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Max hasn't sent an update for a while, and so David has stepped in at short notice, with a little help from TK. This time we are looking at an Exchange Slav line that is awkward for Black, some interesting variations in the Main Slav (including a suggested novelty for White ... that nearly loses!) and the Closed Catalan.

Download PGN of May ’19 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Slav Exchange 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.e3 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bf5 7.Qb3 [D10]

This has been a very popular setup which has caused some headaches for Black. I was introduced to it years ago when I kept losing to a GM in some online games.

So, of course I played it with White a few times, and with a lot of success. Following 7...Na5 8.Qa4+ Bd7 we look at 9. Qc2 in Chirila, I - Bai, J, and 9.Qd1 in Bai, J - Erenburg, S (this actually arrived via the move order 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Qd1, where White has lost the tempi with his bishop instead of his queen) which is not as silly as it looks, Black's minor pieces have gone to funny squares, and from here the queen stops any ...Nh5 ideas.

Mainline Slav 5...Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 Bb4 8.Nxc4 O-O [D17]

Instead of 8.e4, 8.Nxc4 0-0 9.Kf2! has put the 'piece sac line' under a cloud for a few years:

Lashkin, J - Miron, L is a great miniature in a critical Slav line, it continued 9...c5 10.e4 Bg6 11.Na2! and later White played a novelty that Kuljasevic had recommended, but it's not good! 16.Ra3 is unclear and 17.Be3 survives, but neither are anything White will want to go for.

Mainline Slav 5...Bf5 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Nb6 [D17]

Nakamura, H - Bu, X looks at 8.Ne5 a5 9.h4!?:

This is another annoying line which has scored tremendously for White, but now theory has crystallized and I think it's viable for Black if he knows what he's doing.

Mainline Slav 5...Bf5 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Qc7 [D17]

The mainline 8.g3 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bf4 Nfd7 11.Bg2 f6 12.0-0 is covered in Zatonskih, A - Yu, J, where Black successfully tried the solid old line 12...Rd8:

This seems quite playable.

Catalan Opening, Ukrainian Variation, 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bd6 [E01]

Shirov, A - Ju, W featured 6.Nc3! c6 7.Qc2 O-O?!:

And now 8.e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Nd7 11.Bd3 Nf6 12.Qh4! looks suicidal for Black.

Closed Catalan, 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O Nbd7 8.Qc2 Ne4 [E08]

I had the position after 8...Ne4 twice in a tournament against GM's:

Vigorito, D - Nestorovic, N was the second of them, which was played on my birthday. This 8...Ne4 is a popular choice for GM's to play for a win (against me at least, although they only have 0.5/3!) In both games, I got less than nothing from the opening, yet I managed to win both anyway. The Catalan affords White some margin for error...

After 9.Bf4 c6 I played the 'standard' 10.Nc3 when Black replied with 10...g5! 11.Bc1 f5 and Black has scored tremendously here.

However, in Xiong, J - Le, Q White preferred the prophylactic 10.h4!?:

Stopping ...g7-g5, which makes sense.


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