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Plenty of high-level games fall under the microscope this month. It won't come as a surprise to learn that 6...Nbd7 continues to hold up well for Black in the 6 Bg5 Najdorf, but perhaps more of a surprise is that the Polugaevsky may also be in decent shape, or at least sufficiently good shape for Nakamura to give it a punt.

Download PGN of August '12 Open Sicilian games

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The Kalashnikov 6 N1c3, 7...Be7 [B32]

Before we get down to 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 in Karjakin - Radjabov, I've stopped to take a look at the super-solid 5...a6 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qe7!? which continues to attract 2700+ adherents. Back in the Kalashnikov these two opposing experts debate a critical line in 6 N1c3 a6 7 Na3 Be7 8 Nc4 b5 9 Ne3 Nf6 10 g3 0-0 11 Bg2 b4 12 Ncd5 Nxd5 13 Nxd5 Bg5 14 Bxg5 Qxg5:

Here I believe that Dominguez's 15 a3!? gives White a decent chance to emerge with an edge, whereas Karjakin doesn't get very far after 15 0-0 Rb8.

The Kan 5...Bc5 [B42]

Going back to a7 with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 6 Nb3 Ba7 remains quite popular, but Black still has some questions to answer after both 7 Qg4 and 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Qg4:

The latter was seen in Karjakin - Caruana where White quickly obtained an edge after 8...Nf6 9 Qg3 d6 10 Kh1.

The Four Knights [B45]

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 White doesn't have to exchange on c6 or go 6 Nb5, with 6 Be2!? Bb4 7 0-0 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Nxe4 a dangerous pawn sacrifice available to those who are happy to allow transposition to the Classical Scheveningen:

Here White has a few options. He doesn't get very far with 9 Bf3 d5 10 Bxe4 dxe4 11 Ba3 in Ponomariov - Eljanov, but as well as 9 Bd3, 9 Qd3!? packs a certain punch and leaves Black with some problems to solve from what I can see.

The Brazilian Taimanov [B48]

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 9 f3 remains rather popular and critical. Some leading Russian Grandmasters continue to uphold the relatively unusual 9...b5, as we'll see, rather than become embroiled in the Brazilian Taimanov, 9...0-0 10 g4 b5 11 g5 Nh5:

Here 12 Kb1! has emerged as the critical test. We round up developments in Caruana - Macieja where after 12...Nxd4 13 Qxd4 g6 the novelty 14 Qd2!? Rd8 15 Qf2 leaves White slightly for choice.

The Scheveningen, Keres Attack 6...e5 [B81]

Last month we saw that after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 g4 e5!? the theoretically-approved check on b5 may not lead to an advantage despite Shirov's success with it:

Perhaps that's why Svidler tried 7 Nf5 in Svidler - Kurnosov, but after 7...h5 8 g5 Nxe4 9 Nxg7+ Bxg7 10 Nxe4 d5 11 Nc3 Bg4 Black was OK as an extremely entertaining game began to burst into life.

The Najdorf: The English Attack [B90]

Ivanchuk has twice had to face 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Ng4 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 of late. His most recent choice was the rare move order 10 Nb3!? Nc6 11 Qd2 Be6 12 0-0-0:

Here I think that Black should look to the queenside, beginning 12...Rc8, whereas 12...h5 13 f3 h4 14 Be1 Nge5 15 Kb1 posed some problems in Ivanchuk - Gelfand, although the Israeli no.1 might have been OK had he given up a pawn after 15...g4.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5 Nbd7 [B94]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 continues to cause problems for White. Jobava hasn't got very far with 7 Bc4 of late, but plenty remains to be discovered after 7 Qe2. Following 7...b5 8 Nd5!? Bb7 9 Bxf6 Nxf6 10 Nxf6+ exf6! Black's structure isn't the most pleasant of sights:

However, it seems that Black has sufficient counterplay here and only a major blunder cost him an easy half-point in Motylev - Wang Hao.

6 Bg5 Polugaevsky Variation [B96]

It's currently hard for Najdorf players to decide how to meet 6 Bg5 and now even 6...e6 7 f4 b5!? is back on the agenda. A critical test of the Polugaevsky is 8 e5 dxe5 9 fxe5 Qc7 10 exf6 Qe5+ 11 Be2 Qxg5 12 0-0 Ra7 13 Qd3 Rd7 14 Ne4 Qe5 15 Nf3:

Black opted for 15...Qc7!? 16 Qe3 Bb7 in Wang Hao-Nakamura and now 17 c4!? still looks like the critical test to me. Do expect further developments here.

No doubt we'll have to return to the 6 Bg5 Najdorf next month!

Until then, Richard

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