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Hi everyone!
This time we will focus on the 2 biggest events - Gibraltar and Wijk aan Zee. Oddly, all the decisive games actually ended in Black's favor in this update, but this was an exceptionally unlucky case for White - he should have won at least 2 of them.

Download PGN of February ’19 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 [B33]

We start with Van Foreest, J - Carlsen, M, where Jorden bravely entered one of the most fashionable lines in the Sveshnikov, which was certainly analyzed by his opponent's team. Magnus was the first to deviate from his encounter vs Fabiano with 14...f5:

It looks like the real test of this innovation would be 15.Na4!?, whereas the 15.0-0-0 White played led to a complex struggle where the world champion managed to convincingly outplay his opponent.

Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 0-0 12.Nc2 Rb8 [B33]

The game Radjabov, T - Carlsen, M saw Teimour employ the interesting novelty 15.a3!?:

in a relatively rare line of the Sveshnikov. The really critical moment of the game came on the next move, when Magnus prematurely exchanged knights with 16...Nxd5?! At this moment White should have played 17.exd5!, and this would have put Black in a difficult situation. Instead, 17.Nxd5?! allowed Magnus to equalize quite easily, and the game ended in a draw after some brief play.

I suppose that 15.a3!? will be tested again soon, even though it shouldn't pose Black serious problems.

Taimanov 6.f4 a6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.Bd3 [B47]

In the game Praggnanandhaa, R - Chigaev, M the players entered the theoretical position after 13.Kh1:

At this point Maxim (who has wide experience in the Taimanov) carelessly played 13...g6? and soon got into big trouble. Had White played 18.Rf3! his attack would have been crushing, but instead Maxim's talented opponent decided to liquidate into an endgame with an extra pawn. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, and ended dramatically in Black's favor.

Anyway, this line seems problematic for Black, so he should go for alternative ways of handling the position, such as 6...Nxd4.

Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Be7 9.f4 [B48]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Duda, J - Shankland, S. In the position after 13.g4 Sammy made the new (for the site) move 13...h6 and managed to convincingly solve all his problems. The game was drawn on move 31. However, it looks like 20.Rh3!?, as played in one correspondence game, might still offer White some advantage - further practical tests are needed.

Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Rb8 [B48]

The next game, Puranik, A - Tsolakidou, S, saw Black employ the relatively fresh 8...Rb8, which was previously successfully tried by Russian GM Andreikin:

This surprise weapon worked well for Stavroula, and after the unsuccessful innovation 15.b3? White found himself in a difficult situation. However, a few moves later Black started to go astray as well and soon the evaluation changed drastically. Luckily for Black, his opponent was the last to err in this game, so he got the full point.

Regarding the opening, the artificial 8...Rb8 looks risky and will hardly be tested much at a high level.

Scheveningen 7.f4 Be7 8.g4!? [B84]

In the game Mamedyarov, S - Fedoseev, V White deviated from the well-known theoretical lines with the aggressive 8.g4!?:

In response, Vladimir came up with an early novelty 10....Qb6, but didn't manage to solve his development problems. The critical moment of the game came on move 12, when 12.Be3?! allowed Black to force a draw by perpetual. Instead, 12.g6! would have put Black in big danger.

Anyway, I definitely expect more practical tests of 8.g4!? to follow soon.

Najdorf 6.Bd3 g6 [B90]

The next game, Karthikeyan, M - Nakamura, H, saw the players enter this relatively rare theoretical position:

At this moment White made the new move 8.Nb3 and soon managed to out-play his higher-rated opponent. The critical moment of the game came on move 20, when White could have kept everything under control with 20.Bc2! Instead, he committed 2 mistakes in a row and lost.

Even though 8.Nb3 worked well in this game, I prefer the previously played 8.a3, which seems to pose Black definite problems.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qe2 h6 [B96]

In the last game, Anand, V - Nepomniatchi, I, Black employed the fresh idea 9...e5:

It looks like Vishy managed to handle the position well, so had he played 15.Bg3 Ian would have to defend an inferior position. Instead, 15.Bxe7?! spoiled his advantage, and the game shortly ended in a draw.

Until next month, Michael

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