First of all we start with a Neo-Grünfeld played in mid-March between PH.Nielsen and Magnus Carlsen. In fact, curiously enough we also featured their previous encounter from Wijk aan Zee a couple of months ago. In our February update Franck Steenbekkers pointed out a critical continuation which was actually followed for 29 moves in this Scandinavian encounter! Coincidence(?) or fine preparation on Nielsen's behalf(?), I'll let you all speculate! In the following position Carlsen went wrong.
Instead of 29...Kh8?, Black needs to play 29...Rxe7!=, as already shown by Steenbekkers and myself in February. In the notes to Game 1 of this latest update, Steenbekkers suggests another try for White, but I'm able to show that this too is OK for Black.
The moral of this tale is that GMs of the highest level would do well to get a subscription to ChessPublishing.com and use it for their preparation. Perhaps someone should tell Magnus to get serious about his chess and give him the address of the site!
If you get a chance to play a non-subscribing GM, then you might catch him out too!
In Game 2, our Benko Gambit game is a complete catastrophe for Black. I'm not trying to put Benko players off but this opening hasn't had a happy time in recent updates! However if we try and be more objective and look at this early Q-c2 idea more studiously we soon find satisfactory ways for Black to handle the position. I'm not a great fan of seeking complications in this line with Black's king unable to castle.
The anti-Dutch 2 Bg5 was Chris Ward's choice in Game 3:
The first point of interest is 6 Nc3 which the players had had in an earlier meeting 8 years earlier. Reinderman varied from that encounter with 6...Nh6 which is more double-edged and dynamic than 6...Nf6. Black seemed to be OK in the tense struggle that followed, but only because he played rather well keeping his king protected with his pieces as the pawn front is decidedly lacking with this approach!
Game four and Game five are both smooth White wins and illustrate a problem associated with the Dutch Defence when the opening goes wrong: A passive Dutch can go rotten quicker than (say) a passive Queen's Gambit as White finds it easier to poke away against weaknesses in the Dutch pawn structure. In both games the Black players were unsure about the appropriate plan when facing an unfamiliar system.
Some words of advice, in order to avoid the problems that arose in these particular lines then study the suggested improvements in the notes. However in a general sense when facing an unfamiliar move-order, it's a good idea to ask oneself "How am I going to get my activity going?" as early as possible before routinely bringing out pieces onto prospectless squares.
The main line of the 7...Nc6 Leningrad comes under scrutiny in Game Six. I'm not sure what Black had in mind by playing 11...Nh5, but playing this fishy move against a specialist of the variation wasn't a good idea:
Essentially White's central/queenside majority is more use than Black's 2 v 1 on the kingside, if that is, White can give his somewhat exposed king enough protection.
The notes point out that 11...exf4 is the right approach for Black which the consensus judges as 'unclear'. In the actual game White erred and he could even have been worse, but after Black missed his chance, White was able to convert his edge.
In Game 7 Bareev plays a special move order that avoids Nh3 in the Stonewall. Shirov didn't seem to keep much out of the opening but somehow was able to generate some pressure even after significant simplification. In the late ending Bareev blundered and gave Shirov a chance to win, but I presume that time trouble was both the cause of this slip and also Shirov's unfortunate error on move 38 that cost him the victory. As for the opening, I'll reserve judgement about whether or not Black fully equalized, but if you like the Stonewall in general (but not against Nh3) then Bareev's move order might interest you.
One of Simon Williams's pet-lines is tested and holds up to over-the-board scrutiny in Game Eight. White's space advantage was less important than the dynamism of Black's outfit. It's often quite revealing to see how Simon handles the Classical Dutch as he is able to show time and time again that Black's attacking chances are not to be trifled with.
In Game Nine the pin with 5 Bb5 really has to be met with 5...a6:
Black obtains the bishop pair but falls behind in development, though with the centre fairly closed it doesn't seem to be important. By not being tempted by a 'probably poisoned pawn' Jay Gonzalez gradually caught up in development before cracking open the centre. In fact Ni Hua was outplayed rather impressively until his opponent had a 'black spot' and played the panicky 38...a5 allowing a draw.
Game ten features a neat scheme of development used frequently a few years ago by Blatny. Alexander Ivanov employs it here to great effect. White has space but Black has dynamic minor pieces in this line. I covered this variation about a year ago but this pleasant game is an ideal aide-memoire, especially as it surprisingly hasn't caught on.
Last but certainly not least comes Game 11. Now it seems that even Topalov finds his name on the list of Albin victims at Morozevich's hands! The game is curious due to the unusual use of the a-file by minor pieces during the game and in the notes. In fact one example is the improvement 19 Na4!, with which White could have kept an edge:
There are plausible alternatives for both sides at an earlier stage so I'm not sure if this is really important for as assessment of the whole line. However, one thing that can be said about the Albin is that Morozevich has given this previously forgotten opening a new lease of life and it's surely just a question of time before ...Nge7 will be taken up by some other daring defence fans.
Till next time,