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Duties at the London Classic unfortunately rather delayed this column, but I do still hope this reaches most subscribers during the holiday period. We actually don't feature too many games from London, but there were plenty of key developments and exciting battles in the hardly shabby Spanish Team Championship and Tashkent Grand Prix, not to mention the leading rapid events in Beijing and Warsaw.

Download PGN of December '12 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov 9 Nd5, 11 c3 [B33]

Boris Gelfand continues to uphold his new weapon of choice and 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 has managed to thwart not just Anand, but also his seconds. Kasimdzhanov tried 11 c3 (11 c4 remains more trendy and was recently used by Karjakin to good effect, as we'll also see) 11...0-0 12 Nc2 Bg5 13 a4 bxa4 14 Rxa4 a5 15 Bc4 Rb8 16 b3 Kh8 in Kasimdzhanov - Gelfand:

Here the once popular 17 Nce3 g6 18 h4!? Bxh4 19 g3 Bg5 is just looking like a draw these days, but 17 0-0 f5 18 exf5 Bxf5 19 Nce3 Bg6! didn't exact trouble the Israeli no.1 either.

The Kan 5 Bd3 Bc5 [B42]

Vachier Lagrave has thrice employed 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 6 Nb3 Be7 of late, as we'll see this month. One critical continuation is 7 0-0 d6 8 Qg4 g6 9 Qe2 Nc6 10 a4 when 10...Bd7!? was introduced in Fluvia Poyatos-Vachier Lagrave:

Black soon equalised and more in the game, but whether he finds that so easy to do if White goes 11 a5 Nf6 12 Bh6 remains to be seen.

The Taimanov, 6 Nxc6 [B46]

It's been a while since we considered the solid but important line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3. After 7...d5 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Re1 Be7 10 e5 Nd7 11 Qg4 Black usually moves his g-pawn, but Svidler recently preferred 11...Kf8!?:

This feels a little slow, but while 12 b3 c5 13 Na4 Bb7 14 c4 was all very thematic from White in Leko - Svidler, he didn't have any advantage after 14...d4!.

6 g3 [B47]

Another line which retains its adherents is 6 g3 and after 6...Qc7 7 Bg2 d6 8 0-0 Bd7 9 a4 Nf6 10 Nxc6 Bxc6 11 a5 we reach quite an important position:

The debate here has been whether after 11...Be7 12 Be3 Black should castle or cover b6 with 12...Nd7, but then along came Morozevich to ask: what's wrong with 11...b5!? 12 axb6 Qxb6 ? Quite possibly nothing is the answer, although the novelty quickly provoked Svidler to start some fireworks in Svidler - Morozevich.

6 Be3 [B48/49]

A line one associates more with fireworks is 5...Qc7 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f4 Bb4 8 Ndb5 Qa5 9 e5 Nd5 10 Bd2:

However, after 10...Nxc3 White most certainly doesn't have to recapture with the b-pawn and the calm 11 Bxc3 soon led to an edge and a model positional win in Giri - Bauer, although it does seem that Black's play can be improved.

Finally in the world of the Taimanov it's time to rectify an omission here on ChessPub and cover 5...Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Be2 b5!?, which has recently been tried by Grachev, Morozevich and Vitiugov. The critical test is considered to be 8 Nxc6 Qxc6 9 Bf3 Bb7 10 0-0...

...but after the calm 10...Qc7 11 Qd3 Ne7 Black didn't appear to have any problems in Karjakin - Morozevich.

The Najdorf 6 Bc4, 7...Nbd7 [B86]

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 quite a critical line is 6...e6 7 Bb3 Nbd7 8 Bg5 Qa5 9 Qd2 Be7 10 0-0-0! Nc5 11 Rhe1, as championed by Rublevsky:

I still feel that 11...Bd7!? might be the way to go, since Bologan failed to resurrect 11...h6 and 11...0-0 12 Kb1 Qc7 13 f4 h6 14 h4! also turned out well for White in Rublevsky - Vachier Lagrave.

6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Qe2!? [B94]

An even more topical line is 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Qe2!? when a tentative conclusion would be that taking play into the Gelfand System with 7...e6 is a sensible choice for Black, with 7...h6 and 7...b5!? alternatives against which White is yet to prove anything. The former was seen in Alsina Leal-Cheparinov which proceeded 8 Bh4 b5 9 Nd5 Nxd5 10 exd5 Nb6 11 0-0-0:

At first glance this looks quite risky for Black, but after 11...Qc7 12 Bg3?! Bb7 13 Nf5 Rd8 the Spanish Grandmaster had run out of gas and was quickly put to the sword as Black's Dragon-like attack landed first.

That's all for this month. Have a good Christmas and New Year, Richard

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