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The highlight of January 2020 was the Tata Steel super tournament (won by Caruana), the Gibraltar Open (won by Paravyan), the Rilton Cup (won by Moriadabadi), the Portugal Open (won by Grigorian), the Seville Open (won by Savchenko), the Roquetas del Mar Open (won by Grigorian), the Hastings Masters (won by Panchanathan), the Moscow Open (won by Lobanov), the Armenian Championship (won by Ter-Sahakyan), the Delhi Open (won by Gupta), the Chennai Open (won by Ponkratov), the Charlotte Open (won by Jacobson) and the Floripa Open (won by Vazquez). The games I will be covering are mostly taken from these events.

Download PGN of February ’20 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Slow Slav: 4.e3 Bg4 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.Ne5 [D11]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.Ne5 Bf5 7.cxd5 Qxb3 8.axb3 Nxd5 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Nxd3:

Is a seemingly innocuous position, but one that actually hides quite a bit of venom. White gets active play on the queenside thanks to the open a-file and the maneuver Na3-c4-a5. Players of the stature of L’Ami and Narciso have employed it several times with good results. See the game L’Ami, E - Smirnov, A, Tata Steel GpB 2020.

Queen’s Gambit Declined, Accelerated Ragozin: 4.a3 & 6...c6 [D31/E40]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3 5.bxc3 Nf6 6.e3 c6 7.a4 0-0 8.Ba3 Re8 9.Nf3 b6 10.cxd5 cxd5 11.Bb5 Bd7 12.Bd3 Bc8 13.Qe2:

This position, or I should say this ”type“ of position is considered better for White (and rightly so!) because Black is not able to carry out the trade of light-squared bishops. However, in the diagram position Black came up with 13...Ne4!?N, arguing that White will now have to push the pawn, thus allowing the liberating ...Ba6! An interesting argument, but one that unfortunately falls short. See the game Navara, D - Roussel, R, Gibraltar 2020.

Queen’s Gambit Declined, 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 [D24]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nxb5 Nb6 8.Be2 Be7 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Qd2!:

White’s last move highlights the absence of a black knight on f6. White intends to swing the queen over to the kingside and launch an attack. In this game Black breaks away from the standard 10...0-0 and instead tries 10...Bb7 intending to follow-up with ...Qd7 and ...0-0-0. The idea is quite logical and has given Black good positions lately. See the game Zhang, Z - Sethuraman, S, Tianjin 2020.

QGD Anti-Vienna Gambit: 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 & 7...Nf6 [D24/39]

5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qa4 Nc6 9.Ne5 a5 10.d5 exd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Qxc6 Bd7 14.Qxd5 0-0 15.Bf4:

This is the position White was aiming for, arguing that Black’s worse pawn structure will become a telling factor as the game moves forward. This is true, which is why Black must play accurately. The key maneuver Black usually relies on is the retreat ...Bd6, after which he will use the b-file to compensate his worse structure. In the game, Black was able to renew this idea thanks to some nice tactics. See the game Nestorov, A - Moriadabadi, E, Rilton Cup 2020.

QGD Anti-Vienna Gambit: 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 & 7...Nxc3 [D24/39]

5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Bd6!?:

Another sideline in the Vienna. Does this mean Black is having difficulties in the main line? Must be! In any case, this is a riskier line than the one we saw in the Moriadabadi game. However, White has a small window of opportunity to take advantage of it (by means of 9.Ng5!). In the game White played 9.Qe2?! and Black was soon in control of the game. See Smirnov, A - Anton Guijarro, D, Tata Steel GpB 2020.

Semi-Slav/Anti-Moscow: 7.e3 Nd7 8.Be2 [D43]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Be2 Bb4 9.0-0 0-0 10.Qc2 Bxc3 11.Qxc3 dxc4 12.Rfd1!?N:

The idea of playing Ne5 and willingly doubling the pawns along the e-file is gaining popularity across several openings (see Catalan below). In this case White is not concerned about the c4-pawn and instead seeks to highlight Black’s lagging queenside development. See the game Dubov, D - Yu, Y, Tata Steel GpB 2020.

Semi-Slav/Anti-Meran: 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 [D45]

5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 0-0 8.Bb2 e5 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Nb5 Bb4+ 11.Bc3 Bxc3+ 12.Qxc3 Ne4 13.Qc7 Qe7!N:

A devastating novelty in a line (8.Bb2) that is already somewhat questionable. After this move White is worse and soon collapsed. See the game Hjartarson, J - Navara, D, Gibraltar 2020.

Open Catalan: 7.Qa4 c6 [E06]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Qa4 c6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qb3 Bb7 10.Rd1 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Nxe5 12.dxe5 Nd7 13.Bf4 Qc7 14.Nc3 Nc5:

Although this move had never been played before, it had been suggested by Daniel Friedman as an improvement over the move Keymer had played against him. Although the lines does prove to be objectively ”fine“ for Black, the position remains delicate and the knight on c5 is not particularly well placed. In turn, this requires Black to continue with 14.Qc2 b4 15.Nb1 Ba6 when Black’s pieces look uncoordinated. Sure enough, White eventually opened up the queenside and quickly gained the upper hand. See the game Caruana, F. - Duda, J.K., Tata Steel 2020.


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