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Dear chessfriends,
First of all, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year!
After the last Update (in particular, the game Le Quang Liem - Svidler) I was asked to cover an interesting and unexplored idea in the Scheveningen. Therefore, 2 correspondence games are included in this Update. Also, I am glad to finally offer you a few OTB games from the recent championship in Russia.

Download PGN of January ’21 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxd6 11.c4 b4 [B33]

We start with Harikrishna, P - Carlsen, M, where the World Champion employed the relatively rare 13...g6!?:

I am not sure if Pentala's response was the best, but had he played 17.f4!? or 20.h4!? Black would face definite difficulties. Magnus could also have preferred 16...a4!?, initiating play on the q-side.

Anyway, it was a short, but quite important game from a theoretical point of view.

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Bb7 [B45]

The next game, Svidler, P - Artemiev, V saw the solid but well-forgotten line with 8...Bb7. I am not sure if Peter was expecting this line before the game, but his novelty 16.Be2!? seemed to surprise Vlad:

As a result, he immediately went astray with 16...e5?! and 18...Nb4?! and soon found himself in a difficult endgame. The following interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, where Peter eventually missed his chances with 47.Ra7?

Well, we definitely await more practical tests of Peter's innovation.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6...e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 Be7 [B69]

The game Kokarev, A - Demchenko, A saw a theoretical discussion in this fashionable Rauzer line, where Anton had wide experience before. In the position after 16...Na5:

Dmitry made the new prophylactic move 17.Qd3, that seems to reduce Black's attacking possibilities. For some reason, Anton rejected the traditional 17...b4 and soon came under definite pressure. In general, it was an interesting struggle, that dramatically ended in Black's favor at the very end.

Scheveningen without...a7-a6 [B83]

An interesting theoretical discussion in one of the Scheveningen sidelines occurred in Dubov, D - Artemiev, V. In the position after 8...a6:

Daniil deviated from the previously covered Kulaots - Vitiugov and went for the natural 9.0-0-0. It looks like Vladislav was well-prepared for this, and quickly developed strong play on the q-side with 9...b5! and 10...b4. The critical moment came on move 14, when GM Dubov carelessly played 14.Bg5? and after 14...Be6! Black's attack became decisive. Luckily for Daniil, his opponent soon returned the favor, so the game ended in a draw by perpetual check.

Najdorf/Scheveningen 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 0-0 9.Be3 e5!? [B85]

As I mentioned before, I was asked to cover an interesting idea that was tested in some correspondence games. I have to admit, that it looks really good so far!

First, in Thierry,R - Holroyd, K White played the quiet 10.Nb3, and after 10...Nbd7 11.a4 b6 Black reached a harmonious setup with massive pressure on the pawn e4. The further dynamic play from both sides led to a short draw.

The other game, Casabona, C - Tlepstok, R, saw the most ambitious move, 10.Nf5, but it looks like Black's task is even easier in this case. In fact, after 14...Re8 Black obtained comfortable play, where the activity of his pieces fully compensated the weak pawn on d6. Moreover, at some point he could even try for more than just sharing a point.

Undoubtedly, 9...e5!? should also be tested in human games.

Najdorf 6.a3 e5 [B90]

Our next game, Antipov, M - Nepomniatchi, I, saw the relatively rare 6.a3 e5 7.Nf3:

when the positions that arise are very similar to 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3. Ian handled the position well, so it was White who had to be careful to maintain the balance. Mikhail managed to do so for along time, but after 22.Qc6? he started to err and was convincingly outplayed by GM Nepomniatchi, who is the current Russian Champion.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nf3 [B90]

In our last game, Ponkratov, P - Bocharov, D, Pavel chose a rare setup with 7.Nf3. In response, Black played 7...Qc7 that is new for our site.

In the Diagram position after 9...Be6 GM Ponkratov came up with an ambitious new idea, 10.Nh4. The surprise effect did its job, and after the dubious 14...Qc5?! and 15...h5?! Dmitry found himself in a difficult position with no real counterplay. Despite some inaccuracies, White managed to decide the game in great attacking style.

Even so, 10.Nh4 doesn't seem to offer White anything special - Black's play can easily be improved with 10...Nc6 or 11....h5!?

Happy New Year!

See you next month, Michael

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