2 b3 [B20]
Perhaps White forgot that Indian prodigy Parimarjan Negi has been a student of 2.b3 aficionado Nigel Short. In Toufighi - Negi, White plays 1.e4 c5 2.b3 d6 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Bxf6!?:
This is the kind of idea that should not be dangerous, but it is not so bad and this game is a good example of some ideas that both players should be aware of.
2.c3 Sicilian [B22]
When I saw the pairing for the London Chess Classic, I expected this battle: one of the world's foremost 2.c3 Sicilian practitioners against the world #1 rated player! In the game we see an interesting semi-novelty at a very early stage. In Howell - Carlsen we look at 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Be3 Be7!?:
Carlsen is not afraid to give up a pawn. This is a very rare move, but it is one of the first suggestions of the computer! The idea looks quite viable and I imagine we'll see more of this idea.
Not long ago we look at the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nc6 8.0-0 Be7 9.Qe2 0-0 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 dxe5 12.dxe5:
Here Radjabov played 13.a4!?, but in Burg - Giri White played 13.Qe4, allowing the annoying 13...Qa4. Black intends 14...Na5 to exchange queens. After 14.Bg5 h6 White uncorked 15.Bf6 (15.Bxe7 had been played before) which seems to just lead to a draw. In the game, Black made a (im)practical decision and played for the loss...
Closed Sicilian [B26]
I promise I will get to the theoretical line 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 Nc6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.d3 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Nd4 soon, but it the meantime, there is 7.Nh3?! in Nakamura - Sasikiran:
This game shows how Black should play these types of positions. In the game Sasikiran eventually loses control and Nakamura completely turns the tables.
King's Indian Attack [B30]
A model example for Black in this type of passive set up is provided by Amin - Leitao. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0-0 Bg7 7. 0-0 8.Re1 Black plays 8...e5!:
This looks like a cross between a Botvinnik setup and a Classical ...Nf6 setup, but it works out well and Black wins a smooth game.
Moscow Variation [B51]
Another big battle from London is seen in Ni Hua - Carlsen. The new world #1 essays the fashionable fighting line, 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7. However, after 4.d4 he plays the unusual 4...a6:
Although Black won, I am not so sure that this idea of Carlsen will catch on.
In the main line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 I give a bit of an overview of the various lines that may arise in the Maroczy structure. White Black certainly seems fine, there is still chess to be played. Despite the rather sterile opening, Timofeev - Khismatullin must be seen in its entirety!
The main line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Bg5 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Rhe1 keeps cropping up, so Black should certainly be ready for it. Strong players seem to be more and more ready for this 'surprise' line. After 10...0-0 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.Qd2 Rfd8 13.Nd4 Rab8 (we have looked at the pawn sacrifice 13...b5 before as well) 14.f3 b5 15.g4 b4 we see that Alekseev - Khismatullin is another example showing the viability of Black's position in the main line:
It is important to know some thematic ideas, but by studying this game and those in the archive, Black can be confident.
Until next month, David