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The Sicilian certainly had a number of outings at Wijk aan Zee, as we'll see both this month and next. I'm also aiming to please a number of subscribers by covering some neglected lines of the 6 Bg5 Najdorf over the coming months, and hope that they will like Wei Ming's coverage of the Browne Variation.

Download PGN of February '09 Open Sicilian games

The Sveshnikov

We begin by examining developments after 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. Here Black has, of course, a choice between 11...Bg5 and 11...0-0, which are both considered in Smerdon - Mikhalevski. There White tests the critical pawn-grab 11...0-0 12 Nc2 Bg5 13 h4!? Bh6 14 g4 Bf4 15 Qf3:

This has long been considered to offer Black decent compensation and probably does, although the game suggests that his position may not be as easy to handle as theory had made out.

The Taimanov

I was a little surprised to see that 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 f4 hadn't been covered before on ChessPublishing:

It's been out of the limelight for a while, but remains a decent, not overly theoretical try, as we'll see in a battle between two Sicilian experts, Luther-A.Sokolov. Somewhat more coverage has been devoted to 6 Be3 Nf6 7 Bd3 a6 8 0-0, albeit not here to the far-from-unimportant 8...b5:

Tregubov has recently taken up this variation and it appears to be in quite good health, despite White's eventual victory in Golubev - Tregubov.

The Richter-Rauzer

The popularity of 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 a6 9 f4 Nxd4 10 Qxd4 b5 shows no sign of abating. That said, with the quiet 11 Be2 Yemelin does manage to obtain a small edge against its leading exponent, Alexei Dreev, although Black was never really in any danger of losing, as we'll see in Yemelin - Dreev.

I'm less convinced these days for Black by attempts to delay developing the king's bishop. One fairly important line is 7...a6 8 0-0-0 Bd7 9 f3 h6 10 Be3 b5:

Now White might well be slightly better after 11 Nxc6 Bxc6 12 Ne2, but a centralizing strategy also has much to recommend it. Indeed, in Vallejo - Caruana Black quickly got into trouble after 11 Kb1 Ne5 12 Bd3 Qc7 13 Rhe1 Rb8 14 f4!.

The Classical Scheveningen

At Wijk aan Zee a theoretical duel was continued as we'll see in Ivanchuk - Movsesian. This time the Scheveningen expert met 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Be3 Nc6 7 f4 with 7...Bd7!?, as opposed to 7...a6 8 Qf3 Qa5 as we saw him try last month. Ivanchuk might well have still continued 8 Qf3, but he preferred to take play into a line of the Classical Variation with an early Nb5: 8 Be2 Be7 9 Ndb5!? Qb8 10 a4 0-0 11 0-0 Rd8:

Black appears to be in reasonable shape here and Movsesian went on to win a fine game, instructively beginning by not chasing the knight from b5 with ...a6.

The Najdorf: 6 Be2

We shall return to the variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 next month and look at White's main move, 8 0-0. Instead 8 Bg5 has been a tricky alternative for the past decade or so, but Black is finally starting to get his act together here. Indeed, 8...Be6 9 Bxf6 Bxf6 10 Qd3 Nc6 11 0-0-0 Qb6!? looks like the way to go:

Both Gelfand and Topalov have employed this idea, and certainly Black equalized pretty easily in Smeets - Dominguez.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5

The Poisoned Pawn line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd3!? remains quite topical, but the Grischuk-endorsed 8...Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 f5 Be7 11 fxe6 fxe6 12 Be2 Qa5 is a decent counter:

We saw this work well last month for the Russian star, and Black was also never in any real danger in the more recent game Mamedov - Safarli.

Over the coming months I shall try to keep various subscribers happy by looking at several less topical Bg5 lines. One of those is the Browne Variation, 7...Be7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 Nbd7 10 Bd3 h6 11 Bh4 g5:

This hasn't been seen at Elite-level for a while, but appears to be in decent shape as Wei Ming kindly explains in his notes to Wei Ming-Chua.

That's all for this month. Other developments depending, I suspect that we may have to return to more games from Wijk come March, 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