ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
It's a Najdorf-free month as we focus on developments in the Lowenthal, the Kan and, of course, the Sveshnikov! Both Carlsen and Ivanchuk have made good use of the Kan of late and I'm not surprised that the opening is spreading to the elite - it's been extremely popular at more ordinary-GM level for some time now.

Download PGN of May '08 Open Sicilian games

The Lowenthal

White has been struggling to prove an advantage against 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 a6 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qf6, antipositional and relatively rare though the Lowenthal may be. Subscribers may well remember Vallejo crushing Kramnik with the opening a few years ago, and he employed it once again in Nisipeanu - Vallejo. That continued 8 Qxf6 (White's most popular choice of late) 8...Nxf6 9 Nc3 Nb4 10 Bd3 d6 (the slower 10...h6 is a respectable alternative) 11 Bg5 and now Vallejo introduced the novelty 11...Be6!?:

This certainly improves over the immediate exchange on d3, but may still be insufficient for full equality as we will see.

In Barua - Tiwari we round up developments in White's other main tries against the Lowenthal, focussing especially on the old main line with 8 Qd1. After 8...Qg6 9 Nc3 d5 10 Nxd5 Qxe4+ 11 Be3 Nd4 12 Nc7+ Ke7 Barua rejected the critical 13 Rc1, and played 13 Qd3 Nxc2+ 14 Kd2 Qxd3+ 15 Bxd3 Nxe3 16 Nxa8 Nd5:

but this gave Black full compensation for the exchange with White's knight stuck in the corner.

The Kan

This flexible opening is popular with a number of sub-2650s GMs: Avrukh, Caruana, Cramling and Smirin to name just a few. Having all Black's possibilities covered can be a bit of a nightmare for White, which may help to explain why recent practice has seen 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 c4 becoming ever-more popular, although it remains in third place in the popularity stakes behind 5 Bd3 and 5 Nc3. Radjabov - Kamsky saw a typical Hedgehog position arise after 5...Nf6 6 Nc3 Qc7 7 a3 b6 8 Be3 Bb7 9 f3 d6 10 Rc1 Nbd7 11 Be2 Be7 12 0-0 0-0:

Kamsky was doing OK until he uncharacteristically lost his way in a critical position, passing over the chance to carry out the ideal ...d5 break at the same time!

We move on to 5 Bd3 in Shirov - Carlsen, in which we consider not just Carlsen's 5...Ne7, but also the solid alternative 5...Nc6 and the old main line with 5...Nf6 6 0-0 Qc7. Black has other options too against 5 Bd3 and Cramling has employed 5...g6!? extensively of late:

We take a look in Pogonina - Cramling in which Black was quick to simplify the position with 6 Nc3 Bg7 7 Be3 Ne7 8 0-0 Nbc6 9 Be2 d5. The resulting IQP position is perhaps a touch better for White, but Cramling held without any real difficulty.

Black's most popular continuation against 5 Bd3 is the active 5...Bc5, after which White came up with a new plan in Adams - Caruana: 6 Nb3 Be7 7 0-0 d6 8 Qg4 g6 9 Qg3!? Qc7 10 a4, although whether this is enough for a definite edge I'm not sure. Indeed, Caruana was doing OK until he later overestimated his active bishops and underestimated his centralised king in a most complex middlegame. Subscribers are also urged to study closely the notes to this game. Do enjoy the great slugfest Woolley-Davies and also note the dangerous idea 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Bc5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 f4 d6 10 e5!:

This idea has been played a few times, but theory appears to have overlooked it. White's resulting sacrifices in Kryvoruchko-Smirin were rather powerful and, indeed, it appears that Black may just be in huge trouble after 10 e5.

Finally, we move on to the 5 Nc3 Kan in which Black avoids 5...Qc7 6 Bd3 Bc5. The young American-Italian Fabiano Caruana has already contributed several notable ideas in the Kan, but I'm afraid it may seem as if I have it in for him this month! Bologan - Caruana saw Black collapse in an extremely unbalanced late middlegame following some typically offbeat but energetic opening play from the Moldovan: 6...Nf6 7 f4!? b5 8 a3 d6 9 g4!? h6 10 Qe2 Nbd7 11 Bd2:

The Sveshnikov

Last month saw a discussion of the topical positional 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 b4 12 Nc2. As part of that coverage, we witnessed a slightly fortunate victory by Movsesian over Tregubov. Those two met again in the recent European Championship in Plovdiv. In that Movsesian - Tregubov clash, Black came well prepared and drew with some ease after remaining true to 12...a5:

Of late there has been much discussion of 9 Nd5 on the Open Sicilians Forum and do please check out the analysis which various subscribers have posted there. One issue which has been worrying some people is how does Black manage to win against 9 Nd5 ? I'm a little loathe to answer such a question before seeing a copy of The Easiest Sicilian, but at super-GM level it can indeed be rather hard. That said, in Bacrot - Radjabov Black tried 9...Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3 Bg5 12 Nc2 Rb8 and went on to win:

Bacrot found himself outmanoeuvred in a complex middlegame, just as many players no doubt are when 9 Nd5 is tried at lower levels, but I suspect that a strong white player should be able to hold the balance against 12...Rb8 if that's all they're after. Indeed, as we will see in the notes to Bacrot-Radjabov, the later encounter from Baku, Karjakin-Radjabov, ended in a draw.

It's back to the Najdorf next month!

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