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This month we have several battles featuring 2700+ and near-2700 players.

Download PGN of December ’16 KID games

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Fianchetto Variation - Panno 8.Bf4 Rb8 9.Rc1 b5 [E63]

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 a6 8.Bf4 Rb8 9.Rc1 b5 the move 10.b3 is unusual:

It looks sensible enough although the c4-pawn could be a target. In Alekseev, E - Matinian, N Black played 10...bxc4 11.bxc4 Bd7 12.d5 Na5 but after 13.c5! the second player already has to be very careful.

Gallagher Variation 11.Be3 [E68]

6...Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.e4 exd4 9.Nxd4 Re8 10.h3 a6 11.Be3 Rb8 12.a4 Preventing ...b5 but weakening several squares on the queenside, 12.b3 is the other main line.

12...Ne5 13.b3 Nfd7, Black immediately seizes the queenside squares. White may keep some small edge, but Black is solid and has chances for counterplay. See Itkis, B - Vajda, L.

Classical - Makagonov 6.h3 e5 7.d5 Nh5 [E90]

The Makagonov continues to enjoy great popularity. Black is doing well in the forcing lines that arise after 6.h3 e5 7.d5 Nh5, so in recent years White has gone for the strategic complexity of 8.g3 f5 9.exf5 gxf5 and here 10.Nh4 looks more effective than 10.Ng5.

After 10...Nf6 11.Qc2!? is less common than the alternatives, but it scores very well. Then 11...Na6 12.Bg5 is very fresh. See Postny, E - Sylvan, J.

Makagonov 6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5 [E90]

6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Be3 Na6 9.g4 is a modern move order in the Makagonov. After 9...Nd7 10.a3:

we have a couple of games this month. In Tomashevsky, E - Hauge, L Black goes for 10...Nb6 11.Rg1 Bd7 and Tomashevsky plays the novelty 12.b3 This makes castling long less appealing, but it stops any ...Na4 stuff and ...a4 can always be met with b4. 12...Kh8 13.h4 f5 is thematic but risky. Black managed to hold off his famous opponent, but White missed some chances.

In Belous, V - Kaliksteyn, A Black chooses the alternative 10...Nac5. Then the natural 11.b4?! is misguided. The danger for White in the Makagonov is always becoming overextended. By advancing pawns on both flanks White wants it all, but if he loses control, bad things can happen. 11...axb4 12.axb4 Rxa1 13.Qxa1 Na6 is a reasonable novelty, but practice has shown that the pawn sacrifice 13...Nb3 14.Qd1 Nd4 15.Nxd4 exd4 16.Bxd4 Ne5! is quite viable.

Makagonov/Petrosian 6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5 with Be2 [E92]

Another topical line is 6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Be3 Na6 9.g4 Nc5 10.Nd2 c6 11.Be2 Bd7 12.h4:

Grischuk varies from last month’s 12.g5 Ne8 13.Nb3 cxd5 14.exd5?! (see Rodshtein, M - Naiditsch, A). Now, 12...cxd5 13.cxd5 Rc8 14.g5 Nh5!? is a very aggressive pawn sacrifice. Black plays with great energy in Grischuk, A - Naiditsch, A.

7.0-0 Nc6 8.Be3 [E97]

6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 f6 10.Bc1 f5 11.d5 We looked at this unusual line recently. 11...Ne7 12.Ng5 Nf6 13.exf5 gxf5 14.f4 and now in Komarov, D - Fier, A Black played 14...h6 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.dxe6 e4. Probably Black is ok, but it’s not so simple.

Bayonet 10.c5 [E97]

Gelfand, B - Smirin, I is a battle between two renowned specialists who are surely very familiar with one another. 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.c5 We do not see this line much these days. 10...Nf4 11.Bxf4 exf4 12.Rc1 a5! There are other moves, but I like this best. 13.cxd6 cxd6 14.bxa5!?:

An interesting novelty. Smirin passes the test this time, but Gelfand’s idea deserves attention.

Until next month, David

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