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Fianchetto Variation Panno System [E66]
The main line of the Panno/Yugoslav Variation 6...Nc6 7.Nc3 a6 8.d5 Na5 9.Nd2 c5 10.Qc2 has been seen in thousands of games:
Black almost universally plays 10...Rb8 here, but in Pantsulaia - Ding Liren Black plays a Benko Gambit with 10...b5!? This move does not have a good reputation, but the Chinese GM finds a new idea which makes it look quite viable and proceeds to wins with surprising ease.
Sämisch System - 6...c5 Gambit [E81]
The Sämisch has become more popular, as white players are not so afraid of 6...c5 anymore. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Be3 c5 taking the pawn has proven to have some bite, while 7.Nge2 has also been popular lately. White is willing to enter into a Benoni structure but waits for Black to commit his knight. In Tomashevsky - Ponomariov Black plays 7...Nc6 8.d5 Ne5 9.Ng3 h5 10.Be2 h4 11.Nf1 e6 which reaches a position where Ponomariov has been seen on the White side in some big games:
He preferred 12.Nd2, but instead Tomashevsky goes for 12.f4!? which is a critical test of Black's move order.
Black can avoid all of this with 7...Qa5 which at first looks like a relatively simple solution. In Vitiugov - Polzin White plays 8.Nc1!? hoping to entice Black into a Maroczy Bind. Black is probably ok here, but it may not be the kind of game he was looking for.
Sämisch System - Panno [E84]
In Zhou Jianchao - Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son Black introduces a new idea for Black in the important 9.Rc1 line of the Sämisch Panno. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 0-0 5.f3 d6 6.Be3 Nc6 7.Nge2 a6 8.Qd2 Rb8 9.Rc1 Re8 (9...Bd7 10.Nd1 b5 is more common) 10.Nd1 e6 11.Nf2 Black plays 11...d5!?:
By playing this before ...b5 Black gives himself an extra option of playing ...b6. Black's opening works out very well and even though things get a little bumpy here and there, Black wins a nice strategic game.
Classical - Gligoric Variation 7...exd4 [E92]
In Onischuk - Bacrot we see the French Super-GM take up Sasikiran's interesting idea 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 exd4 8.Nxd4 Re8 9.f3 c6 10.Bf2 d5 11.exd5 cxd5 12.0-0 Nc6 13.c5 Re5!? against Onischuk, who recently defeated Sasikiran himself in this line. Bacrot makes a minor improvement and soon successfully fights for the initiative.
Classical - Petrosian Variation 7...Na6 [E92]
The Petrosian Variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.d5 is always a good weapon when one wants to avoid long theoretical lines. The main line is 7...a5, but 7...Na6!? has always been considered respectable, and it can annoying to face. In Palliser - Bitalzadeh my fellow columnist goes for 8.Nd2 c6 9.Rb1!? and convincingly outplays his opponent in the ensuing strategic battle.
7...Na6 Variation [E94]
English GM Matthew Sadler has made a ferocious return to the tournament scene. Playing in Swiss events it is not surprising he has resorted to our favourite opening a few times. Following 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 Na6 7.0-0 e5 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.Re1!? exd4 11.Nd5 f6 12.Bf4 d3 13.Qxd3 Ne5:
White played 14.Qc2 in Elsness - Sadler, which was my rather obvious suggestion as an improvement to the game Gelfand-Radjabov, Medias 2010, which saw Black win rather easily. Here White managed to get a pleasant edge after 14...f5 15.c5! and although Black later triumphed, he must look for improvements.
9.Nd2 Main line [E97]
The 9.Nd2 line is much less popular than 9.Ne1 and 9.b4, but it still produces flavourful games. In Kasimdzhanov - Nisipeanu we delve into the rare line 9.Nd2 a5 10.a3 Nd7 11.Rb1 f5 12.b4 Kh8 13.f3 14.axb4 c6 15.Kh1!? Nf6 16.Nb3 cxd5 17.cxd5 f4 18.Na5 Nh5!? which prepares a typical piece sacrifice. Nisipeanu plays very creatively, but Kasimdzhanov calculates it all out and seems to just refute Black's setup.
9.Ne1 Main line [E99]
Bacrot once again supports the King's Indian and heads into one of the most critical lines which we have looked at several times: 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Nd3 f5 11.Bd2 Nf6 12.f3 f4 13.c5 g5 14.Rc1 Ng6 15.Nb5 Rf7 16.Ba5 b6 17.cxd6 cxd6 18.Be1 (18.Bb4 is also important) 18...a6 19.Nc3 a5 20.Nb5 Bf8 21.Rc4 h5 22.Qc2 Ba6 23.a4 g4 24.Bf2 Rb8:
In Postny - Bacrot White opts for 25.Rc7, but I suspect that this move is just not quite right. Bacrot replies with 25...Bxb5! and goes on to score an instructive win.
Until next month, David
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