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This month a wide variety of lines with Bb5 (Moscow, Rossolimo, and the fashionable 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bb5.) I consider Bartel-Maghsoodloo to be the most rewarding game for further study.

Download PGN of February ’24 Anti-Sicilian games

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Anti-Sicilian with 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 [B23]

Building on Quizon-Tran from last month, this month we have Vaishali, R - Rodshtein, M which varied with 7.Nge2:

Flicking through lines with the engine gives the impression that Black is equal everywhere, but in reality there are some interesting problems to solve related to the d6-pawn. A useful rule of thumb is that Black should think twice before developing their queen, since often the flexibility of her majesty allows Black surprising tactical defences.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.b3 [B30]

Onto a pet line of mine, one which I have played on-and-off for at least a decade. Black tends to meet this with the autopilot 5...a6 (after all, that’s mostly why the second knight went to e7) and after the further 6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.Bb2, the correct move is probably 7...b5:

White can still pose theoretical questions by combining the pawn pushes a4 and d4 in some order, however, and this is exactly what I did in the game Fernandez, D - Dardha, D. Black equalised but then perhaps overplayed his hand by trying to overwhelm me with a central pawn storm.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.d4 [B30]

A relatively more fashionable way to meet the 3...e6 Rossolimo is this one, where the resulting pawn structure can land us in anything from an Open Sicilian to... a French. In a game between two very highly esteemed Israeli grandmasters, Sutovsky, E - Gelfand, B, Black opted to meet it with 5...cxd4 6.Nxd4 Ng6 (6...Qb6 is also playable) 7.Be3 Be7:

Black is now ready to take on d4 and whatever White does next has to take account of this. In case of White arranging to recapture there with the c-pawn, then as we will see it can be interesting for Black to close the centre, French-style, with a ...d5 push.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.b3 [B30]

Another line that features a queenside fianchetto for White, and which leads to very original play. In case of 5...e5 it is White’s king that often takes a ‘walk’ (d2-c3-b2), while after 5...f6 6.0-0 Ne7 7.Nh4 it is Black’s king which may end up on the move:

Already 7...Kf7 is playable, as is 7...d5 8.e5 and now 8...Kf7 (with the idea of 9.exf6 Ng6.) Instead 8...fxe5 9. Bb2 left Black somewhat under the cosh in Saydaliev, S - Sindarov, J.

Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.d3 Qc7 7.a4 [B31]

As should be clear from my previous annotations, I am by no means opposed to an early a4-push in the Rossolimo and Moscow, and this month’s game Neuman, P - Sethuraman, S provided another example which is worth checking. Black allowed the further push of the pawn with 7...Nf6 8.a5 e5:

The position is already rather ropey for Black, and the incisive 9.Be3 (rather than 9.Nbd2) would have given White quite a substantial opening advantage.

Moscow with 3...Nd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 e5 6.Qd3 [B51]

From the super-tournament in Prague comes to us one of the most convincing Black wins I have ever annotated in a 2600+ encounter, Bartel, M - Maghsoodloo, P. Initially, Black deviated from the most common paths with 6...h6:

In case of a Maroczy setup from White (7.c4 etc) I am not sure what Black’s idea was, though I have suggested one novelty that might make a bit of sense. Instead, White played 7.Nc3 Nf6 and here I do believe there are reasonably convincing answers to most of White’s tries. White went for a very typical approach of taking on d7 (when questioned) and trying to manoeuvre the f3-knight to d5, however things came unstuck when Black questioned the c3-knight at an inconvenient time.

Moscow with 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Be2 [B51]

It is generally taken as an article of faith (though it could just be a neurosis of mine) that when White retreats the bishop in such a line, they still want to push c4 and d4 and get a Maroczy structure. The game Moussard, J - Niemann, H gave us an example to the contrary:

Here White played 9.Rb1, clearly intending b4 and making clear to Black that they face some problems on the b-file.

Moscow with 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7 Qxd7 5.c4 [B52]

Finally, another effort from Emil Sutovsky. Exploiting a particular choice from White to recapture on d4 with a knight (when the queen was also possible), he played the initially unintuitive looking 9...Qc7!?:

This is a known idea, but what was especially convincing in Sokolovsky, Y - Sutovsky, E was the ease with which Black obtained a better position. White has taken time out to avoid all ...Ng4 ideas, but has not castled or protected the c4-pawn yet and so there is a clear rationale behind this second move of the queen. Since the logical 10 b3 doesn’t solve White’s problems (and neither, seemingly, does the game’s 10.Qd3) it appears that the only try for White to pose problems is 10.Qe2. In the game, Black won a pawn but didn’t quite manage to do so in the optimal way, leading to White getting compensation of increasingly worrying proportions.

All the best, Daniel

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