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English Defence 4.Bd3 Bb4+ 5.Kf1 Be7 [A40]
In Rogozenco, D - Meier, G the German GM employed the increasingly popular idea 4...Bb4+ 5.Kf1 Be7:
Essentially, Black will continue his development and only counter in the centre when his development is quite advanced. Meantime, although White has a central space advantage, it will take him some time to get his king and king's rook sorted out.
In the game Meier was able to create threats along the long light-squared diagonal which led to him obtaining a highly favourable opposite-bishops endgame which he was able to convert.
English Defence with a3, 4.Nc3 f5 5.d5 Nf6 6.g3 [A40]
Although the featured game, Malakhatko, V - Kanmazalp, O, seemed to be following one of the main lines, White suddenly introduced a new move:
With the novel 9.Nb5!? his intentions are clear, that is, to hit the bishop on d6. Black allowed the capture but notably went on to have problems due to his central pawns being compromised. Malakhatko's idea could do with further tests, but in this case White had the easier game.
Budapest Gambit 3...Ng4 4.Nf3 Bc5 5.e3 Nc6 [A52]
The idea of White disrupting Black's flow with Qd1-d5 is best known on move twelve, but in Atalik,E-Kunin,V White tried this idea one move earlier:
Although the timing does make the ...Ra6 rook shift less evident, Black was able to get a decent game with the alternative plan ...d6, ...Qh4, and ...Re6. OK, this doesn't really lead to an attack, but it was sufficiently annoying to keep White occupied. Later, Black managed to obtain a small edge, but it wasn't sufficient to win against a robust defence from Atalik.
In Sadorra, J - Bersamina, Paulo White gave only the second outing to 8.Nd2!?, an idea that was introduced by Vitiugov in 2014:
Following this White must have been happy about how the opening panned out, even if his attempts at a violent refutation led to unclear complications. A quieter approach might be the best way to keep some sort of an edge out of the opening, such as with 15.0-0, as suggested in the notes. This still looks like a promising discovery from White's point of view.
The reason that no one has played it in the intervening couple of years or so is probably just due to the fact that the Budapest doesn't get played very often at a high level.
Budapest Gambit 3...Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 [A52]
This old line where White holds onto the pawn, but allows structural weaknesses, was given a good test in Goganov, A - Golubov, Saveliy. Indeed, the game involved a novelty (and quite a good one) on move eighteen, which suggests to me that Black can't equalize by simply snatching the e-pawn back:
In the play following 18.Rab1! White was able to keep some advantage. The struggle was quite a good fight with Black being able to riposte White's attempts to drive home his advantage. There is a possibility that Goganov could have done better on move 25, as you'll see in the notes.
Benko Gambit Declined 4.Qc2 bxc4 [A57]
The most notable aspect of Atalik, E - Milanovic, D is Black's use of ...Nh5 and ...f5 to open up play in the centre:
After this White's response with a timely Nf3-g5-e6 gets a seal of approval from the engines, but I'm not sure how much Black is really inconvenienced. White has the bishop pair, but Black just steps out of their way!
In the game, White's Qxb3 along with a risky g-pawn push rather compromised White's position as Black was able to get in a timely ...c4 and then create decisive threats.
Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.Qc2 Na6 [A88]
In Adly, A - Anton Guijarro, D White's quick development involving 10.Bg5 and 12.Rad1 was an interesting try:
Black has to choose where to play his queen, but I suspect that both of c7 (the game) and e7 (see the notes) are probably acceptable. With moves like ...Nc5 and ...Bg4 it seems that Black catches up in development and obtains enough activity for any resulting weaknesses on the e-file (which tend to occur after White's thematic e2-e4).
The final stages of this game were probably played with time getting short, which explains how Black rather lost his way.
Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.Rb1 a5 [A88]
In Sarana, A - Sychev, K one has the feeling that Black was quickest to get into the swing of things. His opening was fine, and he started the middlegame with the better of equality and various promising options in the centre. However, after missing a tactical point Black lost a pawn and Sarana had good enough technique to convert his advantage.
As to the opening, I still think that 12.Bf4 is a better try for an edge than Sarana's choice 12.Be3.
Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.Re1 Ne4 [A88]
The early nip and tuck in Donchenko, Alexa - Sandipan, C led to Black giving up a pawn, in order to obtain the most active pieces. White found it hard to unravel and gradually went downhill.
In the opening, Donchenko decided to go his own way (which has merit, but looks unclear at best) rather than opt for the critical line (where I have a preference for White).
For me 11.Qb3 looks odd. Why move the queen again so early? Instead, the alternative to look out for in the future is 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Ba3 when there are problems for Black to resolve.
Blumenfeld Gambit Declined 5.Bg5 b4 [E10]
The featured game, Sanikidze, T - Khamrakulov, D, involves Black closing the queenside with 5...b4. This means that White remains with a big centre, but in return Black obtains a certain stability.
In some of the game segments (in the notes), Black totally blocks the centre with ...e5, which reminds one of the Czech Benoni. Here Khamrakulov chose a more dynamic way by firstly sorting out his 'bad' bishop with ...Be7-g5-f4 and then continuing with ...exd5, when the opening of some lines offered chances for both sides. I think that 16.Qxd5 wasn't the best way to recapture as after this, if given a choice, I would take Black, as the potential of the bishop gives him the best minor piece on the board. After the exchange of queens Sanikidze couldn't find a way to stave off Black's growing initiative.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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