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Not for the first year the super-strong Russian Team Championship produced a number of exciting Sicilian battles, some of which we feature this month. Elsewhere, we'll see the prophylactic ...h5 approach continuing to hold up well for Black against the Najdorf version of the English Attack.

Download PGN of April '13 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov Positional Line 9 Nd5, 11 c4 [B33]

That simple line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Nd5 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c4 just won't go away. After 11...b4 12 Nc2 0-0 13 g3 Bg5 14 Bg2 Qa5 15 0-0 Qc5 16 Qd3 we reach a mini tabiya:

I'm not too sure there's so much wrong with 16...a5, but leading Sveshnikov authority Yuri Yakovich preferred 16...Be6!?, soon giving up a pawn to activate his dark-squared bishop and hold in Alekseev - Yakovich.

The Kan 5 Bd3 Bc5 [B42]

The ball still seems to be in Black's court after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 6 Nb3 Be7 7 Qg4 g6 8 Qe2 d6 9 0-0 Nd7 10 a4:

This is a more testing plan of queenside expansion than constructing a Maroczy Bind, although after 10...Ne5 White should probably be consistent and go 11 a5. Instead, Motylev's 11 h3!? was fairly well met by 11...Bd7 12 Nc3 Nf6 13 Bh6 Nh5 in Duda - Gajewski, although 14 f4!? still gave White a certain initiative for the pawn and he eventually prevailed in a wild game.

The Taimanov 5 Nc3 a6 [B46]

We consider a couple of important developments after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 in Karjakin - Ivanchuk:

In the notes we'll see Rublevsky improving on his own play to defuse 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f4, while the main game is notable for another outing for Svidler's 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3 d5 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Re1 Be7 10 e5 Nd7 11 Qg4 Kf8!?, which turns out well enough for Ivanchuk.

The Taimanov 5 Nc3 Qc7 [B47/8]

We move on to 5...Qc7 in Shomoev - Morozevich, considering both Leko's latest outing with 6 g3 and the more uncompromising 6 f4 a6 7 Be3 b5 8 Bd3 when Moro saw no reason not to press ahead with 8...b4!?.

Earlier in the Russian Team Championship Leko preferred something more critical than 6 g3 and 6 Be3 a6 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 0-0-0 Be7 9 f3 b5!? 10 g4 Bb7 saw Black taking play away from the well-beaten track in Leko - Vitiugov:

However, it appears that Leko was ready for this and that his 11 Bf4! poses Black fresh problems, whether or not the second player provokes the piece sacrifice 11...e5 12 Nf5 exf4 13 g5.

The Najdorf English Attack 6 Be3 e5 [B90]

I couldn't help but notice that the second edition of The Sharpest Sicilian is the latest work to advocate meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Qd2 (or 8 f3 h5) 8...Nbd7 9 0-0-0 Rc8 10 f3 with 10...h5, a sensible, prophylactic approach I've long enjoyed some success with. After 11 Kb1 Be7 White arrives at a certain tabiya:

The normal moves are 12 h3 and 12 Bd3, but both 12 g3 and 12 f4 have received some testing of late, as we'll see in Berescu - Cheparinov.

6 Bg5 Nbd7 [B94]

Finally, we turn our attention to another quite topical line, namely 6 Bg5 Nbd7, noting developments after 7 Bc4, 7 Qe2 (Wojtaszek deviating from his boss' play at Wijk), and 7 f4. After that final option, 7...Qc7 8 Qe2 is the modern choice, but here Black can certainly consider 8...e5!?:

The critical choice must be the leap to f5, with White quickly finding himself worse after the meek 9 Nf3 in Savchenko - Korobov.

Dare I say we may have to return to Sochi and the Russian Team Championship for a few more games next month?

Until then, Richard

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