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Hello and welcome to another exciting update on the Sicilian Defence! I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. Personally, I should have won Hastings, but that's another story!

Download PGN of January '14 Open Sicilian games

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Kan 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 [B42]

The first game I'd like to look at is the giant killing act Bulski, K - Romanov, E. White plays very impressively at the end of this game, although I think there was nothing wrong with the opening for Black. He could have even tried the idea 8...g6!? that I included in my notes:

I like this idea very much, because it seems to lead to rich, double-edged positions that can go either way. Ideal for a gambler like Van Wely (see the note), and for Sicilian lovers in general!

Romanishin's 6...e5 7 Bg5 [B42]

In Ter Sahakyan, S - Pantsulaia, L the game closely follows a previous game of Caruana's, which has already been extensively analysed here by Richard Palliser. But White doesn't play as precisely as the Italian did, (16.Be2 was perhaps preferable to 16.Bc2) and after the accurate 17...Qg5! Black was already in the driving seat:

In general I think these lines with 6...e5 should be fine for Black, but he does need to play carefully.

Kan 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 with ...Bc5-e7 [B43]

No rest for the wicked, because next up is the humdinger of a Bundesliga match, Naiditsch, A - Hansen, E that ended in a victory for the up and coming Canadian talent. In this game it seems that Hansen did his homework, as he took the fire out of the interesting pawn sac 10.e5!? very effectively.

Later on he even missed a chance to sacrifice material with the tremendous idea 19...0-0-0!:

When if White grabs the booty on h8 (what else?) then Black will have superb compensation for the exchange, a strong center and almost total command over the dark squares. No matter, he went on to win in any case, and I think that although the White pawn sacrifice is dangerous, this kind of 'soak up the pressure and hit on the counter' strategy with Black is ideal for anyone working with an engine.

Taimanov 5...a6 6 Bf4!? [B46]

Vallejo Pons, F - Potkin, V is a very interesting game as well, where White essays the relatively rare idea of 6.Bf4!?:

I'll be very surprised if this plan doesn't catch on at some point, as Black seems to have great difficulties in equalising. Ok in this game he was probably just about ok, but accurate play by the Spanish player brought home the full point.

Najdorf: English Attack 6...e5 7 Nb3, 8...h5 [B90]

Caruana, F - Gelfand, B saw another theoretical battle in a line of the Najdorf, which seems quite promising for White. Probably Black is just about ok, but White does enjoy the advantage of the two bishops. Eventually, however, the pressure got to Gelfand (who was completely out of form in this event) and he erred with 18...f5?:

The new weaknesses created by this move encouraged Caruana to go to town on the black kingside.

6...e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 h3 [B90]

Kryvoruchko, Y - Tazbir, M was also very interesting, because it wasn't obvious where Black went wrong. I prefer the move order with 7...Be7, because after 14.f4! you don't need to a rocket scientist to see that Black is under serious pressure already:

Clearly Black needs to come up with some new ideas, because at the moment this very popular plan with h3 is putting the 7...Be6 line under a cloud. Worrying times for us Najdorf addicts.

6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3, 10 Qd3!? [B92]

Harikrishna,P - Dominguez Perez,L was another game from Wijk Aan Zee. This saw a reboot of the interesting plan in the 6.Be2 Najdorf, with 10.Qd3!? planning Nd5:

No less a player than Nakamura has used this with success lately. Black was probably ok in the position after 18...dxc5:

But White has a long-term asset of this protected passed-pawn on d5, and indeed this is what won the game for the talented Harikrishna in the end, as he showed extremely impressive endgame technique.

6 f4 e5 7 Nf3 Qc7 [B93]

Finally, we finish with a 6.f4 Najdorf (so many different ways of playing against this opening, it has to be said) in Dzhumaev,M - Ter Sahakyan,S. There White went for 11.Qe1 but got nowhere, but I think Smirin's idea of 11.Nh4! is probably more promising, as it's not easy for Black to relieve the pressure:

In general, though, I believe the 6.f4 line is fairly toothless, which is probably why it's been overtaken by other ways of fighting against the Najdorf in popularity, although who knows, that may change in the future.

Anyway I hope you enjoy this months update as much as I enjoyed writing it! Danny.

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