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Dear chess friends,
I wish you all a Happy New Year! This Update will be dedicated to the recently finished World Championship in Kazakhstan, where Magnus Carlsen won both titles in Rapid and Blitz.

Download PGN of January ’23 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c4 b4 [B90]

We start with Sindarov, J - Mamedov, R where Javokhir went for a positional line with 11.c4, followed by 14.h4 and 15.Bh3. On move 17 White deviated from the previously played Hjartarson - Mamedov with 17.Nce3:

This plan involves locking the q-side with 20.a3, when White fully focuses on pushing f2-f4. This approach does not seem very promising for White, and it looks like Rauf could have even seized the initiative at some point. Even so, only the careless 29...Nc2? put Black on the verge of collapse. Luckily for GM Mamedov, his young opponent not only missed a clear win, but also committed a dramatic blunder at the end.

Kan 5.a3 Nf6 [B43]

In the next game, Nepomniachtchi, I - Pantsulaia, L, Ian managed to confuse his opponent with the rare 5.a3, followed by the aggressive 8.g4:

Black wrongly reacted with 8...Nc6? and White quickly developed a strong attack by advancing the k-side pawns. Even though Ian prematurely played 15.Nd5?, which could have spoiled much, his win in this game was definitely well-deserved.

Regarding the opening, I am not sure if 8.g4 poses Black major problems. In my opinion, Black should reply 8...e5!

The Four Knights 6.a3 d5 [B45]

The game Najer, E - Lintchevski, D saw Evgeniy opts for the relatively quiet 6.a3, which was met by the most ambitious 6...d5:

After a couple of exchanges the players entered an interesting endgame, where White has a symbolic advantage due to his more active bishop. Daniil's defensive play was decent till 23...Rf5, when his rook suddenly got stuck. Still, had he found 26...axb4!, followed by ...g5 a draw would be achievable.

In general, this game illustrates that 6...d5 should suffice for equality if Black plays accurately.

The Four Knights 6.Ndb5 Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.Nxc3 d5 9.Bd3 [B45]

The game Nepomniachtchi, I - Abdusattorov, N saw the players enter an interesting endgame after 12...Bd7:

Here Ian played the new move 13.Kd2 with an original idea of placing the king on c3. Nodirbek reacted passively with 14...f6?! and soon came under strong positional pressure. The energetic 21.f4! allowed White to win a pawn, and everything looked like another technical win for Nepo, but... the careless 33.a5?? completely turned the tables, and Black managed to convert his material advantage.

Apart from 13.Kd2 there are a few other possible plans at White's disposal, but I think Black should be able to equalize in all cases.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 e6 7.Bb5 Bd7 8.Qd3 [B62]

In the next game, Asadli, V - Shankland, S, Sam demonstrated his deep knowledge in the sideline with 7.Bb5. After 9.0-0-0 Black played 9...Nxd4 10.Bxd7+ Nxd7 11.Bxe7 Kxe7, conceding the privilege of castling:

Black successfully solved his problems, and the dynamic balance was kept till move 17. At this point GM Shankland played 17...Qe3+?!, and the queen was soon lost. Luckily for Sam, his opponent failed to pose Black major problems, and so a draw was agreed after interesting play by both sides.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e6 7.a3 [B80/B90]

The game Ivic, V - Moussard, J saw Velimir quickly deviate from known paths with 8.Qe2:

This allowed White to castle long, but Julez managed to develop traditional counter-play along the c-file. The critical moment came on move 20, when GM Ivic wrongly invited Black's knight into his camp with 20.h3? and was quickly defeated.

In my opinion, White has several more promising ways in this line, such as 8.f4!?

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 9.Bxf6 [B90]

In Svane, F - Cheparinov, I the players entered one of the tabias after 11.Qd3, where Ivan chose the less common 11...Nc6!? that was previously covered in Bacrot - Gelfand. In response, Frederik came up with a novelty, 13.f4:

and managed to confuse his experienced opponent. The careless 13...Bg7?! allowed White to seize the initiative with 14.f5! As a result, Ivan was doomed to passive defence till the end of the game, and only the inaccurate 37.a4? let him achieve a draw.

At the moment it looks like 13.f4 doesn't offer White anything special both after 13...exf4 and 13...Qa5!?.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 [B99]

Our last game, Paravyan, D - Suleymanov, A, saw Alisher opt for a solid line, that was recently recommended by real Najdorf expert GM Anish Giri. In the position after 14...Qc5:

David chose the modest 15.Rd1, and soon the players liquidated into a balanced endgame. It was a high-quality game till move 38, when Black allowed a decisive king activation.

See you next month, Michael

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