Classical: The Bayonet Attack
As usual I'll start with the Bayonet attack and our first game this month is L'Ami, E - Smirin, I, ETCC Crete 2007, where Smirin played his favourite line with 9...Nh5 and 10...a5, which was answered by a rare line with 12.a4.
In the diagram position Black played 13...Nf6!, not willing to transpose to the line with 12.Nd2, and equalized without problems. Moreover, he soon took the initiative, but it wasn't easy to break White defense and a draw was soon agreed. An interesting game, which questions the plan of delaying Nd2, and puts the ball back in White's court.
Classical Main line
The game Beliavsky,A-Illescas Cordoba,M, Casino Barcelona 2007, saw a principled discussion in an important line of the 9.Nd2 variation.
The above position arose after Black's 19th move, and now Beliavsky introduced an important novelty, 19.Ne6 instead of 19.Nh3, and achieved a better position. Despite some inaccuracies in a winning position this was a good game from the former Ukrainian player and his novelty seems to promise a slight edge for White.
Another interesting game in this line, Vaganian, R - Nakamura, H, was played in the same tournament.
Here, instead of the popular 10...Nd7, Black played the rare line 10...c5 and soon equalized without visible problems. After one white inaccuracy he then took the initiative and though White had chances to hold the draw Black was never in danger and won the game convincingly. Nakamura has proved that the rare line with 10...c5 is undeservedly forgotten and requires further tests.
The Exchange variation
Pomonariov, R - Topalov, V, Chess Champions League 2007, featured a rare line of the Exchange variation (9.Bg5). However, Topalov wasn't taken by surprise and played a rare reply, offering the exchange, which Ponomariov declined. Here is the critical position after 10...Raxd8:
Now, instead of checking Toplaov's preparation by means of 11.Nd5, he played 11.Bxf6 and soon had to be precise to equalize. Rapidly a position with bishops of opposite colour was reached and a draw became the only possible outcome.
Hansen,LB-Radjabov,T, ETCC Crete 2007, saw Radjabov deviate from his beloved main lines of the King's Indian in favour of 7...exd4.
In the diagram position he chose a rare line with 12...Nc5 and thanks to White's inaccurate play achieved a slightly better position, but then also went wrong and eventually the game reached a quiet position, in which a draw was agreed. The rare line chosen by Radjabov seems to be an interesting choice, as after a few obvious moves from White he had already become the defender.
Alekseev, E - Guseinov, G saw the favourite line of the Azeri players, 6...Bg4.
In the opening White obtained the advantage of the bishop pair and, in the diagram position, introduced the novelty 13.Rfd1. Black sacrificed a pawn in Benko Gambit style, but obtained no counterplay and Alekseev won the game without major problems. A solid performance from the current Russian champion, which proves once again that the line with 6...Bg4 is hazardous, especially when played against strong opposition.
The line with 5.Bd3 and 6.Nge2
Atalik, S - Radjabov, T, ETTC Crete 2007, featured a not very popular line, which was well-known to both players, however.
Radjabov has just played 7...Nd7, which is the last word in the theory of this line. Atalik followed the game Georgiev,V-Roeder St. Vincent 2002, which promised him a solid position, and Radjabov was the first to deviate with 16...Qe7, instead of 16...Qe8. White's reaction was correct and he obtained a slight edge, which wasn't easy to exploit, however. Then, only a few moves later he exchanged his strong knight and handed the initiative to Black who proceeded to win effortlessly. Overall an interesting game - the opening line deserves further tests.
For your dessert I finish with the game Agrest, E - Morozevich, A, ETCC Crete 2007. Morozevich chose a flexible line here, which was also used by Tigran Petrosian. However, White was ready for this as he already had a chance to see this line in a game against the same opponent a year ago.
In the diagram position Morozevich was the first to innovate, but his novelty, 12...0-0, looks risky, and Agrest demonstrated this with a series of strong moves and only went wrong one step away from a big advantage. Black didn't miss his chance to take hold of the initiative and won. A good fighting game. White proved that Black's plan with short castles is too dangerous.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!