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With the New Year soon upon us many players may be thinking about resolutions which they hope will improve their chess. New or improved openings might be a part of this, but how should someone go about such preparation? From personal experience, both of students and myself, I often find that noble intentions are often unrealistic and might outweigh the available time. To set more realistic goals I suggest that intended studies should be made during tournaments in which we have to sit down and play your next game. This is the time we are at our most practical, and the moves we want to play will be those we feel most comfortable with under battle conditions.
Personally I usually find myself veering towards simple and solid lines because I realize that I don't have unlimited time to study. You might feel quite differently, for example you might feel drawn by active play, even if it means taking risks. Whatever you come up with, these mid-tournament thoughts are the ones that should be acted upon when it comes to studying at home.

Download PGN of December ’23 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Janowski QGD 3...a6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.e3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 Bd6 9.h3 c6 [D37]

One repertoire line that I think is interesting for Black is the Janowski Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined, with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6. I have long since considered this an interesting way for Black to play, and recently it has become very popular.

Following on from my examination of the pawn structure in last month's update, I discovered that this doubled f-pawn concept can be used against the Janowski. Playing this line with Black in a rapidplay event my opponent, the Armenian IM Artur Davtyan, proceeded with 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.e3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 Bd6 9.h3 c6 10.0-0 Qc7 and now 11.Qd2!:

This is a nice idea which prepares the retreat of the bishop to f4, once again allowing doubled f-pawns. Indeed, after 11...h6 12.Bf4 Bxf4 13.exf4, Black would be in serious trouble because of the threat of f4-f5. In the game I played just 11...h6 12.Bf4 0-0 followed by 13...Rfe8, but found myself under serious pressure before holding a draw. When I got home I discovered that this 11.Qd2 idea has been played in a number of games, with Black attempting several different plans against it.

First, I suggest taking a look at Le Quang Liem - Duda, which featured a nice execution of the minority attack, starting with 15.b3 and then 17.Qb2:

It's also worth noting White's 12.Rfe1 rather than the apparently obvious 12.Rac1.

After 12.Rac1, Dubnevych - Karacsonyi, Black found a good answer in 12...Nh5!?:

and he might also try 12...h6 13.Bf4 Bxf4 14.exf4 Ne4, exploiting the fact that the a2 pawn is undefended if White captures.

In Korobov - Kourkoulos Black pursues a much more aggressive idea with 11...h6 12.Bf4 g5!?, aiming for a kingside attack:

As one might expect, Korobov plays it well with 13.Bxd6 Qxd6 14.Nh2 Rg8 15.Ne2, prioritising the defence of his king before looking to exploit Black's weaknesses.

In Edouard - Cornette White varies from the Korobov game with 14.Qc2, only bringing the knight back to e2 after 14...Rg8:

This surprised me, not least because Edouard has also been on the Black side of this line and would surely know the danger White faces.

Marshall Gambit with 4.e4 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 e5 [D31]

Thee has been some interest lately in the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 and now 6...e5 rather than the older 6...c5. Glenn Flear previously covered this within the 2020 vintage internet game, Fedoseev - Mamedyarov, but there have since been some developments after 7.Be3 exd4 8.Qxd4 Qxd4 9.Bxd4 Nf6:

At the time White's main move was 10.a3, but both 10.0-0-0 (Erigaisi - Grandelius ) and 10.Nge2 (Rakhmanov - Yoo) make life slightly less comfortable for Black. Admittedly it's not much, but many players may balk at playing to draw in this endgame.

Vienna Variation - Anti-Vienna Gambit 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0 Nf6 [D24/D39]

In the final topic of the month I want to draw the reader's attention to some recent developments in the Anti-Vienna Gambit, which runs 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0:

This has been covered quite extensively on, though after 7...Nf6 just 8.Qa4+, 8.Qe2 and 8.Bg5 have been mentioned. In the last few months Alexandre Predke has shown that two other moves are also possible, namely 8.a3 (Predke - Brunello ) and 8.Qc2 (Predke - Duda ).

I think it's fair to say that White has compensation for the pawn after all these 8th moves. It's also worth noting Predke's practical approach, after having been seen playing 8.a3 he poses fresh problems with a different 8th move. All of this is going to make it harder for Black to prepare.

See you in the New Year, Nigel

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