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Happy New Year!
My thanks to John Emms for producing such an excellent update on the Kan last month. This month our attention returns to the Najdorf and the Sveshnikov which both continue to dominate topical debate in the Open Sicilian.

Download PGN of January '08 Open Sicilian games

Najdorf: 6 Bg5

Of late it's been easy to forget that there are many rich lines after 6 Bg5 as well as the Poisoned Pawn. One of those is Gelfand's old favourite 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nbd7. An important line then runs 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 b5 10 Bd3 Bb7 11 Rhe1 Qb6 when in Shirov - Karjakin White notably avoided the critical 12 Nd5, preferring to manoeuvre after 12 Nb3:

Back in November we examined the so-called Poisoned Pawn Declined: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd2 Nc6. Unfortunately for Ruslan Ponomariov he appeared not to have considered either that update or Georgiev's Sharpest Sicilian update, as he quickly ran into trouble against the critical 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nb3 in Kamsky - Ponomariov.

Perhaps the Ukrainian would have done better to test Kamsky's preparation in the main lines after 8...Qxb2. Against the fashionable 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 e5, I had wondered whether 10...h6 11 Bh4 dxe5 12 fxe5 Nfd7 13 Ne4 Qxa2 14 Rd1 Qb2 was really so bad for Black:

However, Paul Hopwood then sent me some very interesting analysis on this line, after which I further analysed the position with both him and another York player, Jos Woolley. The result, I'm afraid, is that 14...Qb2 should probably be adorned with a '?', leaving 14...Qd5 as the only move. To see why please see my updated version of Tony's original notes to Radjabov - Karjakin.

A few subscribers have asked me whether 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd2 Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 f5, instead of 10 e5, is really such a dead-end. I had thought that it was and I'm afraid that my recent investigation hasn't changed the view that it is essentially just a draw - see the notes to Kleijn - Hoffmann.

Najdorf: The English Attack

One of the most comprehensive books of 2007 was undoubtedly the aforementioned The Sharpest Sicilian. However, since the publication of that book, co-author Atanas Kolev has suggested that perhaps it might not be so easy after all for Black to equalise against Ivanchuk's 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3 Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Be6 10 Bxe6 fxe6 11 Na4:

Indeed, Kolev recently popped up on the white side of this variation in Kolev - Alsina Leal. However, he found his opponent very au fait with his analysis and Black was certainly fine well into the middlegame after employing the accurate 11...Nfd7.

Another popular variation for White of late has been 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Qd2, intending to delay f2-f3. 'Exigentsky' got me thinking about these lines in which White may prefer to advance his f-pawn two squares to f4 and Nisipeanu has recently played in this manner. In Nisipeanu - Karjakin I've aimed to supply an overview of the many possible positions in which f2-f4 has been tried, albeit with the main focus on Karjakin's accurate 8...Nbd7 9 0-0-0 b5 10 f4 Be7 11 Kb1 0-0.

Sveshnikov: 9 Nd5

In the November update we saw Shirov blown away after the topical 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. There against Karjakin he defended with 9...Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3 0-0, but in Khanty-Mansiysk he preferred the more active 11...Bg5. Karjakin - Shirov continued with the critical 12 Nc2 0-0 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Rb8 16 b3 Kh8 17 Nce3 g6 18 h4!? Bxh4 19 g3 Bg5, after which Karjakin introduced 20 Qe2!?:

The dangerous idea is to swing the queen across to h2, not the queen's rook as had previously been tried, and although this new concept didn't turn out too well, Karjakin's follow-up can be improved upon.

Sveshnikov: 9 Bxf6

Few grandmasters are currently playing 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 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5, but this is probably to do with the whims of fashion. In Mista - Moiseenko we round up a few recent developments, while exploring the unbalanced sideline 10...f5 11 c3 Bg7 12 exf5 Bxf5 13 Nc2 0-0 14 Nce3 Bg6!?:

By next month all four of the leading sections at Wijk aan Zee should have supplied some exciting Open Sicilians. Do enjoy that leading and ever-exciting tournament, as well as your own chess in 2008!

Best wishes, 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