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Suddenly it was January and time for the annual excitement of Wijk aan Zee, which rather galloped past all too quickly, throwing up many exciting Sicilians in the process. Add in Reggio Emilia, the World Team Championship and Gibraltar, and there are a large number of high-level games to enjoy this month!

Download PGN of February '10 Open Sicilian games

The Sveshnikov

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 White invariably retreats the knight these days, but in Nakamura - Shirov he preferred the move order 8 Bxf6 gxf6 9 Na3:

At this point Black can keep play in normal lines with 9...b5, but Shirov took up the challenge with 9...f5, which soon led to quite a complex tussle. Do check out the notes too for the latest on that Novosibirsk duel between Shirov and Carlsen.

The Classical: The Richter-Rauzer Attack

The rehabilitation of the Classical Sicilian was major news in 2009, and the opening has remained very topical at the start of this year. After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 e6 White plumped for a favourite line of his in Haznedaroglu - Nakamura, namely 7 Bb5. However, after 7...Qb6! 8 Be3 Qc7 9 g4 a6 10 Be2 b5 his play had failed to impress:

This looks like quite a decent version of the English Attack for Black - just where will the white monarch find safety?

On to the main line, 7 Qd2, and now Jobava thrice defended 7...Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0 9 f4 Nxd4 10 Qxd4 Qa5 in Reggio Emilia. Do especially pay attention to the idea of 11 Bc4 Rd8!? in the notes to Caruana - Jobava:

The rook move has been much less common than 11...Bd7, but I'm prepared to predict that it will soon soar in popularity!

Another line in decent shape for Black is 7...a6 8 0-0-0 Bd7, as played by Kozul, Kotronias, Greenfeld and Gupta! We round up a number of recent developments in Gashimov - Kotronias; a game which suggests that 9 f4 b5 10 Bxf6 gxf6 11 Nxc6 Bxc6 12 Qe3 Qe7 13 Bd3 h5! should be fine for Black:

Kotronias goes on to completely outplay the talented young Azeri, only to horribly blunder away the win in a simple endgame.

The Scheveningen: The Keres Attack

Another opening which continues to emerge from under something of a cloud is the pure Scheveningen move order, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6. Anand is the latest grandmaster to no longer fear the Keres Attack, and at Wijk he demonstrated that 6 g4 h6 7 h4 Nc6 8 Rg1 d5 is in decent shape for Black:

Do check out the notes to Smeets - Anand, where we'll also see Ftacnik improving against a dangerous idea of Wei Ming's.

The Najdorf: The English Attack

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 we examine all three of Black's main defences this month, beginning with 6...e6. Topalov's idea 7 f3 b5 8 Qd2 Nbd7 9 g4 h6 10 0-0-0 b4 11 Na4 Ne5 was debated in Vallejo - Sandipan:

After Anand's 12 b3, White has been struggling against the calm 12...Bd7!. That helps to explain Vallejo's radical new idea, 13 f4!?, sacrificing both a pawn and White's queenside structure for the initiative. Unfortunately, it's not completely convincing and it was later Sandipan, after some fine calm play, who had any winning chances which were on offer.

Carlsen, but strangely few others, has remained true to 6...Ng4, which subscribers will remember him using with some effect against Leko in last year's Tal Memorial. Those two players repeated their earlier game with 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 10 h3 Nf6 11 Qf3 Qb6 12 0-0-0 in Wijk aan Zee:

Here one would expect Black to play 12...Nc6, but Carlsen introduced 12...0-0!? and it does appear that there is no easy way for White to exploit Black's extended kingside formation. Certainly in Leko - Carlsen he was only able to find solid equality and so make a safe draw.

Elsewhere, Black continues to find yet more acceptable approaches against 6...e5 7 Nf3, and I'm a little surprised that players like Bologan keep playing this way as White. In Akopian - Morozevich the fairly rare 7...Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Qc7!? was essayed. Following 10 Bb3 Be6 11 Qe2 Rc8 12 Rfd1 Nbd7 13 Bg5 b5 White's pieces were generally well placed in the battle for d5, but without giving him any advantage:

Indeed, Akopian was able to reach a knight against dark-squared bishop scenario, but even there he had no advantage with Black able to generate sufficient counterplay right across the board. However, Morozevich later slipped up, and in the end Akopian did win a model good knight against bad bishop middlegame.

7 Nb3 continues to look more critical, but if Black isn't up for a hugely theoretical battle, he might employ 7...Be6 8 f3 h5. One important line was tested in Karjakin - Dominguez: 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 0-0-0 Be7 11 h3 Qc7 12 Bd3

Here Black had previously played against g2-g4 ideas with 12...h4, but Dominguez showed that Black can allow 13 g4, introducing the strong if logical idea 12...b5! 13 g4 b4 14 Ne2 d5.

Finally, we examine developments in what one arguably might deem the main line of the whole English Attack, namely 8...Be7 9 Qd2 0-0 10 0-0-0. Van Wely opted for a theoretical duel with 10...b5 in Wijk, but in the earlier Erdogdu - Morozevich Black preferred 10...a5!?:

White players will be growing tired of this phrase by now, but here, so far as I can see, Black is in decent enough shape, and it wasn't long before Morozevich destroyed White's castled position with some brutal play.

'But what of 6 Bg5, which surely dominated Wijk?' I hear you cry. Well, yes, Wijk did see Van Wely's suffering no fewer than three horrible defeats with 6...e6 7 f4 Nbd7, but they, as well as some exciting Poisoned Pawn clashes, will have to wait until next month I'm afraid.

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