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When Richard Palliser asked me if I wanted to write an update devoted to the Kan (or Paulsen) Sicilian, I jumped at the chance. The Kan was the first Sicilian I learned to play, and so I've always had a soft spot for it. I must admit I did eventually transfer to the Taimanov, mainly I think because you're less likely to get blown off the board in 20 moves if you're half asleep in an early morning round (that's happened once or twice!). Yes, the Taimanov is more solid for sure. But on the other hand the Taimanov is also getting more and more theoretical, especially in the dreaded English Attack. And I think because of this there's more scope - at least for the moment - for original play in the Kan, something which I hope is reflected in one or two of the games I've selected here.
Anyway, on with the action!

Download PGN of December '07 Open Sicilian games

Kan 5 Nc3

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 Qc7

The line 5...b5 6 Bd3 Qb6 7 Nf3 has proved to be difficult to handle for Black in recent times (see, for example, Richard Palliser's annotations to Gormally-Ciuksyte, Liverpool 2007), so it's unsurprising that Black is revisiting the older 5...Qc7. Certainly it has a safer feel to it.

In Tiviakov - Caruana, European Team Championship 2007, the young Italian star played 6 Bd3 Bc5 7 Nb3 Be7:

I've always liked this idea of kicking the knight back to b3, although in my games I've usually played 6...Nf6 and if 7 0-0 only then 7...Bc5. The game continued 8 0-0 d6 9 f4 Nd7 10 Qe2 Ngf6 11 Bd2 b5 12 a4 with a sharp struggle, in which Caruana held his own fairly comfortably.

In Navara - Damljanovic, European Team Championship 2007, the Czech GM played the more aggressive 8 Qg4, and following 8...g6 9 Qe2 d6 10 0-0 Nd7 11 Bd2 b6 12 Rae1 Bb7 13 Kh1 Black played the creative 13...h5!?:

Damljanovic plays the game with great inventiveness, and only a blunder (I'm sure time-trouble induced) prevented a thematic Black victory.

Another variation that I've noticed cropping up recently is the previously frowned upon 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 b5 6 Bd3 Bb7 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Nxc6 Bxc6:

This line was considered to give White a fairly safe edge, but recent games have cast some doubt upon this assessment, and some strong players are using this line with success. One advantage Black has is that his queen is not committed to c7, so when White plays Qe2 (or Re1) followed by Nd5, it doesn't come with tempo. Golubev - Nisipeanu, Predeal 2006, provides some coverage of Black's ideas.

In Jobava - Steingrimsson, European Team Championship 2007, White opted for a Be2 line: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 b5 6 Be2 Bb7 7 0-0 Qc7 (the critical 7...b4 discussed in the notes) 8 Re1:

Now the Icelander played the risky 8...Nf6?! (8...Nc6! is safer) and his reward is to get mated 13 moves later after a sacrificial onslaught by White.

Kan 5 Bd3

In the variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0-0 d6 7 c4 b6 8 Nc3 Bb7 9 f4 g6!? Black is aiming for the most ambitious set-up with ...Bg7, ...0-0 etc, and in some lines the queen can go to e7 to protect the e6-pawn after f4-f5 (this is why ...Qc7 is omitted):

In Leon Hoyos-Spraggett, Absolut Cali 2007, Leon Hoyos produces a stunning novelty for White to put this sideline of the Kan in jeopardy, although Black can look at possible improvements on moves 9 and 11 (there's been some discussion of this game in the forum).

In Young - Williams, correspondence 2007, we get a typical position arising after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 Qe2 d6 7 c4 Nbd7 8 Nc3 Be7 9 0-0 Qc7 10 f4 b6 11 Kh1 Bb7 12 b3:

Normally Black settles for 12...0-0, but here Black plays รก la Damljanovic with 12...h5!?. It's not quite as justified here as it is in Navara-Damljanovic, and if truth be told, it's probably a bit dubious. It does work to perfection in this game though, especially if you conveniently forget the fact that White was close to winning before Black unleashed a deadly sacrificial counterattack!

After the moves 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Qc7 6 0-0 Nf6, White plays 7 c4 if he is trying to forgo Qe2. But this does give Black some extra options - he is not forced to go straight into a Hedgehog formation. 7...Nc6 has been Black's main way of trying to avoid a straight Hedgehog (with 7...d6), but in Vertkin - Stripunsky, Foxwoods 2007, Black is successful with another possibility: 7...Bd6!?. This idea of an early ...Qc7 followed by...Bd6 has been creeping into quite a few Kan lines lately (another is the Koblencs/Goletiani Variation: 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Bd6!?, which was advocated by Richard Palliser in Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian).

Finally, in Leake - Emms, London 2007, after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Qc7 6 0-0 Nf6, instead of 7 Qe2 or 7 c4 my opponent played 7 b3!?

We soon reach a standard Hedgehog position, where my opponent took the initiative with a quick f2-f3 and g2-g4-g5. Look out at the end for a horrific double blunder!

That's all folks. May I wish you all the best for the holidays, and Richard will be back next month. John


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