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Once again choosing this month's games was a tough task - there were so many interesting tournaments around the world. I suppose that this update will definitely suit Najdorf Players - there are 6 exciting battles in different theoretical schemes. Enjoy!

Download PGN of August ’16 Open Sicilian games

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Classical Rauzer 8...h6 9.Bf4 [B66]

Our first game Sadzikowski - Ivanchuk saw an interesting theoretical discussion in an old and deeply-explored line of the Rauzer with 8...h6.

In the diagram position (after 17.Qh4) 17...a5 looks like the safest option for Black, but Vassily went for the most common 17...Be3+ and got a very solid, but passive position. The first critical moment came on move 34, when GM Ivanchuk wrongly rejected 34...Nxc5, liquidating into a drawish endgame. Missing this chance led Black into a very dodgy position, though the correct 36...Rd8! would have kept the result unpredictable. Alas, Vassily was far from his best on this day and lost quite quickly.

Classical Sozin - Velimirovic Attack 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 [B89]

In the game Kadric - Kozul Black employed a really rare way of handling the position with 7...Bd7!? 8.Qe2 a6 9.0-0-0 b5:

The real test of this order of moves would occur had White played something like 10.Bb3 Qc7 11.a3, followed by advancing the k-side pawns (in my opinion, Black's play doesn't seem that easy). However, Dennis went for 11.Nxc6?! , so the game transposed to the previously covered Hector-Rapport, where White was completely outplayed. Alas, despite Kadric's efforts in the early stage of the game, White's position still seemed somewhat worse, so one serious mistake on move 21 led him to a quick disaster.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 h6 [B90]

The next game, Svidler - Vachier Lagrave, saw one of most analysed lines in the 6.h3 Najdorf. The players entered into the complex theoretical position after 15...Ne5, and then Peter came up with the novelty 16.Qd2:

It looks like Maxime's response was correct, so Black didn't have any reason to complain until move 20, when the inaccurate 20...Qb6+ invited some problems. Unfortunately, GM Svidler didn't manage to punish his opponent for this mistake, and was even outplayed in the tactical complications.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 [B90]

The game Preotu - Popilski also has definite theoretical value.

In the diagram position after 10...Nc6 Razvan went for the most aggressive setup with 11.0-0-0. Gil's reaction seems quite natural, so the players got into a very sharp and complex position after 13...d5. As so often happens in such situations, one inaccurate move (14.Kb1?!) allowed Black to seize the initiative. Luckily for Razvan, his opponent didn't manage to develop it in the proper way and eventually even lost the game.

Regarding the opening, 8.g5 clearly looks more dangerous for Black.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Nd5 [B90]

The top-level game Anand - Nakamura saw an interesting theoretical discussion in the rare line with 8.Nd5, which was earlier successfully employed by Vishy against Topalov. It looks like Hikaru was perfectly prepared for it, so he correctly reacted with 9...Nc6. Still, his lack of development made Black's position somewhat shaky, so the over-optimistic 11...Ne7, followed by 12...d5, meant that Black still didn't get full equality. The critical moment came on move 23, when Vishy could have posed Black concrete problems with 23.Bd2! Instead, 23.a4?! spoiled his advantage and led to a quick draw.

Conclusion: 11...Rc8 looks like a safer option, which offers Black adequate play, but 8.Nd5!? deserves further practical tests.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be7 [B90]

In our next game, Tarlev - Klimov, Black tried the rather rare, but very solid continuation 8...Be7, which was previously analysed in Adams - Van Wely. This time White went for 9.Ng3!?, intending to occupy the light squares:

The further play from both opponents was full of mistakes, but Klimov was somewhat luckier and got the full point. As the analyses prove, Black's position after 9.Ng3 seems perfectly playable, though it contains definite strategic risk.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3, 12...b4 [B90]

In my opinion, the game Zakhartsov - Alsina Leal is very important for the theory of the long theoretical line with 15...Bxb3!?, which wasn't discussed on our site before.

First of all, in the diagram position after 18...Rxa2 White has to make an important choice: 1) 19.Kxa2!? leads to an interesting position, where White's compensation for a pawn is indisputable, so I guess it would be one of White's main attempts to refute 15...Bxb3; 2) 19.Nc1!?, as played in the game, also poses Black definite practical problems. Indeed, the higher-rated opponent then committed a couple of mistakes and could have lost the game if White hadn't then played the blunder 26.Rc1?? Well, sometimes a chess game looks like a tragedy of one tempo!

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 [B94]

Our last game, Shankland - Kraemer, saw the very sharp line of the Najdorf with 6.Bg5. In the theoretical position after 13...Bg7 White came up with a dangerous novelty, 14.g4!?:

The real test of this idea would be 15...Bb7, which also looks like the most natural reaction. Most probably this position was properly analysed by Sammy at home, but I am not sure if White can get anything special in this position. Instead of that, the slow 15...Rb8?! was nicely refuted by GM Shankland. Black's further play wasn't perfect either, but Sam's energetic play still looks very impressive.

See you next month! Enjoy! Michael

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