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Hello again, my chess playing friends! This update is smaller than usual as I have been busy lately. Nonetheless, I trust that you will enjoy this month’s offering, featuring several critical games from the FIDE World Cup, where Aronian successfully depended on 1.d4 d5 systems as Black in the Final against Ding. I also answer a few subscriber questions on intriguing sidelines.

Download PGN of October ’17 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Slow Slav/Chebanenko Hybrid 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 a6 [D15]

The game Buhmann, R - Danin, A addresses a subscriber question on the variation 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 a6 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Qb3 Qc7 8.cxd5 Nxe5 9.dxe5 Nxd5 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Bd2 Qxe5, which I had analysed a bit before, but has since become the main trend. It seems that this is a very reliable equaliser for Black, with the key point arising after 12.Rc1 Bd7 13.Bc3 Qc7 14.Qxd5:

Black equalises with the correct move here - what is it? You can check the game for the answer, as well as a brief update of some alternatives after 6.Ne5. From this analysis, you can understand why the main trend is still 6.Be2, which I will return to in a later update.

QGD Exchange with 5...c6 6.Qc2 Be7 [D36]

A crucial game in the Candidates rating race between Caruana, Kramnik and So was the first round game in the Isle of Man, Caruana, F - Kramnik, V, where Caruana achieved a critical win in the variation 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.Qc2 h6 7.Bh4 Be7 8.e3 0-0 9.Bd3. I cover a few intriguing options for Black, but Kramnik’s 9...Re8 10.Nge2 Nh5 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 looks fine for Black, though the way in which Caruana continued to set problems from an equal position was impressive:

White to move, how does he disrupt Black’s most natural play? The correct answer can be found in the game.

Ragozin with 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bf4 [D38]

The Ragozin (4.Nc3 Bb4) continues to be a popular choice, both in super-GM games and as the subject of books! But the 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bf4 of Ding, L - Aronian, L has not yet been covered on ChessPublishing. Black seems to be fine if he responds aggressively, but quiet play with 6...c6 gives White chances to reach a pleasant version of the typical Carlsbad position, such as below:

This position arose in the game after a sneaky manoeuvre Qb3 Qb6 Qc2 to misplace Black’s queen. Now, can you find the great plan Ding, playing White, employed in the game?

Vienna with 6.e4 h6 [D39]

In the game Ding, L - Aronian, L, Aronian brought back an old weapon of his in 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 h6, which I had covered on the site a few years ago. There is not much to add theoretically, as Black remains in great shape and Aronian followed my old recommendation, but the following position makes for a great exercise:

White is banking everything on the kingside attack. Do you see a good counter for Black?

Semi-Slav, Moscow Variation with 7.Qb3 [D43]

The game that decided the FIDE World Cup final, Aronian, L - Ding, L, saw a very aggressive approach that proved too difficult for Black to defend against in the game. After 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.Qb3, Black should perhaps look to 7...Qe7 or 7...dxc4, as 7...Nd7 led to the following position in the game:

White has just played 16.h4!, sounding the attack against Black’s king. Now can you defend the Black position better than Ding? See the game analysis to compare your ideas with mine - for now, 7.Qb3 looks very well suited to fast time controls.

Tartakower QGD with 8.g4 [D58]

I recently received a very interesting question from a subscriber, asking about the merits of 8.g4!? after 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6:

I was busy at the time the question was asked, so I have covered it here. First, we should note that White is not really proving any real edge against the Tartakower anyway, so there’s some sense in trying to take Black out of his comfort zone early. I’ve concluded in Grischuk, A - Leko, P that Black is fine, but how would you reply to White’s aggression in the diagram position?

Closed Catalan Main Line [E08]

World Cup finalist Ding Liren also played some Catalans over the course of the event, and first we will see Ding, L - Aronian, L, where Aronian was extremely close to victory after outplaying his opponent in the endgame. But we are more interested in the opening, where after 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.a4 Bd7 9.Qxc4 Bc6 10.Bg5 a5 11.Nc3 Na6 Ding tried an unusual 12.e3, which shouldn’t challenge Black but does at least create a fresh position. I think the most instructive moment came in the following position:

Black to move. What is Black’s worst-placed piece, and how shall we solve this problem? Subscribers will see the answer in the game link.

Closed Catalan with 6.b3 [E17]

The unusual ECO classification for the game Ding, L - So, W from the World Cup semi-final is because, after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.b3, Black transposed to a position classified under an unusual Queen’s Indian with 6...b6. In the notes you can see my thoughts on 6...dxc4, while in the game White found a great idea in the following common position:

What would your suggestion be for White? You can check the game for how Ding achieved an advantage (even though objectively the above position should be balanced).

Postscript: Subscriber Question

Just before sending my update, I noticed on ChessPub Forum a question about the following rare variation: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.Nbd2 dxc4:

Indeed, I hadn’t covered this line before, as it is harmless - for instance, Black can play ...b5 to keep his extra pawn in many lines. Still, I have covered a repertoire for Black in Subscriber Question-4.Bg5 Bb4 5.Nbd2 dxc4.

Thank you for reading my update this month, and I will be back next month with a larger contribution! Max.

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If you have any questions, then please post a message at the 1 d4 d5 Forum, or subscribers can email