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Hello everyone! This month was full of interesting events. Therefore, this time we have games from 5 different tournaments. For some reason the Najdorf is dominating the recent updates, but I hope that this doesn't bother you :)

Download PGN of April ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Taimanov 5...a6 6.Nxc6 [B46]

We start with the game Nepomniachtchi, I - Svidler, P, where Ian employed the relatively recent idea 8.Bf4!?:

In my opinion the route of this game proves that this line is quite dangerous for Black and requires definite knowledge. Indeed, Peter's next move, 8...f5, already seems somewhat inaccurate, and his 11th move (a novelty!) even left Black in a lost position. The further spectacular play was full of mutual mistakes, and luckily for GM Svidler his opponent didn't manage to convert his material advantage into a full point.

Regarding the opening, 8...Rb8 seems critical. I expect further practical tests in this line.

Najdorf Sozin 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 Be7 [B86]

In our next encounter, Abbasov, V - Korobov, A Anton, Black went for the rare line with 7...Be7 in order to avoid the main theoretical stuff. However, it looks like his lower-rated opponent had decent knowledge in this line. Indeed, 8.g4!, which wasn't seen on our site before, seems the most challenging:

Even though 8...h6 is the most common, it looks like a concession to me, putting Black's monarch under serious pressure. The really critical moment came on move 16, when Anton underestimated the opponent's attacking potential and made the careless move 16...Ne5? As a result, after 17.h4! White was able to crush his extremely strong opponent very convincingly.

I must admit that 7...Be7 looks shaky in general, even though 8...Qa5 might be tried as a possible improvement.

Najdorf 6.h4 [B90]

The game Reshef, O - Erenberg, A saw White introducing the fresh and original idea 6.h4, taking the game into unknown paths:

The critical moment came on move 10, when Ariel invited serious trouble by playing 10...b5?. Despite Reshef's inaccuracy on move 13, his victory was definitely well-deserved.

Frankly speaking, 6.h4 doesn't look impressive as apart from 10...d5!, Black's play can easily be improved earlier. However, this idea can be used as a surprise weapon from time to time.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 [B90/81]

The next game Rzayev , B - Demchenko, A saw an interesting discussion in one of the most theoretical lines of the Najdorf with 6.h3. In the common position after 11...Nd7:

White deviated from the most aggressive 12.0-0-0 and went for a relatively quiet setup with 12.0-0. As the route of the game proves, this complex position is still full of dynamic and interesting play for both sides. The first critical moment came on move 18, when White wrongly played 18.Na2?!, switching to passive defense. A few moves later Bahruz didn't take the chance to play g4-g5 and was nicely outplayed.

Anyway, at the moment 8.Bg2 looks less dangerous than 8.g5, but White's play might be improved in this line.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 [B90]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Salem, A - Areshchenko, A. In the rare, but important theoretical position after 13...Nc5:

GM Salem came up with an interesting innovation 14.Qa3!?. The surprise achieved its desired effect, and Alexander went for a premature exchange of his light-squared bishop with 14...Bxd5?! As a result, Black soon found himself in a difficult situation, where his position lacked any active ideas. In general, White's play in this game was very impressive and constructive. Regarding the Opening, 14...Bg7 would be a real test of Salem's innovation.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Bg5 [B92]

The next game, Oleksiyenko, M - Areshchenko, A, also has significant theoretical value. In the well-known position after 12.Rhf1:

Alexander introduced a new way of handling the position, starting with 12...Be7! Black managed to solve all his problems and could have claimed more, but the inaccurate 19...Bg5+?! allowed White to press for a win till the end of the game. Luckily for GM Areshchenko his opponent was the last to err in this spectacular game, so the point was shared.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 [B94]

The game Firouzja, A - Areshchenko, A saw White choosing the fairly quiet line with 8.Bxf6. Alexander's reaction was correct, so Black didn't experience any problems after the opening. Moreover, in the position after 14...Rc5:

White came up with the dubious novelty 15.Ne3?! and soon got into trouble. Despite Alexander's mistake on move 23, his victory in this interesting game was well-deserved.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 [B94]

Our last game, Wei Yi - Xu, Y, is a typical opening disaster. In the important theoretical position after 11.Bxd5:

Black went for the most common 11...Qc7?!, but it was the first cause of his problems, and a few moves later the careless 14...Be7? allowed Wei Yi to develop a crushing attack.

Despite such an impressive victory, the line with 8.0-0 doesn't look very promising for White, since both 11...e6 and 11...g6 seem perfectly playable for the second player.

See you next month, Michael

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