Exchange Variation with Bg5
Game 1 features a typical example of an opening idea that worked like a dream only for later errors to creep in and spoil the whole enterprise.
Black has tried several moves here but as far as I know this is the first time that 10...Qa5 has been played. Our 1 e4 e5 specialist is able to obtain an objective advantage with Black (good prep?) but, in the latter part of the middlegame, Gyimesi is able to turn things round (good practical decisions on his part).
Theoretically this could represent a solution for Black in a somewhat tricky line where White had been doing well.
Exchange Variation with Be3
Again Black reverts to an early ...Qa5 to counter White's opening system. Here, however, in Game 2, Khairullin is ready with a surprising novelty 10 Qb3, which certainly gave Svidler a few things to chew over:
I preferred White's position for the whole game so Black will probably need to improve somewhere if he is going to repeat this line, although I couldn't find anything convincing for him. Does this mean that there is something wrong with 9...Qa5, surely not? Watch this space!
Exchange Variation with Rb1
Sutovsky manages to win a very complicated struggle in Game 3. The opening 'used to be' very theoretical, but the defence with ...Nc6-e5 is less popular these days. Nevertheless subtle changes in the disposition of one piece or pawn often has a dramatic effect on the assessment of such lines and I should therefore only make provisional conclusions. In any case this is what I think:
Sutovsky's new move here, 18...a6, is a good one and Gajewski's subsequent thematic exchange sacrifice is playable, but shouldn't offer any advantage if Black had avoided letting White post his bishop on b6. Gajewski and then Sutovsky pressed for a win, but really White (if he had had more time on his clock?) shouldn't have lost the endgame.
Exchange Variation with Bc4
Najer's novel idea in Game 4, as seen in the diagram, didn't escape the attention of Veselin Topalov who used this same move in an analogous position in the first match game against Anand:
After his last move 17 f5! White gets good pressure for his pawn as Black's tardy development, and White's universal initiative, are tough to defend against. In the game, just as Safarli seemed to be getting out of the woods, Najer combined which led to him winning a sublime game.
I will come back to this line in May as I'll be trying to find an antidote for Black, but in the meantime have a look at 17...Qd6 18 Rac1 Bd7, which is the best I can come up with so far!
The old main line exchange sacrifice was employed in Game 5. As this has generally dropped out of fashion the main problem for practitioners is remembering what to do! In the game neither player played that precisely, as Fritz points out several improvements, but Black's 28th move is novel and seems quite promising. Check my analysis and the archives and you'll perhaps be able to come up with your own ideas, but Black should objectively be OK. However this line should only be tried by those with excellent memories and nerves of steel!
White's attempts to get a 'favourable Russian system' in Game 6 rebounded as Schandorff reacted actively and soon took control after Rasmussen foolishly refused to exchange queens (13 Qxd8!=). Although some players will be happy to transpose to better known variations with 8...Bg4, the dynamic 8...b5 looks a good practical choice as it seems to be White who is then taking all the risks.
In Game 7 Eljanov persists with a positional line that he has played on several occasions, where Black finds active play difficult to come by. Frankly I don't consider this system to be particularly dangerous if Black sticks to the main line with 11...0-0, but Kovchan was instead sucked into a continuation that was previously recognized as 'drawing', but one in which Eljanov had prepared a way for White to play on with a space advantage. The double-bishop endgame may be holdable for Black, but White has practical winning chances and he eventually converted his space advantage with a neat finish.
In Game 8 Kamsky is successful with a set-up that I wouldn't normally consider as a good candidate for the 'dynamic' defences update. His early ...c6 certainly worked in practise as he outplayed Potkin quite convincingly, and is a solid way of avoiding the more theoretical main lines with ...dxc4. However I would prefer White slightly after say 9 Qb3, even if there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Black employing a Grünfeld-Slav hybrid.
In Game 9 Kozul tries an early e5-e6 against the Hungarian system, a complex line with several tantalizing options for both sides:
Here it was Black (Kurnosov) who was the most inspired and better navigated the middlegame. White had however several possible improvements, but hasn't been doing that well of late with 10 e6.
In contrast 10 Ng5, as featured in Game 10, is a newer approach against which Black's best hasn't yet become clear:
Here Black really had a miserable position, but Melkumyan showed great imagination in generating enough complexity to confuse his opponent and turn the game round.
I expect that more people will soon test Carlsen's 10 Ng5, so I would recommend checking through the notes and getting yourself ready if you intend playing the Hungarian system with Black.
Till next month, Glenn Flear