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ChessPub updates are always topical, but this must be my most topical yet seeing that our oldest main game was only played on 24th January! Look out for a number of lively and theoretically-important battles from the super-strong events at Wijk and Gibraltar.

Download PGN of February '13 Open Sicilian games

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The Kalashnikov 6 g3 [B32]

Nakamura surprised Carlsen with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d6 in the penultimate round at Wijk. Unsurprisingly Carlsen steered clear of the main lines, opting to follow in John Nunn's footsteps with 6 g3. After 6...h5!? 7 N1c3 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Nd5 Nge7 10 Bg2 a critical position arose:

Here Black should trade knights on d5 when he is probably okay, but Nakamura went for 10...Bg4?! 11 f3 Be6 12 c3! when White had taken control and won a crushing game in Carlsen - Nakamura.

The Sveshnikov 9 Nd5, 11 c3 [B33]

We haven't seen too much of the venerable 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 at the top level of late, but this and then 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Nd5 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c3 (Hurray! White avoids the topical and very positional 11 c4) 11...Bg5 12 Nc2 Rb8, as championed by Gelfand, was seen in Ivanchuk-A.Muzychuk:

I still feel that Black is fine here, but the Ukrainian's 13 g3 0-0 14 h4! followed by Bh3xe6 set fresh problems and after obtaining an edge Ivanchuk won with a lovely late attack.

The Scheveningen English Attack 6 Be3 [B80]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Be3 a6 is, of course, a position which arises more often from a Najdorf move order. In the English Attack after 7 f3 b5 8 Qd2 Nbd7 9 g4 h6 10 0-0-0 lines with an early ...b4 and ...Qa5 have rather vanished from the tournament hall. I've tried to explain why in my notes to Sandipan - Shirov. In that key battle from Gibraltar where a win would offer either side the chance to play for a large prize, 10...b4 11 Na4 Qa5!? 12 b3 Bb7 13 a3 Qc7 14 axb4 d5 was seen:

If you think this looks familiar that's because a closely-related position with h4 and ...Nb6xa4; bxa4 used to be very topical. Shirov was only the second player to venture 14...d5 over the board, but his opening was a success, although he later became too ambitious.

The Keres Attack 6...h6 [B81]

Another critical line of the Scheveningen is, of course, the Keres Attack. We've seen a fair bit of 6 g4 e5!? in recent years, but Black can also go 6...h6 7 h4 e5!?. With the h-pawns advanced 8 Bb5+ Nbd7!? becomes possible, after which 9 Nf5 a6 10 Bxd7+ Qxd7 11 Qf3! must be critical:

This was all seen in Gallagher - Le Quang Liem. I rather like the Sicilian expert and our former columnist's play, but he was later seduced by a faulty if inspired sacrifice and was then ground down by the leading Vietnamese GM.

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

Moving on to the Najdorf proper, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 Nbd7 8 Bg5 has been causing Black some problems of late. The fault may well lie in Anand's 8...Qa5, since 8...Nc5 seems okay and after 9 f4 Be7 10 Qf3 Qc7 11 0-0 0-0 12 Rae1 (12 f5!? may be a better try) 12...Nxb3 13 Nxb3 b5 14 e5 Bb7 Black is surely very comfortable:

The unopposed light-squared bishop is quite handy and the Welsh IM was unable to solve his early difficulties in Jones - Sutovsky.

English Attack 6 Be3 Nbd7!? [B90]

Whether we should refer to 6 Be3 as the English Attack is a moot point (strictly speaking only 6...e6 7 f3 is the English Attack), but in any case 6...Nbd7!? is a fairly unexplored response:

White has a fair amount of choice here and 7 f4!? Qc7 8 Be2 b5?! 9 a4! b4 10 Nd5 gave him an early initiative against the variation's leading exponent in Sutovsky - Al Sayed.

6 Bg5 Nbd7 [B94]

What happens when an ex-World Champion meets the World Champion? No, I don't refer to a Kramnik-Anand encounter, but rather to Hou Yifan-Anand (the Chinese star lost her women's world crown at the tail end of last year due to FIDE's latest ludicrous World Championship ideas). It didn't seem to affect Hou at Wijk and in this clash the topical 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Qe2!? was debated:

Theory is still in its infancy here, but 7...h6 8 Bh4 g6 9 f4 e5 10 fxe5 dxe5 11 0-0-0!? Be7! left Anand with a solid position and he soon began to outplay his young adversary.

Gelfand Variation [B96]

Finally, we turn to the Gelfand Variation, 6...e6 7 f4 Nbd7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 b5 and then 10 Bd3 Bb7 11 Rhe1 Qb6 12 Nd5!?:

This is, of course, quite a critical test, with 12...Qxd4 the main line. Indeed, theory has condemned 12...exd5 on account of Chiburdanidze's 13 Nc6!, but I feel that we should remove the question mark from Black's 12th move. Indeed, it's only 13...Bxc6? which costs Black the game in So - Paragua. I at least haven't been able to find more than a draw for White after 13...dxe4! 14 Bxe4 Nc5.

Don't forget about the super-GM events coming up in Baden-Baden and Zurich, but will they feature any Sicilians?

Until next month, Richard

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