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As usual this year's Melody Amber tournament produced a number of exciting games and saw many players dabbling in lines they rarely employ. Thus we have a number of games from there this month, as well as a fair amount of Rauzer and Poisoned Pawn coverage.

Download PGN of April '09 Open Sicilian games

The Kalashnikov

Arguably the main line of the Kalashnikov runs 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 6 c4 Be7 7 N1c3 a6 8 Na3:

Now Black can take play into the Sveshnikov with 8...Nf6 9 Bg5, but on the current evidence his independent tries appear quite playable. Radjabov twice reached decent positions in Nice with 8...f5!?, as we'll see in Morozevich - Radjabov, where we also examine Bacrot's recent outing with the more solid 8...Be6.

The Kan: 5 Bd3

A good way to avoid too much theory after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 is with the Taimanov-like 5...Ne7!?. One critical response runs 6 0-0 Nbc6 7 Nxc6 Nxc6 8 Be3 (8 Qg4!? might be more critical) 8...Be7 9 Nd2 0-0 10 c3:

Black had faced some problems here, but he introduced the strong novelty 10...Qc7! in Leko - Kramnik. Kramnik's new idea appears to fully equalize and he later blew Leko away with some impressive power play.

A more traditional counter to 5 Bd3 is 5...Nf6 6 0-0 d6 7 c4 b6 8 Nc3 Bb7, as Black essayed in Topalov - Kamsky. A fair amount of typical Hedgehog manoeuvring ensued, before Kamsky struck with a lovely kingside attack.

The Taimanov: g3 lines

The variation 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 g3 is not without its venom. A prudent response is to delay developing the king's knight with 6...a6 7 Bg2 d6 8 0-0 Bd7:

This was debated in Meier - Akopian from the recent European Championship. White came armed with a new plan and one which certainly deserves further tests, as Akopian was definitely under pressure despite being trebled on an open h-file at one stage!

The Richter-Rauzer

I'm grateful to subscriber Milen Petrov for a fair amount of research on the Rauzer, which he's kindly agreed to share with us all. Milen begins by demonstrating just why he has been unable to resuscitate 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 Qa5?! in his notes to Ganguly - Palit. He has also been busy exploring 6...Qb6, but this too seems dubious - see his analysis of 7 Be3!.

So what should Black do after 6 Bg5? Play the main lines with 6...e6 7 Qd2 a6 is the answer I'm afraid! Malakhov has been experimenting with 6...Bd7 7 Qd2 h6, but I'm not entirely convinced and subsequent good use of the third rank by White with 13 Qd3! quickly led to a rather grim position for Black in Najer - Malakhov:

In this variation Black has often preferred 7...Rc8 8 f4 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 Qa5, but after 10 e5 the exchange sacrifice on c3 is looking pretty ropey, as demonstrated in Milen's notes to Game 8.

The Velimirovic Attack

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Be3 Be7 8 Qe2 a6 9 0-0-0 is quite a rare beast in high-level praxis these days. A critical position arises after 9...0-0 10 Rhg1 Nxd4!? (10...Qc7 11 Bb3 Nd7 is more normal) 11 Rxd4 b5 12 Bb3 Nd7 13 g4 Nc5 14 g5:

Now Black must take play back into a standard line with 14...Qc7, but a leading Classical Sicilian authority chose not to and was swiftly punished in the brutal encounter Svidler - Dreev.

Najdorf: the Poisoned Pawn

Just when one thought that 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!? was falling from fashion, back it springs at the highest level! A very modern development is 10...dxe5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 12 Ne4 h6 13 Bh4 Qxa2 14 Rd1 Qd5 15 Qe3 Bc5!?:

This is pretty sharp, but Black appears to have sufficient defensive resources on the current evidence. However, he certainly needs to be much better prepared than Black was in the recent miniature Shirov - Wang Hao.

If White doesn't mind a draw, he might prefer the older and no less complex 13 Bb5!?. A critical way for Black to continue is 13...axb5!? 14 Nxb5 hxg5! 15 Nxa3 Rxa3, obtaining three pieces for the queen:

White has usually responded by sinking his knight into d6, but it can then be hard for him to further improve his position after an exchange on that square. Thus White held back on such a manoeuvre and preferred a more active approach in Stellwagen - Anand. The result: something of a cracker which I hope all subscribers will enjoy.

That's all for this month. I'll be back with an examination of the ever-complex Polugaevsky and with more Rauzer thoughts from Milen in May, 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