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Several recent high-level tournaments make for another exciting update. There's certainly plenty of inspiration around in the world of the Sicilian, due in no small part to Alexei Shirov's fine creativity in Sofia and the continued rise of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Download PGN of June '09 Open Sicilian games

The Sveshnikov

Magnus Carlsen has been following in Radjabov's footsteps of late by employing the Novosibirsk, 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 Bg7. In Shirov - Carlsen White tests a critical line in 11 Bd3 Ne7 12 Nxe7 Qxe7 13 c4 f5 14 0-0 0-0 15 Qh5!?:

The theory continues much further and Carlsen eventually emerges with a strong centre and two powerful bishops, but...for three pawns! I find Black's position fairly attractive, but am not entirely sure that he has quite enough objective compensation.

The Four Knights

We saw Ivanchuk employing this solid variation at the end of last year and 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Ndb5 Bb4 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Nxc3 d5 9 exd5 exd5 remains in reasonable health, at least so long as Black doesn't have aspirations for more than a draw. The critical test is probably 10 Bd3 0-0 11 0-0 d4 12 Ne2 Bg4:

Both Ponomariov's 13 Bg5 and Topalov's 13 f3 are decent tries for a small edge here, as we'll see in Ponomariov - Andreikin.

The Taimanov

An important test of Black's 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 move order remains 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3 d5 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Re1 Be7 10 e5 Nd7 11 Qg4 g6:

White has a few options here. In Bacrot - Mamedyarov he prefers 12 Na4 and after the rare 12...c5!? 13 c4! wins a brutal display, but Black's position might not have been so bad had he bit the bullet and gone short despite the weaknesses created by ...g6.

The Keres Attack

Not everyone has tested Movsesian's recent choice of 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 by heading for 6 g4, but this remains both a critical and quite a rich choice. That said, after 6...h6 (this currently appears best; we'll also discuss 6...e5 in which White has recently discovered a simple and quite good approach) 7 Bg2 (7 h4!? is a sharper, fairly critical option) 7...a6 8 h3 Nc6 9 Be3 Ne5 Movsesian has been holding his own:

White tries 10 f4 Nc4 11 Qe2 in Svidler - Movsesian, but by prudently declining the b-pawn Black obtains decent-enough counterplay.

The Perenyi Attack

Take a look at the position after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6 7 g4 e5 8 Nf5:

What does Black play here? The main line is, of course, 8...g6 9 g5 gxf5 10 exf5 d5 and 8...h5!? has also been seen, but not 8...Nc6!?. Nevertheless, that was the choice of a very well-prepared player in a rather important game, Bacrot - Vachier Lagrave. It's too early to pronounce judgement, but delaying accepting the piece in this manner most certainly deserves further attention!

Please note that we have updated the playable Scheveningen eBook to include both these games.

The Najdorf: 6 h3

Quite a fashionable choice of late has been 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3!?. Objectively Black is fine here, but all remains to play for in a fairly non-theoretical way. We'll cover a number of recent developments here this month, focussing especially on 6...g6 7 g4 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 Be3 Nc6:

At this point Carlsen has gone short, but when he found himself on the black side in Dominguez - Carlsen White played somewhat more sharply.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5

We saw back in March that 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nc6!? was in quite good health. Vachier Lagrave recently adopted it and scored another fine win in Naiditsch - Vachier Lagrave, albeit against the non-critical 8 Qd3.

The leading grandmasters don't seem to be too keen on the Poisoned Pawn at the moment, but the old main line, 7...Be7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 Nbd7, received two tests in Sofia:

In Shirov - Dominguez Black tested the rare but by no means bad 10 g4 h6!?, and in the notes we'll also consider an equally amazing tussle between Ivanchuk and Topalov after 10 Bd3 h6 11 Qh3.

That's been an action-packed month! Let's hope July's update is equally exciting...

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