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While the Sicilian didn't exactly dominate the just-finished London Classic, we have plenty of exciting games and important ideas to consider this month. Watch out especially for a lively draw between Karjakin and Svidler from that other major recent event of late, the Tal Memorial.

Download PGN of December '11 Open Sicilian games

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The Kalashnikov [B32]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 remains quite a topical choice, with one important modern line running 6 N1c3 a6 7 Na3 Be7!? 8 Nc4 b5 9 Ne3 Nf6 10 g3:

We've seen this a few times before and here I'm still not totally convinced that Black can't get away with 10...b4!? and grabbing on e4. He prefers the solid 10...0-0 in Dominguez - Wang Hao, but White comes well prepared, seizing an early initiative en route to obtaining a powerful position.

4...d5 [B32]

Returning to the position after 4 Nxd4, a rare but potentially underrated move is 4...d5!?, which I still feel makes for a decent surprise weapon. The 2440-rated Genocchio tested it twice in the recent Italian Championship, emerging from the opening with a comfortable position in both cases after 5 Bb5 dxe4 6 Nxc6 Qxd1+ 7 Kxd1 a6:

Whether White retreats knight or bishop he doesn't have anything here, so should really deviate on move 5, as we'll see in the notes to Dvirnyy - Genocchio.

The Kan 5 Bd3 Nf6 [B42]

Not everyone likes to meet 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 with the main lines of 5...Bc5 or 5...Nf6 6 0-0 Qc7. Unfortunately for creative types 5...g6 6 0-0 Bg7 7 Nb3! continues to pose problems for the second player, as we'll see this month. In Karjakin - Svidler Black preferred the more provocative 5...Nf6 6 0-0 e5!?:

After 7 Bg5! I've previously suggested that Black has to go 7...h6, but 7...d6 has since been resurrected. Svidler preferred to push his rook pawn, however, and after 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nf5 introduced the logical 9...g6!, which quickly gave him quite a comfortable set-up.

The Richter-Rauzer [B63]

Grischuk has been busy with the Richter-Rauzer, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5, in recent weeks, albeit without much success. He first ran into a well-prepared Dreev and failed to obtain any advantage against the experienced Russian's pet variation 6...Bd7!?. Then in Grischuk - Wang Hao Black preferred 6...e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 0-0 10 f3 a6 11 h4 b5 12 Kb1 Bb7 13 Qd2 Rc8:

This is quite a critical tabiya if White wishes to play English Attack style with f3, rather than go 10 f4, but the ball remains in his court here. The main problem is that as soon as a white minor piece lands on the d-file (Bd3 or Ne2-d4), Black has the excellent defensive manoeuvre ...Nf6-d7! which fully solves his difficulties as far as I can see.

The Najdorf: English Attack [B80]

In response to a subscriber request I've taken a look at some recent English Attack games with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6 7 f3 b5:

White introduced 8 g4 h6 9 a4?! in Smirin - Zhigalko, but this asks too much of his position and is unlikely to be repeated. Of course his invariable choice is 9 Qd2 there or 8 Qd2 Nbd7 g4 h6 10 0-0-0. Here Topalov's 10...b4 continues to hold up quite well, partly because the De la Villa-endorsed 11 Nce2 is fairly well met by 11...Qc7 12 h4 d5. After 13 Bh3 Nb6! 14 b3 dxe4 quite an important position is reached:

Here I feel that Haslinger's 15 Bf4! is critical, as 15 g5?! Nfd5 16 fxe4 Nxe3 17 Qxe3 hxg5 18 hxg5 g6! was just very nice for Black with his unopposed dark-squared bishop in Karjakin - Cheparinov.

Sozin 6 Bc4 [B87]

Another sharp line which isn't overly popular at the moment is 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 Bg5. Here 8...Be7 continues to hold up well for Black, but there are some long forcing lines which he really must know, so why not try 8...Bb7?:

This move has been unfairly neglected in my view. Black takes some of the sting out of White's aggressive set-up, while preparing aggression himself with 9 Qe2 Nbd7 10 0-0-0 Rc8! 11 f3 Rxc3 12 bxc3 Qa5, which just gives him typical and good play for the exchange, as we'll see in Weber - Hunt.

6 Bg5 with 7...Qc7 [B96]

Finally we turn our attention to 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4. A line which is not overly critical but continues to hold up pretty well is the solid 7...Qc7:

Recent developments here are rounded up in Giri - Ivanchuk, where the play quickly becomes quite independent (and fine for Black!) after 8 Bxf6 gxf6 9 Qd3!? b5 10 f5 b4 11 Nd1 e5.

That's all for this year I'm afraid. Have a Good Christmas! Richard

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Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms (just the polite ones, please), etc. Drop me a line at the Open Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write directly to