c5 rather than Timofeev's sluggish approach with 10...Nd7, etc.
The Accelerated QID 4.Qc2 d5 [A50]
In Edouard, R - Maurizzi, MA the following position arose:
The game continued with the disappointing 11.0-0 (sensible, but not that challenging) 11...Nc6 12.e5? (a serious error, as after...) 12...Na5 (...Black was already better).
The fun however starts with 11.Ng5! leading to astonishing complications, where my analysis has (I suspect) only scratched the surface, see the notes for all the entertainment!
Dutch 2.c4 Intro, 3...Bb4 [A84]
In Maurizzi, MA - Narciso Dublan, M the sequence in the opening 3...Bb4 4.Qb3 c5 seemed more 'Nimzo' than 'Dutch'. Indeed, a little later, the diagram position after 10.Qc2...
...looks as if it has arisen from that particular opening, which is one that we don't normally discuss here. Nevertheless, apart from comparing this position with analogous ones in John Emms' Nimzo & Benoni column, we can make some conclusions based on general principles, the main one being that Black's grip on e4 and his dynamic minor pieces should mean that he is fine. This impression is enhanced by the game continuation where it seemed that White was struggling to find a coherent plan. Later, after getting outplayed, Maurizzi's exchange sacrifice made it more difficult for Black to exploit his advantage. Frustration (and time shortage) even led to Narciso Dublan blundering everything away.
Dutch 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 [A85]
Although White won fairly quickly in Sanal, V - Nikac, P there wasn't anything wrong with Black's opening. On the seventh move, for example, the aggressive 7.h4 could be met by any of three plausible alternatives: 7...c6, 7...0-0 or 7...h6. The latter option being selected by Nikac, a choice that I approve of, as it seems to be the right moment to pose the question to the bishop. A few moves later the diagram position arose:
Here the choice comes down to 12...Be6 (as previously played by Sethuraman) and 12...Kh8, as played in the game. Both should be fine, but trading bishops looks the easier to handle (the opponent's is more active and, furthermore, it might be prudent to avoid placing one's monarch on the h-file for now anyway). Black's loss occurred when he unnecessarily allowed the h-file to get opened, whereupon his king couldn't be defended.
Leningrad 7.Nc3 c6 8.b3 Na6 [A88]
A long theoretical endgame in Ibrahimli, M - Lagarde, M eventually led to a draw, but only because White was unable to find the winning plan at the time. As to the opening, Black decided on an enterprising exchange sacrifice which had only previously been played on one occasion.
Meeting 11.Ba3 with 11...e4!? will come across as a surprise to many and I'm not even that confident that the engines understand what is going on! For the exchange, Black obtains a certain mastery of the dark squares, plus his ...e4-wedge is a desirable asset in many a Leningrad. The crunch issue in such situations is often the potential of the player with more rooks to 'get them going'. Here, there is little scope for any sort of an invasion, so I'm going to stick my neck out and claim that Black has enough compensation. If this premise proves to be true, this in turn means that Lagarde's 9...e5!? has to be taken seriously.
Dutch Classical 4...Be7 5.Nc3 0-0 6.Nh3 [A91]
The move order in Tomashevsky, E - Azarov, S had previously escaped my attention, so it's about time to make amends! First of all, let me set the scene: If Black is intent on playing a Stonewall he may well begin with 4...d5, or the more cautious 4...c6, with ...d5 in mind. In these cases, the option of the 'Anti-Stonewall' 5.Nh3 is well-known (the h3-square for the knight being highly-regarded after ...d5) and a number of examples can be found in the archives. However, after 4...Be7 (of the game), the sequence 5.Nc3 0-0 6.Nh3, as well as the related 5.Nh3 are actually not so rare (despite my ignorance of this fact!). Indeed, as various Stonewall lines with the bishop on the old-fashioned e7 square (instead of d6) have been making a revival, I think we'll see Tomashevsky's opening choice even more often. If the Iljin-Zhenevsky approach with ...d6 is chosen (see 6...d6), Black generally desires to expand/liberate with ...e5 so Tomashevsky set about making Black's break less attractive:
Azarov didn't accept a docile role and reacted with 9...Nh5 10.0-0 Nxf4 11.Nxf4 Nf6 (intending ...e5). Then 12.d5 cxd5 13.cxd5 e5 (finally!) was greeted with 14.Ne6 but this wasn't advantageous. So White's knight adventure (versus 4...Be7) may not be too worrisome after all.
Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Qd6 [D70]
I couldn't resist reviewing the latest developments after 10.h4 in Shishkov, A - Kulaots, K which is one of a pair of games (involving the same players) from an online rapid tournament. The key position occurs after 13...Bxd4! which has been recognized as decent for Black for some time now:
I reckon that White's best is 14.Bxd4 Qxd4 15.Qf4 followed by capturing on c7 and achieving material equality. I don't see any advantage however in this approach, nor do others it seems, as just about everyone has been trying their luck with a kingside attack. The best of Shishkov's two attempts occurred in the featured game: 14.Qf2 e5 15.Nge2 Bxe3+ 16.Qxe3 Qe7 (novelty) 17.Nd5 with double-edged play. Previously 16...Qe6 had been played, but it's still too early to judge which is the better of the two. Overall, Black is still holding firm in this line, so if White wants a theoretical edge he should focus his efforts on the alternatives 10.Kb1 and 10.Nb5, where the jury hasn't yet returned the final verdicts.
Blumenfeld Gambit Accepted 6...d5 7.g3 a6 [E10]
The elite game Duda, J - Mamedyarov, S ended with a delightful attack that will surely inspire many a Blumenfeld fan. I've always felt that the Accepted g3-fianchetto lines to be solid, but not that challenging. Here I was right about the 'not that challenging' assertion, but maybe I might have to change my mind about the 'solid' part!
Here Black can recapture on a6 in two ways. Most have gone for 11...Rxa6, but then the problem of what to do with the light-squared bishop arises. Mamedyarov chose 11...Bxa6 which is characterized by the pressure along the a6-f1 diagonal. As this is something of a nuisance for the opponent, this almost invariably induces White to play Rf1-e1 at some point. This however weakens the f2-square, which brings us back to the Azeri's attack, as this involved Black crashing through via...f2! Don't miss this one out!
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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