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It's been good to see a number of lively Sicilians at Wijk aan Zee. Do look out for the latest Najdorf practice from Anand and his team, as well as lovely finishes from Harikrishna, Kulaots and Naiditsch.

Download PGN of January '13 Open Sicilian games

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The Kan 5...Bc5 [B42]

I was a little surprised to see the Italian no.1 plump for 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 6 Nb3 Be7 against Hou Yifan, since after 7 Qg4 g6 8 Qe2 d6 White has a few ways to seek a small edge and it's not so easy for Black to generate any winning chances:

Probably 9 0-0 and 9 Be3 are the best ways forward, since 9 Na3 Nc6 10 Be3 was met well enough by the new move 10...Rb8 in Hou Yifan-Caruana.

The Scheveningen 6 g3 [B80]

The tabiya which arises after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 g3 a6 7 Bg2 Be7 8 0-0, amongst many move orders, has been debated twice thus far at Wijk:

L'Ami opted for standard Scheveningen development with 8...0-0 9 a4 Nc6 10 Be3 Bd7, but was still quickly unpleasantly worse against Leko. Perhaps that's why 8...Qc7 was preferred in Naiditsch - Grandelius, but after 9 f4!? Nc6 10 Nxc6 bxc6 11 e5 White had seized an early initiative which it seems that Georgiev and Kolev may have underestimated in their recent The Sharpest Sicilian 2012.

The Classical Scheveningen 6 Be2 [B85]

The Classical Scheveningen with 6 Be2 Be7 7 0-0 a6 8 a4 Nc6 9 Be3 0-0 10 f4 Qc7 11 Kh1 Re8 12 Bf3 was debated in Harikrishna - Van Wely:

This is a major tabiya where Black has a wide choice, but if he wants to stick with one of the main lines and 12...Bd7, he'll need to find an improvement on the Dutch Grandmaster and leading Scheveningen expert's play.

The Najdorf 6 h3 [B90]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3!? is as topical as ever, with Carlsen and Anand having now jumped on the bandwagon:

We consider developments after all of 6...e6, 6...Nc6!? and 6...g6 in Anand - Nakamura, as well as the game continuation of 6...e5 7 Nde2 h5. The World Champion lands up obtaining a firm grip on d5, but Black should not mind the resulting positions and a great scrap ensues.

Of late White has also experimented with 7 Nb3 here, instead, reaching after 7...Be6 8 Be3 a position which also comes about via the equally semi-trendy 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 h3!?. Black should be OK here, but she doesn't respond in the best way in Kulaots - Gu Xiaobing and is put to the sword in brutal fashion on the kingside.

English Attack 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 [B90]

A more theoretical line of the English Attack runs 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 Be7 9 Qd2 0-0 10 0-0-0 Nbd7 11 g4 b5:

Wojtaszek recently faced one of the main lines and drew a game he may well have had in its entirety on his computer. Being surprised by the opening and much less well prepared, White preferred 12 Rg1 in Leko - Anand. This sideline has been used by Anand himself, but he didn't have too much trouble showing the best route to equality on the black side.

7 Nf3 [B90]

We also find Anand's second in action in Negi - Wojtaszek where another topical line, namely 7 Nf3 Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Qc7 is debated. White tries the rare 10 Qd3!?, provoking 10...b5 11 Nd5 bxc4! 12 Nxc7 cxd3 13 Nxa8 dxc2:

This unbalanced position seems fine for Black with the bishop-pair and a pawn for the exchange (White can win c2, but only at the cost of e4).

6 f4 [B93]

Finally we take a look at Nunn and Tiviakov's old favourite, 6 f4. This can give White an early initiative if Black is careless, but in any case White isn't risking too much. One try to unbalance the game is 6...Qc7 and after 7 a4 g6 8 Nf3 Nbd7 9 Bd3 Bg7 10 0-0 0-0 11 Qe1 Nc5 the position resembles certain lines of the Austrian Attack:

Black certainly has chances to outplay a lower-rated opponent from here, but White manages to stand firm in Dzhumaev - Wojtaszek.

No doubt there will be more games from Wijk, as well as Gibraltar, to examine next month!

Until then, Richard

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