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Reversed KIA 4.e3 0-0 5.Be2 [E60]
The main interest of playing 4.e3, as in Nakamura, H - Duda, J, is to avoid the more theoretical variations. White hopes that his general all-round experience of the King's Indian Attack can help him (err, I mean, with reversed colours, so it's a KIA versus a KID, get it?).
Gaining ground on the queenside with 7.b4 whilst preparing 8.Bb2 has some bite, but it's plans rather than forcing variations that dictate play over the next few moves, that is before the critical phase begins in the middlegame. If Black can get his kingside attack in motion he might be doing well but, if not, White's queenside action will be more relevant. In the actual game, Duda achieved good play only to go astray and then the Pole was close to losing before turning things around late on.
Fianchetto Variation ...Bf5 7.Nc3 Ne4 [E60]
The early knight leap to e4 has now been played by the highest-rated player around in Aronian, L - Carlsen, M.
Black has done well here in practice as his pressure against the centre isn't that easy to meet. We'll have to wait to see if one of the elite can come up with something against 9...d5, but the other equally popular and high-scoring 9...c5 was tried in this encounter. Aronian met this with 10.dxc5 after which Carlsen went for the fun move 10...Bxb2. Instead, it looks like 10...dxc5 would have been the safest way to equality. Aronian then sacrificed the exchange but apparently Carlsen shouldn't have been tempted, as he then had some difficulties in the game.
All-in-all, Black's ...Bf5 combined with 7...Ne4 still seems to be holding up to scrutiny.
Fianchetto Variation 6...Nc6 Uhlmann's line 7...e5 8.h3 [E62]
Another King's Indian from Magnus, but he was mainly on the defensive in Mamedyarov, S - Carlsen, M.
In the diagram position, White is ready for b2-b4 so Black continued with 13...a4 after which 14.Bxc5 dxc5 15.Nxa4 followed. This scenario occurs a great deal, where White gives up his important dark-squared bishop to win a pawn. There is no real activity in terms of 'compensation', just lots of dark-squared influence, and perhaps enough of this to be able to put up the shutters and keep White at bay. Mamedyarov was pressing for just about all the game, but I wonder how uncomfortable Carlsen really felt.
Fianchetto Variation 6...c6 7.0-0 Bf5 [E62]
An exciting struggle took place in Lenderman, A - Caruana, F where the higher-rated player played quite ambitiously, but before the sharp stuff began he made a notable retreat.
Here his 10...Bc8 is perhaps the most precise at this point, and seems to enable Black to steer the game towards equality. The most instructive moment of all however came five moves later with the choice of 15...Rxc3 where Black obtained a pawn plus well-installed pieces for the exchange. He had adequate compensation and even began to outplay his opponent. A few errors, surprises, and missed opportunities on both sides eventually led to a win for Caruana.
Karpov Variation 5.h3 0-0 6.Be3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Re8 [E71/90]
The teasing 7...Re8 has been tested a few times of late, but Andreikin, D - Vitiugov, N is the first 2700+ outing.
Black was able to obtain a good game here and was even better until White speculatively 'sacced' a piece for tricky play. Time probably played a big part in Black's downfall.
As for the opening, I wasn't that keen on Andreikin's 11.dxe6 as he didn't get enough compensating action after exchanging off his previously cramping d-pawn. Instead, it's 11.0-0 that seems to be the acid test as you can see in the notes. In particular, the line 11...exd5 12.cxd5 Nc5 13.e5! looks problematic for Black.
Makogonov System 5.h3 0-0 6.Bg5 c5 [E71]
In Adhiban, B - Onischuk, V it was another case of a slightly fishy piece offer that ultimately led to success. Onischuk probably felt that it was necessary as otherwise he was just worse.
Rather than recapture the piece and come under attack (with 18...fxe4 19.f5!) his choice turned out to be something of a surprise: 18...Bxb2 19.Rael Bg7 20.Nf2 b5 and White has consolidated his 'piece for two pawns'. Stockfish gives White as clearly better but Fritz only equal. Whatever the engines think, it's certainly no easy task for human 'over-the-boarders' to marshal one's forces to get them all onto good squares. With this in mind, Adhiban preferred to give back the piece quite quickly. However, he then rather lost his way.
Makogonov System 5.h3 0-0 6.Bg5 Nc6 [E71]
I think that the novelty in Predke, A - Yakubboev, N merits being nominated for one of those special awards.
Here (and in the analogous position with the pawn on h7) it's well known that 11.Bxd4 is well met by 11...Nxe4 when a tactical flurry leads to equality. Predke instead played the surprising move 11.Qxd4, so Yakubboev naturally replied with 11...Ng4 but then the surprise was unleashed: 12.hxg4!! sacrificing the queen for two pieces. Goodness gracious (you might be wondering), whatever will come next! It turns out that having the pawn on h6 (rather than h7) makes a big difference as this weakness comes under immediate pressure. In fact Stockfish approves of the queen 'sac', but winning the game also meant that Predke had to play well and not just rely on his excellent preparation.
Classical Variation 6...Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.Be3 [E94]
The American GM made a bit of a hash of the latter part of the opening in Nakamura, H - Radjabov, T and then had to defend for the whole game to earn a draw.
Here 15.Bf1, just keeping control, was called for, with a typical KID 'cat-and-mouse' scenario in prospect. Instead, 15.e5?! was rather rash as then 15...Bf5 16.Qd1 Nfe4 offered Black the better of equality. On the eighth move, Black has a wide choice, but Radjabov's 8...h6 is a good practical choice just keeping the pot boiling and not showing his hand too early. Still, Nakamura will have happy memories about the alternative 8...Ng4, a move that he himself used as Black in a victory over Carlsen.
Classical, Bayonet Attack 9.b4 a5 10.bxa5 Rxa5 11.a4 [E97]
The game Ding Liren - Vitiugov, N was an entertaining tussle where the outcome must have been far from clear at the time. In this variation, it's 11...c5 that has the best reputation, but Vitiugov decided on the less well-known 11...Ra8:
Not to be outdone, in terms of the surprise element, Ding Liren replied with 12.Bg5 which turns out to be new. Many might have posed the question with 12...h6, but the Russian instead wanted to get his counter in quickly with 12...Nd7 13.Nd2 f5 aiming to leave the bishop high and dry on g5. He soon made a pawn offer that was accepted and then life became very complicated. A couple of missed draws and a king chase that didn't quite work led to a loss for Black, but what a fight!
It feels like we are only scratching the surface of the possibilities after 11...Ra8 and I expect more high-level games to follow.
Another Bayonet with 9...a5, but Wojtaszek, R - Amin, B was a much calmer affair with Black gradually neutralizing any white opening advantage. After 10.bxa5 Rxa5 11.a4 Black has tried several moves, but the one with (by far) the best score is 11...c5.
As Firouzja was recently successful with 11...Ne8 this might spur further interest in this alternative, which happens to be Black's fifth most popular choice. Following 12.Ba3 all sorts of transpositions occur, so you need to be aware of a number of fairly similar lines if playing this way. I've tried to pick out the most notable move order issues, but keep looking out for others. There are no doubt loads that I've missed! In the featured game, Wojtaszek chose 12.Nd2 Ra8 13.Ba3 b6 14.Nb3, but then 14...f5 proved to be adequate for Black.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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