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Wing Gambit 2...cxb4 3.a3 d5 [B20]
I really have been feeling the Wing Gambit lately in these columns, so this month I will try to justify my enthusiasm with an all-GM battle.
Williams - Dragun is a rare high-level clash that follows what I guess we could call the 'main line' of the pure Wing, although as I've mentioned in the past, my preference is for Shirazi's 6.c4. After Simon's 6.axb4, objectively I feel that Black should be better with 7...Nf6 (see the notes), though the position still isn't easy to play. Instead in the game Simon got an excellent opening result and a fierce attack, but his chances of chess immortality were rudely quashed around the time control. What a game!
2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, 5...d6 Mainline [B22]
Two draws feature after 2.c3 this month; one is exciting, while the other is less so!
I wanted to show Shkapenko - Huzman because it's quite a useful line to know as White in case you ever just want a draw against the main 2...Nf6 variation. It's perhaps not the most exciting of choices, but against an opponent who is 180 points higher rated, Shkapenko decided it was worth a shot. I find it very interesting to ponder the question of how much higher your opponent needs to be for you to justify accepting a quick draw with the white pieces; for me, I guess 150 points is about the mark, but it probably differs from person to person. Anyway, I won't get carried away with this philosophical discussion and instead just say that 10.Nc3 is pretty much a forced draw, and that this is something worth keeping in the back of your mind.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 5...Bf5 [B22]
The other game seems yours truly take up the 5...Bf5 variation once again, but this time I'm back to playing with the white pieces!
I've played a bit of colour ping-pong in this variation of late and I'm finding that having a good knowledge of it is proving quite profitable with both Black and White. In Smerdon - Bobras I quickly used our ChessPublishing theory to build up a winning position after only ten moves. Sadly, I blew it all in time trouble, but the opening can't be faulted for that. By the way, I've gone for Star Wars themed annotations to this game - be warned!
Closed Sicilian 2...a6 3.g4!? [B23]
Corri Tello-Leiva investigates the tricky and reasonably popular 2.Nc3 a6, which gets countered by the outlandish and possibly decent 3.g4!?
This game features a very unusual pawn structure, with Black only having moved one piece after ten moves! I'm quite a fan of 3.g4 as at least a surprise weapon, and it certainly makes a good practical choice against someone you know to be a Najdorf player.
Moscow/Rossolimo Hybrid Variation 9...e6! [B51]
We next check out two games from the mini-match of the British Knockouts between Luke McShane and Nick Pert. I think many players were surprised to see Nick advance from this round, and a large part of his success came from a profitable employment of our ...d6/Nc6 repertoire.
Our first McShane - Pert sees my recommendation 9...e6! getting another workout. Actually, I just got my hands on Kotronias' new anti-Sicilian book and this is also his recommendation, so I think we can expect to see many more high-level games in this line. As regular readers could probably have expected, Black had no problems in securing equality in this game.
Moscow/Rossolimo Hybrid Variation 8...g5!? [B51]
In the very next game in the match, however, Nick obviously decided that he wanted something more aggressive. McShane - Pert saw Nick switch from 7...Bg4 to the audacious 7...e5 8.h3 g5!?:
We've analysed this before and seen that after 9.d4! White can look to the future with confidence. But it seems Luke was taken by surprise, as I imagine many players would be from the white side, and after the natural 9.Nxg5?! I think Black can already be reasonably satisfied with the outcome of the opening. Indeed, Nick went on to snare a big win.
Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.c3 [B51]
Peter Svidler has been doing a great job of championing 3.Bb5+ of late, and particularly after 3...Nd7 with the sidelines that involve Qe2. We've seen that Bologan has also had a fair bit of success with this move, and while I don't believe it's objectively all that dangerous, the positions are light on theory and allow plenty of potential for the stronger player to outplay his opponent. This was the case in Svidler - Trent, although Lawrence made things easy for Pete with the dubious novelty 8...c4?!:
Objectively it might not be so bad, but certainly 9.b3 g5? is a much weaker version of the theme we just saw above. Black could have resigned by move 12; I don't think we'll be seeing this opening experiment again.
Moscow Variation 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 [B52]
Finally, our 'heavyweight' game for the month is Carlsen - Vachier Lagrave. In the London Classic playoff, Magnus pulled off an important and typically Carlsenian victory by invoking the Maroczy structure against 3...Bd7.:
I'm still not convinced that Black should be in any real danger in this variation (see the notes to 10...Rc8 and 11...a6, for example). However, it's an important game to study because Carlsen plays in the manner that causes the most practical problems for Black, starting with the accurate 10.Be3. Black has basically no winning chances and can find himself in a situation where long-term suffering is unavoidable, as occurred here. I've put in a lot of effort to analyse this game beyond its theoretical importance, just because the endgame is so interesting (and because most commentators got it wrong!). Who says learning endgames isn't important in the modern game?!
See ya, Dave
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