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Dear subscribers,
I am happy to start the new year with another inspiring update, full of fighting, high-level chess (this time only 1 draw), interesting theoretical ideas, and more. Enjoy!

Download PGN of January ’16 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.Be2 Bb4 8.Qe2 [B41]

Our first game Popov - Smirin proves once again that 5.c4 is becoming more and more annoying for the second player. The players entered a fashionable position after 7...Bb4, which was covered on our site before, but Ivan's choice 8.Qd3 is new for our archive, and it definitely poses Black some problems. Smirin's reaction seems the best (In fact, I couldn't a reasonable alternative to 8...Nc6), so the critical position arose after 11.f4:

To be honest, I do not trust Black's position anyway, but had Ilya played 11...b5! it would be much more difficult for White to develop the initiative. Instead, 11...e5? was nicely refuted by 12.Qg3! and at the end it was convincingly won by Ivan, yielding him the title of European Rapid Champion.

Taimanov with 5...a6 6.f3 [B46]

Our next game, Inarkiev - Grachev, saw an interesting theoretical discussion in the rare line with 6.f3!?, where Boris had some experience before.

In the diagram position (after 8.Be3) Black came up with the dubious innovation 8...Be7?! and got into trouble. Grachev's position was very dangerous for a long time, but White's mistake on move 19 allowed him to develop significant counter-play on the q-side. And at the end is was even Inarkiev who saved half a point by a miracle.

In general, it looks like 8...Bb4 is much better. Still, I am not sure that 6....d5 is the best reaction to White's original setup. Anyway, we should see more practical tests in the future.

Kan/Taimanov without ...a6 7.Be3 Be7 8.f4 d6 [B47]

The game Alekseev - Blomqvist saw an interesting attempt to deviate from the usual Scheveningen lines, with 9.g4!?:

Most probably Erik's response 9...d5 is the only adequate reaction, but the arising pawn structure a-la French is not to everyone's taste. Indeed, had Evgeny played 12.h4!? or 14.Bf3! his position would be quite promising. Alas, 14.Bd4?!, followed by 15.g6?! led White into a difficult situation. The rest of the game was full of mutual mistakes, but GM Alekseev committed the last one and lost.

Well, 9.g4!? looks quite attractive at the moment, so I expect to see more games in this line.

Kan/Taimanov Modern 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Ne5 [B48]

Our next game Morozevich - Bukavshin has exceptional theoretical value, since in this well-known theoretical position (after 9...b5), Alexander comes up with a dangerous and well-prepared piece sac on b5:

Even though I've managed to find some improvements on Bukavshin's play, Black's position looks really shaky anyway.

After such a convincing victory, I expect to see more practical tests of Alexander's idea.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 Nfd7 9.h4 [B90]

In the meantime, 6.h3 is becoming one of White's main weapons against the Najdorf, while the line with 6...e6 7.g4, followed by g5 and h4 is one of the most complex and popular. This time the following theoretical position has occurred in 2 games:

In Ganguly - Salem White employed the rather rare 12.Rg1 here, intending not to spend time developing his q-side pieces and instead push the g-pawn as soon as possible. Black's reaction was very natural and strong, so Salem didn't face any problems for a long time. The first critical moment came on move 19, when the careless 19...Qa5? allowed White to seize the initiative. The next inaccuracy on move 22 could have led to a quick loss, but Ganguly definitely wasn't at his best on that day. In the end White did score a win, but it was as the result of unbelievable luck!

Considering the theoretical part, 12.Rg1 doesn't seem dangerous.

12.Qd2, as was played in Hou Yifan - Esen is much more popular and dangerous. The position after 13.0-0-0 was already covered on our site before. Even though Esen's novelty 13...Rc8 seems a definite improvement over Black's previous play, I still prefer White's attacking setup in this line. In fact, one mistake on move 15 led Black to an almost hopeless situation. Even though White's subsequent play wasn't the most precise, her victory was definitely well-deserved.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 [B90]

Our next game Oparin - Gelfand also has significant theoretical value. In the position after 13...Bg7:

White employed the interesting novelty 14.h4 (I'd briefly mentioned this idea in the previous issue), but this time his opponent was well-prepared for it. Boris was able to develop serious counter-play on the q-side, but his inaccuracy on move 18 could have invited some trouble. The really critical moment came on move 21, when GM Oparin underestimated Black's counter-attacking potential and moved his knight to the wrong side (Instead, 21.Nd4! would offer White a better position) and was nicely punished.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 [B91]

The last game for this update, Giri - Wojtaszek, saw a quiet line where Black is under some positional pressure. It looks like Black still cannot fully solve his problems in the theoretical position after 10.Nec3:

Indeed, in this game, Radoslaw went for 10...Nb6, which I had suggested in the previous issue, but got into a passive and inferior position. He was defending quite well until move 58, but finally couldn't withstand the pressure and lost.

See you next month! Enjoy! Michael

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