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Like most subscribers I've really enjoyed following the fascinating and exciting action from Morelia. The overdue return of the Sicilian has been a notable feature, and I hope that we will see plenty more Najdorfs and Sveshnikovs in Linares. This month we have seven Sicilians and one ... French! Enjoy!

Download PGN of March '08 Open Sicilian games

Classical Najdorf

Before getting into the Morelia games, I did promise that we would examine recent developments in the Classical Najdorf (6 Be2) this month. A couple of subscribers have wondered about the best way to meet 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 Bg5, and especially the modern preference 8...Be6 9 Bxf6 Bxf6 10 Qd3:

From what I can see Black has a number of reasonable options, depending on taste, and I can't really see White's success in Carlsen - Dominguez heralding a revival of this variation.

Other 6 Be2 players prefer to play more classically, not least Nigel Short whom we see in action in that game, Short - Cheparinov. Following 8 0-0 0-0 9 Be3 Be6 10 Nd5 (White has also given the Karpov system, 10 Qd2 Nbd7 11 a4, a few recent outings, but without achieving any real success) 10...Nbd7 11 Qd3 Bxd5 12 exd5, Cheparinov was comprehensively outplayed, but I feel that Black again has a decent choice here.

Classical Scheveningen

Black doesn't, of course, have to meet 6 Be2 in the Najdorf with 6...e5, and might prefer to defend the Scheveningen, just as Kasparov always did. The tabiya arising after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 Be2 Be7 7 0-0 0-0 8 Be3 Nc6 9 f4 Qc7 10 Kh1 a6 11 a4 Re8 (to give but one of many possible move orders) remains quite popular:

We round up recent developments in Anand - Ivanchuk; a game notable for Ivanchuk's refusal to retreat his bishop to f8 in a standard position, preferring to play immediately on the queenside with ...Na5.

Taimanov: Be3 approaches

That Dangerous Weapons approach just won't go away! In no lesser game than Radjabov - Ivanchuk, White tried 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f4, which we've already seen a couple of times on this site. Ivanchuk responded with 7...d5 8 e5 Nd7 when 9 Qg4!? is the independent try, but Radjabov preferred 9 Qd2 Bc5 10 0-0-0 0-0:

Yes, the Sicilian has become a French! I should really leave this game for Neil to cover, but as it began as a Taimanov we'll examine it here.

Sveshnikov: 9 Nd5

The super-grandmasters continue (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) to shun 9 Bxf6 in favour of 9 Nd5, probably because White has reasonable chances for a small edge and doesn't risk too much unless Black responds critically. What's critical? Currently I think that Black has to be prepared to debate the sharp variation 9...Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3 0-0 12 Nc2 Bg5 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Rb8 (15...Bd7!? is a respectable, more solid approach, as employed by Topalov in Morelia) 16 b3 Kh8 17 Nce3:

Now the key line is 17...g6 18 h4, but in Leko - Radjabov Black preferred the meek 17...Bxe3 18 Nxe3 Ne7 only to be ground down in textbook manner.

Najdorf: 6 Bg5

It has been especially good to see the Najdorf back at the forefront of developments in Morelia. Shirov has preferred 6 Bg5 to the English Attack of late, and remained true to that in Shirov - Anand. However, after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nbd7 (Gelfand's favourite system) 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 b5 10 Bd3 Bb7 11 Rhe1 Qb6 12 Nb3, Anand appeared well prepared:

The Indian superstar rejected 12...b4, as previously played by Karjakin against Shirov, preferring 12...Rc8!? and after 13 Qh3 Rxc3! 14 bxc3 Qc7 Black enjoyed decent play for the exchange in a very sharp position.

Najdorf: 6 Be3 e5

Following 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5, White faces a major choice: the English Attack with 7 Nb3 or the more solid 7 Nf3. Leko tried both approaches in Morelia. Firstly, in Leko - Shirov he went in for the fairly topical line 7 Nf3 Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Be6 10 Bb3 Nc6:

Here I've supplied some coverage of both 11 Qe2 (Leko's choice) and 11 Bg5, which has also received recent attention. Perhaps White can gain a small edge, but Shirov was never too inconvenienced and held with some model play.

Perhaps that helps to explain why Leko - Anand saw instead 7 Nb3, and after 7...Be6 8 Qd2 Nbd7 9 f3 b5 10 0-0-0 Be7, Leko opted for the fairly rare positional try 11 Nd5!?:

This time he didn't even emerge from the opening skirmishes with an advantage, but after Anand became too ambitious White obtained decent winning chances, only to collapse to defeat whilst short of time.

Next month I hope to be reporting on plenty of lively Sicilians from the second leg in Linares. We'll also have a look at 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6, the so-called Grivas Sicilian.

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