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Plenty to consider this month, not least in the Kan which, if anything, continues to grow in popularity, largely I suspect because it allows Black to choose between a wide range of options and requires less preparation than, say, the Najdorf or Classical.

Download PGN of August '11 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov 9 Nd5 [B33]

Last month I brought you Moiseenko's idea, 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 Ne7!?, which I continue to rather admire, although the man himself did switch to the main line (11...b4) in the recent World Team Championship:

In Hegarty - Dargan White goes in for the critical 12 Nxf6+ gxf6 13 cxb5 0-0 and then tries the capture on a6. However, Black always enjoyed excellent compensation for his pawn, if perhaps fewer winning chances than he might have liked.

The Kan 5 Bd3 Bc5 [B42]

Also last month we saw Smirin following up 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 6 Nb3 with the retreat to a7. I tried that myself at the British Championship in Sheffield and am not sure how Black should equalise in one of the critical lines, as we'll see. Perhaps that's why in Yu Yangyi-Smirin Black goes 6...Be7 instead, 7 Qg4 g6 8 Qe2 d6 9 Be3:

At this point I would prefer to develop the queen's knight to c6, which has Hellsten's support. Smirin preferred 9...Nd7 10 N1d2 and then the novelty 10...Ne5?!, but was never able to equalise after 11 f4 Nxd3 12 cxd3 Nf6 13 Nc4.

Kan 5 Nc3 Qc7 [B43]

White's other main option is, of course, 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3, whereupon we'll see Smirin testing 6...Nf6 7 Qe2 Bd6!? in the notes to Guseinov - Svidler where Black preferred 6...Bc5 and then braved 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 f4 d6:

After 10 a4 Nc6 11 a5 b5 12 axb6 Qxb6 Svidler never really had any problems and only lost after trying too hard to unbalance the struggle, but I did say 'braved' for a reason - 10 e5!. Svidler must have had something ready for this dangerous gambit and while Black has often avoided the critical line in practice, I suspect he was intending 10...dxe5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 12 Qg4 g6. White wins quickly with 13 Bf4 in Diu - Zakhartsov, but Black's play can most certainly be improved, and so I still feel that 13 Bh6!? is White's best bet and a move which may well just be promising.

Kan 5 Nc3 b5 [B43]

Howell - Ansell sees something more solid in 5...b5 6 Bd3 Bb7!?, a line which I've quite liked in this column before. We wrap up a number of developments en route to the key position reached after 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Nxc6 Bxc6 9 Re1 Bc5 10 e5!?:

At this point I feel that Black should not worry too much about creating some dark-squared holes on the kingside with 10...f5! 11 Qh5+ g6 12 Qh3 Kf7, whereas 10...Qb6 enabled White to seize a definite pull in the game with 11 Qe2 f5 12 a4 b4 13 a5!.

The Taimanov English Attack [B48]

Not for the first time in 2011 we see a Gashimov - Movsesian encounter debating 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 0-0-0 Be7, which has been something of a pet line of Movsesian's of late. After 9 f3 0-0 10 g4 b5 11 g5 Nh5 White has tried a number of moves, with 12 Nce2 his main choice:

Gashimov prefers the rare 12 Rg1, which overprotects g5, but might not be the most critical of moves and after 12...Nxd4 13 Qxd4 Rd8 14 Ne2 Bb7 Black drew without difficulty.

Classical Sozin Benko Variation 6...Qb6 [B57]

It's been a while since we saw Benko's 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bc4 Qb6 in this column. A fairly critical test is 7 Nxc6 bxc6 8 0-0, developing à tempo and hoping to emerge with a structural edge:

This used to be a favourite of the young Topalov and was seen in the recent French Championship, but after 8...e6 9 Qe2 Be7! (I much prefer this to the important alternative, 9...Nd7) 10 e5 dxe5 11 Qxe5 0-0 White had no more than a tiny edge in Vachier Lagrave-Hamdouchi.

Najdorf Sozin [B87]

Another variation which isn't very fashionable at the moment is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 Bg5 Be7 9 Qf3 Qc7. Nevertheless, there have been some developments of late after both the sharp 10 e5 and the less-challenging 10 0-0-0 Nbd7 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 g4:

In Khandelwal - Palliser I was just about able to recall my old improvement from these pages, 12...b4!, and went on to drum up a strong attack on the queenside.

That's all for this month, but I can feel a Scheveningen and Najdorf special coming on in September... Richard

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