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Hi Everyone,
This month we focus on recent developments in both the Taimanov and the Kan, featuring a number of important novelties as well as many entertaining games. Do please let me know ( whether you'd prefer to see a focus on a specific variation or two each month or a selection of games from a wide variety of lines.

Download PGN of May '07 Open Sicilian games

Taimanov: 6 Be3 Systems

The English Attack remains pretty popular in the Taimanov, especially the 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 version. In Motylev - Korneev, Black tries 6...a6 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 f3 b5 9 0-0-0 Be7?!, but such an approach is beginning to look a little slow after 10 g4 0-0 11 g5 when White is ahead in the race situation and enjoys good central control:

Motylev switches lines in our next game, quite possibly having been unable to prove any advantage against 9...Ne5!?, in place of Korneev's 9...Be7. In the Russian Team Championship he preferred 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Nf6 6 Be3 a6 7 f4!?, an idea recently promoted in Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian. However, in Motylev - Potkin, Black also came quite well prepared, introducing the novelty 7...Bb4 8 Bd3 e5!?:

Black doesn't, of course, have to meet 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 with 5...Qc7 and 5...a6 remains a popular alternative. White has recently been exploring 6 f3!?, but is this really sufficient to give him any advantage in the IQP position arising after 6...d5 7 exd5 exd5 8 Be3 Bb4 ?:

We examine this topical question in Grischuk - Volokitin.

Taimanov: 6 Bd3

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7, 6 Be3 is by no means the only route to a sharp position. White might also head for 6 Bd3 a6 7 Be3 Nf6 8 0-0 when play can quickly become quite sharp, especially in the event of the fashionable 8...Ne5 9 h3 Bc5 10 Kh1 d6. This line has been scoring quite well for White of late due to the discovery of 11 f4 Ng6 12 Qe1 0-0 13 f5 Ne5 14 Qh4, intending a sacrificial 15 Rf3 followed by a brutal assault on g7:

Tony examined one version of this sacrifice (14...b5 15 Rf3) in Carlsen,M-Vachier Lagrave,M, but it does seem that one resource which might have fallen through the general net is 14...Bd7 15 Rf3 Nxd3!?. This has only been seen in the one game so far, but looks like quite a good idea as we'll see in Antal - Vegh.

Kan: 5 Bd3

The Kan is well known for its flexibility and is also attracting increased attention due to its large number of relatively unexplored variations. One of those which we'll examine this month is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Ne7!?. In Vallejo - Andreikin, White was happy to counter that with 6 c4!? Nbc6 7 Nb3, but doesn't that just provoke 7...d5 ?

As the game reveals, quite possibly Black should refrain from this natural counter since the novelty 8 cxd5 exd5 9 0-0! gives White a pleasant edge.

Kan: 5 Nc3

An even more provocative option for Black is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 g6!?. This combination of ...Qc7 and ...g6 does look a little suspect and so one can understand the aggressive novelty which White came up with in Sandu - Sikula: 7 0-0 Bg7 8 Be3 Nf6 9 f4 d6 10 f5!?

Black is quickly blown away in the game which I'm very grateful to WIM Mihaela Sandu for sharing this with us.

A more common, if not actually that safe an option is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 b5. In Jones - Markowski both players were happy to debate a critical line from Experts vs the Sicilian, namely 6 Bd3 d6 7 0-0 Nf6 8 Qe2 Be7 9 a4 b4 10 Na2 Qb6 11 Be3 Qb7 12 c3:

Markowski now introduced the obvious and effective novelty 12...bxc3, and appeared to equalize before the game became rather complex.

Finally, we lightly touch on the game Shabalov - Kamsky in which these two great original players quickly reach a new position after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Be2!? b6!? 6 0-0 Bb7 7 Nc3 Qc7 8 f4 Bb4!?:

An exciting if balanced fight ensues, and one which emphasises just how the rich the Kan remains in terms of fertile territory.

Until next month, Richard


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