The Rossolimo of the champions

by ChessBase
9/5/2019 – From ChessBase Magazine #191: International Master Robert Ris shows you the structure arising after 3..g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6. He concludes that the ensuing structures offer Black great dynamic chances. Even when the engines prefer White, the good news for Black is that he is never without counterplay.

ChessBase Magazine 191 ChessBase Magazine 191

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, So, Vidit, Wojtaszek, Gelfand, McShane, Yu Yangyi, Nielsen, the Muzychuk sisters and many more. Plus videos by King, Sokolov and Williams. 11 opening articles with new ideas for your repertoire plus lots of training sessions!

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Opening training from CBM #191

Our starting position arises after 1.e4 c5 2.f3 c6 3.b5 g6 4.xc6 dxc6 5.d3 g7:

 

In the history of chess, World Championship matches have always been important concerning the development of opening theory and the last match in London 2018, between Caruana and Carlsen, is no exception. In his first three white games Caruana opted for the Rossolimo Variation in dealing with Carlsen's Sicilian. In this article we will take a look at the most important developments in the structures arising after 4.xc6 dxc6.

In the last couple of years recapturing towards the centre (4...bxc6) had taken over in popularity, mainly thanks to the contributions of expert Boris Gelfand. However, since the match, 4...dxc6 has returned to the elite level again and new dynamic resources for both sides have been discovered.

After 5.d3 g7, in most games, White has played the subtle 6.h3 (see diagram below), which is certainly not the only option of course, but it actually makes quite some sense. In general White would like to push his f-pawn in order to start an attack, and the h2-square is often used by the knight while clearing the path for the f-pawn. In the third game of the match, White actually played 6.0-0 instead. I would suggest you to go through Duda's analysis of that game.

Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen during Game 3 in London, 2018 | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

 

The main question for Black in these type of structures is how to develop the knight from g8. For quite some time the move 6...e5, intending ...♞e7, had been considered to be inferior as the knight isn't well-placed there, being dominated by the pawn on e4. However, while I was working on this article Carlsen used this move in his game at the Grand Chess Tour event in Abidjan vs. Bassem Amin. Although I'm still more fond of the other lines examined in this article, it's worth going through this game as Carlsen handles the position in a very nice dynamic style.

6...f6 7.c3 has mainly been played here:

 

Now Black has another important decision to make: A) 7...b6, B) 7....0-0 or C) 7...d7.

A) 7...b6 8.e3 e5?!

 

Interestingly enough, this was played in 2015 in a game between the two giants. However, as Igor Stohl has pointed out in his analysis of the game Caruana,F - Carlsen,M 0-1, White could have obtained a clear advantage by means of 9.xe5!. Instead of 8...e5?! the move 8...d7 might be considered and after 9.d2 h6 play transposes to lines examined later in this article. 

B) 7....0-0

 

Black's last move might be perfectly playable. However, since White is going to play ♗e3-♕d2 and then ♗h6, trading off the dark-squared bishops, it feels to me as if Black's kingside will be somewhat weakened after this exchange. In the games Caruana,F - Radjabov,T 1-0 (8..b6) and Vallejo Pons,F - Radjabov,T 0-1 (8...h5) White opted for 8.f4, which also prevents Black from pushing his pawn to e5.

The main continuation for White is 8.♗e3, which used to be very popular at the beginning of the century but was also played in Anand,V - Carlsen,M ½-½, Sinquefield Cup 2018. In most of the cases it leads to very sharp play with opposite-castled kings. It's worth studying Peter Leko's games with Black in this variation.

C) 7...d7 8.e3 e5

 

This is currently the main line. Black postpones castling kingside for the moment, keeping the f8-square free for the knight to bring it to e6. Moreover, after 9.d2 h6 Black ensures that the dark-squared bishops remain on the board. It should be mentioned that in the first game of the match Caruana started with 9.0-0 Caruana,F - Carlsen,M ½-½, though in any case it's likely to transpose. After 10.0-0 we reach a critical juncture:

 

C1) The old variation starts with 10...e7 and continues with 11.h2 f7 12.f4 exf4 13.xf4 e6 14.g3!

 

This position turns out to be very unpleasant for Black according to current theory. White's plan is pretty straightforward, including the moves ♖ae1, e5, ♘e4 etc. with great prospects of building up a powerful attack. Once you go through the notes of the game Zhao,J - Cheparinov,I 1-0 you will understand why it's better for Black to stay away from this old line and concentrate more on the next variation.

C2) 10...b6

 

C2a) 11.h2

In Caruana,F - Nakamura,H ½-½ Black decided to prevent White's actions on the kingside with the radical 11...g5, which was considered by GM Alejandro Ramirez as obligatory. Recent games have shown that Black can actually ignore White's intentions and theory evolves after 11...f8!? 12.f4 exf4 and here White has two possible recaptures. After 13.xf4 Black is recommended to go for 13...e6! when play will eventually transpose to the first game of the match Caruana,F - Carlsen,M ½-½. In case of 13.xf4 I believe that 13...e6! is more precise. Now after 14.g3

 

Black has a couple of options including 14...c4 (ambitious but risky) and my preference is the solid 14...g5. Compared with the line starting with 10...e7 Black has saved a useful tempo and included ...b6. In the annotations to the game Swiercz,D - Cordova,E ½-½, you will find all the subtleties of this new setup with 10...b6.

C2b) 11.a3

 

The other plan White has at his disposal is to challenge Black's pawn structure on the queenside with b2-b4. In earlier games Black had responded with 11..a5, though this doesn't look entirely satisfactory. I quite like Carlsen's new idea with 11...Nf8 with the point of meeting 12.b4 with Ne6!? 13.bxc5 f5 14.exf5 gxf5.

 

In the blitz game Wang,H - Carlsen,M 0-1 this concept involving a pawn sacrifice worked out incredibly well for Black, despite mutual mistakes. The analysis reveals that the position becomes incredibly sharp and could go wrong for both sides pretty fast. In Meier-Caruana (see analysis) White kept his king in the centre and started with 10.a3. Caruana followed up in pretty much the same way, leading to very doubled-edged positions.

Conclusion

It's fair to say that 4...dxc6 has replaced 4...bxc6 as the main line in the Rossolimo Variation. The ensuing structures are offering Black great dynamic chances. Even when the engines prefer White, the good news for Black is that he is never without counterplay. What is critical is the setup with 7...d7, postponing castling kingside and 9...h6 (preventing the exchange of dark-squared bishops with Bh6). The new setup with 10...b6 has become very popular during the last couple of months and probably rightly so. I haven't been able to find a clear path to an advantage for White. If White fails to exploit his lead in development and Black's vulnerable king, his position perhaps might be nothing special. After all, Black has the bishop pair, nice control over the central squares and sufficient resources to outplay his opponent in the long run. Looking forward seeing new developments in this topical line!


ChessBase Magazine 191

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, So, Vidit, Wojtaszek, Gelfand, McShane, Yu Yangyi, Nielsen, the Muzychuk sisters and many more. Plus videos by King, Sokolov and Williams. 11 opening articles with new ideas for your repertoire plus lots of training sessions!

More...




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