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Hello everyone,
I am happy to once again introduce a few important theoretical innovations in various Sicilians. This time there are no top-level games, but all 8 saw spectacular and fighting chess.

Download PGN of July ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Kan 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.Be2 [B41]

Our first game, Boruchovsky, A - Kantsler, B, is another illustration of Black's strategic problems in the Kan with 5.c4. This time Avital employed the relatively rare 8.Nc2!?, which might pose Black major problems:

In fact, after just a few natural moves Black found himself in a helpless situation (especially after 11.g4!), when most of Avital's pieces were attacking the lonely monarch. Even though Boris' play can easily be improved, at the moment I don't see an attractive way of handling Black's position after 8.Nc2.

Kan/Taimanov 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 h5 [B48]

The game Safarli, E - Pavlidis, A saw Black employing the relatively rare 8...h5, which wasn't seen on our site before:

In response Eltaj came up with an interesting novelty, 10.Na4, in order to pose Black some concrete problems. The critical moment came on the next move, when Antonios played 10...Qxg3?! and was outplayed after some interesting play. At the moment it looks like 11...Qa5! makes Black's position perfectly playable, but further practical tests might change this assessment. White can also try 10.h3!?, as was played earlier.

Kan/Taimanov 6.Be2 a6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bb4 9.Nxc6 [B49]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Mastrovasilis, D - Pavlidis, A. I have to admit that previously I'd underestimated Black's counter-chances in the important position after 12...a5:

In particular, in recent games Black was able to solve the problem of his poor dark-squared bishop after 13.Qd3 d5 14.c4 Bd7!, though his practical task still isn't that easy. Anyway, this time it was Dimitrios who employed the interesting and fresh idea 13.Qb3!?. The further play of both players was high-quality and logically ended in draw on move 32. However, it looks like 18.Qf4!? might still pose Black some problems, so I expect fresh practical tests of GM Mastrovasilis's innovation.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6...Bd7 7.Qd2 Rc8 8.0-0-0 [B61]

In recent years the setup with 6...Bd7 is considered risky and is rarely seen at a high level. The game Muzychuk, M - Bagrationi, A is another illustration of the potential danger behind leaving the king in the centre for too long. In the theoretical position after 12...Qc5:

Mariya played 13.Qd2, which wasn't mentioned on our site before. The really critical moment came on the next move, when Black carelessly locked the c8-h3 diagonal, allowing White to develop an enormous attack with 15.g4! After that Alexander's position was extremely dodgy, so the next mistake, 19...Rxg4?, led to a quick disaster.

Even though after 14...Bg7! Black's position seems perfectly playable, I still wouldn't recommend playing this line. In fact, 13.Qd3!, as previously analyzed by Richard in his notes to Kravtsiv - Dreev, looks very unpleasant.

Scheveningen Be2 Mainline 10.Qe1 Nxd4, Black delays ...0-0 [B85]

The next game, Tomczak, J - Simantsev, M, saw Black choosing the relatively rare way of handling the position with 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5:

Had White now played 12.Qg3 Bb7 13.a3 the game would most likely get back to known theoretical paths. However, even more challenging seems to be 13.e5!, intending to punish Black for leaving the king in the centre for too long. Anyway, Jacek's 13.Bd3 definitely doesn't pretend at refuting Black's setup, but after 16...h6? White got another opportunity to develop a powerful attack against his opponent's king with 17.Rf3! Alas, it wasn't Jacek's day, so after committing a few mistakes he already found himself in a hopeless position on move 20.

Najdorf 6.f3 e6 7.g4 [B90]

The next game, Kobalia, M - Paravyan, D, saw Mikhail employing the very rare and aggressive idea 9.h4!?:

The surprise effect worked well, and his opponent immediately went astray with 9...Be7?! and soon came under strong pressure on the k-side. The next critical moment came on move 17, when 17...Qb7! would have left David in the game. Instead, after 17...g6? GM Kobalia was able to develop a crushing attack within a few moves.

Well, this new idea, delaying the development of the dark-squared bishop, should definitely be tested more in practice.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7... 12.g5 Nh5 [B90]

Our next game, Lobanov, S - Esipenko, A, proves once again that 12...Nh5 can be considered to be just as good as the most explored 12...b4. This time Sergey deviated from the main theoretical paths and played 13.Rg1, which often might lead to the same positions as after 12.Rg1. Indeed, the players entered into one of these theoretical positions after 18...Qc7:

and then Sergei employed the aggressive new idea 19.c4. The first critical moment came on move 23, when the impulsive 23...h5? invited serious trouble. However, a few moves later Sergei returned the favor with 26.Qf4?, which could have led to an equal endgame. Luckily for him, Andrei was the last to err in this game, so eventually the game ended with a White victory.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qf3 Qc7... 11.Rhe1 h6 [B96]

In the last game Fier, A - Vasquez Schroeder, R Black made the natural move 11...h6, which was never debated on our site before:

In response, Alexandr went for the aggressive 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.f5!?, which turned out to be a novelty. The real test of Fier's idea would have occurred had White played 15.fxe6!, whereas 15.Bxb5+? left White with no real compensation for the piece. In the end a draw was agreed in a completely winning position for Black.

Instead of Fier's idea, there are a few more challenging options for White, such as 12.Bh4 Be7 13.Qh3!?, and I definitely expect new practical tests of 11...h6 to follow soon.

See you next month, Michael

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