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Hello everyone! Not for the first time this update will mostly please Najdorf Players, as, 6 out of the 8 games saw the position after 5...a6. As usual you will find attractive and important novelties, exciting attacking chess, and even some opening disasters. I hope you will enjoy it!

Download PGN of February ’17 Open Sicilian games

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The Keres Attack 6.g4 h6 7.Bg2 [B81]

Our first game Carlsen, M - Van Wely, L saw Magnus choose a relatively quiet line in the Keres Attack.

In the theoretical diagram position after 8.h3 Loek went for the dubious 8...g5?! and quickly got into serious trouble after the powerful innovation 9.Nxc6! bxc6 10.e5. Even though the further play of both players can be improved, White's victory was convincing and well-deserved. Therefore, I strongly recommend that Black switch to Najdorf paths with 8...a6.

The Keres Attack with h3 8...g5 [B81]

Our next game, Grandelius, N - Dobrov , V, saw Vladimir employing the rare and ambitious 8...g5. Even though White's reply 9.b3 is less common than 9.Be3, I definitely consider it to be the most challenging. In the position after 11.Qd2:

Black's most attractive option seems to be 11...b5!?, and I expect further practical tests in this position. However, instead of this the game's 11...h5?! was nicely met by 12.f4!, and Nils quickly got a decisive advantage. The further play was full of mutual mistakes, but the higher-rated player was luckier.

The Sozin Velimirovic Attack 7...Be7 8.Qe2 0-0 9.0-0-0 a6 10.Bb3 Qc7 [B89]

The game Dijkhuis, T - Van Wely, L can certainly be considered to be an opening disaster, since the higher-rated opponent got into a lost position in less than 20 moves!

I was surprised to discover that in this theoretical diagram position after 15.f4 most players (including some strong Grandmasters) went for the dubious 15...b4, that offers White an enormous attack. This time so did Loek, and after 16.Nd5 exf5? 17.Nd5 he was crushed by a direct attack. Coming back to the initial position, I should mention that the natural-looking 15...Bb7 might be playable, but we need further practical tests of this assessment. To be honest, I do not trust Black's setup in this line in general, so something like 7...a6!? 8.Qe2 Qc7 is probably a more attractive way of handling the Sozin Attack.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 [B90]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Svidler, P - Donchenko, A, where both players were following the exciting encounter Anand - Giri, from the previous update.

In the diagram position after 14...Rb8 Peter employed the new idea 15.Nxc6 Bxc6 16.b4, but his opponent found the best continuation 16...Nd7 17.h5 a5!, and so White didn't have a better position at any moment. A well-played game by both players.

Well, at the moment 6...e6 7.g4 Be7 looks like a perfect weapon against 6.h3.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 [B90]

Our next game, Shirov,A - Delgado Ramirez, N, has serious theoretical value for the line with 8...h5.

In this complex diagram position after 15.Rhe1 the Cuban Grandmaster went for 15...Bc4, which was previously covered on our site. Shirov's reply 16.fxe5 dxe5 17.Nd5 forced Black to open-up the e-file, but had he then played the brave 18...Bxd5, it wouldn't have been so easy to increase the initiative (true, I still prefer White). Instead of this, 18...Bxd3?!, followed by 19...Qc4? allowed Aleksei to win the game very convincingly.

Regarding the opening I prefer 15...0-0!?, but I wouldn't recommend playing this line without deep home preparation.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Be7 [B90]

The next battle, Gabrielian, A - Kokarev , D, saw Artur employing the rare 12.a3!?:

This move has a deep strategic idea behind it: White is not only limiting Black's active possibilities on the q-side, but also making the a2-spot vacant for the poor Nb3. Still, had Dmitry played 12...Qc7!? or 13...0-0!, he would hardly face any serious problems. Unfortunately, the inaccurate 13...Qc7?! allowed White to illustrate the great attacking potential of his position by means of 15.g4! and score a quick victory.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Nd5 [B92]

Our next game, Eljanov, P - Wojtaszek, R, saw a complex strategic battle with wild complications at the end.

Eljanov's innovation 12.a4 here doesn't seem to pose Black serious problems, but it leads to interesting, fresh positions. Radoslaw's reaction can be debated, but he was able to develop serious counter-play on the k-side, and had he played 18...g6! the game would have been very double-edged. The next critical moment came on move 24, when 24...bxc6? led Black into a lost position. Luckily for GM Wojtaszek, his opponent didn't manage to find the last precise move before crossing the time control, so this spectacular game ended in a draw.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.a3 [B96]

In my opinion our last game, Adhiban, B - Nepomniachtchi, I, has the most theoretical value. In fact, Ian's new way of handling the position with 9...Nbd7!? might solve Black's troubles in this line:

True, the position arising after 10.Bc4 e5 11.fxe5 dxe5 12.Nf5 looks somewhat scary to the human eye, but, as the analyses prove, had Ian played 18...Kf8!, his problems would have been solved.

Even though Baskaran didn't manage to win the game, his play (both here and in the rest of the event too) was very energetic and illustrates White's great dynamic potential in such positions.

See you next month, Michael

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