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A number of past and present ChessPublishing contributors make their mark this month and unsurprisingly we also have some games from the stupidly-strong European Championship to consider. Look out especially for Potkin's powerful piece sacrifice in a critical line of the English Attack and a major development in the Gelfand Variation of the Najdorf.

Download PGN of April '11 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov [B33]

Well, actually, we begin with the Kalashnikov, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6, and then see playing transposing into the Pelikan after 6 N1c3 a6 7 Na3 Be6 (developments from the European Championship suggest that Black still has some problems to solve after 7...Be7 8 Nc4 b5 9 Ne3 Nf6 10 g3!, as we'll see) 8 Nc4 Nf6 9 Bg5:

This variation became quite topical in the Sixties when Larsen introduced 9...Rc8 and now I wonder if 9...Rb8!? might reawaken interest. Vallejo Pons-Vedmediuc is only the seventh game I could find with the shorter rook move, but no longer will Nb6 (or Nxd6) come with tempo, and after a semi-forced sequence Black quickly emerges with a good game, going on to have, if anything, the better of a draw with his much higher-rated opponent.

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 play moves from Pelikan (or should I say Lasker?) waters into the Sveshnikov after 8...b5. The Experts vs. suggestion of 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 f5 11 c3 Bg7 12 exf5 Bxf5 13 Nc2 0-0 14 Nce3 has made a small return to the spotlight of late:

The safe approach for Black is 14...Be6 15 Bd3 f5, although he still very much has to know his stuff here; 14...Bg6 being somewhat more risky in view of 15 h4. This may be playable for Black, but not after Leko's old suggestion of 15...Be4?! with which Black quickly gets into trouble and is completely outplayed in Yu Yangyi-Wang Yue.

The Taimanov [B43]

The simple system 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 g3 hasn't been seen too much of late on ChessPub, largely because 6...Bb4 gives Black quite an easy game. That said, after 7 Nde2 Nf6 8 Bg2 Be7 9 0-0 d6 (9...Nc6 is perhaps simpler) 10 h3 h5!? quite a complex struggle arises:

After 11 Bg5 Nc6 12 a4 I wonder if Black should settle for 12...Bd7!?, since 12...b6 13 Nf4! forced him to give up a pawn for not quite enough compensation in Mason - Rowson.

English Attack v Taimanov [B48]

A more critical line is the English Attack, 6 Be3 a6 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 0-0-0, when not quite everyone is yet going 8...Be7. Black had been under a bit of pressure after 8...Bb4 9 f3 Ne5 10 Nb3 b5 11 Qe1! Be7 12 f4 Ng6 13 e5 Ng4 14 Ne4, but perhaps the new approach, bagging the bishop-pair with 14...Nxe3!? 15 Qxe3 0-0, is OK for him:

After 16 h4 Bb7 17 h5?! Rac8 18 Bd3 Nxe5! 19 fxe5 Qxe5 Black obtains excellent compensation for the piece in Ter Sahakyan-Potkin, going on to win with a brutal attack. I dare say that we'll see more of this line over the coming months, but with White likely preferring the more critical 17 Nd6.

The Classical Sicilian: The Sozin [B88]

John Emms is something of an expert on the positional Sozin line, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bc4 e6 7 0-0 Be7 8 Be3 a6 9 a4, which can of course also come about via a Najdorf move order. After 9...Qc7 10 Qe2 Bd7 11 Kh1 0-0 12 f4 Black is advised to equalize, Scheveningen style, with an exchange of knights on d4, since 12...Na5 13 Ba2 Rac8 14 Rad1 Nc4 15 Bc1 gives White control of the position and an edge:

It's rare to win the same game twice these days, but John comes close here. He once famously demolished Shipov after 15...Rfd8 16 g4! Qc5? 17 g5 Ne8 18 f5 and activating the queen a move earlier isn't an improvement: 15...Qc5? running straight into 16 e5! in Emms - Hynes.

The Najdorf: The English Attack [B90]

We begin by considering developments in one fairly topical line of the English Attack, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3 Qc7 8 a4. McDonald - Burrows graphically illustrates why Black shouldn't become embroiled in 8...Be6?! 9 Ng5. The normal move is, of course, 8...Be7 and after 9 a5 0-0 10 Be2 Nc6!? 11 Bb6 Qb8 12 Nd5 Nxe4 a critical position is reached:

Everyone thus far has repeated moves here with 13 Bc7 Qa7 14 Bb6, but Neil decided to test Black's compensation after 13 Nc7 in another recent game of his.

Another line which has received some attention of late is 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 and now 8...h5, which I decided to try in Kokkila - Palliser. After 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 a4 Rc8 11 Be2 Nb6 I find it hard to believe that Black should have too many problems:

White maintained control of d5 for a long time, but I was just in time to set up sufficient counterplay on the kingside.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5 Gelfand Variation [B96]

A somewhat sharper line is the Gelfand Variation, 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nbd7. After 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 b5 theory hasn't had too high an opinion of 10 e5, but White scored a crushing victory with it in Gharamian - Bromberger. I'm grateful to Andreas Jedinger for drawing my attention to this encounter from the Bundesliga last weekend, which continued 10...Bb7 11 Qh3 dxe5 12 Nxe6 fxe6 13 Qxe6+ Be7 14 Bxf6 gxf6 15 Bxb5 axb5 16 Nxb5 Qc6 17 Nd6+ Qxd6 18 Rxd6:

It had been thought that Black had enough for the queen here, but after 18...Nc5 19 Qf5 Be4 20 Qh5+ Bg6 21 Qd1 he needs to do better than Bromberger managed.

That's all from me until after Easter. One wonders if the final 4NCL weekend at the end of the month will bring as much success in the Sicilian for your columnists as the last one did...


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