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Hi all,
In my opinion this update contains exceptional theoretical value for both the Taimanov and the Najdorf. This time there were no draws - all the games were very spectacular and saw uncompromising fights. Enjoy!

Download PGN of February ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.Be2 [B41]

In our first game, Kollars, D - Movsesian, S, Black deviated from the main theoretical lines and went for the 'Hedhehog' with 7...b6. It looks like his lower-rated played was well-prepared, so after 9.Qd3 d6 10.f4 Nbd7 11.b4:

White got a very promising position. Most probably Sergei's reaction 11...d5!? is the best practical try, though the arising complications definitely contain danger for Black. In fact, the natural move 15...Rad8? turned out to be a decisive mistake and led to a quick loss. Even though the correct 15...Bxc3! might offer Black acceptable play, I still wouldn't recommend entering this line.

Taimanov 5...Qc7 6.f4 a6 7.Nxc6 [B47]

In the next game, Sutovsky, E - Pichot, A, the players entered a rare, but quite important theoretical position after 15.Na4:

Perhaps the real test of White's aggressive setup would be seen had Black played 15...a5!, whereas the dubious innovation 15...g6?! led Alan into an unpleasant position. Emil's play till move 21 was very natural and strong, but the inaccurate 21.b4?! allowed Black to activate all his pieces and develop significant counter-play. Luckily for GM Sutovsky, his opponent was the last to err, so after 25...Qc6? White managed to convert the material advantage into a full point.

Regarding the opening, 7...bxc6 might be no worse than the previously covered 7...Qxc6.

Taimanov 5...Qc7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.a3 [B48]

In the encounter Grigoriants, S - Prasanna, R White employed the rather rare 7.a3, which was nicely met by the great novelty 12....b5!:

The main critical moment came on move 15, when Sergey made the inaccurate move 15.h4?!, allowing Black to seize the initiative. The further play was full of mutual mistakes, but the lower-rated player's victory was definitely well-deserved.

Anyway, 7.a3 can be used as a surprise weapon, but it doesn't seem to pose Black serious problems.

Taimanov 6.Be2 Qc7 7.Be3 Nf6 8.0-0 Bb4 [B49]

The next game, Le Quang Liem - Blomqvist, E, saw Black employing the well forgotten 9...0-0 10.c4 Be7:

In my opinion, White's powerful play, starting with 15.b4!, illustrates Black's strategic troubles in this unfavourable version of the Hedgehog very well. Even though Black's play was full of mistakes, such as 16...Rac8?!, I definitely wouldn't recommend playing 9...0-0 in the future.

Scheveningen English Attack 8...b4 9.Na4 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Qa5 [B80]

The position after 13...d5 was deeply explored on our site a long time ago, but 14.Bf2!? is a fresh attempt to make use of White's development advantage:

The potential danger of this new idea was illustrated in Nakamura, H - Grandelius, N, where Nils went for the dubious 14...Bd6? and was convincingly outplayed.

No doubt 14...e5!?, as played in Bok, B -Gordievsky, D, is much better. The critical moment of this game came on move 17, when 17.Bd3? put Benjamin in a difficult situation and eventually led to a loss.

In general, 14.Bf2!? definitely requires further practical tests. At the moment, both 14...e5 and 14...dxe4!? seem acceptable for the Black.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 b5 8.Nd5 [B90]

In my opinion, our next game, Sarana, A - Kokarev, D, has really exceptional theoretical value. Previously 8.Nd5 was considered to be the most dangerous for Black, but Dmitry's new way of handling the position might change this assessment. Indeed, 10...Rc8! made Black's position perfectly playable, despite losing control of the d5-spot:

Even though Black's play might be improved earlier, Dmitry wouldn't have faced any serious problems had he played 19...Kf8. Instead, 19...Kd8?! followed by 21...Qe6? led to a quick loss.

Well, in this line the ball is in White's court now!

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

In the last game, Tari, A - Xiong, J, the players entered one of the most fashionable lines in the Najdorf with 6.h3. In the position after 14...a5:

Aryan came up with a new idea 15.b3, which made the typical c2-c3 break more effective. The surprise effect was so big that his opponent immediately went wrong with 16...Nf6?! and got into big trouble. Moreover, a few moves later Black's position was already lost.

Despite such a defeat 15.b3 doesn't seem to pose Black serious problems, since the natural 16...Rb8 looks acceptable.

See you next month, enjoy! Michael

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