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Justin is currently really busy finishing off his Masters Degree, so I am going to take over for a month or two. Now, I've never really been a 1 d4 player and so I will only be looking at lines that interest me, for one reason or another, mostly because I sometimes reach them myself from 1 c4 or 1 Nf3 (but also sometimes 1 e4) but also because I was simply curious.
I've even managed to slip a few of my own games in!

Download PGN of October ’21 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3 e3 e5 4 Bxc4 Nc6 5 Nf3 e4 [D20]

Against the QGA I've always had a preference for 3 e3, and this certainly works well in blitz games against weaker opponents, I can't remember the number of games I've had that went 3...b5?! 4 a4 c6? (4...b4 is playable) 5 axb5 cxb5?? 6 Qf3 winning immediately!

The advantage of this line (compared to 3 Nf3) is that White captures on c4 one move before and keeps his kingside development flexible. White will almost certainly have to play Nf3 sooner or later, anyway, as this is the best square for the king's knight, but Alexander Zubov often plays 5 Qe2 first and waits to see what his opponent does before playing a later Nf3.

The one problem is that Black can play 3...e5, of course, which he can't in the lines with 3 Nf3, and in this update I wanted to look at the trendy line 4 Bxc4 Nc6 5 Nf3 e4. First, in Andreikin, D - Alekseenko, K we have another look at 6 Nfd2 Qg5 7 Nxe4 Qxg2 8 Ng3:

White soon exchanged queens when his mobile centre and open g-file combined for a crushing victory. Heading for the endgame seems quite a good idea for White in this line in general, as then he has his positional trumps but doesn't have to worry about his king so much.

In Aronian, L - Mamedyarov, S I examine the critical 6 Qb3:

It's important that White knows the right plans and where to place his pieces in this line, look at my notes for several examples.

QGA 4 e3 Bg4 5 Bxc4 e6 6 Nc3 Nc6 7 h3 Bh5 8 0-0 Bd6 [D25]

When I was young I remember being impressed by a game of Alekhine's (against Ahues, Bad Nauheim 1936, I think) where he played with ...Bg4 and ...Nc6, although he actually started with 3...a6 to which his opponent replied with the weakening 4 a4, which only helps Black. Incidentally, as a side note, I have used Alekhine's middlegame plan of capturing on g3 and manoeuvring my knight to g4 and queen to f5 or h5 several times over the years, with great success.

Later I saw Tony Miles using this active ...Bg4 plan, except with his queen's knight on d7, and I even bought a book on this line, and played it myself once or twice, but without much success.

Anyway, after 4 e3 Bg4 5 Bxc4 e6 6 Nc3 Nc6 7 h3 Bh5 8 0-0 Bd6 White normally plays 9 Re1 preparing e3-e4, but in Deac, B - Velten, P White played the immediate 9 e4!?:

Doesn't this just lose a pawn immediately? Can you see how Black loses a piece if he grabs it? This line looks very dangerous for Black.

Incidentally, this is one variation that cannot be played against 3 e3.

Noteboom Variation, Mainline 15 Nd2 [D31]

This was a pet line of Ruslan Scherbakov and received a lot of coverage when he was at the helm of this section, but absolutely nothing since! I suppose it is an extreme, 'all or nothing' opening, with the totally asymmetric pawn structure. Which is more important: the large centre or the advanced queenside passed pawns? Well, with today's powerful engines we can try to find out.

The mainline, here 15 Re1 used to be the most common, but Black does OK by controlling e4 with 15...Ne4 followed by 16...f5, to keep White's centre in check.

So, in Donchenko, A - Firouzja, A White played the most common 15 Nd2 and Black replied with most logical move 15...e5. However, this is probably a mistake (see the notes for the reason why) and Black should probably prefer to stay flexible with 15...Qc7 and wait for the right circumstances to play ...e5, maybe when White moves his rook from the f-file.

