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Dear subscribers,
This time choosing the games for our Update was a tough task. However, I've decided to focus on the top events - Wijk aan Zee, Gibraltar and the Moscow Open. Once again, no draws. All the battles have significant theoretical value (some of them even pretend at refuting specific opening lines)!

Download PGN of February ’16 Open Sicilian games

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Scheveningen without Nf6 6.g4 Nge7 [B54]

We start with the game Papp - Duda, where the higher-rated opponent went for a risky opening line, where Black deviates from the most natural way of developing.

In the Diagram position after 9...Bb7 Petra chose the most popular 10.Qd2, but it looks like 10.Qe2! is much stronger and definitely poses Black serious problems. Instead, after 10.Qd2 g5! Black obtained comfortable play. The really critical moment came on move 15, when 15.Qxd6?? led to the loss of White's queen. Alternatively, had she played 15.Bxd6 White's position would be equal, at the very least.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 9.f4 b5 10.Bxf6 gxf6... 13.f5 [B67]

In my opinion, our next game Timofeev - Eliseev, has exceptional theoretical value.

In this position, after 15...h5, Artyom employed the rare, but dangerous pawn sac 16.Bc4! Even though Urii must have been prepared for it (some time ago, Eliseev had another unsuccessful game vs Alexander Grischuk), he was still unable to obtain adequate play. Despite mutual mistakes, White's attractive victory was well deserved in this battle.

In general, Black's position after 16.Bc4 looks very dodgy, and I am not sure if there is a way to make this line playable again.

English Attack 9.g4 h6 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.h4 b4 [B80]

Our next game Caruana - Van Wely also pretends at refuting one of the many possible lines of the English Attack. Indeed, 13....Be7 was successfully employed by Loek in his old game vs Garry Kasparov:

This time Fabiano came up with the dangerous idea 14.Rh3! In my opinion, Black's position is just bad after this. Loek's play could be improved, but White's victory was definitely very convincing.

Najdorf 6.Bc4...9...Qc7 10.Qg3 0-0 11.Bh6 Ne8 [B87]

In the game Blomqvist - Anand the players entered into a well-known and complex line of the Najdorf with 6.Bc4.

In the Diagram position after 13...Nc6 Erik employed the very rare 14.Nce2!? It looks like Anand's reaction wasn't the most precise, and had White played 20.Nc3! Black's position would be rather unpleasant. However, Erik went wrong and was convincingly outplayed by his great opponent.

Regarding the opening, 14.Nce2!? definitely needs more practical tests, but it looks like after 14...Na5! Black should be OK.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.g4 b5 [B90]

Another interesting theoretical discussion took place in Nakar - Jakovenko. Dmitry went for less common 10...b5, which wasn't covered on our site before:

In my opinion, the real test of this line would be seen had White played 11.0-0-0 (the most popular) or 11.a4!? At the same time, 11.g5 Nh5 12.a4 looks perfectly playable for Black after the correct 12...bxa4! Surprisingly enough, 12...b4?, which was played rapidly by Dmitry, led him into a difficult position. The really critical moment came on move 18, when Eylon lost an important tempo with 18.a5? and got into trouble. Instead, the natural 18.0-0-0 would promise him a clear advantage.

Najdorf 6.h3 Nc6 7.g4 Qb6 [B90]

In our next game Sethuraman - Kelires Black employed the rather unsuccessful novelty 11...Be7?! and soon got into trouble:

Regarding the opening, 10.Bf4 should definitely be met by 10...Nce5, followed by ...b5 as played in the game Yu Yangui - Dominguez (see the notes to that game in our PGN Archive).

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 g6 [B94]

In our next game, Geller - Artemiev, the higher-rated player went for a somewhat less explored way of handling the position 'à-la Dragon':

In the Diagram position, after 9...0-0, White chose the most aggressive 10.e5, but Black was well-prepared for such an early confrontation. Geller's unsuccessful innovation on move 13 and his serious mistake on the next move led to a quick disaster, even though Vlad's inaccurate move 15...Be6? could have spoiled all the advantage.

Anyway, 7...g6 worked out well for Black, but it still looks extremely risky - White has many attractive possibilities, such as 10.g4!? or 8.0-0-0 Bg7 9.h4.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6...13.f5 0-0 !? [B99]

Our last game, Tari - Esserman, saw another theoretical discussion in a fairly rare sideline, where Black rejects the pawn sacrifice by means of 13...0-0. Now White has to choose between different possible ways of developing the attack, but the consequences seem unclear in any case. The game's 14.h4 b4 15.Nce2 led us to one of the critical positions, where Black has to neutralize the pressure on the e6-pawn:

It looks like 15...Bb7 is the most optimal choice, but we need further practical tests for a final assessment. Anyway, Marc's reaction 15...exf5 looks like a clear concession, so had White played 16.Nxf5, I would definitely prefer his position. Instead, after 16.exf5? Aryan got into serious troubles (his position was even lost at some point), but he was lucky to score a full point at the end.

See you next month! Enjoy! Michael

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