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Budapest Gambit 4.Nf3 [A52]
Game One after 7...Re8:
Here Nikita Vitiugov introduced a manoeuvre that I had never imagined before: 8.Nd2!?. It's amazing that anyone can come up with such a good novelty so early in the game.
Was this over the board inspiration, or some special Russian preparation? Maybe we will never know! In either case, the idea of coming quickly to e4 with the knight certainly creates new problems for Black.
The 2700+ grandmaster outplayed his opponent and obtained some advantage, but he did allow Shimanov some chances (that were missed!) to get off the hook.
Benko Gambit 5.f3 g6 [A57]
Ivanisevic won a convincing game with Black against Vocaturo in Game Two. The plan of hitting the white centre with an early e6 proved to be successful, and analysis indicates that Black was always doing well. This suggests that White needs an improvement quite early. Alternatives on move eight are plausible, but the earlier 7.e4-e5 is perhaps the most critical. In the notes to this game, I have quoted the high-level encounter Aronian-Vachier_Lagrave (from a few months ago) where 7.e5 was played and led to a finely-balanced tussle. The move order in that game 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 c5 4.d5 b5 is becoming more popular. It may start out as a Neo-Grünfeld, but has more in common with the Benko Gambit.
Benko Gambit 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 [A58]
In Game Three Pogonina chose the Benko Gambit in a must win situation. I particularly like her capture of the a-pawn on move nine with the knight:
The main advantage of this nuance (and the whole move order) is that White cannot go into the Rb1-variation.
In the actual game, both players had their moments before it all panned out in Black's favour. Most important, from the theoretical point of view, is that no one has been able to demonstrate a downside to Black's idea.
In Game Four the new (accelerated?) Benko with a delayed ...d6 is featured. Kazhgaleyev created too many problems for his opponent and was eventually successful. This, and other recent encounters, suggest that White's long-winded manoeuvre Qe2-d1-c2 isn't good enough for any advantage.
So 8...Qa5 is still holding up strongly, but it's best not to play it one move earlier (see the notes)!
Albin Counter-Gambit 5.a3 Nge7 6.Nbd2 [D08]
In both games featured in this update the following position arose after 6.Nbd2:
In Game Five Black opted for 6...a5, but after 7.Nb3 Nf5 8.e3 dxe3 9.Qxd8+ Black was unable to fully justify his pawn deficit. White was always better except perhaps on move 14, where Black missed a chance to equalize (but only then because Naroditsky had recaptured on d4 in the second-best fashion). Later, the endgame with two pieces for a rook was always difficult for Black.
In Game Six Iljiushenok tried 6...Ng6 when play followed some old analysis where White was previously adjudged to be 'much better'. The bishop pair in an open position and Black having an isolated pawn would seem to justify this assessment, but in fact it's not easy to obtain anything concrete:
Riazantsev's opening edge was only modest at the point where he blundered horribly and went on to lose.
So 6...Ng6 doesn't equalize either, but Game 6 suggests that Black has decent practical chances to successfully defend.
Grünfeld 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Be6 [D81]
Game Seven may have been won by White (wasn't Gunina lucky!) but it was Black that was in control for most of the time. The loss of time inherent in these early queen sorties was shown up by Black's rapid development and White's inability to get her king into safety. As for White improvements, 10.f3, as played by Meier isn't bad, but the continuation of Troff-Robson may be critical where White didn't rush-in with a quick e2-e4. So 8.Nf3!? needs a close look, when 8...c5 9.dxc5 would transpose to that key game, see the archives for Troff's surprising win.
Grünfeld Russian System 7.e4 Nc6 [D97]
Games 8-10 feature the more traditional Russian System, where White's queen is brought out later.
In Game Eight, Kozul-Sadzikowski, Black punted the fashionable pawn sacrifice (with ...e5 and ...Nd4) which has even featured amongst the elite of late.
From the diagram Kozul tried his luck in the previously untried queenless middlegame:
The novelty 13.dxc6 varies from 13.0-0, which has been played several times. In the actual game, White temporarily won a pawn, but Black's activity enabled him to regain the material with mutual chances. White tried his hardest to obtain more than a draw but overplayed his hand and should have lost.
In Game Nine, Holt-So, White revived an old idea of Epishin's, but added his own interpretation by delaying castling. Although we were on virgin territory from move nine onwards, there were great similarities between this and several analogous lines, so please compare! Wesley So was willing to give up a piece for two pawns plus a lead in development. Analysis suggests that he was fully justified in this approach, but he rather spoiled his position with the frantic-looking 20...b5? which did more damage to himself than his opponent.
Russian System 7.e4 Bg4 Mainline [D99]
Jojua-Nepomniachtchi, in Game Ten, followed one of the main lines until move 15 when Jojua tried an unusual move order. His 17th move was arguably his second novelty of the game(!), but this one had independant value. Indeed, calmly bringing the king to safety before undertaking any further operations seems to be a hit with the analysis engines who prefer White.
Despite the fact that it was Black who avoided a repetition, White's edge persisted throughout, so the highly-ranked Russian had to find some good resources to keep the balance.
Does Jojua's 17.Kf1! yield an edge here? Take note, it might well do!
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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