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Hello everyone,
We will focus on that most exciting tournament - the World Rapid Championship in Poland. I am pretty sure that this Update will mostly suit Sveshnikov fans as half of the games were played in the B33 code, and all them saw the most critical lines.

Download PGN of January ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Rb8 12.Nc2 Bg5 [B33]

We start with Piorun, K - Mamedov, R, where Kacper played the quiet 13.a3!?, which is a favourite choice of GM Wesley So. In my opinion the first critical position arose after 17.Nxf4:

Here Rauf followed Mamedyarov's play with 17...Qf6, which leads to an endgame with an inferior pawn structure for Black. GM Mamedov managed to hold it well, and he could have achieved a draw had he not gone astray with 36...Ra8?

In general, after 13. a3!? Black has a few ways to avoid this type of endgame, including 17...exf4!?

Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 9.c4 [B33]

The next game, Karjakin, S - Mamedov, R, saw Rauf deviate from the previously covered Van Foreest, J - Carlsen, M with 14...Be7:

It definitely wasn't a surprise for Sergey, since he had already faced it before (and managed to defeat Magnus!). In fact, it was GM Karjakin who introduced a novelty: 17.Ba5. Black reacted well with a standard pawn sacrifice, but soon went astray with 24...Rfd8?! and found himself in an unpleasant endgame. The further play was full of mutual mistakes, but the most dramatic moment came on move 41, when Rauf missed a golden opportunity to punish his great opponent for the careless 41.Bd1??

At the moment 14...Be7 looks perfectly playable for Black in this line.

Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4 Be7 10.Be2 0-0 11.0-0 Nd7 12.Bd2 [B33]

Caruana's 12.Bd2 continues to be trendy since his World Championship match in 2018, and in this Update we have 2 games.

In Korobov,A - Rios, C Black chose the ambitious 12...f5 followed by 14...f4!?:

Perhaps the Colombian Grandmaster was in an attacking mood, as he went for the dubious 15...e4?! This brave decision was fully justified, since Anton wrongly reacted with 16.f3?! followed by 18.Qd4?! and was the victim of a stunning attack. However, at the end GM Rios accepted a draw in a completely winning position.

As the analysis proves, 15.e4?! can be refuted by the cold-blooded 16.Re1, but instead 15...Rf6!? seems to offer Black interesting play on the k-side.

In the other game, Neimann, H - Salem, A, Black went for the solid 12...a6 13.Na3 a5, and after 15.f4:

GM Salev followed my recommendation with 15...exf4!, and managed to equalize. It was a well-played game by both players up till move 24,when White impulsively sacrificed material with 24.Bf2? and got into big trouble. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, and eventually the higher-rated opponent was victorious.

The Four Knights 6.Bf4 d6 7.Bg3 [B45]

The next game, Puranik, A - Erigaisi, A, saw White deviate from the main theoretical paths with 7.Bg3, which wasn't seen on our site before:

The novelty 8.Nxc6 led to a complex middlegame position with mutual attacking chances. After the inaccurate 14.f5?! White 's king came under a strong attack, and after 18...Rxb2! GM Puranik was on the verge of collapse. Luckily for him, at the last moment Arjun started to err, and eventually it was White who scored an important victory.

Undoubtedly, 7.Bg3 shouldn't bother Black in this line.

Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.g4 [B48]

The game Topalov, V - Javakhishvili, L can be considered to be an opening disaster. I am not sure if Lela messed something up, or 7...Bb4?! followed by 8...Qxc6?! was actually analyzed, but it led Black into a very difficult position at the beginning. Veselin's moves were simple and strong, and at the end Black's pieces were sort of squeezed in the endgame.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nf3 [B90]

The next game, Ponkratov, P - Wojtaszek, R, saw Pavel employ the rare but ambitious setup with 8.g4:

I am not sure if it was analyzed in depth by Radoslaw, but soon he wrongly delayed the development of his pieces with 11...b5?!, and after 12.a4! White managed to seize the initiative. The inaccurate 15.Rxg5?! could have changed the unfavorable route of game, but GM Wojtaszek was far from his best in this game, and White won by a direct attack.

Since there are few ways to improve Radoslaw's play, this line doesn't seem problematic. Still, 7.Nf3 can be used as a surprise weapon from time to time.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Nd5 [B92]

We end with Najer, E - Saric, I, where Evgeny decided to test his opponent in the rare line with 12.0-0-0!?:

For some odd reason, Ivan was the first to deviate from their previous encounter with 13...Nc4?, and after 14.Bc1 Black is left with no counterplay on the q-side. The further play of GM Najer was very precise and full of energy up till move 46, when 2 inaccurate moves allowed Black to save the game in a desperate situation.

At the moment, it looks like 13...Nbxd5!? should suffice for equality, but we need further practical tests.

See you next month, Michael

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