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ND Update - August 2004

The Open Spanish has a great history, having been a favourite weapon of such great players as Max Euwe and Viktor Korchnoi. Rather than accept a cramped position and the prospect of a long and difficult defence, Black takes off a crucial pawn and opens the game up.

GM Nigel Davies

Download PGN of August '04 1 e4 e5 games

Open Spanish [C80]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6:

Unfortunately the whole line has been under a cloud of late, due largely to the perils of the line 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 d4 11.Ng5!?:

Kasparov used this line to beat Vishwanathan Anand in the crucial 10th game of their 1993 World Championship match and it sent Open exponents scurrying for cover. But as always resources have been found for Black, and one of them by World Championship contender, Rustam Ponomariov.

In the critical line 11....Qxg5 12.Qf3 0-0-0 13.Bxe6+ fxe6 14.Qxc6 Qxe5 15.b4 Qd5 16.Qxd5 exd5 17.bxc5 dxc3 18.Nb3 d4 19.Ba3 g6 20.Bb4 Bg7 21.a4, Ponomariov came up with 21...d3 and used it in a recent game against Morozevich (Morozevich - Ponomariov).

Was this part of Ponomariov's preparation for Kasparov? It certainly represents a very interesting try with a critical battle emerging between White's extra piece and Black's pawn mass. On this occasion it peters out to a draw, but I doubt that the last word has been said.

Having lost a historic game to Kasparov in the Open Spanish, Anand comes back to his old favourite in Shirov - Anand and gives Ponomariov's 21...d3!? a whirl. Although this was 'only' a quickplay game it's a very interesting tussle, with Black missing a win after his opponent's inaccuracies.

It takes a Ponomariov to attract peoples' attention to this line, but meanwhile some other Grandmasters have also been busy. Haba's 21...bxa4 (Hracek - Haba) is another try which looks playable for Black. The current state of theory suggests that Black gets a pawn down endgame, but this does in fact seem tenable.

21...Kd7 is the old approach, trying to evacuate the king from potential danger and even bring it forward as a fighting unit. In Kasparov - Shirov, Shirov tries a new move in 24...Rhe8, but it turns out to be rather bad. Does Kasparov have anything in mind against the older 24...Rd5? Shirov no doubt got the idea to play this line from his earlier encounter with Timman (Shirov - Timman). Black was OK for most of the game but it's not easy to take Shirov on in such chaotic positions.

What is the difference between 19...g6 and 19...Be7 ?

It doesn't seem very clear. Timman - Smyslov was the stem game for 12...0-0-0 and the subsequent complications. Smyslov plays 19...Be7 in conjunction with 21...Kd7. Timman's 23.Ra6 is no longer regarded as the most dangerous move for Black. Ninov - Dimov is an analogous game to Hracek - Haba except with 19...Be7 rather than 19...g6. After 28 moves an identical endgame is reached, but with Black's g-pawn one square further back.

It's difficult to believe in Rogers' 19...Rd5 (Naiditsch - Rogers) as Black's other pieces remain undeveloped. As the game goes White is certainly better, though it might be possible to improve Black's play with 20...a5 21.Nxa5 d3. More tests required, as the saying goes.

White has tried some alternatives to the main line. 19.Rd1 (Grigoriants - Danilovic) is a little played alternative to 19.Ba3, though it deserves attention. Black's 19...d3 looks like a good reply but he should probably follow up with 20...d2. Ehlvest tries a double-edged and less explored alternative to 15.b4 in Ehlvest - Korneev. Black manages to neutralise the danger and leads the game into a rook endgame where he stands somewhat better.

In view of these developments, the Open could be due for a full-scale revival. Watch this space!

That's all for this month.

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Nigel Davies