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Since several of the recent online games, while attractive, were sometimes lacking in quality, I decided to pay attention to some long-forgotten theoretical lines this month. Half of the games were played before the epidemic, and 1 game was played between engines. Also, there is just one Najdorf game this time, and finally, no draws!

Download PGN of June ’20 Open Sicilian games

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Kan Maroczy 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.a3 [B41]

The game Carlsen, M - Xiong, J saw Jeffery employ a relatively rare setup with 13..Rfc8!?:











in one of the most fashionable Hedgehog positions. Magnus responded with a typical plan of attacking the b6-pawn, but Black managed to get rid of this weakness with a well-timed ...b7-b5 break. The critical moment came on move 20, when the World champion carelessly played 20.cxb5? and came under strong positional pressure. In general, it was a well-played game by GM Xiong, even though at the end he gave his great opponent decent drawing chances.


The Four Knights, Cobra Variation 6.Ndb5 Bc5 7.Nd6+ [B45]

In the next game, Piorun, K - Abasov, N, the players entered an important theoretical position after 10...d6:











At this point White has a few equally good possibilities, but none of them seems to pose Black serious problems. Kacper went for the quiet 11.Bd3, and soon occupied the d5-spot. A few moves later White chose an ambitious plan with long castles, but he failed to properly handle the position and after 21.Bc2?! Black gained the initiative. Excellent positional play by GM Abasov!

Anyway, it looks like 7.Nd6+ is a relatively harmless option.


The Four Knights, Cobra Variation 6.Ndb5 Bc5 7.Bf4 [B45]

The game Zwirs, N - Reinderman, D saw Black avoiding an inferior endgame with 10...Qd8!:











In this attractive game Dmitry managed to demonstrate Black's counter-attacking abilities on the q-side, although during the game his opponent missed several great attacking continuations. In particular 14.Kb1 seems somewhat slow, while 14.e5! would have made Black's position somewhat cramped. The really critical moment of this game was on move 31, when Nico carelessly played 31.Nxd7?? and was soon defeated. Instead, had White played 31.Qd5 all 3 results would still be possible.



Classical Sicilian 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 [B56]

2 games are included for this sharp and relatively uncommon line. In the game Pavlidis, A - Tari, A Black played 8...Be6, and soon employed an original setup with 11...Qb8, making c8 vacant for his king's rook:











White reacted with the natural 13.Nd5, but after 14...a4! Black managed to develop sufficient counterplay. Moreover, the timid 16.b3? soon invited big trouble, and White's position was crushed.

In my opinion, only 13.g4! might pose Black some problems, but Black can also try 9...d5!? as it invites favorable simplifications.

In the game Vaibhav, S - Artemiev, V Black chose the most common 8...0-0 9.Qd2 Be6 10.Bb5 Na7:











, and here Suri employed the relatively fresh approach with 11.Bxa7, limiting Black's counter-attacking possibilities. Vladislav's attempt to chase his opponent's light-squared bishop with ...Ne8-c7 turned out to be ineffective as White managed to quickly broaden his initiative on the k-side. The next wrong decision was giving up the bishop on move 16, and as a result Black was totally out-played.

Even though GM Artemiev's play can definitely be improved, I still find 11.Bxa7 quite promising.


Richter-Rauzer 7.Qd3!? [B62]

The above-mentioned engine game Stockfish - rofChade saw the rare 7.Qd3 Be7 8.0-0-0 0-0 9.f4:











It's hard to criticize the engine's play when it has an ELO of 3661 (!), but it looks like 9...Qb6?! was the main cause of Black's problems in this game. In fact, after 11.Nc6 bxc6 12.h4! White managed to quickly develop a powerful attack, while Black's play along the b-file turned out to be ineffective. Stockfish's energetic play, 18.e5! followed by 19.Qxd8!, led to an unbalanced position with Black's king coming under fire. It's impressive how long Black managed to hold on, but eventually White's q-side pawns decided the game.

Regarding the opening, 9...h6!? looks much more attractive.


Richter-Rauzer 7.Qd2 a6 8.Nxc6 [B66]

In the game Wei Yi - Grischuk, A the players entered the relatively rare theoretical position after 11.Bc4:











At this moment Alexander came up with a fresh and natural idea, 11...Bb7! 12.Bb3 Qc7 followed by long castles. GM Wei Yi responded with the natural 13.f4, but the standard attack on e6 didn't work in this game - Black soon put his queen on e5 and obtained an excellent position. Still, had White played 20.Qf1 he would have kept the balance, while the impulsive 20.exd5?! led to an unpleasant endgame, which Wei Yi failed to hold.

Undoubtedly, 11...Bb7! is an important improvement, though White can still claim superiority with 13.Rhe1!? I expect new practical tests to follow in this line.



Poisoned Pawn Najdorf 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.f5 Nc6 [B97]

We end with the only Najdorf in this Update. The game Karjakin, S - Duda, J saw a theoretical discussion in on of the sharpest lines, which was recently covered in Giri - Korobov. In the position after 16.Bh5+:











GM Duda played 16...g6, and the players soon entered an interesting position, that I mentioned in Giri - Korobov. On move 20 Black came up with the novelty 20...Ra7, but it doesn't seem to solve all his problems. Unfortunately, 2 moves later he blundered a piece with 22...Qd8?, and despite some inaccuracies, White eventually managed to convert his material advantage into a full point. Even though 22...h5 might offer Black a playable position, this line still looks problematic for him.




See you next month, Michael

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