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Dear chess friends,
This time I decided to take the games from a mix of many tournaments and also to mostly focus on the Najdorf mainlines, which can be considered to be compensation for the last update, where we only had 3 Najdorf games. On the other hand, in my opinion the only Sveshnikov game has exceptional theoretical value. I am also glad to finally introduce one of my own games against an experienced attacking opponent from Bulgaria.

Download PGN of December ’19 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nab1!? [B33]

We start with the original idea 9.Nab1!?:

this was employed in Nasuta, G - Kuzubov, Y. Even though GM Kuzubov managed to handle the position well, he still came under strong positional pressure after 16...Rb8?! 17.Bb5! Luckily for Yurij his lower-rated opponent then started to err, and after few inaccurate moves like 19.Bc4?! and 21.b3?! White found himself in a passive position. Even so, the game was actually decided by a big blunder at the end, 31.Rxd6??.

Undoubtedly, 9.Nab1!? deserves serious attention.

Najdorf/Scheveningen 6.Be3 e6 7.a3!? [B80]

Another interesting concept was demonstrated in Ganguly, S - Xu, Y, where Surya employed 7.a3!?, which is new for our site:

Visually it looks harmless, but it actually prepares a quick attack on the k-side. Black responded with the natural 7...Be7 8.Qe2 b5 9.0-0-0, but then committed a serious mistake 9...Bb7?, and after 10.e5 he was very close to a collapse. GM Ganguly played very precisely up till move 21, but then he started to spoil his advantage with 21.h4?! and 22.Bd3?. Moreover, the optimistic 23.Bxh7? put him in serious danger, and a half point was only achieved due to lucky draw agreement.

Overall, 7.a3!? looks really promising for White, and at the moment I can hardly recommend any convincing way to equalize against it.

Najdorf/Scheveningen 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 [B81/90]

The next game, Sprenger, J - Hou Yifan, saw Jan employ the relatively quiet 8.Bg2, which is mostly connected with short castles:

However, in this particular game White switched to aggressive play with 10.Qe2, and after 10...b5?! 11.0-0-0! (a decent novelty!) Black quickly came under a strong attack. For most of the game White played very creatively and had he found 21.Rd3! it would have been difficult for Jan's great opponent to withstand the attack. Alas, the game was decided by a blunder, as 23.Bf5? allowed Black develop her counter-attack with 23...Bxb2+! and Jan was soon checkmated.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bc4 Be6 [B90]

I decided to make use of my own recent analysis for the site, so in Delchev, A - Roiz, M I employed the relatively fresh 8...Be6. On move 11 Alexandr deviated from the most aggressive 11.Nh4 (as in Ponkratov - Sarana, in the PGN Archive) with 11.Qd3:

but I also covered this in my home preparation, and I responded with an important novelty, 11...Qc7!, that provoked my opponent into liquidating into an equal endgame. The balance was kept till the end of the game.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 e5 8.Nb3 Be6 9.f3, 12...Nh5 [B90]

Another theoretical discussion occurred in the top-level game Aronian, L - Carlsen, M. In the fashionable position after 14...Rc8 Levon chose the prophylactic 15.a3, which might pose Black definite practical problems:

It looks like both players had deep knowledge in this line, so their play can hardly be improved till move 20, when 20...Qd7?! made it possible for Levon to secure his king with 23.Bd2! and Magnus got into a difficult situation. However, 26.Rc3? helped him release the tension and solve his problems. After that he started to outplay his opponent and he eventually won in nice style.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.g4 h6 [B90]

We have 2 important games in this fashionable line. First, in So, W - Carlsen, M Black employed the rare 9...b5!?:

In response, Wesley played the new move 10.a4, which provoked Black into weakening his pawn chain with 10...bxa4. However, White didn't manage to exploit the drawbacks of Magnus's setup, and after the inaccurate 14.Nb6?! he even came under some positional pressure. Luckily for Wesley, this time his great opponent returned the favor with 18...Nb4?! and at the end White even had a symbolic advantage.

In another game, Bacrot, E - Ragger, M, after 9...Nbd7 10.a4 Marcus came up with the interesting new idea 10...Nf8!?:

Etienne responded with the most natural and aggressive 11.Qd2 Ng6 12.0-0-0, but Black's king remained relatively safe. In general, it was a well-played game by both players, but one moment has to be mentioned: on move 16 Marcus wrongly played 16...Qd8, which gave White a chance to gain some advantage with 20.Rh2!

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.g3 Be6 [B90]

The last game, Michalik, P - Rodshtein, M, saw Peter employ the rare 11.Bg5 Be7 12.Nd5:

As often happens, the surprise effect did its job, and Maxim immediately went astray with 13...Rc8? As a result, 14.a4! made it possible for GM Michalik to quickly develop a strong initiative on the q-side. Undoubtedly, GM Rodshtein was far from his best, and after 17...Nxd5? he was quickly defeated.

Despite such a convincing victory 11.Bg5 doesn't seem to offer White any advantage.

See you next month, Michael

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