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This month I've been looking at a variety of opening systems, but in each of these featured lines transpositional possibilities complicate one's preparation. In the case of White playing with an early h2-h3, the question often arises as to whether the knight will be developed to f3 or not. The set-up even gets a different name depending on where the knight is placed! In the Sämisch, where Black reacts with ...c5 and White pushes on with d4-d5, we enter a grey area where the Modern Benoni and King's Indian streams of thought merge into a sort of hybrid variation. In some of the main lines of the Classical certain move order sequences seems to generally lead back to the main lines, but along the way there are still opportunities for new ideas, as you'll see this month.

Download PGN of May ’21 KID games

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Karpov System 5.h3 0-0 6.Be3 e5 7.d5 Nbd7 [E71]

In the old days, an early h2-h3 was often an attempt to avoid 'heavy theory', but Matviishen, V - Belous, V is a striking example of how the theory has developed.

The diagram position seems to be critical, with sharp play assured when both players are seeking an attack. The slightest error can be fatal for either side, as neither king is likely to be secure while queens stay on the board. I find it hard to even point out Black's best on move fifteen, but 15...a3, 15...b5 and the game move 15...Rfc8 are all candidates. In the game, complications arose where I feel that White is more likely to gain an ascendance, but there is even then only a thin line to an edge. For those players who don't believe in their attacking capabilities, then trading queens involving N-d1 (see the note to move sixteen) gives a more stable scenario where White has a small space pull.

Classical Makagonov System 5.h3 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Be3 [E90]

In Lei Tingjie - Liang, A Black seemed to be struggling, but once the tactics started he turned the tables. A typical KID!

Here the knight on d2 (instead of on g3, see above) is not so well 'tuned' to a quick kingside attack, but better able to keep control of queenside developments. So the early phase involved cautious manoeuvring, and it was only much later that the game opened up.

On move thirteen, Lei Tingjie chose 13.f3, but I have a sneaking preference for 13.a3 (as played by Tomashevsky) to cut-out the ...a4-a3 advance.

Sämisch System/Modern Benoni 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Ng3 [E65/E81]

In Basso, PL - Drazic, S Black played a daring knight leap that leaves him with ugly pawns.

Drazic's choice of 10...Nh5 shouldn't be judged on appearances! It turns out that following 11.Nxh5 gxh5 the h-pawns are not 'readily exploitable weaknesses' after all, and indeed Black should obtain enough play. I recommend looking out for the timely (x)...Qh4+; (x+1) g3, Qe7 manoeuvre (at some point), as this loosens White's structure. Black's novelty on move twelve (12...Bd4) was interesting but there are also other moves that give him a satisfactory game. After letting his advantage slip, and thus giving his opponent chances to draw, Basso showed fine technique at the end to squeeze out a win.

Sämisch System/Modern Benoni 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 h6 8.Be3 e6 [E65/E81]

In Lautier, J - Kashlinskaya, A Black introduced a novelty with 13...Rb8:

Although this natural move isn't by any means a major sensation, it would modify the players' thinking over the moves that follow. A few moves later, a position arose where Black had the 'additional move' ...Rb8 and White Kh1, which meant that the counter ...b5 was more likely to occur. In the game, Kashlinskaya started with the other thematic pawn break (see 16...f5) and obtained a good game, although there might be chances for White with 17.Rab1 instead of Lautier's 17.exf5 which lacked bite.

Sämisch System Panno 6...Nc6 7.Nge2 a6 8.Qd2 Na5 9.Ng3 [E83]

In Xiong, J - Sarkar, J it was again the lower-rated player who played a surprising move in the opening, namely the near-novelty 9...Nd7:

Of course, those in the know are probably aware of the complications that arise from the standard line 9...b5 (which to be frank don't look bad, see the notes), but the text move led play into new territory straight away. Xiong however used his general knowledge to steer the game into a type of Maroczy Bind where Black's king needed some TLC. Sarkar avoided any immediate problems by reacting with a timely pawn break 16...f5!? but the resulting positions still seemed a shade easier for White. After Black lost the exchange, White's advantage was sufficient to expect a 1-0 result, but along the way there were a number of errors and Black even came close to drawing.

