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Over the board tournaments have reappeared, but on a microscopic scale. Therefore, I will continue my ‘articles’ for Black. It’s a classical month, and we try to make sense of various move order possibilities in the modern h3+Be3 transposing to a Makagonov (which can in turn reach a Petrosian), Kramnik’s line in the Petrosian, and the 9...a5 Bayonet.

Download PGN of July ’20 KID games

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Karpov/Makagonov/Petrosian 4.e4 d6 5.h3 0-0 6.Be3 e5 [E90/92]

Back in May we took a look at 7.d5 Na6 8.g4, which is the modern interpretation. White can also play 8.Nf3!? which brings us to the Makagonov [E90], with both sides having made an early commitment - White with Be3, and Black with ...Na6 (before ...a5):

Black has two ways to play here. In Sreeshwan, M - Morgunov, M Black plays the direct 8...Nh5 Now 9.g3 has been the most topical. After 9...f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Nh4 Again, this is the trendy move. 11.Ng5 has been seen more often. 11...Nf6 12.Bd3!? is a nuisance move, as Black must play a committal pawn push, but I think he can maintain the balance.

The alternative for Black is 8...Nc5 9.Nd2 a5 10.g4 c6 which we look at (by transposition) in Langer, R - Gonzaga Grego, L. After 11.Be2 we are now officially in a Petrosian System (E92).

Now 11...a4!? scores well and the engine likes it. White can try almost anything here, but 12.g5 is the most popular and scores well. After the opening, it looks to me that Black is ok, but I believe my eyes fail me. White has more space and is often able to consolidate and take over in a long game, as he does here in winning an excellent and instructive strategic game.

Petrosian 7.d5 a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Be3 [E92]

We have looked at Kramnik’s invention 9.Be3 Ng4 10.Bd2 f5 11.exf5 gxf5 12.h3 Nf6 13.Qc1 f4 14.g3 e4 15.Nh4 e3 16.fxe3 fxg3 17.Ng6 Re8 many times:

I faced this line myself last year, and in my quick preparation I realized that I did not have a grip on the move order possibilities, as White often mixes and matches the moves Qc2, Nf4, and Rg1. Meanwhile Black has to consider ...Na6-c5 (or b4) and ...Bf5, and often a knight to e4. There are various transpositions, so I will try to make sense of it all. Black loses both games - this shows the dangers but I believe that everything is ok if we do not get mixed up.

In Grigoryan, K - Plichta, K, here we will look at lines with 18.Qc2, seizing the b1-h7 diagonal (and thus preventing ...Bf5 options). After 18...Na6 19.Nf4 we reach a critical position which could also arise from 18.Nf4. Now 19...Nc5?! is natural, but it looks inferior after the game’s 20.Qg6!? while 20.Rg1! is even stronger.

Next we consider White's moves other than 18.Qc2. In Karthik, V - Balakrishnan, P White plays 18.Rg1 (we also examine 18.Nf4!? which has scored poorly, but transpositions abound so we cannot write it off) 18...Bf5 Black looks to take advantage of White's omission of Qc2 by taking the diagonal. We also cover 18...Na6 is of course an alternative. 19.Rxg3 Na6 20.Nf4 Nc5:

21.Bf3 with a critical position. In practice both sides have had trouble finding the right way. 21...Nfd7? is natural and popular, but a critical mistake!

Bayonet Attack 9.b4 a5 [E97]

In practice, the Bayonet is difficult to meet for the second player. I still suspect that 9...Nh5 is ‘best’ from an academic perspective, but White has about a dozen critical ways to play, and Black has to be ready for them all. A few lines look quite similar, but require different reactions from Black, so it is easy to get mixed up.

Instead 9...Ne8 is rather an opposite approach; Black plays for mate even though he should be behind in the typical race. This was Nakamura’s favourite and he scored some great victories, but it does not hold up very well under a theoretical microscope.

Finally, we have a compromise with 9...a5. It is not as theoretically intense as 9...Nh5, while it is not as strategically risky as the ‘all or nothing’ approach of 9...Ne8. Does it purely equalize? Who can say, but it’s a ‘manageable’ position where there is still some scope for creativity.

Firstly, we look at 10.Ba3, which I always thought was the most testing. 10...axb4 11.Bxb4:

In Kotanjian, T - Yeremyan, A we consider 11...b6. After 12.a4 Re8 is the modern move. Older is the more traditional 12...Ne8; but I think that 12...Nh5!? is a direction that Black should investigate further. 13.Qd3!? is the theoretical recipe, but it's not the only move. 13...Nf5 is the 'big trick' and another little point of ...Re8, but White can ignore it with 14.a5! bxa5 15.Bxa5!? Kotanjian twice played 15.Rxa5 previously. He probably knew that taking with the bishop was reasonable too and with such a rating mismatch this helps to avoid preparation. I still suspect the rook capture is stronger though and we’ll look at that too.

Next up is 10...Re8. This 'accelerated' ...Re8 is also trendy. 10...axb4 11.Bxb4 Re8 would be a more conventional move order. After 11.bxa5 Rxa5 12.Bb4 Ra8 13.a4 Bf8 White has tried various things. In Gozzoli, Y - Amin, B he went for 14.Nd2!? White has scored 5/5 in my database. There is no more Nf3-g5 or Nf3-h4 now at least. I am always happy when this knight is miles away from the e6-square.

White’s alternative to 10.Ba3 is 10.bxa5. I always thought the blocked positions should be at least ‘playable’ for Black. I used to believe that 10...c5 was the most accurate, but now I think rather the opposite and I would prefer 10...Rxa5 11.a4 and now Black does not have to play ...c5:

In the high-level rapid game Grischuk, A - Firouzja, A Black prefers 11...Ne8!? I hope to see more of 11...Nh5!? as well.

Instead, 11...c5 is the traditional move. White has options with 12.Ra3 and 12.Bd2, but in Gozzoli, Y - Valsecchi, A he played 12.Nd2. After 12...Ne8 13.Nb5 Ra6 we have a typical position where Black should have reasonable chances.

Until next month, David

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