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Hello everyone,
Well, I'm afraid this update will especially attract Najdorf fans, as for the very first time all the games saw Fischer's favourite opening! In particular, the sharp 6. Bg5 is covered in no less than 5 games. This time most of the games were drawn, but none of them are boring, and they are all interesting from a theoretical point of view, of course.

Download PGN of August ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Najdorf 6.Qe2 [B90]

We start with Safarli, E - Yilmaz, M, where White employed the relatively rare 6.Qe2:

that was only seen once on our site before. In my opinion, after 6...e5 Black shouldn't face any problems, whereas 6...e6?! 7.g4 lets White to increase his k-side initiative very fast. The first critical moment came on move 14, when Eltaj prematurely opened the e-file and allowed Black to activate his heavy pieces. Instead, had White played 14.h5! it would be very difficult for Mustafa to develop any counter-play. After this the route of game drastically changed, and the final draw definitely favored White, who was very close to defeat.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 [B90]

The next game, Aronian, L - Nakamura, H, saw Levon deviating from his usual 1.d4 and entering into a sharp line of the Najdorf with ...h5. The position after 14.g3 was already discussed on previous occasions, but 14...Be7 is new for our site and definitely seems the safest for Black:

I am not sure exactly when the players left their preparation, but Hikaru's innovation 19...h4?! will hardly attract any followers. Had Levon played 20.Bg2! Black would then find himself in a bad position from a strategic viewpoint. Instead, 20.Qg2?! led to very double-edged play, where both players had their chances, and eventually the game was decided by Levon's terrible blunder on move 30.

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

In the next game, Georgiadis, N - Mamedyarov, S, Shakhriyar employed the rare 11...Rc8!? in order to provoke White to castle and avoid some additional possibilities:

A few moves later the players got a theoretical position from the memorable game Carlsen - Grischuk, and now the Azeri Grandmaster was the first to deviate with the natural 16...f5. In the further play Nico was slowly outplayed by his higher-rated opponent, but at the end he missed a great chance to save the game, as he played 32.Rxb4? when instead the natural 32.axb4 would have kept the intrigue.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.f4 Qc7 8.Qf3 b5 [B94]

The game Fier, A - Banikas, H saw Alexandr employing the fresh (at least for our site) idea of 10.g4!?:

And this worked well, since Hristos played 10...g6?! which allowed White to start his expansion on the k-side. The really critical moment came a few moves later when 16.Nd4! would have kept Black in a difficult situation. Instead, 16.Bg2? drastically changed the situation, so at the end GM Fier must have been happy to share the point.

Well, 10.g4!? definitely has to be checked more often in practice.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 Qc7 [B94]

In the top level game Carlsen, M - Svidler, P Peter went for the rare and rather suspicious-looking 9...Qc7 10.0-0-0 Bg7?!:

In response, Magnus came up with the aggressive new idea 11.g4 and got decent attacking prospects. It looks like the World champion wasn't in his best shape, however, so after committing a few mistakes such as 13.h3?! and 17.Nf5?! White had nothing better than accepting a draw by repetition. Still, it was a very interesting and spectacular game.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 e5 [B94]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Frolyanov, D - Tsybikov, T. The prophylactic 13.Kb1!? is new for our site, but it was already employed by Dmitry in the past, so I suppose his opponent should have expected it.

Still, it looks like Black's innovation 16...Nb6 didn't impress GM Frolyanov, who met it precisely with 17.Bxf6! followed by 18.h4 and got a powerful attack. Moreover, had Dmitry not erred with 29.Qe4? Black's position seemed completely lost. Anyway, White's mistake dramatically changed the route of the game, and it soon ended in a draw.

Undoubtedly 13.Kb1!? is deserving of serious attention, while Black's best way of handling the position looks to be 13...Be7!

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.Bxf6 [B97]

The next game, Kokarev, D - Leko, P also has significant theoretical value. The players entered into a relatively rare, but important theoretical position after 15...bxc6:

Here Dmitry came up with the novelty 16.Qd4, which is definitely an improvement over White's previous play in Grischuk -Nepomniatchi, but Peter reacted well and didn't face any difficulties. A draw was agreed after decent play from both sides.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.e5 [B97]

The last game, Solad, D - Can, E, saw Emre following Paravyan's footsteps with the fresh 14...e5!?, and then employing the interesting new idea 15...Nc6!?:

Dragan reacted naturally with 16.Nd5 Qd6 17.0-0, and then Black carelessly played 17...Nd4?!, leaving his pieces undeveloped. After this Black's position looked extremely dicey, but Emre managed to withstand the pressure well and almost saved the game. Alas, the final mistake, 30...Rb5?, spoiled all his efforts.

At the moment, 15...Nc6!? looks perfectly playable for Black, though the position is full of life, so further tests might change this assessment.

See you next month, Michael

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