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The Four Knights 6.a3 Be7 7.Be3 [B45]
In the game So, W - Kramnik, V the players entered a relatively rare theoretical position after 9.Qd2:
that was previously covered in Tabatabaei - Perunovic. As usual, Vladimir demonstrated his deep knowledge of this line with 9...e5 followed by 10...Nxe4! which seems to offer Black easy equality. In response, Wesley took a major risk with 13.Bh6? He managed to unbalance the position with this dubious novelty, but objectively White got into big trouble after it. Kramnik's further play was energetic and strong and he was very close to winning the game. Alas, at the last moment he stated to err, and after 2 mistakes in a row on move 27 and 28 it was Wesley who scored a full point.
Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.g4 h6 [B48]
In the next game, Nepomniachtchi, I - Aronian, L, Levon decided to try an interesting and somewhat risky novelty in a sharp line of the Taimanov. The position after 10.Qf3:
already occurred in Giri - Nepomniatchi, where Ian got a dubious position after the opening phase and eventually lost. Seemingly, the surprise effect of Levon's ambitious innovation 11...Qa5 did its job, and after 12.Bf4 e5 Ian chose the passive 13.Bg3?! As a result, Black was able to keep his king in the centre because it was well covered by his central pawns. The further interesting struggle was full of mutual mistakes, but the really critical moment came on move 26 - White missed 26.f4!, and eventually his queen got trapped.
Sozin, Velimirovic Attack 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 [B89]
In Kramnik, V - Svidler, P Black avoided a debate in the main lines of the Sozin with 8...Na5:
This is a risky approach, because Black is missing developed pieces, and Vladimir's plan of 9.Bd3!,followed by 11.f4 is the most practical solution. In fact, 13.Na2 as played in a preceding game 50 years ago seems to pose Black serious problems. For some reason, Vladimir came up with the creative, but dubious 13.Nb1?! and practically spoiled all his advantage. Still, Vladimir's aggressive play made this game very spectacular and exciting. It was mainly decided by the impulsive 28.Qh8? that left White's king too exposed.
Najdorf 6.a3 e5 7.Nf5 [B90]
The next game, Svidler, P - So, W, saw Peter opt for a relatively rare line with 6.a3, although it hardly got his opponent confused. In the theoretical position after 13...Qa5:
White played the new move 14.0-0-0. Wesley reacted well with 14...Bh6! and it allowed Black to obtain a comfortable position where his knight was superior to White's bishop. The strong 18.h4! made it possible for Peter to maintain the balance, and after the inaccurate 18...Ne4? White seized the initiative and won in good style.
Najdorf 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 [B90]
In our next game, Aronian, L - Svidler, P, Levon went for 6.Bd3, which used to be Svidler's weapon against the Najdorf in recent years. In response Peter followed Donchenko's 9...Bg4!? that worked well for Black in Svidler - Donchenko, as you can see in the archives.
I am not sure if it surprised Aronian, but his innovation 14.Nf5 hardly poses Black any problems. Indeed, the balance was kept till move 29, when 29.Nf3? put White on the verge of collapse. Even so, the really critical moment came a bit later, after both player missed 30.c4! that could have drastically changed the route of the play in White's favor. Instead, the desperate 30.Bxh7?? led to a quick collapse.
Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.h3 [B90]
The only game that isn't from the Amsterdam rapid is Kramnik, V - Matlakov, M which has a certain theoretical value. In the fashionable position after 9.Qf3 Maxim played the natural 9...Nbd7 that is new for our site:
Typically for this line, play became sharp and double-edged, but the impulsive 14...Nc4? practically left Black with no counterplay. The end of this relatively short game was dramatic - White wrongly sacrificed his bishop, but Maxim soon returned the favor with 25...Nxd5?? and quickly lost.
Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 0-0 [B90]
The next game, Anand, V - Aronian, L, saw a theoretical discussion in one of the most researched lines of the Najdorf. The position after 18.c4 was previously tested in a couple of games, including Dominguez - Nepomniatchi.
Here Levon demonstrated his deep knowledge of this line with 18...Rfc8!? that seems to offer Black decent counterplay on the queenside. Unfortunately, somewhat later Aronian made 2 serious mistakes and found himself in a hopeless position. Anand's technique at the end was impressive.
Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 [B99]
In our last game, Grischuk, A - Aronian, L, the players entered an important theoretical position that occurrs in one of the relatively unfashionable long lines with 6.Bg5. After 18...Ne5:
Grischuk played the rare 19.Qg3 that most likely poses Black less problems than other moves. Levon reacted naturally with 19...Bb7 which is one decent way of handling the position. An approximate balance was kept till 30.a3? which allowed Black to quickly develop a stunning attack. Even so, this exciting game was decided right at the very end, when Alexander missed the move 36.Bb1! that could have drastically changed the route of the play.
See you next month, Michael
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