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There's plenty to discuss this month with games from the Russian Team Championship and Melody Amber, not to mention that fine Sicilian theme match between Gregory Kaidanov and Judit Polgar. Do especially keep an eye out for Poisoned Pawn killer Ivanchuk in action once again.

Download PGN of April '10 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

We had to cover the Kalashnikov a fair amount last year, but 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 has fallen from favour at 2600+ level so far in 2010. I'm not too sure why, though, as it still appears to be in decent shape.

We begin by considering 6 c4 in Ponkratov - Moiseenko. The leading Kalashnikov expert counters with the old main line 6...Be7 7 N1c3 a6 8 Na3 Be6, but as we'll see in the notes, both 8...f5 and 8...Nf6 are also quite viable:

After 8...Be6 Ponkratov rejects White's two most common approaches, 9 Bd3 and 9 Nc2, in favour of some immediate activity with 9 Nd5!?. This deserves further attention, although Moiseenko should have been able to equalize had he been after a slightly more solid position than that which he obtained.

In Panarin - Moiseenko we examine some developments after 6 N1c3 and also see Moiseenko gaining revenge for his loss to Ponkratov. Technically speaking this game should probably be in our next section for 6 a4 Nf6 7 N1c3 reaches a position which has arisen more often from a Sveshnikov move order:

Quite why anybody would want to play in such prophylactic style against either the Kalashnikov or the Sveshnikov is bit of a mystery for the game is just further evidence that 7...a6 8 Na3 Bg4! is a pretty easy equalizer.

The Sveshnikov

One of the openings chosen for the Kaidanov-Polgar match was the Sveshnikov, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5, and in Game 1 there White tested a critical modern continuation, 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 f5 (rather than Carlsen's preferred 10...Bg7) 11 Bd3 Be6 12 c3 Bg7 13 Nxb5!? axb5 14 Bxb5 Bd7 15 exf5:

This remains quite dangerous and, slightly surprising, appeared to catch Polgar a little by surprise. She went 15...Nb8, but after 16 a4! I suspect White is slightly for choice, although Tregubov has been happy to defend the black side after an exchange on b5. Polgar avoided that, but was quickly in trouble before in characteristic fashion fighting her way right back into a very entertaining game.

Black can also defend the position after 15...0-0 16 0-0 and now both 16...Rb8, as played by Timofeev, and 16...e4, Kotronias' choice when faced with one of his pet lines, should lead to rough equality, at least so long as Black is well prepared.

The Taimanov

The solid line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3 continues to look, well, solid for Black! We'll consider a number of deviations along the way, but chiefly focus our coverage on the main line: 7...d5 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Re1 Be7 10 e5 Nd7 11 Qg4 g6 12 Na4 Qa5 13 Bh6:

At this point Black's most uncompromising option is Mamedyarov's 13...c5 14 b3 c4!?, but in Ni Hua-Movsesian he preferred to play in more solid vein: 13...Qb4 14 Qxb4 Bxb4 15 c3 Ba5 16 b4 Bc7 17 f4. As subscribers will be aware, Rublevsky has suffered a couple of painful losses after 17...a5, but Movsesian's new move 17...Nb6!? may well solve Black's problems.

Many white players prefer to debate the English Attack and we also give some coverage to the critical line 6 Be3 Qc7 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 0-0-0 Bb4 9 f3:

Black has a number of possibilities at this juncture, but I couldn't help noticing that White has recently been scoring quite well against both 9...Ne5 and 9...0-0. That may help to explain Black's choice of 9...Ne7 10 Nde2 b5 11 Bf4 e5 12 Bg5 h5! in Motylev - Maiwald, where the Russian fails to show anything against Nisipeanu's prophylactic idea.

The Najdorf

We begin by considering developments in the English Attack (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3) with Grischuk's favourite 6...Ng4. After 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 10 h3 Ne5 11 f3 Nbc6 12 Bf2 Ng6...

...I'm not too sure why White in Dominguez - Grischuk rejected 13 Qd2 which had previously posed Grischuk some problems. Instead the new move 13 Nd5 allowed Black to quickly obtain a very harmonious set-up with 13...Rb8 14 Qd2 e6 15 Nc3 Be5!.

Grischuk has also been busy flying the flag for the Poisoned Pawn, 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6:

Gashimov has remained true to 8 Qd3, but as we'll see in Gashimov - Karjakin he was unable to demonstrate any advantage against either Grischuk or Karjakin in Nice. However, Grischuk there came unstuck when Ivanchuk went 8 Qd2 Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 f5 Nc6 11 fxe6 fxe6 12 Nxc6 bxc6 and now not the main line, 13 e5, but rather his recent favourite 13 Be2!?:

We saw Ivanchuk use this line to defeat Carlsen last month and he has subsequently won twice with it against Grischuk, as we'll see in Ivanchuk - Grischuk. An impressive trio of victories, although it doesn't yet seem that we can consider 13 Be2 to be the refutation of the Poisoned Pawn.

I'll be back quite soon with May's update!

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