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It's been a busy few weeks for the Open Sicilian: the opening featured in a number of guises in the Melody Amber event, before dominating the early rounds of the super-strong Russian Team Championship. Thankfully the new Hiarcs 12 arrived just in time to supply some assistance, although subscribers may rest assured that plenty of human thought also went into this update!

Download PGN of April '08 Open Sicilian games

The Sozin Attack

We begin with that stunning innovation. Not Topalov's 12 Nxf7, but rather Ivanchuk's amazing queen sacrifice: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 Bg5 (I've also included a bit of coverage on developments after 8 0-0 Be7 9 Qf3 Qb6 - another variation Ivanchuk has debated of late) 8...Be7 9 Qf3 Qc7 10 e5 Bb7 11 exd6 Bxd6 12 Qe3 Bc5 13 0-0-0 Nc6 and now 14 Qxe6+!??! fxe6 15 Nxe6:

This certainly came as a nasty surprise in Ivanchuk - Karjakin, although Black does have sufficient defensive resources to maintain the balance.

We stick with the 6 Bc4 variation in Rublevsky - Efimenko. There Black prefers the respectable 7...Nbd7 and after 8 Bg5, 8...Qa5. I still believe that this is quite viable, but Black must now avoid 9 Qd2 Be7 10 0-0-0 Nc5 11 Rhe1 h6?! on account of Rublevsky's 12 Bxf6! Bxf6 13 Nf5!:


Last month we discussed developments in this still-topical opening from Morelia. The Sveshnikov was also in action in the Linares half of that event, which featured some powerful preparation from Anand: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Nd5 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3 Bg5 12 Nc2 0-0 (Carlsen twice preferred 12...Ne7; he held comfortably against Anand, but Leko obtained a small edge with 13 h4!) 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Rb8 16 b3 Kh8 17 Nce3 g6 and now not 18 h4, but the flexible novelty 18 Qe2!?:

In Anand - Shirov, White's main point quickly became clear after 18...f5 19 h4!, and it appears that Black has a few problems to solve here.

By no means everyone wants to debate such a sharp variation and the positional alternative 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c4 has been remarkably popular in recent months. We begin in Movsesian - Tregubov by examining Movsesian's adventures against 11...b4 12 Nc2 a5. Rogozenko considered that to be Black's most accurate equalizer; it remains very playable, but I can't help but feel that the 12...Rb8 of Areschenko - Jakovenko may be an easier way to handle this variation in practice.

Finally, I'm pleased to report that not quite everyone is of the opinion that the old main line, 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5, is completely dead. Ivanchuk employed it against Radjabov, while in Hou Yifan-Krush White dusted down the long-unpopular variation 10...f5 11 Bd3 Be6 12 c4!?:

Krush couldn't remember how to obtain a fully satisfactory game, but can you?

The Grivas Variation

As promised, and in response to requests from a couple of subscribers, I've taken a look at some recent games with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6:

Black drives White's knight from d4 and hopes to emerge in a typical but fairly untheoretical Sicilian middlegame. In Smits - Golod, White developed naturally with 5 Nb3 Nf6 6 Nc3 e6 7 Bd3 which is a reasonable try for an edge, especially if followed up by Be3, f4 and Qf3. A no less aggressive try was seen in Caruana - Zhang Pengxiang: 7 Be3 Qc7 8 f4!? Bb4 9 Bd3 Bxc3+ 10 bxc3 d6 11 0-0. The young Italian talent threw everything forward on kingside, but Black was just about able to hold tight.

Next month we'll return to considering developments in both the Kan and the Lowenthal, as well as rounding up the most theoretically-important games from elsewhere.

Until then, Richard


Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms (just the polite ones, please), etc. Drop me a line at the Open Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write directly to