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Hello everyone,
This month we will discuss several interesting sidelines in the Sveshnikov and the Najdorf. Also, curiously, most of the games were won by Black this time!

Download PGN of June ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 6.Nde2 [B33]

We start with Topalov, V - Wang Hao, where Veselin chose the rare 6.Nde2 for the second time (the first time he played it in a classical game).

The players followed their own encounter till move 14, when White played the new move 14.a3 (instead of 14.h3). This was certainly connected with an idea of c3-c4, but 16.c4?! turned out to be a serious mistake - Black gained control of d4 and eventually won the game in good style.

Overall, 6.Nde2 is an interesting try to avoid the main discussions, but Black has a few ways to equalize, and 6...Bc5 is one of them.

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 [B45]

The game Paravyan, D - Vidit, S saw an interesting theoretical discussion in the 10.a3 line, that was already tried by David a few times before. Black responded with the sharp 10...Ne3, and soon the players entered an important theoretical position after 15...Kxf7:

I am not sure if David forgot his preparation or messed up, but his innovation 16.Ng5+, followed by 17.Qe2? led to a quick collapse.

In general, 10...Ne3 looks good for Black, although 16.f5 might be a bit tricky.

Taimanov 6.Be2 Nf6 7.Qd3 [B47]

In the next game, Hovhannisyan, R - Gukesh, D, Robert played the rare 7.Qd3!? to surprise his young opponent:

Indeed, the novelty 7...Nb4 seems too risky, so White had several ways tp prove his superiority. The critical moment came at the very beginning, when White wrongly sacrificed a piece with 9.0-0? All White's further attempts to complicate matters were unsuccessful.

Despite such a defeat, 7.Qd3!? still seems quite promising at the moment.

Najdorf 6.Qd3 Nbd7 [B90]

In Vidit, S - Wei Yi the players followed another recent game of GM Vidit vs Shirov, where White won in nice style. In the position after 12.f3:

Black deviated from Alexei's play with 12...h5!? which led to a complex position, that wasn't handled properly by GM Wei Yi. His troubles started with the dubious 14...Qb6?! and Black's king came under strong pressure. The further play was full of mutual mistakes, where the last one was made in a drawish endgame.

In my opinion 6.Qd3 is still a good option if you don't like memorizing the long main lines.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f4 [B90]

The next game, Wang Hao - Vachier Lagrave, M, saw White employ the natural novelty 9.fxe5 in one of the well-known theoretical lines:

It looks like it didn't confuse MVL, so after making a few accurate moves, such as 12...Rc8 Black managed to fully solve all his problems.

So, 8...b5!? remains one of Black's best responses to 8.f4.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3 [B92]

In Michalik, P - Stocek, J White chose the quiet, but tricky line with 7.Nf3, that was previously covered in Vachier Lagrave - Bellahcene. Peter was the first to deviate from that game with 12.Nd2 Nc5 13.Bf3!?:

Perhaps the surprise effect of this innovation did its job, as Black wrongly kept his king in the centre with 14...Rc8?! followed by 15....g5?! As a result, after 16.g3! White quickly developed a powerful initiative on the queenside. Luckily for GM Stocek, his opponent missed a few winning opportunities, and eventually the game was drawn after some spectacular play.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Kh1 [B92]

The next game, Korobov, A - Wojtaszek, R, illustrates Black's dynamic potential in the Najdorf well. Anton chose the relatively uncommon 9.Kh1 and soon the critical opening position arose:

At this point White carelessly played 12.Qe1? which was nicely met by 12...Nd4!, forcing White to host most of his pieces on the back rank. As a result, the game was won by Black in great style.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.Be2!? [B97]

Our last game is Sasikiran, K - Warmerdam, M, where Krishnan demonstrated deep preparation in the relatively rare line with 10.Be2!?. In the theoretical position after 12...Nfd7:

White played the strong 13.h4! I am not sure if Max's reaction 13...Bb4?! was still part of Sasikiran's home preparation, but at this point White missed a great opportunity to develop a powerful attack with 14.Rxb4! Even so, White's compensation for a pawn was undeniable, and it looks like Max had to work hard to achieve a draw.

I expect to see more tests of Krishnan's interesting innovation.

See you next month, Michael

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