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Dear Subscribers,
First of all, I wish everybody a great new year. I am glad to start the first update of this year with top level chess, including the exciting event in Wijk aan Zee. Most of the games, as usual, have a definite theoretical value. Enjoy!

Download PGN of January '15 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov with 9.Nd5, 13...Bg5 14.a4 bxa4 15.Rxa4 a5 16.Bb5 [B33]

Our first game Tiviakov,S - Khalifman,A saw a long-forgotten variation in the positional line of the Sveshnikov. Tiviakov deviated from the most popular continuations with 17.Nce3, which doesn't seem to pose Black problems.

In the Diagram position, after 19.Qd3, Black had a pleasant choice between 19...f5 and 19...Qb6 with good play in both cases. Instead, Khalifman's novelty 19...Bb7 allowed Tiviakov to gain a standard advantage. The further play was full of mistakes, but Khalifman was under strong pressure throughout most of game, so his loss wasn't surprising.

The Four Knights with 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 f5?! [B45]

In our next game, Popilski,G - Baghdasaryan,V, Black tried a risky plan of leaving his king in the centre:

In the Diagram position after 11.Bd2, Black should have played 11....Be7. This line remains more or less playable for Black, though playing without castling is not to everyone's taste. Instead, Black went wrong with 11...Rb8 and 13...e5?, which should lead to a quick loss. However, Baghdasaryan was quite lucky and even managed to win in the end. In general, 9...f5?! Isn't recommended, so Black has to concentrate on other 9th moves.

The Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 b5 [B48]

The game Hracek,Z - Oral,T saw another theoretical battle in a long-forgotten line of the Taimanov. GM Oral introduced an improvement over his previous game against Anand, but Hracek was prepared for that. A critical position arose on move 13 (after 13.g5):

Had Black played 13...Nh5, the position would be playable, though I still prefer White. Instead of this, 13...Ne8?! led to a very passive position, and, despite some inaccuracies, Hracek was able to achieve a nice victory.

In general, 8...b5 doesn't look too attractive at the moment.

The Scheveningen with an early 7.Qe2 [B80]

Our next game Ivanchuk,V - Van Wely,L proves that White's original set-up is rather dangerous for Black. In fact, even such a great Scheveningen expert as Loek was in trouble at a very early stage of the game.

He came up with a dubious new plan of development (8...Bd7, 9...Rc8), and after 11.Nb3 the position was already unpleasant for him:

Still, the correct 11...Na5 would keep it playable, while instead the pseudo-active 11...b5?! invited more problems. Ivanchuk's further play was natural and strong, so his victory is fully deserved.

Najdorf with 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 [B90]

The game Gopal,G - Areshchenko,A saw another theoretical discussion in a popular line of the Najdorf. The players were following the exciting game Van Kampen,R - Al Sayed,M from our previous update.

In the important Diagram position, after 11.h5, Black has to find a way to meet the g5-g6 advance and develop counter-play on the q-side. It looks like 11...Be7 is the best solution, but it requires further practical tests. Instead, Alexander's innovation 11...N8d7?! was strongly met by 12.Rh3!, which gave White a strong initiative. Gopal's play was precise for a long time, but his mistake on move 21 drastically changed the picture, and at the end it was Areshchenko who missed a victory.

Najdorf with 6.Be3 Ng4, 11.Nf5 Bxf5 12.exf5 Nbd7 [B90]

Our next game Haast,A - Navara,D is also interesting from a theoretical point of view. Instead of entering into a long forcing line, starting with 12...Nbc6, David tried 12...Nbd7:

It looks like White's attempts to fight for an opening advantage should be connected with 13.Nd5 Nb6 14.c3, while 14.f6 gives no advantage. Moreover, Navara was able to pose his lower-rated opponent some practical problems, and eventually won the game.

In general, 12....Nbd7 looks like a respectable alternative to the main line with 12....Nbc6.

Najdorf with 6.Be3 Ng4, 10.h3 Ne5 11.Be2 [B90]

The game Ivanchuk,V - Vachier Lagrave,M saw Vassily deviating from the most popular continuations with the rare, but pretty interesting 11.Be2. Black's answer 11...b5 seems the most ambitious, though there were some decent alternatives. Ivanchuk then played a logical novelty, 15.a4, and the critical position occurred one move later, after 16.Nd5:

Had Maxime played 16...Ng6, the position would be very complex and double-edged, while the natural-looking 16...e6?! led to some problems. Black's further play wasn't perfect either, but Ivanchuk's convincing play makes a strong impression.

Najdorf with 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Qd2 [B90]

Our last game Morozevich,A - Oparin,G saw another sharp line of the Najdorf.

I guess Oparin wasn't prepared well for this forgotten system, so in the Diagram position after 14.g4 he rejected the pawn sac and played 14...h6. This innovation looks like a concession, since Black's k-side is becoming compromised. In fact, as the analyses prove, Morozevich has a few promising way to extend his initiative. However, his inaccurate 19th move completely changed the evaluation, and finally a draw was agreed in a situation where both players could be satisfied.

See you next month!

Enjoy! Michael Roiz

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