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Dear Subscribers,
First of all, I would like to wish you a healthy and successful new year!
I am glad to introduce a fresh selection of various Sicilians (only 2 Najdorfs this time). All the games are extremely tense, so this should please everyone.

Download PGN of January ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4 [B33]

We start with an interesting theoretical discussion which took place in 2 games between GM Grigoriy Oparin and GM Boris Gelfand during the Nutcracker event. In the first Classical game Grigoriy employed the original and fresh idea 12.Bd2:

and managed to put his experienced opponent under some positional pressure. The critical moment came on move 19 when White made the inaccurate move 19.Rad1?!, allowing Black to develop significant counterplay. Instead, after the prophylactic 19.Ra2! White would be firmly in control. In general, it was a well-played game by both players.

It looks like Boris did his homework well, so the Rapid game saw 12...a6 13.Na3 a5!, which enables Black to slow White's play on the q-side down. Moreover, after further complex play Boris managed to fully outplay his opponent, but the inaccurate 26...Re5? turned the tables. A very spectacular and dramatic game!

Well, 12.Bd2 should definitely be tested more in practice, but it shouldn't pose Black serious problems.

Taimanov 5...a6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qf3 [B46]

Our next game, Oparin, G - Rublevsky, S, saw a relatively rare, but important theoretical line. In the position after 9.Qg3:

Sergey came up with the dubious novelty 9...Nh5?! and soon got into trouble. The whole game was full of mutual mistakes, but the really critical moment came on move 31. Had GM Rublevsky played 31...Be2! the result would be really unpredictable, but instead, 31...Rd6 led to a quick loss.

At the moment, 8...dxc6 looks like a safer way to meet the aggressive setup with 7.Qf3.

Taimanov 5...Qc7 6.g4 [B47]

The next game, Artemiev, V - Rublesvsky, S, saw White employing the rare and aggressive idea 6.g4 à-la Keres Attack. Furthermore, the natural 6...a6 7.h4 took the game into completely unexplored territory:

The surprise effect was so great that Sergey already committed a serious mistake on his next move. In general, despite Black's unconvincing play, GM Artemiev's energetic attacking looks just amazing.

Regarding the opening, 6.g4 shouldn't bother Taimanov fans. In fact, there are a few ways of improving Black's play, such as 8...Qxc6 or 7...Nxd4.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7...a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 [B69]

In the next encounter, Anand, V - Demchenko, A, the players entered a rare theoretical position where Anton had previously had some positive experience. After 13...h5:

Vishy made the natural and fresh move 14.f5, which was followed by the aggressive 15.Rg1. In the following complex play Anton managed to develop some decent counterplay on the q-side, but went astray with 26...Bh6?? and quickly lost.

At the moment, Anton's way of handling the position looks playable, though Vishy's play can definitely be improved. In particular, 15.Nc1!? might put Black under some positional pressure.

Scheveningen 7...Be7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 [B84]

This quite rare but up-to-date theoretical line was seen in Wei Yi - Xu, Yinglun. The position after 9.0-0-0 was previously covered in Ponomariov - Ivanchuk (see the archives):

Here the Chinese Player followed my recommendation and played 9...b5, thus forcing White to put his light-squared bishop on f3. As a result Wei Yi was unable to demonstrate his superiority and went for the dubious 15.gxf3?! Luckily, his lower-rated opponent immediately went astray with 15...Qa5? when instead 15...Bg5! would have put White in serious danger. The next critical moment came on move 22 when the inaccurate 22...Qd8? enabled White to win the game in nice style. Instead, after 22...Nd4 the game would probably end in a draw.

Najdorf Sozin 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 b5 8.0-0 Be7 9.Qf3 Qb6 [B87]

In my opinion, the game Ivanchuk, V - Artemiev, V, has exceptional theoretical value for the Najdorf with 6.Bc4. First, Vladislav went for the rare 11...Nbd7, that might invite trouble in case of 12.Rad1! Instead, 12.f3 b4 13.Na4 0-0 14.Rfd1 led to a very important theoretical position:

Despite Black's convincing and short victory, 14...Rb8 seems somewhat inaccurate, whereas after 14...Ne5! Black's position looks rather comfortable.

Anyway, this game illustrates Black's main strategic ideas in the 6.Bc4 Sozin Najdorf quite well.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 [B94]

The last game, Khader, S - Karjakin, S, saw White deviating from the main theoretical paths with 11.Nf3:

Sergey reacted quite well, so that Black had excellent play till move 16, when he committed a huge mistake, 16...f5??. As a result, after 17.Nd4! White was able to develop a decisive attack and crush his much higher-rated opponent in great style.

Despite such a memorable victory, I do not expect many players to follow 11.Nf3, since Black has many attractive options afterwards.

See you next month, enjoy! Michael

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