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My last column was finished off in Plovdiv, so it only seemed logical to focus this month on the many Open Sicilian developments from the European Club Cup. Black takes a bit of a hit in the Kan, but counters well by revealing that the Najdorf 6 Be3 Ng4 is fully viable once again!

Download PGN of November '10 Open Sicilian games

The Kan

We begin by examining the variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3. In the notes to Naiditsch - Nikolov we'll see a slightly lucky escape for Kamsky after 5...Bc5, but in our main game the solid variation 5...Nf6 6 0-0 Qc7 7 Qe2 d6 8 c4 g6 9 Nc3 Bg7 10 Nf3 0-0 was debated:

Naiditsch was happy to follow in Shirov's footsteps with 11 Rd1 Nc6 12 Bc2 and certainly, just as in Shirov-Wang Hao, White managed to emerge from the opening with the advantage.

In the 5 Nc3 variation, I'm amazed how many experienced Kan practitioners are being caught out by the gambit 5...Qc7 6 Bd3 Bc5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 f4 d6 10 e5!:

This is simply very dangerous and possibly even best avoided, as we'll see in Nepomniachtchi - Karttunen.

The Four Knights Variation

We haven't covered much of late the attempt to avoid the main line Four Knights not to mention the Sveshnikov, namely 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 e5 Nd5 8 Ne4. It allowed Black an easy draw in Karjakin - Radjabov, where Black rejected after 8...Qc7 9 f4 the relatively common 9...Qb6 in favour of his old preference, 9...Rb8!?:

This certainly caught Karjakin by surprise and, moreover, Black appears to be in decent-enough shape here.

The Taimanov

White can meet 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 Nf6 with 7 f4, just as he sometimes does too with ...a6 played instead of ...Qc7. After 7...Bb4 White has decent prospects for an advantage, so 7...Nxd4 8 Qxd4 b6!? is a recent development:

It turns out well for Black in A.Zhigalko-Mamedyarov, but I have my doubts that it suffices for equality after De la Villa's 9 e5!?.

The Richter-Rauzer

The sub-variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2 a6 8 0-0-0 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 Be7 10 f4 b5 hasn't been seen as much on the site in 2010 as it was in 2009. However, it remains fairly topical and quite critical. The leading Open Sicilian players are currently focussing their efforts on the direct 11 Bxf6 gxf6 12 f5:

This is quite thematic and critical, but after 12...Qc7 (Khalifman recently preferred 12...Qa5!?) 13 Kb1 Qc5 14 Qd2, 14...Bb7!? is a new idea which may well give White nothing more than a small, manageable plus - see Jakovenko - Kononenko for the details.

Another topical line of the Rauzer is 8...Bd7 9 f3 Be7 10 h4 h6 11 Be3 h5!?:

I remain quite a fan of this prophylactic advance, although Black later went astray and was outplayed by his amateur opponent in D.Ledger-Avrukh.

The Najdorf: 6 Be3

Skipping away from Plovdiv for a moment, we follow Vachier Lagrave's recent outings with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Ng4 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7. White went for the critical 10 h3 Ne5 11 Nf5 Bxf5 12 exf5 Nbc6 13 Nd5 e6 14 fxe6 fxe6 15 Ne3 Qa5+ 16 c3 in Bologan - Vachier Lagrave:

The resulting complications turned out well for Black in Svidler-Topalov, San Luis 2005, but White was supposed to have come up with a big improvement, 16...Nf3+! 17 Qxf3 Bxc3+ 18 Kd1 Qa4+ 19 Nc2 Bxb2 and then 20 Rc1, in Svidler-Grischuk, Mexico City 2007. However, on the latest evidence from both the correspondence world and our main game, White hasn't even a trace of any advantage in this line and may well do best to settle for one of the main perpetuals on offer.

Perhaps this explains why White preferred 10 Be2 h5 11 Bxg4 hxg4 12 0-0 in Tiviakov - Vachier Lagrave:

However, after 12...e6 Black should be OK and the talented Frenchman went on to show that White underestimates the pressure down the h-file at his peril.

If Black prefers 6...e5 then I really feel White must go 7 Nb3. After 7 Nf3 Gelfand has been successful of late with both 7...Qc7 and 7...Be7; the latter being his choice in Kononenko - Gelfand. Moreover, in the notes we'll see Emanuel Berg demonstrating another route to equality after the former against no lesser 7 Nf3 expert than Nepomniachtchi.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5

Finally, we touch on a line which remains quite trendy, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7. Many have taken up 7 Bc4 against this of late, but after 7...Qb6 8 Bb3 e6 I believe that Black is OK!

We round up various recent developments in A.Hunt-Cheparinov, where the Bulgarian was certainly pretty lucky to get away with 9 Qd2 Nc5!? followed by some more rather ambitious play.

That's all for this month. See you in December! Richard


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