ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Q: What's Black's most solid defence to 1 e4?
A: The Sicilian!
That may well be complete nonsense, but the Sicilian doesn't have to lead to a decisive result and I'm afraid that the first seven of our theoretically-important games this month fizzle out to a draw!

Download PGN of November '09 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

This opening remains very much in the shadow of the Sveshnikov, and yet continues to look in decent health. Radjabov employed it again in Novi Sad, and comfortably equalized with the fairly rare sideline 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 6 N1c3 a6 7 Na3 Be7!?:

Black should be OK if White goes after d6 with 8 Nc4 Nf6 9 Bg5, but that is certainly more challenging than the 8 Nd5 Nf6 9 Be3 of Socko - Radjabov.

The Kan

Black continues to face problems after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 b5 6 Bd3 Qb6 7 Nf3!, but 6...Bb7 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Nxc6 Bxc6 is a decent alternative:

The fairly rare 9 Bf4 causes problems in Adhiban - Vachier Lagrave, but only because Black hurries to place his bishop on c5 without delay. In the notes to that game we also examine developments after 9 Qe2, while 9 Re1 is the subject of Tiviakov - Balogh. I suspect that the rook move is White's best try for an advantage, although currently Black is in quite good health in this variation.

The Taimanov

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Bd3 Nf6 8 0-0 Black has a few options, including the ambitious 8...h5!? 9 h3 Bd6?!:

However, I'm not wholly convinced by the bishop development in view of the powerful response 10 Re1! when Black was certainly fortunate to survive in Dgebuadze - Movsesian.

Black might prefer 5...d6 when 6 g4 is the so-called Pseudo-Keres Attack. The good news for Black is that it remains less scary than the Keres proper. Indeed, after 6...a6 7 Be3 Nge7! 8 f4 b5 Black should be OK:

In Bacrot - Navara 9 Qd2 allows Black to equalize with 9...Bb7 10 0-0-0 Nxd4! 11 Bxd4 Nc6, but retreating the knight with 9 Nf3 or 9 Nb3 allows Black decent-enough counterplay with a quick ...Na5-c4.

The Najdorf: the English Attack

The variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3 retains its plus-equals-loving adherents, but is much less popular than it was two or three years ago. One reason for this may be that Black has discovered that 7...Qc7 8 a4 Be7 9 Be2!? (9 a5 remains a common alternative) 9...0-0 10 0-0 b6 isn't as bad for him as theory had thought:

In Bologan - Naiditsch the aggressive 11 a5!? only leads White into trouble, but even after Short's calmer 11 Qd3 Black may well be able to equalize.

The sharper 7 Nb3 was preferred in Leko - Ivanchuk in which Black decided to test a rather forgotten variation: 7...Be7 8 f3 Be6 9 Qd2 0-0 10 0-0-0 Qc7 11 g4 Rc8 12 Qf2 Nbd7 13 Kb1 b5 14 g5 Nh5:

Evidently Leko was caught off guard for his 15 Nd5 allowed Black easy equality. I'm not too sure, though, what Ivanchuk had ready for 15 h4!, which appears to give White good chances of emerging with the advantage.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5

Vachier Lagrave doesn't always uphold the 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nc6 variation, and at the World Junior he preferred the more solid 7...Qc7, which was, of course, advocated by Emms and then by Arizmendi and Moreno in their respective repertoire works. After 8 Qf3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6 we reach an important divide:

10 a3 is trickier than it looks, especially should Black continue with 10...Bb7, but in Robson - Vachier Lagrave he preferred the solid 10...Nc6 and was fine after 11 Nxc6 Qxc6 12 f5 Qc5 before going on to outplay his younger opponent.

Shirov has twice preferred 10 0-0-0 b4 11 Nce2, but after 11...h5! 12 Ng3 h4 13 Nh5 Nd7 14 g4 Bb7 Black appears to be fine, as we'll see in . Shirov - Papaioannou.

That's all for now. Do enjoy the rest of the Tal Memorial!

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