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There's plenty to discuss this month where we examine some lines which merit further attention and others which certainly don't! Do especially keep an eye out for yet another highly-entertaining Najdorf struggle featuring Grischuk, not defending the Poisoned Pawn for once, but rather taking on Nepomniachtchi's 6 h3.

Download PGN of May '10 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

Last month I bemoaned a lack of 2600+ praxis this calendar year with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6, with the notable exception of Moiseenko, but that was all to change with the President's Cup in Baku. There Radjabov returned to his old favourite, making two easy draws, including with Judit Polgar who tried 6 c4 Be7 7 Be2 (slightly unusual and a little committal) 7...Nf6 8 N1c3 a6 9 Na3:

I quite like 9...Nd4!? here, but Radjabov preferred to develop along more classical Kalashnikov lines with 9...Be6 and never had any real problems in Polgar - Radjabov.

The Kan

Unsurprisingly this flexible choice has a number of regular grandmaster exponents and Black certainly has a number of options against the traditional main line, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3. In Shirov - Chuchelov we'll see the Latvian wizard struggling to prove any advantage and later taking too many risks after 5...g6, while the notes also cover some important developments with the more popular 5...Bc5.

I suspect that 5 Nc3 is more critical and this has certainly been quite popular of late. Black's most ambitious response is 5...b5!?:

Here Black has faced some problems after both 6 Bd3 and 6 Be2. Tiger Hillarp Persson recently handled the former successfully, while we'll focus on the latter in Guseinov - Kamsky. There Black deployed his pieces around the e4-e5 advance and 6...Bb7 7 Bf3 Ne7!? 8 0-0 Ng6 appeared quite comfortable for him.

The Classical: The Richter-Rauzer

Of late Dreev has reverted back to meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 with his old favourite 6...Bd7, but after 7 Qd2 he has generally eschewed the main line of 7...Rc8 as we'll see:

Black remained true to the main rook move in Smeets - Gashimov, where we'll give some coverage to the critical and hardly clear exchange sacrifice 8 0-0-0 (8 f4 may well be a superior move order) 8...Nxd4 9 Qxd4 Qa5 10 f4 Rxc3! 11 bxc3 e5.

A line which isn't seen much anymore is 6...e6 7 Qd2 a6 8 0-0-0 h6 largely because White's results with 9 Nxc6! bxc6 10 Bf4 d5 11 Qe3 have been so impressive:

Nevertheless, Kempinski was recently happy to defend this and against no mean theoretician in Vachier Lagrave-Kempinski. Indeed, he obtained a fairly comfortable draw with 11...Be7!? 12 Be2 0-0, but my suspicion is that White should still be able to prove an edge in this line.

The Najdorf: 6 Be3

I wonder just how many subscribers were aware that the position after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6 7 f3 b5 8 Qd2 can also arise from a Kan move order, as it did in Sutovsky - Kamsky? There Black tried the prophylactic 8...h5?!, but unlike Kempinski's play this doesn't deserve too much further attention:

Sutovsky pinpointed Black's problems with 9 a4! and after 9...bxa4 both recaptures give White a pretty pleasant edge.

The Najdorf: 6 h3

The sideline 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3!? remains quite topical and the fact that both Topalov and now Ivanchuk have responded with 6...e6 7 g4 Be7, transposing to the Keres Attack, means that it certainly deserves respect. Grischuk has his own pet response in 6...Nc6!?, but has suffered two recent defeats with it:

Nevertheless, as is so often the case, it would be wrong to blame the opening for his woes and he was certainly doing fine after 7 Be3 e5 8 Nf3 Be7 9 g4 Be6 in Nepomniachtchi - Grischuk. There both players produced a highly creative game only for Grischuk to blunder at the time control, after which his young opponent put him away with a sequence of brutal blows.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5

The line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7!? remains quite topical and was recently employed by Sutovsky. Leading 6 Bg5 authority Radjabov responded with 7 Bc4 e6 8 0-0!?, which should not be considered a less-testing option than plans involving long castling:

Here I quite like 8...Qb6 for Black, but in Radjabov - Sutovsky the dice were rolled with the ambitious if positionally-desirable 8...h6!? 9 Be3! Ne5 10 Bb3 g5.

Another once extremely rare line is 6...e6 7 f4 Be7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 Nbd7 10 g4 h6!?:

Dominguez has been to the fore here and Black recently did well when up against a leading theoretician in Motylev - Hamitevici, where 11 Bxf6 Bxf6 12 h4 Qb6 13 Nde2 Nc5 14 g5 Be7 15 g6!? 0-0! led to a position which appears fully satisfactory for Black.

No doubt there will be more developments in the 6 Bg5 Najdorf to report next month!

Until then, Richard


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