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Having played in the recent Olympiad in Chennai, I was greatly impressed by some of the young guns from India 2 and Uzbekistan; I was particularly in awe of their tremendous fighting spirit in every game. I was also amazed by Armenia’s solid all-around performance, demonstrating yet again just how strong they are as a team. For those reasons I have selected the best 1.d4 d5 2.c4 games from those teams’ board 1 players: Gukesh, Abdusattorov and Sargissian. Additionally, I have provided two games from my compatriots that gave us a huge victory over third seed Norway!

Download PGN of August ’22 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Slow Slav: 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Bg4 [D11/D23]

Nowadays it is rare to obtain an advantage early in the opening, but in Sargissian, G - Shirov, A, White caught his opponent off-guard with the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Bg4 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.Bf4!? and soon after, he emerged with a strategically better position: 7...Bxf3 8.gxf3 Nb6 9.Qd3 Nfd5 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Bd2 e6 12.e4:

This position was already mentioned by Illingworth here in 2015 when he gave White an advantage. His evaluation remains completely valid!

Queen’s Gambit Accepted: 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Nc3 [D26]

Tari, A - Kuybokarov, T was an important match-up for Australia vs Norway in round 6. I recall that the game rapidly entered unusual territory: 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Nc3 a6 8.d5 Definitely a critical continuation although it is far from popular. 8...Nxd5 9.Nxd5 Na5!? Following Giri - Wang, Danzhou 2020. 10.b3 The transformation of structure after this looks favourable for Black from a practical point of view: 10...Nxc4 11.bxc4 exd5 12.cxd5 Bd6 13.e4 f6 14.a4 0-0 15.h3 b6:

When I saw this position from a distance, I was happy with Temur's position as I felt it was easier for him to play; he was playing fast and confidently, whereas his opponent was visibly unsure of the position he was left with. Aryan did keep the balance throughout, but in the endgame he made an unfortunate blunder, which was costly for Norway!

Classical QGD: 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 [D37]

Even rarer than obtaining an opening advantage as White is obtaining a decisive opening advantage as Black! In Mamedyarov, S - Sargissian, G, White mixed up his preparation badly, thereby gifting his opponent with a winning position after only 16 moves: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 c6 8.b4 b6 9.h4!? A move which Nakamura has faced no less than 4 times in the last couple of years, including Mamedyarov, S - Nakamura, H, Berlin 2022. There are a few good ways for Black to prove equality, provided they come prepared. 9...a5 10.a3 Ba6N Surprisingly, this standard move has not yet been tried but Sargissian clearly did his homework. 11.Bxa6 Rxa6 12.b5 The critical try, of course. 12...cxb5 13.c6 Qc8 14.c7 b4 15.Nb5 a4! Using his strongest assets to create counterplay. 16.Qc2?? Blitzed out instantly! However, it was a fatal blunder for the obvious reason that it gave Black an extra tempo for his queenside pawns. Mamedyarov definitely misremembered his prep...

16...b3 17.Qe2 Ra8 18.Rc1 Qa6 and White could only hope that his opponent would slip up, but Sargissian’s technique remained impeccable.

Ragozin: 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd2 [D38]

The Ragozin is one of the big headaches for 1.d4 players these days so it is interesting to see how Gukesh managed to outprepare his opponent, none other than Sargissian himself! 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd6 9.Qc2 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Be2!?:

Entering a line in which absolutely everything is "0.00", but with some extra knowledge of the positions beforehand, the OTB advantage often remains! I have provided some good alternatives for Black that more or less nullify the idea for Ragozin players. However, Gukesh, D - Sargissian, G ended up being an instructive example of strong practical preparation from White: in spite of the equal evaluation, the position was definitely easier for White to play, and this was the decisive factor.

Later in the tournament it was Gukesh who was on the receiving end of defeat: Gukesh, D - Abdusattorov, N featured the exact same line 7.Bd2 but Abdusattorov chose to keep the tension with 7...a5!? 8.a3 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 Ne7 10.Qc2 b6 11.b3 A typical move to reinforce the c4-pawn although Abdusattorov neutralised it fairly comfortably. 11...Ba6 12.a4 Preventing ...a4, but weakening the b4-square. 12...Ne4 13.Bb2 Nc6! 14.Ba3?! Nb4 15.Bxb4 axb4 16.Bd3:

16...Nf6?! It was pretty difficult to evaluate that 16...Nc3! 17.Bxh7+ Kh8 18.Bd3 dxc4 19.Bxc4 Bb7 was better for Black, but once we reach this position, we are able to see things more clearly: if White castles, Black will take on f3 and transfer the rook to the kingside with the very swift manoeuvre ...Ra5! to h5. After Abdusattorov’s retreat, play followed 17.0-0 c5?! 18.dxc5! bxc5 19.e4! and it was Black who was under pressure. For most of the game, Gukesh was playing almost perfect technical chess, but in the later stages of the game he made some strange decisions which allowed his opponent to pull off a devastating swindle.

