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Continuing the trend of experimenting with formats, this month we decided to bring you a 2x2x2 update: two computer and two human games in each of two openings! All the human games were played between your authors at the time control of 20+10, with both sides having access to any existing analysis on our machines.

Download PGN of July ’20 1 e4 ... games

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Nimzowitsch Defence: 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c3 e6 [B00]

The first Stockfish - LC Zero game opened with 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c3 e6 5.Be2 This is the move I (JT) give as a worthy alternative to 5.Nd2. 5...f6 6.f4 g5 7.Bh5+ Kd7 Already a crazy position! 8.fxg5 fxe5 9.Nf3 h6!? 10.g4. I provided analysis to this position in my last update and indeed, I came to the conclusion that Black is fine if he knows the queen sacrifice. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the stem game. 10...Be4 (10...Bxb1 is simpler) 11.Nbd2 12.Nxf3 e4 13.Nh4 hxg5 14.Ng6 Rh7 15.0-0 Bd6 16.Qe2 a6 (The immediate 16...Rg7 was more natural) 17.Kg2 Rg7! Black would have liked to play 17...Nge7 but that would be a mistake here in view of 18.Nf8+ Qxf8 19.Rxf8 Rxf8 20.Bxg5. Thus, she first prepares the queen sacrifice by defending g5. 18.Be3 Nge7 19.Nf8+ Qxf8 20.Rxf8 Rxf8:

A fascinating position and a creative queen sacrifice! As the game shows, Black not only claims equality but also fights for the initiative.

In Fernandez, D - Tan, J (Nimzowitsch Training Game 1), Dan deviated early on with 10.c4!? A move I had overlooked in my notes. It gives Black a tonne of seemingly plausible options, which is exactly why it is a good practical choice on the part of my co-annotator. Owing to that fact, I immediately erred with 10...Nge7?! Instead, 10...dxc4! is best according to my analysis when 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.dxe5+ Bd3! is apparently unclear. 11.g4! Bxb1 12.Rxb1 e4 13.Ne5+! Nxe5 14.dxe5 Bg7? (14...Kc8 was more tenacious) 15.0-0:

At the time of playing, I thought I could wriggle out of this somehow. Reflecting on the position with colours reversed, I worry about my lack of objectivity! Unlike in the aforementioned computer game, the centre is open and White has full control of the f-file. White is winning.

The counterpart game Tan, J - Fernandez, D (Nimzowitsch Training Game 2) saw both of us following the June analysis of 5.Nd2 for a long time before I (DF) uncorked a novelty. We proceeded with 5... f6 6.f4 g5 7.Qh5+ Kd7 8.Ndf3 Bg6 9.Qh3 Bf5 10.g4 Be4 11.Ne2 fxe5 12.fxe5 Be7 13.Rg1 h5 14.Nd2:

Here, being dissatisfied with both the bishop moves analysed before, I chose 14...Bg6!? which led to a very dramatic game that ended in climactic but rather un-grandmasterly fashion!

What seems relatively clear is that 5.Bd3 is a less critical option than either of the other two moves above. Nevertheless, in LCZero - Stockfish Black went wrong immediately, with an error that I think a strong human probably wouldn’t commit.

That game continued 5...Bxd3?! while in my notes, I explain how the natural 5...Nge7 seems to yield equality. Still, it’s not totally obvious how White should proceed and after a bit of tussling, Black obtained a middlegame which was completely playable even at the 3800 level.

Modern Defence: 150 Attack 4.Be3 a6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f3 Nd7 [B06]

Part of the motivation for this month’s format was the fact that I (DF) noticed an amazing engine game on YouTube, commentated by Sadler & Regan and explaining the rather threatening line chosen by the game-changing engine against Tiger’s Modern. In AlphaZero - Stockfish the initial moves were: 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f3 Nd7 7.h4 h5 8.Nh3 c5 9.dxc5 Nxc5:

There followed 10.Ng5 Bb7 11.a4!? which is an extremely convincing line from an ‘attacking human’ type of perspective. Black may consider agreeing to be worse but dodging the craziness with something like 11...b4; Stockfish dived straight in with 11...Qa5 which is a move that requires some unbelievable resources in order to keep Black’s position playable. As I explain in the notes, it seems even Stockfish didn’t do so completely accurately, but after some adventures was able to scrape what must have been a really nervy draw (for the programmers!)

In the first corresponding human encounter, Dan tested me (JT) in the more traditional line 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Kb1 Qa5! 13.Bd4 Nf6 14.a3 0-0 15.Nd5 Qxd2 16.Nxe7 Kh8 17.Rxd2 Rc7 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.exd5 Re8 20.Bf2 Kg8. This is the end of Dan’s analysis in the previous game, AlphaZero - Stockfish. He maintains that the position is unclear, although he notes that the engine seems to give White a slight edge. 21.g4? (21.Rg1 is offered by Stockfish). 21...hxg4 22.fxg4 Na4! 23.c3:

And now I found the best way to shatter the white queenside: 23...Nxb2! 24.Rxb2 Rxc3! See Fernandez, D - Tan, J.

In the second human encounter, Justin decided to keep it solid and tried what more or less amounts to a two-results line: 10.Bxc5 in the first diagram position of this section. (Note that Black can avoid this possibility by playing 8...Bb7 but at the cost of losing ...Bxh3 ideas.) After the more or less forced sequence of moves 10...dxc5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.a4 b4 13.0-0-0+ Kc7 14.Nd5+ Kb7 15.Ng5 e6 16.Ne3 Nh6 17.Nc4 Kc7 we arrive at a position where I (DF) had previously overestimated the chances offered by the bishop pair:

Practically this seems quite nice for White, and it’s quite difficult to lose if you don’t want to. True to form, though, we were able to sharpen up even this endgame and, after Black rejected a possibility to bail out, winning chances appeared for both sides before the game culminated in a surprising mid-board repetition. See Tan, J - Fernandez, D.

The second computer game of the set was less ground-breaking. Stockfish deviated early from the rest of this month’s games with the relatively harmless line 7.Nh3 Bb7 8.a4 b4 9.Nd1. Here both 9...c5 and 9...a5 are reasonable for Black. The game continued 10.c3 bxc3 11.Nxc3 Ngf6 12.Be2 0-0 13.Nf2 c5! 14.d5 Ba6 15.Bxa6 Rxa6:

Black has enough manoeuvrability to justify her pawn structure. Moreover, the pawns that are fixed on dark-squares don’t impede the bishop’s scope so this is very much a case of a ‘good bad bishop’. See Stockfish - AlphaZero.

Till next time! Justin and Dan.

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