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There's been a welcome flurry of top-flight activity of late and the Sicilian has certainly received plenty of attention, even if it's yet to be tested in Sarajevo... Plenty of variations are featured this month, although once again the Rauzer has rather managed to steal the limelight.

Download PGN of May '09 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

It was a surprise to see Kramnik employing 1 e4 in the recent Azerbaijan-Rest of the World match, and he certainly didn't seem too well-prepared for Radjabov's 1...c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6. Indeed, Kramnik - Radjabov is just further evidence that 6 c4 Be7 7 N1c3 a6 8 Na3 Nf6 9 Nc2 Be6 10 Be2 Rc8 11 b3 0-0 is fairly comfortable for Black:

The Sveshnikov

The critical variation 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 c3 0-0 12 Nc2 Bg5 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Rb8 16 b3 Kh8 17 Nce3 g6 18 h4!? is beginning to look dynamically balanced and actually quite drawish. Karjakin's latest idea in the tabiya after 18...Bxh4 19 g3 Bg5 20 f4 exf4 21 gxf4 Bh4+ 22 Kd2 Ne7 is 23 Qg1:

However, even here Black remains solid enough on the kingside and he drew without much difficulty in Karjakin - Ivanchuk.

The Kan: 5 Bd3

Ivanchuk and Kamsky have been to the fore with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 of late. I'm still not entirely convinced by Kamsky's penchant for meeting 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0-0 with 6...d6 7 c4 b6, but 6...Qc7 7 Qe2 d6 8 c4 g6 9 Nc3 Bg7 appears to be in decent-enough shape, as we'll see in Adams-D'Costa:

The Taimanov

We begin our coverage of 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 by examining two modern lines. Anand - Radjabov continues 5...Nf6 6 a3!? Be7 7 Be3 when Black has a choice between the Taimanov-style 7...a6 and the Scheveningen-like 7...d6. Do also check the notes for Shirov's latest outing with the Dangerous Weapon 5...a6 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f4!?:

Here 7...Bb4 8 Bd3 e5 is becoming accepted as Black's main response and on the basis of Shirov-Mamedyarov he appears to be able to equalize.

Of course, 5...Qc7 is another very important option and we'll check out developments in the important classical line 6 Be2 a6 7 0-0 Nf6 8 Be3 Bb4 9 Na4 Be7 in Bacrot - Kozakov.

The Richter-Rauzer

The latest to jump on the 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 a6 10 f4 b5 bandwagon is leading Classical Sicilian authority Peter Wells. In Hebden - Wells we examine a number of recent ideas stemming from the key tabiya reached after 11 Bxf6 gxf6:

Fashionable though that line is, it remains far from forced and Ivanchuk has dabbled in 7...a6 8 0-0-0 h6 of late. Black equalized without difficulty after 9 Bf4 Bd7 10 Nxc6 Bxc6 11 Qe1 Be7 in Alekseev - Ivanchuk, but 9 Nxc6 bxc6 10 Bf4 remains more critical. Black might sidestep that variation with 8...Bd7, but then he has to be ready with the sharp 9 f4 b5:

This line is risky but currently holding up for Black, as shown in an impressive piece of analysis by Milen Petrov.

The Polugaevsky

A number of subscribers kindly suggested some recent interesting games with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 b5!?. The Polu hasn't had a great reputation in recent years, but in the critical line 8 e5 dxe5 9 fxe5 Qc7 10 exf6 Qe5+ 11 Be2 Qxg5 12 0-0 Black doesn't appear to be doing too badly at all, at least so long as he is well prepared:

As we'll see in Kogan - Smirin, both 12...Ra7 and 12...Qe5 are currently in decent shape, and the ball is back in White's court here.

The Poisoned Pawn

My thanks to Michael Freeman for correcting my annotations to Shirov-Wang Hao from last month. Michael kindly supplied one of his own games which shows that 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd2 Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 e5 dxe5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 12 Ne4 h6 13 Bh4 Qxa2 14 Rd1 Qd5 15 Qe3 Bc5 16 Nxe6 Bb4+ 17 c3 Qxe6 18 cxb4 0-0 19 Rd6! Qxe5 20 Bc4 Qh5? is not the improvement I had hoped it was:

Here 21 Bg3! Nc6 22 0-0 Nde5 23 Bxe5! Qxe5 24 Rd5 already gives White a monstrous initiative, as we'll see in Freeman - Schmidt.

Until next month, 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