Semi-Slav: Anti-Meran 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 0-0 8.Be2 b6 9.0-0 Bb7 10.Bb2 Qe7 [D45]

Smirnov, A - Duda, J was a very quick win for Black, in spite of Smirnov’s good preparation: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 0-0 8.Be2 b6 9.0-0 Bb7 10.Bb2 Qe7 11.Rad1 Rad8 12.Rfe1 Rfe8 13.Bf1 In my notes, I provide extensive analysis on the popular alternative 13.g3!?, where the better player tends to win, regardless of the colour. Interestingly, 13...a6!? is quite a clever response, which is explained in my notes. 13...e5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Nd4 dxc4 16.Nf5 Qe6 17.Nxd6 Rxd6 18.Rxd6 Qxd6 19.Rd1 cxb3 20.axb3 Qe7 21.Ne4:

A good piece of preparation from my teammate Anton Smirnov. He had blitzed out his moves up to here, whereas Duda was on his own. This had already been analysed on our site by Robert Hungaski! 21...Nd5 22.Ng3 Bc8! Still following Hungaski's notes. 23.e4 I didn't really like this decision from a practical point of view as it gave Black some hopes to be optimistic with his strong knight on f4. 23...Nf4 24.Qc3?! Already showing a lack of plans. 24...Qg5! Black takes over the initiative quickly. 25.Bc1 h5 26.Ne2?? An uncharacteristic blunder from Australia’s number one player. It is clear that the pressure was already mounting; add to it the context of being Match 3 at the Olympiad and it is understandable that Smirnov felt the tension. 26...Qxg2+ 0-1

Semi-Tarrasch: 5.cxd5 cxd4 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Bg5 Be7 8.e3 0-0 [D50]

Yet another headache for 1.d4 players is the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 cxd4 as in Gukesh, D - Vocaturo, D. 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Bg5 Be7 8.e3 0-0 9.Rd1 Be6 10.Qa4 I am not convinced that this was preparation from Gukesh as it was played after a 7-minute think. Nevertheless, it made for an interesting game: 10...h6 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.Nxd5 Bxd5 13.Qb5 Bxb2 14.Rxd5 Bc3+ 15.Kd1:

It is notable that Gukesh had evaluated this to be playable for White, showing a dynamic understanding of king safety which was not previously seen before the era of Stockfish!

Catalan: 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 [E11]

Coming into the match Australia - Norway, the game Cheng, B - Hammer, J was critical for Australia's chances. When Cheng won (with a little bit of controversy!), I knew that my own game would mean the difference between drawing to and beating Norway... the issue was that I had to draw a lost position! The impossible happened, and I swindled my opponent, which led to Australia’s best ever result at the Olympiad. Of course, it was this game and the above game Tari - Kuybokarov which really won the match. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.Nc3!? dxc4 10.a4 Bobby is generally very well-prepared in the Catalan, but I am not certain that this was preparation. At least my engine has a hard time justifying the line! Possibly a better "one game try" would have been 10.Ne4 although it is likely to lead to a sudden repetition if Black finds the right path. 10...a5 A sensible reaction. 11.e4:

11...h6 Played very quickly, but he missed a critical moment to change the course of the game with the thematic pawn break 11...e5! 12.dxe5 Ng4 13.Bf4 13...g5. 12.h3 b6 13.Rfe1 Bb7 14.Rad1 Re8 15.Bf4 Bb4 16.g4!? This showed strong nerves. I have noted that these sharp Catalan positions require a great deal of confidence from the white side. You cannot calculate everything out, so it is important to go by intuition and follow it through. While the engine does not necessarily “like” White’s position, it also doesn’t think it is terrible. The important question is whether you can exert enough pressure against a human opponent, which can include putting pressure on the clock! In this case, the game ended very controversially with Black losing on time, but in my opinion, the tension which was created in the opening and early middlegame strongly influenced Black’s time management. Maybe I am biased!

Until next time, Justin

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