Opening Novelties
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January 2021 – Opening Novelties

In January 2021 there were some very interesting Opening Novelties. Today we analyze 4 interesting and beautiful new moves in the opening, which have been played by top masters. There were novelties in some high-level competitions, and we considered all of them. However, the four moves/games we found most amazing for this post are taken from the super-strong Tata Steel.

For the selection, we thought of the strength of the master who played it, the beauty of the move and the game, and how early in the game it was played (since it is easier to play opening novelties when the game has advanced).

 

1) A. Giri vs R. Wojtaszek, Tata Steel.

Opening Novelties at Ruy Lopez

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d5 3.e3 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 Bg4 6.c3 e6 7.Qb3 Qc8 8.h3 Bh5 9.Be2 Be7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Qd1!?N (11.Rfe1 had been played before)

Giri decides to come back with his Queen to the starting position, at the same time disconnecting his Rooks. Is this a good move? Why?

This move Qd1 is interesting because the Queen was already a little exposed on b3 (moves like Na5 or c4 could be annoying). Also, this piece did a good job attacking b7 at some point in the opening, but, right now there is no way to increase the pressure there. So, now on d1, it is protecting the Bishop on e2, and, the Knight on f3 can move, maybe to e5 at some point.

Finally, it unblocks the b pawn, so later (as it actually happened in the game) this pawn could advance to b4, getting some space on the Queenside and fighting against Black’s central pawns.

Giri found a nice finish to win this game and make this list of Opening Novelties.

49.Rxh7!! Black resigns

After 49 … Kxh7 50.Rd7+ Black is in trouble. The pawn advancing to h7 and the Knight going to g6 will create a mating net. Black can escape sacrificing the Rook on f7, but the position is already too bad.

 

This is the whole game

 

2) R. Wojtaszek vs F. Caruana, Tata Steel

Opening Novelties at King’s Indian

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Bg4 8.Be3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 exd4 10.Bxd4 Nc6 11.Be3 Re8 12.Qd2 Nd7 13.Rad1 Bxc3!N (13 … Nc5 had been played before)

This is one of the most beautiful Opening Novelties. At what point and why you decide to give your Bishop for a Knight, when your Bishop is in the Great diagonal, it is protecting the kingside fianchetto, and your opponent will stay with the two bishops advantage in an open position?

Well, let’s try to understand this, there might be some good things about this move. The Knight on c3 was a great defender of the center, so, after the trade and in the next moves, Black will have a big pressure on the pawn on e4. Also, the next move after the exchange is Qf6, offering a trade to avoid any kind of attack and also protecting dark squares now with the Queen.

The dark Knights are interesting pieces; they have good squares on c5, e5, or f6 to control the board and attack weaknesses. Finally, the white Bishop on f3 is very passive and it is not clear how or when it could be improving without losing the central pawn. The position is more or less balanced though.

Caruana finished the game with nice tactics and that is why this is included in our list of Opening Novelties.

38 … Nc4!! 39.Rxc4 Re1+

 

This is the whole game

 

3) J. Van Foreest vs D. Anton, Tata Steel

Opening Novelties at Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 h6 10.a4 Bd7 11.Bc2 b4 12.Nbd2 Re8 13.a5N (13.Nc4 had been played before)

This Master is the Winner of one of the strongest chess tournaments in the year, so, I really wanted to include one by him in this list of Opening Novelties. The move itself is not spectacular, but it is strong and we can mention some benefits: it is disconnecting black a and b pawns on the Queenside, it is getting some space on that wing of the board, it is fixing the pawn on a6 and it could be attacked later over the diagonal f1-a6 and it is clearing a4 so the move Ba4 could be possible.

Although, we should say the position is about equal in the middlegame.

 

This game finished with an unfortunate blunder by the Spanish Master

36 … Bd3?? 37.Qg3+ The Bishop is hanging

After 36 … Qxe5 White is a little better, but Black could be able to survive in this endgame, in the end, he has two minor pieces for a rook and a pawn.

 

This is the whole game

 

4) A. Tari vs A. Esipenko, Tata Steel

Opening Novelties at Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.0-0 Nf6 6.Re1 Bd7 7.c3 g6 8.d4 Bg7 9.Nbd2 0-0 10.Bc2 Nh5 11.dxe5N (11.Nf1 had been played before)

At what point and why you decide to trade, when we have this structure of tension in the center, and both sides, in general, avoid trade, because that is what the opponent wants? Notice after the trade, the center will be symmetrical and divided, when before trading White had a central advantage.

It seems like there were other options (like blocking the center with 11.d5), but a very good reason to trade on e5 is the pressure Black might have in the center if White does not release the tension. For example, if White continues with the normal plan 11.Nf1 (which had been played before) then Black can continue 11. … exd4 12.cxd4? Bg4! and the pressure on the center is too much, White is in trouble.

So, probably the capture 12.Nxd4 would be better, but this does not guarantee any advantage for White, and the Bishop on g7 will be a great piece for Black. That is another good point with the novelty since Black’s dark squares Bishop will be blocked by the fixed pawn on e5.

A nice moment of this game is at move 29 when Tari sacrifices his Rook.

29.Ra8!! The idea was to deflect the Queen, defender of the pawn on h5. White won just a few moves later.

 

This is the whole game

 

 

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