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Irregular Variation 5.Be2 0-0 6.h4 c5 [E73]
In Abasov, N - Iskandarov, M the early h2-h4 combined with Bg5 lends the opening an Averbakh flavour. The reaction with ...c7-c5 is no doubt the most natural and Black did obtain a comfortable game with fairly natural moves.
The position looks standard enough, except for the inclusion of the slightly out-of-place h2-h4 for White and ...h7-h5 for Black. These 'extra moves' seem to create more problems for White, so I think that 8.h5 is the best way to justify 6.h4 in this context, but that's another story. In the featured game, Iskandrov went on to win with an impressive display.
Irregular Variation 5.Be2 0-0 6.h4 Nc6 [E73]
In Aravindh, C - Adhiban, B after 6...Nc6 with the forceful 7.d5 Ne5 8.h5, aiming for influence down the h-file, Aravindh certainly wasn't hanging around!
After this advance, there will be the future choice to make between capturing on g6 or advancing with h5-h6. In the actual game, (following 8...c6) Aravindh chose 9.h6 aiming for a sort of 'space clamp' where Black may find the h-pawn to be a 'thorn in his side', especially if the position were to open conveniently with White at the reins. However, although White retained his space plus, it was hard for him to make progress without attempting f2-f4 at some point. Although 15.f4 (when it came) wasn't bad, it did enable Black chances for counterplay, and Adhiban soon took control once Aravindh seemed to run out of ideas.
Lesser Averbakh 5.Be2 0-0 6.Be3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.g4 [E73]
The game Sarana, A - Matinian, N involved a sharp opening.
After 15.Nh3 cxd5 16.cxd5 b5! Black obtained good counterplay. The struggle continued with all three results possible, but in terms of the theory it's hard to reach any definitive conclusions as both sides have several options. However, it looks like this remains a critical line in the Lesser Averbakh and, as I see it, 9...Ne8 seems to be a reasonable alternative to the more respectable 9...Nd7.
Averbakh 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 Na6 7.Nf3 [E73/94]
In the Averbakh/Petrosian hybrid that occurred in Maghsoodloo, P - Guseinov, G the following position arose:
I think that Black should exploit the specific nature of this position and play the active 10...Nh5! with ...Nf4 in mind. As for the 10...Nc5 of the game, which has (granted) scored well in practice, I'm not convinced. It looks to me that if White can organize an eventual b2-b4 he'll get a promising version of a mainstream Petrosian Variation. Maybe the reason Black has been so successful up to now is that White's optimal move order isn't evident, but I think that best play should enable him to keep control. Maghsoodloo was on top throughout and gave few chances to his opponent (except for a hiccup on move 24).
Four Pawns Attack 6...Na6 7.Bd3 e5 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.d5 [E76]
In Vaisser, A - Mamedov, R the early knight leaps (to b4 and g4) created enough difficulties to confuse White and ultimately yield an advantage for Black. However, I don't think that this plan is objectively that promising.
Vaisser's reply of 13.Qe2 offered the exchange, but Mamedov was right to reject it and instead was able to obtain good play following 13...h6 14.Bh4 Qe3. Alternatively, the calm 13.Be2! seems to be a better exchange 'sac', creating some difficulties for Black whether he takes it or not.
Overall, 9...Qe7 has its points and is perhaps not bad, but I consider that it's more convincing to challenge the centre immediately with the main choice 9...c6.
Modern Benoni/Four Pawns Attack 9...Nbd7 [A69/E77]
It was interesting, when analysing Moranda, W - Matlakov, M to see how some largely overlooked 2009 analysis by Semko Semkov held up in this sharp KID/Benoni variation.
The struggle is already heating up, but Moranda's 15.a5 might actually be best, aiming to reduce the danger from Black's majority. However, both of 15...b5 and the game continuation of 15...Nc5 16.Bf3 Nd3 seem fine for the second player. Semkov instead recommended 15.e5, with thematic line opening and tempo-gaining action, but modern engines are able to find some amazing resources for Black. Bearing all this in mind, my sentiment is that although 11.Qc2 is a fascinating alternative to the typical 11.Nd2 (which is far more common, especially as this position occurs frequently by transposition) I don't think it's particularly dangerous for a well-prepared adversary.
Classical, Petrosian System 7.d5 Na6 8.Nd2 [E92]
I quite like 8.Nd2 as played in Babula, V - Fedoseev, Vl especially as there is the risk that Black might get move-ordered into something undesirable. Many KID aficianados would probably not ask too many questions and just continue with 8...Ne8 followed by ...f5, but Black then needs to be careful about White's late castling option. So, in this case, one should seriously consider combining ...f5 with ...c6 to increase the tension along a wide front. In the game, the alternative 8...Bh6 was employed:
The critical idea here is 9.h4 and then if 9...Nc5 the direct 10.h5 with complications. Some home prep would help a great deal here! Instead, Babula preferred 9.Nb3 Bxc1 10.Rxc1 which he had already played fifteen years ago against Judit Polgar. His extra experience in this line helped make the difference here, as he dominated his higher-rated opponent, but Fedoseev would have been fine if he had found 14...c6! which is a clear improvement on the woeful 14...b6?.
Classical, Gligoric System 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 Re8 9.f3 c6 [E92]
A novelty from Stocek soon had Vitiugov in difficulties in the encounter Stocek, J - Vitiugov, N.
Previously, 18.a3 had been played with the idea of bolstering the c5-pawn and generally expanding with b2-b4. Here, however, 18.Nb3! certainly led his high-ranking opponent astray, and indeed the direct pressure against the d5-isolani isn't easy to meet without going passive or giving up the precious dark-squared bishop. So, if this does prove to be inconvenient for Black then he needs to find an improvement earlier. This thought brings me to 17...Ne6 (rather than 17...a6), challenging in the centre, which many years ago had been recommended by Victor Mikhalevski (writing for ChessPublishing, of course) and, with the benefit of more recent experiences, takes my vote in the 'best move' category!
Classical Petrosian 7.d5 a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Be3 [E92]
In Shchekachev, A - Murzin, V the players tested a line that had previously been examined by David Vigorito in this column:
Here the straightforward 15...hxg5 might not be too bad, where although Black has the more vulnerable king, it's going to take ages for White to coordinate his forces. Meantime, there will ample opportunities to strike back with ...c6 obtaining counterplay. The game involved 15...Ne4 but here I suspect that White has the advantage following 16.Nxe4 rather than with the chosen move 16.gxh6?!. The middlegame in this struggle offered chances for both sides, but it was White who missed the best chances to win, but these came towards the end when time was no doubt lacking.
Classical Variation 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 Re8 9.f3 Nc6 [E94]
In Lysyj, I - Tekeyev, Z the following position arose:
I think that the most straightforward way to continue is with the standard 12...c5 13.Rad1 Bb7, but the idea of pushing the a-pawn is also reasonable. Tekeyev chose 12...a5 and after 13.Rae1 continued with 13...a4. The advanced a-pawn playing a key role in what followed. In the actual game, White's aggressive kingside play may look attractive at first sight, but Black had enough resources. Perhaps the biggest test would have been 13.Rad1 with the idea of c4-c5 (see the notes) but even here Black seems to be fine. So 12...a5 is a decent alternative (and more of a surprise weapon) to the mainstream 12...c5.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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