CBM 217: Surprises galore!

by Nagesh Havanur
2/2/2024 – ChessBase Magazine offers a window to the world of professional chess. The latest issue, CBM 217, is out. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur takes a look. 1582 games (35 annotated), with decisive encounters from the FIDE Grand Swiss deeply annotated. 12 opening surveys, 3 opening videos, 6 demo lectures and several exercises for training. Annotators include Anish Giri, Nordibek Abdusattorov, Ruslan Ponomariov, Vidit Gujrathi and Praggnanandhaa, among others. | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

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Vidit and Vaishali shine

Even as I write these lines, the Wijk aan Zee Tournament has drawn to a close, with Wei Yi prevailing over Anish Giri, Gukesh and Abdusattorov in a blitz play-off to win the first prize. Much was expected of Vidit Gujrathi who was among the leaders till the last round. Here he was brilliantly outplayed by Wei Yi and ended up with a score of +3, -1 = 9. The level of chess today is high and competition fierce as ever. It all reflects the glorious uncertainty of winning and losing.

The FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament that concluded in November 2023 was a powerful contest with 114 top ranking players and the participants included veterans like Giri, Aronian or Shirov and the young talents, Abdusattorov, Duda, Firouzja, Pragggnaanadhaa, among others. The current issue of ChessBase Magazine deals with this big contest, and it also showcases the winner, Vidit Gujrathi’s play.

Notwithstanding his talent, few expected Vidit to finish in the top list of the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament, let alone clinch the title. He surprised both his rivals and chess fans with his performance, 8.5 /11 (+7 -1 = 3). In this issue, he annotates his game with Predke that enabled to qualify for the Candidates’ and also win this tournament.

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit Gujrathi facing Alexandr Predke in the final round of the Grand Swiss | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

It’s a fine technical performance. I was more drawn to his game with Sindarov. The game is annotated by Anish Giri in this issue.

While Vidit should be commended for his combinational play, Sindarov also should be commended for his fighting spirit in this game.

Nakamura came second in this tournament and qualified for the Candidates’. In the following game he beats Caruana. It’s fascinating to see how Caruana wards off wave after wave of attack only to lose in the end.

In the women’s section, R. Vaishali (Praggnaanadhaa’s sister) came first ahead of Anna Muzychuk and Tan Zhongyi. Curiously enough, her score was identical with Vidit’s in the Open Section, 8.5/11 (+6 -0 =5). She has now qualified for the Candidates’ and joins Anna Muzychuk and others who have already entered the cycle. In this issue she annotates a key encounter.

A photo finish!

This issue also includes games from the European Team Championship. It was a strong event with 38 teams participating in the open section and 32 teams in the women’s section. Bulgaria clinched gold in the female section ahead of Azerbaijan and France.

In the open section, Germany and Serbia vied for the first place. Predke and Sarana led Serbia. Keymer and Svane led Germany. In the end Serbia clinched gold on account of its superior Sonneborn-Berger score over Germany. However, Serbia came close to losing the race when it met Greece in the last round.

European Team Chess Championship 2023

The playing hall at the European Team Championships | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Predke lost to Theodorou on the first board. Only Ivic and Sarana scored over their Greek rivals. However, Indjic was outplayed by his opponent, Kourkoulos-Arditis, even as they raced to make it to the first time control.

If Kourkoulos had won this game, Serbia would have fallen behind by one point and Germany would have won gold. In their individual match with Serbia, they had scored a win. However, Serbia had made a great effort to draw level with Germany and were rewarded in the end.

European Team Chess Championship 2023

Greece versus Serbia | Photo: Mark Livshitz

One welcome surprise was Carlsen’s participation in the event. He scored well (+5 =3 -0). However, his performance was not without adventures. The following game turned out to be remarkable.

Opening videos and surveys

There are 3 opening videos in this issue.

In the first video, Rustam Kasimdzhanov offers an introduction to an unusual line 5…Nxe4 in the Scotch Four Knights Game: 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nxe4!?

In the second video, Mihail Marin presents analysis of a rare line in the Spanish, known as the Taimanov Variation in the old days and now called the Norwegian Defence on account of its revival by Simen Agdestein, the Norwegian GM. It arose in a game played last year, Puranik-Carlsen, Qatar Masters 2023. It may be seen “live” here:

You may also check out the moves of the game before you listen to Marin’s Demo Lecture:

In the third video, Luis Engel concludes his analysis of a new line in the Sicilian Najdorf Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6.Rg1!?

Take your pick.

What is more, there are as many as 12 opening surveys ranging from the Caro-Kann to the King’s Indian. Among them, I would single out Petra Papp’s work on the Taimanov Variation (A67). After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+ (diagram below), Black has always faced problems. Her conclusion is that White is always on top. As for Black, there is no way of surmounting these problems. One can only concur with her unless the silicon monster performs a miracle tomorrow and finds salvation for Black.

In recent years, players who would like to avoid this line are trying out a different move order like 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5. However, if White does not oblige with d4-d5 advance, they may end up with a transposition to the Sicilian or the Semi-Tarrasch.

Among other surveys, I found Sergey Grigoryants’ analysis of the French Classical Steinitz Variation interesting (C11).

His main line runs 1.e4 e62. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Ne2 Qb6 9.Qc1. Here he analyses 9…f6, Black’s standard counter move. Perhaps a case may be made for Morozevich’s move, 9…g5!?. It has not been seen in OTB games in recent years. However, it is still played in correspondence games.

Besides opening surveys, this issue has standard features on tactics, strategy and the endgame. Here I would make a special mention of the section Excelling in Endgames, in which Karsten Müller continues his series of demo lectures on king and pawn endings.

This section also offers a column, “Readers write”, in which we find contributions by experts like Charles Sullivan and Frederick G. Davies. In the old days, their analyses related to the endgame. In recent days they also focus on later middlegame positions and, on occasion, important games from the past. Thus this column has acquired an individual identity of its own and deserves a separate section.

Here is the analysis of a little-known game from the London 1922 International Tournament. It offers both the original notes by Geza Maroczy, who edited the Book of the Tournament, and also annotations from a modern point of view by Frederick G. Davies.

Last, but not least, we have Jan Markos’ demo lecture on traps. Practical advice for the tournament player.

Summing up

The main database of the issue has 1582 games of which 35 are deeply annotated. There is much else in this DVD that deserves to be explored. Apart from the players I have already mentioned, the commentators include Robert Ris, Romain Edouard and Evgeny Postny, among others. It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the opening and training sections of this issue. Well, practice makes perfect.


  1. There is more info on the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament on its official site: https://grandswiss.fide.com/
  2. The European Team Championship was reported in CHESS (January 2024) and British Chess Magazine (December 2023). I have found GM Aleksandar Colovic’s commentary on the game, Kournkouolos-Indjic useful in this BCM issue. The ChessBase News Page also carried reports on the final rounds of this important event: Round 8 | Round 9
  3. The London 1922 International Tournament was won by Capablanca ahead of Alekhine, Rubinstein, Reti and Euwe, among others. The Book of The Tournament was edited by Geza Maroczy with brief notes. A 21st Century Edition has been published by Russell Enterprises.

ChessBase Magazine 217

FIDE Grand Swiss 2023: 36 analyses by Vidit, Vaishali, Abdusattorov, Deac, Erigaisi, Giri, Praggnanandhaa, A. and M. Muzychuk et al. Opening videos by Kasimdzhanov, Engel and Marin. 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas from Englisch to Catalan and much more.


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.
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