I won’t try and judge the degree to which the slight refinement 12. Be4N will influence the development of theory in the French Defence, but any novelty that leads to victory against a strong grandmaster a few moves later can count on making it onto our list.
L'Ami, E – Swinkels, R
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.a3 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.e3 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 d6 11.Be2 b6 12.O-O Bb7 13.b4 Ng6 14.Bg3 h5 15.c5
Yes, this opening clearly isn’t the most topical, but do you often get a wonderful position with Black right away? Of course not! Given that, let’s award 9th place to the week’s most obvious novelty: 15…dxc5N
8. No sooner had Mikhail Gurevich returned to practical play than he ended up in our review – not once, but twice! True, it’s not, as they say, entirely his fault.
Gurevich, M - Spasov, V
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 a5 10.a3 Bd7 11.b3 Nc8 12.Rb1 Nb6 13.b4 axb4 14.axb4 Na4 15.Qc2 Nxc3 16.Qxc3
Before this the idea of voluntarily spoiling your hairdo for the sake of dynamics somehow hadn’t occurred to anyone, despite its obvious appeal.
7. As you’ve probably already figured out from my two previous reviews, my competence level in the Najdorf Variation is about the same as it is in the Grünfeld Defence – i.e. none at all; but I’ve already become accustomed to paying close attention to any move conceived by Caruana’s crew.
Caruana, F – Negi, P
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 h6 10.O-O-O Ne5
Given that’s the case, it’s a cautious 7th place for 11. Qf2N.
Giri, A - Nijboer, F
1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.O-O O-O 6.b3 d6 7.Bb2 Ne4 8.Nbd2 Nc6
No, ironically enough Anish didn’t win this game, but the advantage he achieved in no more than a few moves forces us to treat this apparently modest move very seriously.
5. And now for our fabulous five. Alas, this time round there were no novelties that dramatically advanced our understanding of chess. They might instead be characterised as cosmetic changes.
Caruana, F – So, W
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 10.Bd2 Bd6 11.a4 Nbd7 12.Ba5
A move which, as often happens with gifted players nowadays, is stubbornly suggested by the program Houdini, as are the next few moves as well. And the outcome – complete equality in a very principled variation.
4. Whoever’s even once witnessed the Dutch grandmaster bang out 30 moves of analysis in an elite tournament will never forget it! Therefore we’ll keep a close eye on his games:
Nijboer, F - Smeets, J
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 O-O 6.O-O d5 7.exd5 Qxd5 8.Bc4
I don’t know what it is that makes this retreat superior to the rest (to d6 or d8), but my trust in this guy is unconditional!
3. And now we’ve come to those novelties that anyone following theory can’t and shouldn’t miss.
Eljanov, P – Gurevich, M
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.g3 dxc4 6.Bg2 b5 7.Ne5 Nd5 8.O-O f6
This idea was obviously inspired by Boris Avrukh’s brilliant book in which we learned that the knight should apparently strive for h6 in such positions! Not the worst source of inspiration, and a mini-revolution in a well-known position, meaning third place in our hit parade.
2. There’s little doubt that the opening conclusions drawn from the recent Candidates Matches will also have an impact on players to be found in the thicker layers of the atmosphere.
So, W - Laznicka, V
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.Qc2 Nf6 7.e3 Nh5 8.Be5 Nd7 9.Be2 Nxe5 10.dxe5 g6 11.Bxh5 gxh5 12.O-O-O f6
I’m convinced this is a position we’re going to see a lot more of in the near future. And more often than not we’re going to see precisely this move: 13.e4N. I can’t even recall the last time I came across such an interesting and unbalanced position.
1. Have you ever managed to find a refutation of the Petroff Defence? Hmmm, I think that’s probably a no. But that’s something this young Indian succeeded in doing, if only for one game.
Negi, P - So, W
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxd7 Bxd7 7.O-O Bd6 8.c4 c6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 O-O 12.Qh5 g6 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.g3 Be6 15.Qf3 Qxc3 16.Rb1 Qxd4 17.Be4 Qc4
The charm of this move, the most obvious in the position, is that the reply that’s crying out to be made, 18…Be7, loses almost on the spot! All that’s left is to play 18…f6 or to ask Kramnik. Maybe that’s what we’ll do in one of our interviews!
See you all next week!
Top-10 Theoretical Novelties TWIC 869