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The highlight of December was the FIDE Grand Prix in Jerusalem (won by Nepomniactchi), the World Rapid and Blitz Championships (both won by Carlsen), the Ukrainian Championship (won by Shtembuliak), the Indian Championship (Chithambaram) and quite a few strong open tournaments. For example, Sunway Sitges (won by Korobov), the Carlos Torre Memorial (won by Albornoz), the Arica Open (won by Shirov). The games I will be covering are mostly taken from these events.

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

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Slav Defense, Geller/Tolush Gambit 5.e4 b5 6.Be2 [D15]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a4 b4 9.e5 bxc3 10.exf6 Bxf6 11.bxc3 Ba6 12.Ne5 0-0 13.Bf3!N:











Was a powerful novelty that makes it difficult for Black to finish his queenside development. seems to change the evaluation of the position and thus puts the ball back in Black’s court. See the game Gupta, A - Mohammad, N, 57th Indian Championship 2019.


Slav Defense, Geller/Tolush Gambit 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6 8.Be2 [D15]

This is the most aggressive treatment against the Slav and it seems to be gaining in popularity, particularly in rapid and blitz competitions:











However, I think it will be featured in more classical games as well. Here it seems quite important for Black to play 8...Be7, as Shankland demonstrated in several of his games. If Black plays something else, then he can quickly run into trouble. For example, 8...Bb7?! 9.Ne4 Nd7 10.0-0 a6 11.Nfg5! with a tremendous attack for White. See the game Arnaudov, G - Alonso, S, Arica 2019.



Queen’s Gambit Declined: 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3 & 8...Ba6 9.Bxa6 [D37]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.0-0 b6 7.Bd3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Ba6 9.Bxa6 Nxa6 10.Qe2 Qc8 11.0-0 c5 12.e4:











The idea of pushing the pawn to e4 is a break away from the standard plan White usually plays for (Nb5, Rac1 and pressure on the queenside). Here White intends to push the pawn all the way to e5 and eventually maneuver a knight to d6. For a detailed discussion of these types of positions (as well as the standard plan, which is practically forced after 11...Qb7 instead of 11...c5), please see the game Wagner, D - Heimann, A, Sitges 2019.


Queen’s Gambit Declined: 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3 & 8...Ba6 9.Qe2 [D37]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.0-0 b6 7.Bd3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Ba6 9.Qe2 Bxc4 10.Qxc4 c5 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.0-0 Qc8 13.Rac1:











Leads to one of the critical positions of the 6...b6 variation. Black is getting ready to complete his setup by means of ...Qb7,...Nbd7 and...Rac8. If he is allowed to do this freely then he will achieve comfortable equality. White should not waste time trying to make something happen along the d-file (this lead to a dead end in the game Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S, Saint Louis 2019). Instead, White should not waste time and play Nb5 (or Rfd1 followed by Nb5 as played by Vidit). For a detailed discussion of this idea please see the game Harikrishna, P - Karjakin, S, Jerusalem 2019.


Queen’s Gambit Declined: 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3 & 8...Bb7 [D37]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.0-0 b6 7.Bd3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bb7 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.Qe2 Nd5!?:











This is only the fourth most popular move, but it is the one that scores the best (although it’s also true there is a very small sample of games). The main move is 10...a6, aiming to play in Semi-Slav style (...b5 and ...c5). This is fine (and discussed at length in the game below), but the text-move should not be underestimated (along with 10...Nh5!?), since it gives Black the type of structure he is looking (hanging pawns) for when he opts for the 6...b6 variation. For a detailed discussion of this obscure but promising idea, please see the game Hoffman, A - Slipak, S, Buenos Aires 2019.


Ragozin: 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 & 9.Qc2 [D38]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd6 9.Qc2!?:











An interesting sidelines that requires very accurate play from Black, with very little risk for White. It caught my attention when Andreikin played twice in the last month and even managed to beat Carlsen with it (OK, it was in the World Blitz Championship, but it was also the only game Carlsen lost in the entire event). Anyway, Black must play with ...e5, but the question is whether to play 9...e5 right away or to include the moves 9...a6 10.a3 first. These subtleties (and more!) are discussed in the game Andreikin, D - Wojtaszek, R, Jerusalem 2019.


Ragozin: 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 & 8...Bf5 [D38]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 0-0 8.e3 Bf5 9.Qb3 Bxc3 10.Qxc3:











An interesting idea that is quickly gaining popularity. The point is to take the sting out of the ...c5 pawn break. Moreover, White invited Black to enter a deceptively ”equal“ endgame. White has been having tremendous results here, so this is definitely worth taking a closer look at. Fortunately, that’s exactly what I’ve done in the game Lopez Martinez, J - Real de Azua, E, Sitges 2019.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 0-0 8.e3 Bf5 9.Qb3 Bxc3 10.bxc3 Nbd7 11.Be2 c5 12.dxc5!?:











A breath of fresh air from the standard 12.0-0. White embraces a broken structure speculating that he will be able to eventually get rid of his weak c-pawn by means of c3-c4. Once this is done, usually White will enjoy the better structure on the kingside (if Black has pushed ...g7-g5) and/or the bishop pair. White seems to get an easy position with little risk. For a detailed discussion, please see the game Albornoz, C - Ordaz, L, Carlos Torre 2019.



Robert

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