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Dear chess friends,
This was the first time when selecting 8 Sicilian game was an easy task - the total amount of games this month was limited, for obvious reasons.
I decided to fully focus on the Najdorf - both the main lines and such side lines as 6.a3 and 6.Rg1 as they were successfully employed by the World champion recently.

Download PGN of April ’20 Open Sicilian games

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Najdorf 6.Rg1 [B90]

The move 6.Rg1 was first seen 30 years ago, but it mainly gained popularity due to the efforts of GM Vadim Zvjaginsev, who successfully employed it in his match vs Vassily Ivanchuk in 1998.

This time it was Magnus who managed to demonstrate its merits in his online match vs Sanan Sjugirov. In the first Carlsen, M - Sjugirov, S game Black played 6...b5 and obtained comfortable play a-la Dragon, but the inaccurate 16...Nd7? allowed White to quickly develop a crushing attack and win in good style.

In the later game Sanan preferred the most popular 6...e5, but on the next move he prematurely played 7...h5?! and soon came under strong pressure. Another wrong decision, 11...Qxd5?!, led to a difficult endgame, that was extremely hard to hold against such a strong opponent, see Carlsen, M - Sjugirov, S.

In general, 6...b5 looks like Black's most attractive choice.

Najdorf 6.a3 [B90]

The game Carlsen, M - Grandelius, N saw Magnus employ another relatively rare move, 6.a3. In my opinion, Nils's reaction 6...e6 isn't the most challenging as it allows White to quickly extend on the k-side with g2-g4 in various cases. At the same time, the immediate 7.g4 could have been strongly met by 7...e5!, and Black should be fine. After GM Grandelius missed this chance and played 7...b5?! he got into big trouble, but it was a blitz game, so Magnus failed to handle the position properly and soon returned the favor with 17.Nd5??. In general, it was Black who mostly missed his winning chances, though even the final position was still winning for Nils.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 b5?! [B90]

In the next game Ponizil, C - Sabuk, P Black employed the rare and dubious 7...b5?!:

White naturally reacted with 8.g4, and soon obtained a clear positional advantage, but spoiled everything with 13.f4? As a result of this White's king became very exposed, and after some interesting play Black managed to exploit this and score a nice victory.

Undoubtedly, 7...b5?! shouldn't be recommended as 8.a4! seems to pose even more problems.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 b5 8.Ng3 [B90]

In the Rapid game Najer, E - Sarana, A Evgenij introduced an interesting novelty, 10.Bd3:

It hardly poses Black major problems, but Alexei failed to handle this position properly and soon went astray with 13...d5?!. As a result, his pawn structure was damaged, although active piece play left him some drawing chances. The critical moment came on move 34, when Engenij unnecessarily put his queen in the corner, so Black soon had sufficient activity. In my opinion, 8.Ng3!? is one of the best attempts to show some superiority in this line.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Be3 [B90]

The Classical game Najer, E - Sarana, A saw another fresh idea at an early stage of the game. The move 8.Be3 looks natural, but it was never mentioned on our site before:

In my opinion, Alexei reacted well, so after 11.Nc3 Black had a decent choice between 11...g6 or 11...Qa5 when in both cases White can hardly claim any superiority. Instead of this, 11...b5 left Black undeveloped. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, but eventually GM Najer managed to demonstrate the drawbacks of Black's setup and score a nice victory.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Nd2 [B90]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Chigaev, M - Abdusattorov, N, where Maxim employed the fashionable 8.Nd2, which was never seen on the site before. it looks like Nodirbek wasn't surprised, and he reacted well with 8...b5:

A few moves later he also demonstrated an improvement over the recent game Wei Yi - Giri, and after 13...f5! Black got excellent counter-attacking prospects on the k-side. Moreover, the inaccurate 15.Be2 allowed Black to take over the initiative, but Nodirbek soon returned the favor with a few mistakes and got into trouble. In general, this blitz game was exciting and full of mutual mistakes, but the most dramatic moment came at the end.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 Rc8 [B90]

In the last game, Robson, R - Sjugirov, S, Black qucikly deviated from the main theoretical paths with the rare 11...Rc8!?:

In response, White chose the standard and promising plan with expansion on the q-side, but 2 moves later he unfavorably locked the centre with 14.f4?!. This made it possible for Sanan to develop active piece play on the k-side and seize the initiative, but he soon returned the favor with 17...Bxd4?! and 18...Ndf8?!. As a result, Black's setup lost its flexibility and after 20.g4! he came under strong positional pressure and eventually lost.

I believe that 11...Rc8!? should be tested more in practice.

I hope you enjoy this update! Take care, and see you next month! Michael

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