Noteboom/Triangle Variation 4...dxc4 5 a4 Bb4 6 e4 [D31]

Despite all the incredibly detailed ChessPub Guides on the Noteboom, I was surprised that I could find no mention of White's second most popular move here, 6 e4:

This leads to quite different types of position where White has to sacrifice a pawn. Ivanisevic, I - Livaic, L continued 6...b5 7 Be2 Bb7 8 0-0 a6 9 e5! freeing e4 for the knight and preparing a strong attack on the kingside. This is a thematic and beautiful game, don't miss it!

Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation, 5 Bg5 c6 6 e3 Be7 7 Bd3 Nbd7 8 Nf3 Nh5 [D35]

Warmerdam, M - Nevednichy, V featured a nice idea in the following typical Exchange QGD position:

11 Qb1! hitting h7 and at the same time preparing a Minority Attack with b2-b4. The white queen can later go to b3 or, my preference, b2. Black will have to play very precisely to equalise, if this is even possible.

Semi-Tarrasch with e3/Panov Attack 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Bd3 Nc6 9 0-0 0-0 10 Re1 Bf6 [D42]

When I was a 1 e4 player, in my youth (!), I always used to play the Panov Attack against the Caro-Kann, and so when I moved to the English Opening I would often answer 1...c6 with 2 e4, or 1...Nf6 2 Nc3 c6 3 e4, and after 3...d5 4 exd5 cxd5 5 d4 (or even 5 cxd5) transpose, especially if I noticed that my opponent played the Slav versus 1 d4 but not the Caro-Kann against 1 e4. Should Black then play the solid 5...e6 we reach a Semi-Tarrasch position with e3 and I had an awful lot of experience with the resulting IQP positions, and very good results. Although he is fine objectively Black has to be very careful to avoid the various traps and standard attacks that arise.

Following 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Bd3 Nc6 9 0-0 0-0 10 Re1 Bf6 11 Be4 Nce7 I almost invariably used to play 12 Ne5, which is now the main move, and head for a good knight versus limited bishop position.

However, in Petrosyan, M - Faizrakhmanov, R White played much more directly with 12 h4!? Bd7 13 Ng5!?, demolished Black's kingside and won a crushing victory. This is very dangerous for Black!

Closed Catalan 7 Nc3 Nbd7 8 b3 b6 9 Bb2 Ba6 10 Nd2 [E07]

Analysing your own games for a column is a little self-indulgent, I know, but it's always easier to annotate them rather than other players' as you can recall your thought processes while you were actually playing.

I've played a lot of lines as Black against the Catalan over the years (from the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 angling for a Nimzo or Bogo-Indian, 3 g3), with middling results, to say the least. This is probably the line I have the worst score against, certainly when playing strong players.

Anyway, I'm often happy to play the white side, figuring that I can't lose if my opponent plays a good line against me, as then I can always use it myself, the next time I have the black pieces!

In August I played my first chess tournament (of any kind) for a year-and-a-half - would I still remember how the pieces move? It was up in the mountains, at over 2000m, opposite the Mont Blanc, in La Plagne, a collection of ski resorts in the Paradiski ski area. The tournament was surprisingly strong, with lots of under-rated kids. I did well against the (fairly old) Grandmasters, but less well against the youngsters!

Kosten, A - Boyer, M started in typical English/Réti style with 1 c4 e6 2 g3 d5 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Bg2 Be7 5 O-O O-O and now, instead of 6 b3 I decided to transpose to a Closed Catalan with 6 d4. The advantage of this move order is that White avoids all the sharp Catalan lines where Black captures immediately on c4, and also the Closed lines involving ...Bb4+. The game continued 6...c6 7 Nc3 Nbd7 8 b3 b6 9 Bb2 Ba6 10 Nd2:

We have examined this line quite a lot these last few years, but I can't remember anyone mentioning the active move 10...c5?! and with good reason, Black soon found himself defending an ending an exchange down.

I may be back again next month, Tony

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