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Hello everyone,
This month was full of exciting high-level events, so only choosing 8 games was not a trivial task. Once again this update will mostly attract Najdorf players, but the middlegame scenarios from the games shouldn't disappoint anybody.

Download PGN of July ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Ne5 9.Qg3 b5 [B48]

Our first game, Oparin, G - Najer, E, saw the players enter one of the most common and sharpest lines of the Taimanov with 7.Qf3. In the well-known theoretical position after 11.Bg1 GM Najer employed the relatively fresh idea of 11....h5:

In reply Grigoriy came up with an interesting novelty, 13.Nb1!?, reaching an original setup (most of White's pieces were located on the back rank). In the further complex play both players had winning chances, but Evgeniy was luckier (well, he didn't mind taking risks!)

Regarding the opening, both 11...b4 and 11...h5 look perfectly playable for Black, but 11.Bd2!? still seems to pose some problems.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 8.Be3 b5 9.a3 Bb710.g5 Be7 11.h4 0-0 [B90]

In the next game, Quesada Perez, Yu - Li, R, White tried the quite rare 12.Rg1. The critical moment of this game came after the novelty 14.h5:

It looks like both 14...d5 and 14...Qc7 are acceptable for Black, but GM Li went for the dubious 14...Na4?, destroying his own pawn structure. Alas, it was extremely difficult to hold Black's position after this mistake, so GM Quesada Perez was able to score a quick and well-deserved victory.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 8.Be3 b5 9.a3 Bb7 10.g5 Be7 11.h4 Nc6 [B90]

Our next encounter, Harikrishna, P - Grischuk, A, has exceptional theoretical value. Alexander, who already had an unsuccessful experience in the position after 13.Nxc6:

did his homework well and managed to prove that Black's counterplay after 13...Bxc6! develops rather fast. Moreover, after the inaccurate 18.Qxd8? it was Pentala, who should be happy with sharing a point.

Well, the ball is definitely in White's court now.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Qd2 Nd7 12.0-0-0 [B90]

This fashionable and complex position was recently seen twice in Anand's practice. First, in Anand, V - Nepomniatchi, I Ian employed the interesting novelty 12...b5!?:

The critical moment of this game came on move 14, when Ian wrongly removed his queen from its initial spot. After this Black was under permanent pressure and eventually lost. Despite the defeat, 12...b5!? looks playable for the second player and I expect further practical tests of Ian's idea.

Second, 2 days later, in Anand, V - Vachier Lagrave,M, Maxim tried to improve over Anand's preceding game vs Topalov and played 14...Bh6:

In my opinion, 15.g3!, which hasn't been played yet, might pose Black serious problems here. Instead, after the game's 15.h4 Black should have played 15....b5!, obtaining decent counterplay. Anyway, in the further complex play MVL was completely overplayed by his great opponent and only won the game by a miracle.

Najdorf 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 Ng4 8.Bc1!? [B90]

The modest-looking retreat 8.Bc1 again worked well for White in Motylev, A - Duzhakov, I. After 8...Nc6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bc4 Alexander was able to energetically extend his initiative by opening the f-file. The really critical moment came on move 15, when 15...Qb6?! made Black's position very shaky.

A relatively easy and well-deserved win for GM Motylev. In general, the line with 8.Bc1 isn't as harmless as it looks. Most probably 8...Nf6 is safer for Black.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3 [B92]

In the top-level game Carlsen, M - Vachier Lagrave, M Magnus employed the rare and rather toothless 7.Nf3:

Still, the surprise effect did its job in this rapid game, so after the dubious 9...b6?! MVL found himself in a passive and clearly worse position. Untypically for him, Magnus didn't manage to handle the position properly and spoiled all of his advantage. However, luckily for him, Black later committed a terrible blunder and eventually lost.

Regarding the Opening, both 8...Be6!? and 9...h6!? seem quite comfortable for the second player.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Nd5 Nbd7 10.Qd3 [B92]

Our last game, Eljanov, P - Nepomniachtchi, I, saw White employing the very rare 11.a4!?, keeping his king in the centre for a while:

After 12...Nc5 13.Nxc5 dc 14.c4 it turned out that White can still put his king on the q-side. The first critical moment came on move 15, when 15...Rae8?! allowed Pavel to extend his initiative on the k-side. On his turn GM Eljanov wrongly played 21.Rh3? and was soon forced to go back. In general this game was exciting and full of mutual mistakes, but the most dramatic episode was seen at the end.

See you next month, Michael

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