Classical Variation 9.Bg5 h6 10.Be3 [E97]

In Lysyj, I - Khanin, S Black didn't find an answer to White's tricky opening.

White has more or less the ideal set-up, as he has advanced with c4-c5 supported by the bishop on e3 and is ready to increase the pressure with N-c4. This looks like many a Classical System, except that Black's counterplay is slow to get off the ground. The inclusion of ...a7-a5 is a good idea when White loses time to expand with b2-b4, but here everything has been effortless. The game was rather one-sided, so we need to seek something better for Black earlier on.

Once 9.Bg5 h6 10.Be3 has been played, I really think that Black should play 10...Ng4!, as alternatives allow White to build up unchallenged, as in the game.

Classical Variation 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bd2 [E97]

In Bjerre, JB - Murzin, V the retreat of the bishop to d2 sets different problems from other squares (such as on e3 as in Lysyj, I - Khanin, S above). Here, I'm less sure of Black best option, and his choice of 10...Nd7 wasn't bad but perhaps not optimal. Other tenth moves come into consideration, and I personally quite like 10...Nh5 and 10...Ne8, as these knight moves don't restrict the light-squared bishop.

Although the diagram position (that occurred a few moves later) looks easier for White, Black is not without resources and Murzin was indeed able to obtain a good game. I think that his 14...a5 was a good start, for example. All this led to a great fight, where no doubt time shortage had a major influence on the result.

Classical Variation 9.Nd2 Nd7 10.b4 f5 11.c5 [E97]

In Agibileg, U - Iniyan, P I get the impression that Iniyan was hoping to confuse matters by mixing several ideas in the opening.

His novelty 11...Kh8 (which is a known idea, but not at this precise moment) followed by snatching the pawn on c5 led to the diagram position. A number of analogous positions are known, but in general White gets adequate compensation because by being so quick on the queenside Black is often forced onto the defensive. The fact that Black has an extra pawn is often just a 'side note' with White pressing so strongly. Here, in contrast, I think that Black's position is actually quite sound (we can compare the diagram position with another line where Black's king is on the tactically vulnerable g8-square, and White's a-pawn is on a2, and I would argue that the inclusion of (x) a2-a4, Kh8 yields a better version for Black) and 15...Bh6 led to double-edged play where he was doing fine. In addition, I quite like another plan starting with 15...c6.

Classical Variation 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 Qxd1 10.Rfxd1 h6 [E97]

Being new to the KID column, I wasn't aware of how popular this delayed version of the exchange on e5 had become. In Saric, A - Sebenik, M a number of ideas are illustrated, but the big decision for the second player arises at move eleven:

Here Vachier-Lagrave has played 11...Bg4, whereas Kotronias likes 11...Kh7, which cuts out some tactical tricks in the play that follows. Still, I quite like the 11...b6 played by Sebenik, although instead of the sluggish 12.Ne1, the key line begins with 12.c5. There are still opportunities for both sides to find non-theoretical ideas in this variation, but I find it hard to believe that 8.dxe5 should be a problem for the second player.

Classical Mainline, Mar Del Plata 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Nd3 f5 11.f3 [E99]

In Firouzja, A - Radjabov, T the following position occurred:

Although this type of position looks familiar this version is almost unknown and after 15.Kh1 the encounter had already moved away from previous experience. The game itself was a cagey affair with White eventually winning on the kingside. Firouzja followed up with Rg1 and then g2-g3 whilst gradually making headway on the other wing. This plan of keeping Black under control on the kingside whilst slowly but surely sharpening the sword of Damocles on the queenside looks something to worry about. So, going back a little earlier, maybe Black needs to stick to the standard 13...Nf6 rather than shift his rook with 13...Rf6.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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