ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
It just won't go away - the Poisoned Pawn continues to loom large over proceedings in the Open Sicilian. This month we return to a critical line of it, as well as investigating the Poisoned Pawn Declined (the PPD?!) and some developments in the Sveshnikov.

Download PGN of November '07 Open Sicilian games

Najdorf: The Poisoned Pawn Variation

Once again I find myself having to explore 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 h6 11 Bh4. There have been a few developments in the long variation beginning 11...dxe5 12 fxe5 Nfd7 13 Ne4 Qxa2 14 Rd1 Qd5, but in Carlsson - Malusauskas, White was hit with a rocket: 11...g5!?:

Pretty sharp play arises from this fascinating novelty, but, as some have noticed on the Forum, several GMs have begun to decline the Poisoned Pawn, preferring 8...Nc6; a variation which can quickly become quite Rauzer-like, as indeed it does in Luther - Sedlak.

Najdorf: The Old Main Line

We must never think that the 6 Bg5 Najdorf is all to do with the Poisoned Pawn: Black has several playable alternatives, including 7...Qc7, Gelfand's 7...Nbd7, 7...Nc6!? and the Old Main Line, 7...Be7. The last was Black's choice in Radjabov - Cheparinov; a recent battle between two noted theoreticians. Topalov's second followed up with 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 Nbd7 10 g4 b5 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 g5 Nd7 13 f5 Bxg5+ 14 Kb1 and then possibly surprised the Azeri with 14...0-0!?:

This leads to quite complex and forcing play, and might even be Black's best bet after 10 g4. Radjabov responded with the critical 15 fxe6, while we'll examine 15 Qg3 and White's other alternatives in Hector - Dvoirys.

Najdorf: 6 Be3 e5 7 Nde2

Nisipeanu remains wedded to this pet line of his, no matter how many ways Black seems to have of securing a reasonable position. In Nisipeanu - Topalov, their third encounter in this variation, Topalov chose the sharp 7...Be6 8 f4 Nbd7 9 f5 Bc4 10 Nc1 d5!?, and quickly secured the type of unbalanced and aggressive position in which he usually excels:

Sveshnikov: 9 Nd5

There's recently been some discussion on the Forum about the current status of the Sveshnikov: some feel it's fine, if rather forcing in places, others that Black is beginning to suffer in a few lines. The opening maintains its leading adherents, including Radjabov, Eljanov and Yakovich, but is somewhat less popular than it was a few years ago. I suspect that's chiefly due to the whims of fashion, although there are a few variations in which White has recently made some progress.

Currently one critical line is 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 Rb8 13 h4 Be7:

In Landa - Eljanov, White opts for 14 Nce3, improves over an earlier Karjakin game and gains the upper hand before play comes to a somewhat premature halt. Karjakin himself has switched to 14 g3!? and after 14...Be6 15 a3 a5 16 Nce3, Black is currently in need of an improvement: 16...Re8 most certainly fails to convince in Karjakin - Shirov.

Not everyone likes to play so critically against the Sveshnikov and the quiet 9 Nd5 Be7 10 Nxe7 Nxe7 11 Bd3 has recently gained some attention:

We'll examine it in Morozevich - Radjabov, in which White wins a rather complex ending and just a few weeks after he was held in a favourable ending by the same opponent.

That's all from me until the New Year! I'm delighted to announce that next month John Emms will be along with a Kan and Sozin special. 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