In Game 1 Akobian sticks to his trademark N-c3, B-g5 and Bxf6 against Tregubov in the first of a long series of games in their marathon match in Khanty Mansiysk. The American has more experience in these positions than the Russian, which perhaps explains his success rather than the opening which would have been less convincing if Black had opted for an early ...b6 to stop the knight coming to the influential c5-square.
In Game 2 Elsness opts for an early B-f4 against Bartel who sticks to his favourite plan with ...a6 and ...c5:
An interesting moment was the Pole's pawn sacrifice to liberate his position which earned him good practical compensation. The score of the game seems incomplete (time trouble?), but I have tried to demonstrate Black's winning plan which deserved to be played out.
Khenkin faced Bartel with a cautious system in Game 3, but again Bartel reacted actively with a pawn sacrifice. Again objective considerations are all very well in the comfort of one's office but in practical terms this was a good choice. Khenkin found it hard to handle White's position and gradually went astray, so much so that Black missed a win later on before allowing a perpetual.
In Game 5 Wesley So faced Kamsky who was desperate to win and played very riskily.
The normal move is 8...Qf7 but Kamsky decided to seek complications after 8...e5!? (diagram) that are less well known. The line is perhaps not bad i.e. after 9 dxe5 dxe5 10 e4 fxe4!? (instead of Kamsky's 10...f4 which looked dubious). Wesley So would no doubt have been more determined to seek the whole point in more normal circumstances.
In Game 6, Murshed met 8 Qb3 with the unusual (not in the Leningrad, but in this precise position) move 8...a5 which provoked White to play for a suspicious-looking pawn sacrifice. Later on Black made some imprecise moves, and went on to lose, but the opening looks fine.
As a rule of thumb I would say that 8 Qb3 can be met by several typical Leningrad plans depending on taste, my favourite being 8...Na6.
In Game 7 again Black played with an early ...a5, but this time against a totally different white set-up. The move order is noteworthy and can of course lead to several transpositional possibilities, so 'plans' rather than 'precise moves' are what to concentrate on in one's preparation.
The early play was quite lively and I quite like Black's position after 12...Qe7:
that is instead of capturing Timman's temporary piece sacrifice. The endgame of 'Knight and Four pawns versus Knight and Three on the same flank' was ultimately won by White, but Muzychuk missed a draw near the end. This is perhaps of theoretical interest to endgame buffs, but we are more concerned with openings in this column. My advice is to be ready for various White move-orders with some (i.e. more than one!) coherent development plans as part of your black Leningrad repertoire.
An early e3 being met by a Stonewall set-up hasn't been covered very often in this column, but seems to have been played by some strong grandmasters. the big decision for Black is to decide on how to develop his queen's bishop. In Game 4 Ulibin played with ...b6 whereas when faced with the same position Radjabov (see the notes) opted to delay any decision. Ulibin outplayed his opponent and broke through with a lovely combination:.
Try and work out what Black played and then turn to the game!
Game 8 features an important White line against the Stonewall. Although the game wasn't that theoretical, the notes demonstrate a number of intriguing possibilities for both colours.
Here, after 8...0-0, both of White's moves 9 Bb2 and 9 Nd2 need a close look. The former is recommended in the new Gambit book 'Win with the Stonewall' whereas the latter was played in the featured game. Kunin kept a small pull, but one small error and he found himself facing strong counterplay and even lost.
Black seems to have several ways to meet either of White's ninth moves but it would be wise to take account of what Sverre Johnsen, Ivar Bern and Simen Agdestein have to say, see the notes.
In Game 9, there was a similar scenario: White kept a small pull but went wrong and was worse at the end. In fact Navara managed to draw despite dropping a piece! The opening involved an early Nh3 and Bf4, another popular plan. Shabalov retained bishops and sought counterplay with ...Nh5. He didn't quite equalize but never looked in serious trouble either, as the 'wall of stone' held firm.
In Game 10 Simon Williams tries one of the old main lines of the Iljhin-Zhenevsky system (I think I will stick to calling it Classical!) but Sebastian Feller manages to keep a slight pull even after placing his queen on the unusual e1-square. Although Williams could perhaps have held his own after the Frenchman's exchange sacrifice the opening doesn't look that simple for Black to play, hence its continuing lack of popularity.
Till next month, Glenn Flear