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This month was full of high level chess and uncompromising Sicilian battles. Moreover, no draws this time - all 8 theoretically important games were especially spectacular! Enjoy!

Download PGN of February '15 Open Sicilian games

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The Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Be7 9.f3 [B48]

Our first game Ganguly,S - Sengupta,D took place in the last round of the amazing event in Gibraltar.

The players were following the spectacular game Anand-Movsesian, and in the Diagram position, after 13.Nd5, Deep was the first to deviate with 13...Qe5?!, but this innovation seems unsuccessful as White quickly got the piece back, and gained a serious positional advantage. Sengupta was defending patiently, but had White played 24.Be2 , his position would be close to lost. Luckily for him, however, Ganguly committed a few serious mistakes, and eventually lost the game.

Anyway, it looks like Black should either follow Movsesian's play or try 13...Qb8!? in this line. No doubt this interesting position requires further practical tests.

The Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Bb4 9.f3 0-0 [B48]

9...0-0 is considered to be a minor alternative to the main lines, but in Muzychuk,M - Adhiban,A Black successfully solved his problems once again. The Diagram position after 14 Nb3 was briefly analyzed in my comments to Gharamian,T - Sokolov,A, when I considered Black's position to be rather acceptable:

Anyway, Adhiban's important novelty 14...Rc8! seems quite convincing and offers Black decent compensation after 15.Qxd7. Still, Mariya should have opted for this, as after 15.f4 the initiative was on Black's side, though White's position wasn't bad yet. However, as a result of further mutual mistakes, Baskaran was able to achieve victory.

In general, the ball is definitely on White's court in this line. It looks like White may try 12.Nxc6!? or some other early deviation in the future.

The Taimanov with 7.Qf3 Ne5 8.Qg3 h5!? [B48]

The original set-up with 7.Qf3 becomes more and more popular, while Black players are trying several different ways to meet it. Recently Anish Giri has successfully employed the somewhat provocative 8...h5!? In Saric,I - Giri,A the players rapidly got to the Diagram position after Black's 13th move:

It looks like 14.Rhe1!? offers White interesting play, but that assessment deserves more practical tests. Instead, after the game's 14.Rhf1 e5 Giri quickly got a comfortable position. Moreover, Ivan's subsequent inaccuracies allowed him to win this game very nicely.

The Taimanov with 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Ne5 [B48]

Our next game Muzychuk,A - Sethuraman,S saw another way to handle this system with the Black pieces. After 8...Ne5 9.Qg3 b5 10.f4 Neg4 White may try to exploit the vulnerable placement of Black's knight, but it looks like Black has sufficient dynamic resources in all cases.

In the Diagram position after 11...b4, Anna went for the modest-looking 12.Nb1, and after 12...e5 13.fe Nxe5 Black's position looked comfortable. The over-optimistic 16.Be3?! could be strongly met by taking the pawn, while the solid 16...Bg7 kept the position equal. The critical moment came on the 18th move, when Sethuraman erred with 18...axb5?, so Black's position almost collapsed. One further mistake from her opponent enabled Anna to win this game without any problems.

In general, the set-up with 8...Ne5, followed by 9...b5 looks perfectly playable at the moment.

The Scheveningen English attack 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 b4 10.Nce2 h6 [B80]

In our next game Sutovsky,E - Docx,S, GM Emil Sutovsky came up with an attractive novelty in a well-known theoretical position:

In the Diagram position, after 11.Nf4!? Black has to deal with a standard piece sac on e6, which looks rather scary. However, as the analyses show, Black should be OK after either 11...Qc7 or after 11...Bb7. Instead, the prophylactic 11...Ne5? cannot be recommended. In fact, after 17 moves White's position was already winning. For some reason White rejected several natural continuations and went wrong with 19.Qb3? allowing Black to consolidate and complete development. Moreover, Stefan could even have won this game at some point. Luckily for Sutovsky, however, it was Black who committed the final mistake in this game.

Najdorf with 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 [B90]

The game Sutovsky,E - Das,A saw another theoretical discussion in a common line of the Najdorf. Instead of 8...b5, which was covered in Grischuk,A - Wojtaszek,R on our site before, Black went for 8...Nbd7!?:

Emil's natural novelty 9.f5 forced Black to give up the light-squared bishop, but the consequences were not bad for him. Both players were on top till move 18, when Das committed his first mistake. Emil then grabbed an edge, but had Black played 22...g6 the position would remain defensible. Instead, 22...Nxe4?! and 24...b5? led Black to a quick disaster. Despite White's convincing victory in this game, I expect more followers for 8...Nbd7, followed by exchanging the light-squared bishop.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Qc7 with 10...Nbd7 [B90]

Our next game, Wei Yi - Sevian,S illustrates how important control over the d5-square is in such typical pawn structures. In the well-known theoretical position after 11.Nd2:

Black went for the somewhat inaccurate 11...b6?! , which was strongly met by 12.g4. As a result, Sevian soon found himself in a difficult position. The following play from the young Chinese Grandmaster is quite impressive, though Black missed some practical chances on move 20.

Anyway, Black's attempts to get adequate play in this line should be connected with 11....Nc5, putting some pressure on White's centre.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nb7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.0-0 [B94]

The last spectacular game of this update is Zhigalko,A - Ziaziulkina,N. After 8.0-0 Black deviated from the most principal continuations and went for 8...e6?!. This is a sort of concession, and it looks like White may gain the advantage after 9.Qd2 Be7:

by means of 10.Be3. Instead, the game's 10.Bxe6 promises White sufficient compensation for a piece, but hardly more. Still, Black's defensive task wasn't easy, so Andrei was able to develop a strong attack. The first critical moment came on the 18th move, when Zhigalko missed 18.Nxe7, which could have posed Black serious problems. Afterwards, he also went wrong with 20.Nxf6?, so Black got a decisive material advantage. However, there was one last critical moment: the correct 26.Nxc5! would still allow Zhigalko to save a half point, but he missed that chance as well and eventually lost.

In general, 8.0-0!? deserves more attention, when Black has to choose between 8...Qxb2 and 8...Qc5, as instead, 8...e6?! cannot be recommended.

See you next month!

Enjoy! Michael Roiz

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