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We will naturally focus on the recent Candidates Tournament, where we had a few interesting fresh ideas at an early stage. After somewhat of a break, the Najdorf prevails in this Update.

Download PGN of July ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Taimanov 5.Bf4!? [B44]

We start with Duda, J - Rapport, R, where Jan-Krzystof decided to surprise Richard by choosing a rare move, that was previously played by... Richard himself! In the position after 6...bxc6:

White deviated from his opponent's game with 7.Bd3!? The surprise effect worked perfectly, and soon Black erred with 8...c5?, allowing 9.c5! As a result, White was dominating almost till the end of the game, but Richard was lucky and achieved a draw.

5.Bf4!? is hardly a refutation of the Taimanov, but it isn't as harmless as it looks.

The Four Knights 6.Be2 Bb4 7.0-0 [B45]

The next game, Vokhidov, S - Vidit, S, saw White choose a relatively rare line with a gambit followed by a queen trade. In the position after 12.Re1!?:

GM Vidit wrongly played 12...Bd7?! and after 13.c4! Black came under long-lasting positional pressure. Despite some inaccuracies, Shamsiddin's victory over a 2700+ player is quite impressive.

We should see more tests of this gambit, although after 12...Nd7! the position doesn't seem too dangerous for the second player.

Taimanov 5...a6 6.g4!? [B46]

In the game Caruana, F - Rapport, R the players quickly deviated from the main theoretical paths and entered a rare position after 8...Na5:

Here Fabiano came up with a natural novelty, 9.Qd2, and after the risky 9...Nxb3 White got the better attacking prospects. However, on move 13 GM Caruana wrongly wasted a tempo with 13.g5?! and Black managed to seize the initiative. At the end Fabiano should be satisfied to share a point.

Overall, 6.g4!? looks rather promising and should be tested more often at the high level.

Najdorf/Scheveningen Keres Attack 6.h3 e6 7.g4 h6 8 Bg2 Be7 [B81]

In Kaasen, T - Santos Latasa, J White went for the aggressive and new (for our site) 9.h4!?, and soon the players entered a critical theoretical position after 13...bxc6:

Now White came up with the dubious novelty 14.f4?! and it was fully justified! The higher-rater player suddenly switched to passive defence with 14...Nf8?! and 16...e5?, and at some point White could have developed a stunning attack. Luckily for GM Santos Latasa White soon returned the favor with 20.Qe2? so eventually Black won by a direct attack.

In my opinion 9.h4!? is worthy of attention, but White should play something else on move 14.

Najdorf 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 [B90]

In the game Adams, M - Van Wely, L Black chose the rare and risky 9...g6:

Michael reacted with the decent novelty 11.Bc4! and managed to occupy the key d5-square. The further play saw GM Adams dominating, although at some point he erred with 19.Rfd1?! that could have spoiled a lot.

Overall, 9...g6 is hardly the best solution for the second player.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.h3 [B90]

The next game, Nakamura, H - Duda, J, saw Hikaru opt for the trendy 8.h3 that gained popularity this year. Black played the rare 8...h6, and after 10...Nc6 the first critical position has arisen:

Here, Hikaru came up with a novelty, 11.Nh4, but the appearance of the knight on g6 didn't really bother Black. The balance was kept most of the game, although at some point both chances missed their chances. However, at the end GM Duda erred with 37...Nd7? and quickly lost.

It looks like the previously played 11.Nd5!? might suffice for an edge, but on his turn Black can try 10...0-0!?

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3... 12.g5 b4 [B90]

An exciting theoretical discussion in one of the sharpest lines took place in Nepomniachtchi, I - Firouzja, A. In the well-known position after 15.f5 Alireza played 15...Bc4, which was never seen on our site before. I am not sure if Alireza forgot his preparation or Nepo managed to surprise him, but starting from 20...Bxf1?!:

Black ruined his own position in a few moves.

Despite such a painful loss, I expect to see more practical tests of 15...Bc4 soon.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qe2 Qc7 9.0-0-0 b5 [B96]

We end with Adhiban, B - Ioannidis, E, where White chose the tricky 11.Bxf6!?, which was previously covered in Pichot - Giri:

Eugenios carelessly played 11...Bxf6?! and after 12.Ndxb5! White got 3 pawns for a piece, while Black's king is stuck in the centre. The further complex play saw White dominate till move 35, when 2 mistakes in a row led Baskaran to a collapse.

See you next month, Michael

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