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What's New - June 2003

In the Closed Spanish, Paul Keres once got the idea that 11...Nd7 might not be any less useful for Black than 11...Qc7 and a new variation was born. Since then literally thousands of games have been played with this move and it has stood the test of time.

GM Nigel Davies

Keres Variation

Closed Variation with 11...Nc6

Download PGN of June '03 1 e4 e5 games

Spanish Opening: Keres Variation

Yet, one or two specific problems have emerged such as Shamkovich's ingenious 18.Nbd4,

and in Anand - Piket we see a slightly inaccurate defence by Black get very severely punished.

The Keres Variation with 11...Nd7 has recently undergone a revival thanks to the so-called 'Graf Variation' with 12.Nbd2 exd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.d5 Nce5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5.

In Ponomariov - Belyavsky we see the most ambitious treatment by White, though he fails to make much of an impression. Although this was 'only' a rapidplay game it was played by two very strong players.

White can't really expect much if he doesn't play 18.e5 and in Enders - Graf he doesn't even get equality. Rather than steam ahead immediately with his central pawns White can also try to soften up Black's queenside with a timely a2-a4. This plan was in fact seen in the 'Clash of the World Champions' (Anand - Ponomariov) in which Ponomariov decided to switch sides in the wake of his game with Beliavsky.

With White making little headway against the Graf Variation, he has been trying to vary much earlier. One move which is worth considering is 14. e5 (Ariel - Graf). White had an edge here though it never really threatened to become decisive.

In Kasparov - Ponomariov, Kasparov pays the 'Graf Variation' a great compliment by avoiding it himself. His 12.b3 is a sound and flexible move which we're likely to see more of.

It's unlikely that anyone will want to repeat Fischer's 12.d5 (Fischer - Keres) as Black gets good counterplay. Fischer's idea was to prevent ...f7-f5 by going 13.g4, but this runs into 13...h5!.

With 12.dxe5 White avoids a theoretical debate and brings about a position in which he hopes the slight weakening of the d5 square will help him. Keres' natural 13...f6 should be met by 14.Nh4! but in Horvath - Graf White plays rather limply and drifts into a poor position. In order to prevent Nf3-h4 ideas, Black might do well to delay or even do without ... f7-f6. This plan is featured in Kolev - Graf, with White playing some indifferent moves and allowing Black to gain the advantage.

Spanish Opening: Closed Variation with 11...Nc6

Another way of delaying ... Qc7 is 11...Nc6 which features in the games of usual suspects, Keres and Romanishin.

The problem for Black is in finding a square for his queen's knight after d4-d5, though the closed nature of the position allows him some time for more leisurely manoeuvres - see Pinski - Romanishin.

All in all it seems that 11...Qc7 is far from mandatory for Black, with a number of other systems being quite playable. More pain killers for the 'Spanish torture'...

Keres Variation

Closed Variation with 11...Nc6

See you next month!

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Nigel Davies