I have to admit that I can't find anything really convincing against 20 h3! in the first of these, so perhaps Black has to vary his choice of variation as early as move 15.
In the second e-mail, I can't see anything particularly wrong with 8 Nge2 either:
Black doesn't have an easy choice, but with precise play he can equalize.
I'm sure that the tempting 8...e5 is bad, but by playing 8...Nxc3, which is met by 9 Qd2, and only now 9...e5, Black can obtain a reasonable game., whereas ECO's recommended 8...dxc4 leads to a nominal pull for White and not much fun for Black.
Game 3 is curious. White's opening play doesn't really look that dangerous and Black picks up a pawn. However despite seeming to have a great game and forcing the win of a piece, his Achilles' heel (a vulnerable king) was ultimately his downfall. I'm really not sure where Black went astray in the middlegame. However I believe that in the opening 11 e5 should be answered by 11...dxe5 12 Nxe5 Nbxd5, when Black's king keeps himself covered up.
In Game 4 White's idea of d5-d6 disturbing the harmony of Black's central pawns is known in a couple of analogous variations but is unusual here:
Vuckovic's 5...b4 seems to deflate any White ambitions and indeed Black was soon rather better. Although later on he let things slip, at least he won the opening discussion!
Albin Counter Gambit
A couple of games this time that should certainly convince us all to take this opening seriously:
First of all Morozevich with another surprise:
A rare move that just defends the d-pawn. How should White exploit the oddly-placed knight? Maybe 7 e4 is critical as at least White forces the pace.
In Game five Ivan Sokolov wasn't able to cope with Morozevich's unusual but impressive play.
In Game Six Nakamura comfortably equalizes with 6...Ng6 against Dreev.
In both these games Black played good positional games, showing that the Albin is not just for hackers.
So the Morozevich approach (5...Nge7) not only lives on, it's becoming more profound!
Gurevich - McShane was very unusual for this opening. The Englishman snatched a pawn and then hung on grimly the whole game. Gurevich seemed to have enough play and never seemed in danger, but there again, he wasn't close to winning either. If Black instead gives back the gambit pawn for a quiet time he's probably more or less equal, see the notes to Black's 9th in Game 7.
In Game Eight Beliavsky tries the 7 Bb5+ line in the Exchange Variation, but couldn't get anything for White out of the opening. Belov played a nice game and never looked in any danger. A model example of Black living with a passed d-pawn and playing around it.
Surprisingly for the heavily-analyzed 8 Rb1 in the Exchange Variation Nielsen-Carlsen soon deviated from the main lines, see Game Nine. The Norwegian wunderkind Carlsen's choice of the rare 10...Qxc3! was poorly met by the Dane who was fortunate to draw.
In fact I believe that 11 d5 is already dubious. For those interested in developing this idea for Black 11 Bd2 Qa3 12 Qc2 Bd7 13 Rxb7, and also 13 dxc5 will need looking at.
In Game ten Sutovsky tried the very risky 11...b6:
but then his tactical acumen saw him through.
Ghaem Maghami is one of the leading practitioners in the Blumenfeld revival. Here, in Game 11, he faces g2-g3 followed by Bf1-h3 in the Accepted, one of White's better ideas. It's hard to judge the positions that arise: White has an extra pawn, Black is dynamic but has nothing concrete, is it really enough, one wonders?
Whether it's enough or not with best play is one question, but in practise it's hard for White to keep control. Black has his fun and tends to get some opportunities for mayhem and his practical results are no worse than many more highly rated openings.
It's another way of playing and a question of taste but surely worth a try if you've got the courage!
Till next time,