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It's a bit of a 'Dangerous Weapons' inspired update this month! In response to a few requests we begin with some coverage of the Lowenthal, moving on through a dangerous offbeat try against the Taimanov to Nigel Short's recent adoption of 6 Qf3 against the Najdorf.

Download PGN of July '09 Open Sicilian games

The Lowenthal

Vallejo hasn't made recent use of his occasional weapon 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 a6 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qf6, but it remains in fairly good health. These days White often chooses the simple approach: 8 Qxf6 Nxf6 9 Nc3 Nb4:

and now either 10 Kd2 or 10 Bd3. The latter is probably more critical and should not be met by 10...d5?! as it was in Al Qudaimi-Turov - one expects better from a Russian grandmaster!

In my view all of 8 Qd1, 8 Qc7 and 8 Qa3 are more critical tries than the queen exchange, and we round up developments after all three in Llaneza Vega - Exposito Amaro. There White plumped for Spassky's variation, but after 8...Nge7 9 Nc3 Rb8 10 Be3 b5 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 exd5 Ne7! 13 Rd1 (only with 13 0-0-0 can White hope to pose any problems) 13...d6 Black was pretty comfortable with ideas of ...Qg6 and/or ...Nf5:

The Sveshnikov: 9 Nd5

Black has a few decent options after 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 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3. In all cases White can arguably achieve a nominal pull in a quiet position, but against a strong opponent he very rarely manages to make any real progress. This month we examine developments after all of 11...0-0 12 Nc2 Rb8, 11...Bg5 12 Nc2 Ne7 and 11...Bg5 12 Nc2 0-0. Carlsen employed the last two named in Dortmund, and the second of those saw him hold without too much difficulty in Naiditsch - Carlsen. Indeed, on the current evidence 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Bd7!?:

just looks like a good alternative to the more theoretical 15...Rb8. Might this turn out to be the definite equalizer which will finally send white players back towards 9 Bxf6?

The Taimanov

Returning to the Dangerous Weapons fold, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Be2 Nf6 8 a3!? was essayed in a key last-round game from the Hilversum Open:

As revealed by the notes to Haslinger - Spoelman, it's not so easy for Black to equalize with Taimanov-like play. Indeed, I suspect that he does best with 8...d6, whereas Spoelman's 8...Bd6?! 9 Qd2 Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Bf4 11 Qd3 already left him short of a good continuation.

The Scheveningen

Ivanchuk has shown a recent liking for the set-up 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 f4 Be7 7 f4. An important line is debated in Ivanchuk - Nisipeanu, but after 7...0-0 8 Qf3 e5 9 Nf5 Bxf5 10 exf5 Nbd7 11 Bc4:

I'm not entirely convinced by Black's novelty, and would prefer the more solid and thematic 11...exf4 to 11...Rc8.

There have also been developments in the Classical variation, 6 Be2 Be7 7 0-0 0-0 8 Be3 Nc6 9 f4 a6, as we'll see in Anand - Mamedyarov. There White tries the sideline 10 Kh1, but after 10...Bd7 11 a4 Rc8 12 Bd3 e5 Black equalizes without difficulty:

The Najdorf: 6 h3

A decent way to surprise even quite an experienced Najdorf exponent is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Qf3!?, as recently employed with some success by Nigel Short. After 6...Nbd7 7 Be2 g6 8 Be3 Bg7 9 h3 Ne5 10 Qg3 b5 11 f4 Nc4 12 Bxc4 bxc4 matters were hardly clear in Short - Grandelius, but White managed to win in quick fashion with a brutal kingside attack:

A couple of subscribers have wondered about my thoughts on 6 f4 e5 7 Nf3 Nbd7 8 a4 Be7 and now not the usual 9 Bd3, but rather the more active 9 Bc4!?:

This is rarely tried nowadays, but might make for a decent surprise weapon. That said, after 9...Qa5 I believe that Black shouldn't face any difficulties as we'll see in Isik - Yilmaz.

That's all for now. I'll try to be back in touch while in Torquay for the British Championship.

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