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Apologies for the slightly late update caused by an obsession with aiming to complete my book 'How to Play Against 1 d4' before August. However, it's always nice to get stuck into some Sicilian analysis and there are plenty of theoretically-important games to mull over this month.

Download PGN of July '10 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

I promised to supply further games by Mickey Adams if he continued to employ 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5, and he did in the Turkish Team Championship. Atakisi - Adams saw White employing a solid, positional set-up with 5 Nb5 d6 6 c4 Be7 7 b3 Nf6 8 Bd3 0-0 9 0-0, but Adams was able to exploit the absence of a knight from c3 to improve his own knight with 9...Nd7! 10 N1c3 a6 11 Na3 Nc5:

Slightly surprisingly 12 Nd5 was a novelty in this position, but in any case Black enjoys quite comfortable play with ideas of ...Bg5 and ...f5 very much on the cards.

The Sveshnikov

Interest in the line 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 c4 refuses to fade, largely because White risks little and is able to take Black away from a more-typically dynamic Sveshnikov middlegame. A respectable counter is 11...b4 12 Nc2 0-0, which Radjabov remained true to in Nisipeanu - Radjabov:

Nisipeanu went on to win a fine positional masterpiece after 13 g3, but it doesn't seem like Black should have too many difficulties equalising against it. However, I'm a little less certain about 13 Be2 where recent games have suggested that Black may still have some problems to solve.

The Kan

Check out the important variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0-0 Qc7 7 Qe2 d6 8 c4 g6 9 Nc3 Bg7 on a database and you will find plenty of high-level examples of late. This fairly old, respectable choice is still in good health:

We'll examine some recent developments in Ni Hua-Wang Hao where Black didn't have too many problems equalising after 10 Nf3 0-0 11 Bf4 Nc6 12 Rac1 e5 13 Be3 Bg4! followed by ...Nd4. That knight leap is an important weapon in Black's armoury in any case, but it does seem that White may pose a few more problems with 11 h3 Nc6 12 Be3, ruling ...Bg4 ideas out of the equation.

The Taimanov

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3 d5 8 0-0 Nf6, 9 Qe2!? continues to look like quite a decent alternative to the more established 9 Re1. Existing evidence suggests that Black shouldn't hurry with ...c5 after the queen move, with 9...Be7 10 Na4 0-0 11 c4 Bb7 considered to be his most precise sequence:

This was seen in Bologan - Rublevsky where the Moldovan introduced 12 Bf4!?, giving up the bishop-pair on e4 in return for a bit of a bind and some queenside pressure. Play remained roughly balanced in quite a dynamic sense throughout, but I wouldn't be surprised to see further tests of Bologan's idea quite soon.

The Classical Sicilian: The Richter-Rauzer

A risky choice for Black after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 is 6...Bd7, but Miroshnichenko has long liked this as well as Dreev. However, the Ukrainian Grandmaster may have gone off the sharp line 7 Qd2 Rc8 8 f4 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 Qa5 for in Solak - Miroshnichenko he introduced a novelty as early as move 8!

Can you spot Black's remarkable idea after 8 f4? Well, it was 8...Ng4!?, a move tactically justified by 9 h3 Qb6. However, with 10 Nxc6 Rxc6 11 Bb5! Ne3 12 Bxc6 Bxc6 White won the exchange and while Miroshnichenko presumably disagrees, I'm not convinced that Black has quite enough compensation despite his sterling knight.

Ivanchuk preferred to stick to the safety of the main lines with 6...e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 0-0 in Dominguez - Ivanchuk. There 10 f3 was met by Dreev's preferred set-up, namely 10...a6 11 h4 b5 12 Kb1 Bb7 13 Qd2 Rc8:

Black's idea is to reduce the pressure through an exchange of bishops, but the new try 14 Bd3 Nd7 15 Bxe7 Qxe7 16 Be2!?, as mentioned before on this site, gives White definite chances of an edge. Indeed, Ivanchuk was undoubtedly a bit worse before taking refuge in a practical exchange sacrifice which enabled him to save the draw.

The Scheveningen

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e6 one tends to associate White's play with kingside castling followed by the advance f2-f4. However, more brutal options exist too, including 7 Be3 Be7 8 g4!?:

This undoubtedly came as a shock to the wunderkind in Ivanchuk - Negi where experience triumphed in crushing fashion after the fairly dangerous pawn sacrifice 8...b5 9 g5 Nfd7 10 a3! Bxg5 11 Qd2.

The Najdorf: 6 Bc4

The only Sicilian so far from Dortmund has surprisingly been in the variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 Nbd7 8 f4 Nc5 9 0-0!?:

Judging from the clock times this was as much over-the-board inspiration as preparation in Naiditsch - Mamedyarov, a game which does demonstrate, despite its ultimate result, that Short's antidote 9...Nfxe4 10 Nxe4 Nxe4 11 f5 e5 12 Qh5 d5! gives Black equality, not more as theory has sometimes incorrectly suggested.

With plenty of tournaments underway at the moment, I hope to be back with another action-packed update in not too long!

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