Most opening innovations these days are in heavily analyzed variations and are often discovered with the help of a computer. The following game also features an opening innovation, but its subtlety suggests that it was discovered the old-fashioned way — by simple human ingenuity.

There are subtle new ideas in openings all the time. These days, they are mostly propogated in heavily analyzed theoretical systems. But in the following game, I saw an amazing conceptual idea. It was not actually Nisipeanu’s, who was White, it was from Gata Kamsky. The idea was in such a rare, harmless looking variation, that most people wouldn’t even notice it. But it is one of those really subtle ideas that is a pleasure to observe. It was also the kind of idea that requires old school thinking, rather than trying the third-best move of a computer engine.

Nisipeanu, LD. vs. Cornette, M.
Bundesliga 2015-16 | Baden Baden GER | Round 12.3 | 09 Apr 2016 | ECO: D02 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 Nc6 5. Nbd2 d5 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Bb5! From an objective standpoint, this move is nothing special. But the idea is so incredibly subtle that I couldn't help but give it the highest praise. The move was first played long ago, but the current idea seems to have been developed by Gata Kamsky only last year. To understand the idea behind this move, check out the main variation for 8. Bd3:
8. Bd3 This was just played by Kamsky in his game against Hikaru Nakamura in Round 2 of the United States Championship. It is incredible to see Kamsky create such ideas in such an unknown line.
8... b6 9. e4 The main idea. White's point is that 9. Bxg3 10. hxg3, looks horribly dangerous for Black and if he chooses to do something like 9. dxe4, there are a host of tactical options because of b6. And if he does nothing, e5 looks scary!
9... Be7! The idea Nakamura found to blunt this system last year. This was played once again in their game during the 2016 United States Championship. Even though Kamsky tried the innovative Ne5, Nakamura comfortably kept balance. To understand the idea behind Bb5, you have to look at
10. exd5 Note 10. e5 Nh5, is not dangerous for Black.
10... Qxd5 and now Black is doing quite well. Next will come 11. cxd4.  )
8... a6?! Of course, the problem with Bb5 is that Bxc6 is not really a threat so perhaps Black could just ignore this move. But, ignoring it isn't so easy because Black's favorite b6 move isn't possible. And a6 is tempting to play
8... Ne7 9. Bd3! The knight on e7 seems misplaced. Kamsky won a beautiful game after:
9... Ng6 10. Ne5 b6 11. h4! Bb7 12. h5 Ne7 13. Qf3 Ne8 14. O-O-O f5 15. Bf4 with complete domination. Kamsky,G - Li,R Rockville 2015  )
9. Bd3! Why would a6 ever be bad you ask? Cornette seems to have been familiar with Nakamura's games, and he repeats his Be7 idea.
9... b6 10. e4 Be7
10... Bxg3 11. hxg3 is again super dangerous  )
11. exd5! exd5 It might not look like White has achieved much, but these days, just bringing your opponent into slightly unfamiliar territory with chances for the initiative is a serious gain. Now Black has a passive structure that reminds me more of a French or Berlin than a Slav Defense. It is certainly not what he was hoping for! And these symmetric positions can be very tricky to play in a practical game.
11... Qxd5 12. Nc4! The important difference from non a6 lines. In itself, b6 is not so hard to defend, but now that White has defended the bishop on d3, he can avoid cxd4 ideas, which was the big problem in the other line
12... Qd8 13. dxc5 Bxc5 14. Qe2  )
11... Nxd5 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qe2  )
12. Ne5 Bb7 13. O-O cxd4 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. cxd4 Bb5?! It is understandable that Black wanted to get rid of his bad bishop, but he has created weaknesses that can't be corrected. He should have accepted a slightly passive position and tried to hang in there.
15... Ne4 was perhaps the best move as White might need to make the decision to move his bishop on g3. But Black does remain slightly more passive and his queenside is obviously weaker.
16. Bf4  )
15... Bb7 16. Re1  )
16. Bxb5 axb5 17. Qb3 b4 Black's pawn doesn't immediately appear weak, but it can be targeted for a long time. It also restricts his options as ideas like exchanging the dark-squared bishops seems less desirable now.
18. Rfe1 Nh5 19. Be5 Qd7 20. Nf1 A smooth improvement. White isn't trying to do any thing special, just build pressure until Black collapses
20... Rfc8 21. Ne3 Ra5 22. Rac1 Of course immediately after the rook leaves the eighth rank, White can fight for the c-file. There is no way Black can avoid giving up the file for too long. Black could have resisted better, but in his desperation, he forgets that White has tactical options on both sides of the board:
22... Rc6 23. Nf5! Bf8 24. Qh3 A nice switch! White threatens Nh6+ winning the queen with discovered. He also is attacking the knight on h5. Black must lose at least a piece.


Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he is currently a sophomore at Stanford University.