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This month we have an Update with some very uncompromising battles, when only 1 game ended in a draw. I guess it should especially suit Najdorf fans - there are interesting ideas deeply explored lines and also a few early novelties.

Download PGN of April ’23 Open Sicilian games

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Kalashnikov 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 Be6 8.Nc4 Rb8 [B32]

We start with Dominguez Perez, L - Nakamura, H, where Leinier played the aggressive 9.Nd5!?:

This looks like a good way to challenge Black's somewhat artificial setup. In fact, Hikaru responded naturally with 11...b5 2.Ne3 g6, but it still doesn't seem to offer Black easy play. Only after 15.Bg2?! did Hikaru manage to harmoniously complete his development and solve his problems. Moreover, his further precise play provoked White to err a few more times. A well-deserved win for GM Nakamura.

Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4 [B33]

In the next game, Vachier Lagrave, M - Abdusattorov, N, the players entered a fashionable position after 15...Ne5:

Here Maxime deviated from well-known paths with 16.Nxe5!? that was only seen previously in 1 correspondence game. It looks like Nodirbek's home preparation wasn't as deep as his opponent's, as he quickly erred with 19...Rc8?. Black lost the strategic battle, but managed to complicate matters with 21...e3! Still, this game was only won by Black because of a dramatic blunder at the end.

Undoubtedly 16.Nxe5!?, which leads to a very complex type of play, should be tested more.

Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.a3 b5 [B48]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Ragger, M - Moussard, J. In the position after 8.Nxc6:

Black played 8...dxc6, which was never seen on our site before. Marcus reacted in the most aggressive way, but it looks like after 10...h5! Black should be able to slowly neutralize White's lead in development. The inaccurate 15.Qf3?! allowed Jules to take over the initiative, but Marcus's problems were solvable. This exciting encounter was only decided at the very end, when Marcus missed 61.Qd6+ with a perpetual.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7...a6 8.Qd2 Bd7 9.Kb1 [B67]

The next game, Fier, A - Kobo, O, saw Black employ the early knight trade on d4, followed by 10...h6:

It looks like Alexandr did his homework in this line and came up with the strong novelty 12.f4! His further idea of transferring the bishop to f3 doesn't seem to pose Black major problems, but after 14...e5? it was fully justified. In general, this game fully illustrates the strategic risk of losing control over the light squares.

Well, the trendy 9.Kb1!? seems very promising for White in the Rauzer at the moment.

Najdorf 6.Rg1 h5 [B90]

In the game Abdusattorov, N - Grischuk, A Black deviated from the previously covered Carlsen - Sjugirov with 8...h4:

It feels like Nodirbek has a deep knowledge in this line as his 10.Qf3! followed by 11.0-0-0 looks like a refutation of this idea. However, luckily for GM Grischuk, his young opponent immediately went astray with 12.g4?, allowing Black to ruin the pawn structure. After that White's practical task was very tough.

In my opinion, 7...g6, as in Abdusattorov - Giri, offers Black more chances to equalize.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.a3!? [B94]

Some excellent home preparation was demonstrated in Vidit, S - Kantans, T. The position after 7.a3!?:

is practically unexplored, and I am not sure if GM Kantans had anything in mind against it. Anyway, 7...h6 looks like a reasonable way to face it, but he soon went astray with 10...Qc7?! with the intention of castling long, but this definitely cannot be recommended. As a result, GM Vidit managed to quickly develop a crushing attack on the q-side. I am pretty sure that we will see more games with 7.a3!? very soon.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qe2 Qc7 9.0-0-0 [B96]

In the next game, Yu Yangyi - Kramnik, V, White went for the relatively rare 12.Rg1 in one of the sharpest Najdorf lines.

Vladimir reasonably played 14...g5 to secure e5 for his knight, but I am not sure if he chose the right moment. In fact, 15.h4!? put Black's k-side under strong pressure, while White's king remained safe. However, it looks like Vladimir managed to handle this complex middlegame much better than his younger opponent. The impulsive 27.Qxg5? led White into a difficult endgame, and eventually GM Kramnik converted his big positional advantage into a full point.

Still, it looks like 13...g5!? might be a better solution for the second player.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 h6 [B99]

Our last game, Yoo, Ch - Mishra, A, saw White trying to confuse his young opponent with the rare 11.Qh3:

It looks like GM Mishra was familiar with it, though, and reacted well with 11...Nc5 12.Bg2 Rg8! Moreover, he also continued to play precisely after the surprising novelty 14.b4!? The dynamic balance was kept till move 22, when 22...Rd4?!, followed by 23...b6? put Black on the verge of collapse. Luckily for Abhimanyu, Christopher missed a few winning possibilities, and eventually a draw was agreed after spectacular play by both sides.

See you next month, Michael

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