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Dear chess friends,
This time we will focus on recent high-level online events. We will discuss both well-explored long theoretical lines and also rare ideas at an early stage.

Download PGN of April ’21 Open Sicilian games

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Kan 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Qd3 [B41]

We start with Chaperinov, I - Teclaf, P, where Black quickly deviated from the previously covered Hansen - Smirin with 8...Bxc3+:

and soon employed the original novelty 12...Nb6!? Despite the surprise effect, Ivan managed to keep up the pressure, and had he played 28.Nb4! White would most likely win this game. However, the somewhat timid 28.Be1? spoiled all his advantage, and the game was soon drawn. This line still looks somewhat problematic for Black, though 8...Bxc3 is definitely more attractive than 8...Ba5, as in the above-mentioned game.

Taimanov 5.Nc3 d6 6.g3 [B43/B80]

The game Guseinov, G - Grandelius, N saw a relatively rare move order which led to a quiet Scheveningen position with a definite White' space advantage. After 13.Na4:

Nils correctly played 13...f5, but a few moves later he decided to deviate from known paths with the somewhat artifical 15...Qe8. Gadir reacted with the standard 16.Re1, but after 16...f4 Black managed to grab some space on the k-side and solve his main problems. However, soon Nils wrongly pinned himself with 20...Rad8 and was nicely outplayed.

In general, the line with g3 against the Scheveningen offers White a comfortable position with almost no risk.

Taimanov 6...Qc7 6.g4!? [B47]

In the next game, Grandelius, N - Brunner, N, White employed the rare 6.g4!? a6 7.Be3 which was recently successfully employed by Anish Giri. Black bravely accepted the pawn sacrifice, and the players soon entered the critical position after 12...d5:

At this point GM Grandelius went astray with the somewhat slow 13.g5?!, so Black was able to develop his k-side pieces. However, Nicolas soon returned the favor with 16...a4?! followed by 18...b3? and was eventually crushed by a direct attack.

Undoubtedly, 13.Nf4 poses Black more problems, and I soon expect further practical tests of this new attacking setup.

Najdorf 6.Qd3 Nbd7 [B90]

In the game Fedoseev, V - Duda, J White decided to deviate from the main theoretical paths with the rare 6.Qd3 Nbd7 7.a4:

this was only tested in 2 top-level games before. In response, GM Duda employed the ambitious new idea 10...d5, which quickly led to a very complex position with mutual chances. The really critical moment came on move 22, when Vladimir chose the 'greedy' 22.Nxf6? and quickly came under a stunning attack. The brilliant 25...Bg1+! allowed Black to achieve a huge material advantage, but...eventually it was White who scored a full point! It was a really exciting and dramatic game!

Najdorf 6.a4 e5 7.Nf3 h6 [B90]

In our next top-level game, Carlsen, M - Nepomniachtchi, I, in a must-win situation Magnus chose a new and quiet setup with 8.g3!?:

and it was fully justified: Ian quickly erred with 11...Nbd7?! and came under strong positional pressure. In general, in this game the Russian grandmaster was far from his best, and after 17...b6? White's position was already technically winning.

Anyway, 8.g3!? isn't as toothless at it looks!

Najdorf 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.Qd2 [B90]

The next game, Nakamura, H - Nepomniatchi, I, can actually be considered an opening disaster, even though the game wasn't short. Up till move 16 the players followed the previously covered Carlsen - MVL, and now Hikaru was the first to deviate with 16.0-0-0!?:

which was suggested by me in my notes to that game. It looks like Ian wasn't ready for it (or forgot his analysis), and quickly committed a serious mistake, 17...Bxb3? As a result, Black was left with no counterplay, where White's attack played itself. The remaining moves had little value - Hikaru was absolutely winning.

Regarding the theoretical part, I am pretty sure that Black should be OK after both 15...Nge5!? and 16...Nge5!?.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Nd5 [B92]

The game Kuybokarov, T - Smirnov, An saw the players enter one of the most fashionable positions of the Najdorf with 6.Be2. After 13.Qd2:

Black deviated from the natural (and most likely the best) 13...f5 in favor of 13...g6?! and allowed White to quickly expand on the q-side. Moreover, the impulsive 16...Nc5? led to a waste of time, and after the energetic 20.d6! Black was on the verge of collapse. Luckily for Anton, beginning with move 24 White also started to err, and eventually it was Black who won the game. In general, this game illustrates the potential danger of passive strategy.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2... 10.f5 Nc6 [B97]

The last game, Nepomniatchi, I - Giri, A has exceptional theoretical value. The fresh idea 11...Bxe6!?:

is new for our site, but both players had analyzed it in detail. In fact, after White's innovation on move 17 both players continued to blitz out the moves, although at several points Anish had to be very precise. The game ended in a draw after a complete liquidation of the material!

Undoubtedly, at the moment the ball is back in White's court after 11...Bxe6!?

See you next month, Michael

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