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Hello and welcome to the June update. Along with approximately half the planet, I have been seized by football fever, and a few nights ago I found myself explaining the off-side rule to my wife, using pawns on the chessboard. Nonetheless, duty calls, and I have managed to finish this update before the England-Portugal match, where I will be one of a small band of Scotsmen who are keen to see England do well.

This month's update focuses mainly on some recent games in the Rossolimo, but we will start with a few odds and ends. Tony Kosten provided me with a couple of his recent games from lines covered in the last update, and I have added a few thoughts of my own.

Download PGN of June '06 Anti-Sicilian games

Queenside fianchetto - 2 b3

The first is perhaps most interesting from a 'theoretical' point of view, because Black's play was very principled, but I think I would still rather be White in the resulting positions, and have suggested some possible improvements to White's play in Kosten - Radjilich.

Zvagintsev - 2 Na3

Sasikiran joins the band of top players willing to give this eccentric move a try. It was a reasonable choice against Cheparinov, who is the main man behind Topalov's preparation, and therefore no doubt well prepared in most main lines. Cheparinov's response doesn't impress, because although he had no major opening problems, losing a tempo with his d-pawn and then giving away bishop for knight would not discourage anybody from venturing 2.Na3.

Here is the position after 12 Qe2 in Sasikiran - Cheparinov:

As an aside, I watched the final phase of this game, and was deeply impressed by both players who were both down to their last minute or two plus thirty second increment. Cheparinov had a lost position, but consistently found the most tenacious defence, while Sasikiran seemed quite surprised that the game was continuing, but kept on playing the best moves with striking confidence in his calculations. It was great entertainment, all the more so because I was rooting for the Indian team and beating Bulgaria was, sadly, one of the highlights for their team.

2 c3

I find it hard to believe that White's approach can yield any advantage in Nisipeanu - Volokitin, but Nisipeanu tends to study his openings carefully, so it might be that the positions are deceptive and that Black has more problems than he initially seems to. That might certainly be the case here, as White missed an excellent winning possibility.

Moscow 2.Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+

If Rublevsky and Baklan do it, it deserves respect, but I find it hard to believe that White has anything resembling an advantage in the diagrammed position (after 7.Nxe5):

Now both 7...Qc8 and 7...Qd6 seem to be fine for Black. In Klosterfrau - Kosten, Tony chose the latter move, which I recommended in a previous update, and Black quickly seized the initiative.

Rossolimo 3.Bb5 e6

That leaves four games in the Rossolimo, all of them in the line with 3...e6, which is certainly one of the most combative answers to 3.Bb5:

Bologan - Radjabov featured 4.Bxc6 bc, which we have considered here several times before. For a short while, White was scoring well with an approach based on an early Ng5, often followed by Qh5 or f4, but these days Black seems to have found appropriate antidotes, and although 4.Bxc6 will always appeal to players seeking an early positional imbalance and a primarily strategic battle, from a theoretical point of view it seems that Black has no particular problems at the moment.

Friso Nijboer features in the three remaining games, scoring only one out of three, but that one was very important, because it helped Netherlands to defeat Russia at the Olympiad in Rublevsky - Nijboer. Black's play makes a very coherent impression, but I suspect White has chances to improve.

Fressinet - Nijboer and Van Der Wiel-Nijboer both feature the line 5.Re1 a6 6.Bf1 Ng6:

where White follows up with c3 and d4, and Black finds, in both cases, that his knight on g6 is badly placed. I give my thoughts on possible improvements for Black in the notes.

That's all for now. The next update is likely to be with you in mid-July, and will focus primarily on recent developments in the 2.c3 Sicilian, Jonathan

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