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Sorry, I am late this month, I just had too much work and too many club games! Fortunately I have had a lot of help from Australian IM and chess coach John-Paul Wallace, who has analysed 6 of the games, and very well as you will see!

Incidentally, when looking through the games from the last month I was staggered to see that at the highest levels they were almost all Najdorfs! Assuming their judgement is correct, does this mean that 5...a6 is simply the strongest move?! TonyK

Download PGN of March '06 Open Sicilian games

Paulsen/Taimanov [B40 to B49]

6...d6 has been gaining in popularity over the last year in the following Paulsen setup:

However, in the brilliant blindfold game Vallejo Pons,F-Van Wely,L the Spanish number one almost refutes it with a fine innovation followed by a devastating sacrifice.

I have noticed a lot of discussion of the Four Knights on the Forum, and 'dsanchez' mentioned that in actual games the two mainlines, 6 Nxc6 and 6 Ndb5 are actually less common than some of the 'lesser' alternatives! On top of that, Norman S and several others wanted to see more analysis of the hyper-sharp 6 Ndb5 and 7 Bf4, too, so I decided that I would fill some of these gaps over the coming few months.

This month, a couple of moves that haven't been covered yet, and the first of these is a line I played in my youth: 6 Be2!?:

After the normal 6...Bb4 7 0-0! Bxc3 8 bxc3 Nxe4 Black has doubled White's pawns, and won a pawn, but is behind in development and has to counter the white dark-squared bishop, which will soon come to a3:

Now, in Polzin, R - Bokros, A White's normal move 9 Bd3, which Efim Geller used to such good effect, is covered, and in Gashimov, V - Belikov, V I analyse the interesting alternative 9 Qd3!?, which may be even stronger - the queen can get to g3 in some lines, and covers the bishop on a3 if Black captures on d4.

Nigel Short has had some success with 6.a3 so it also deserves attention, especially as it has also been the focus of a fairly recent 'SOS" (Secrets of Opening Surprises) survey in New In Chess magazine:

White spends a move to prevent the ...Bb4 pin much as in the popular Symmetrical English line: 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.a3, see Zagrebelny, S - Yagupov, I.

Next month: 7 Bf4.

In this normal Paulsen/Taimanov position:

White played the unusual 8 Qd2!? in Cao, S - Horvath, A, and won quickly, but in fact it was Black who should have triumphed!

Scheveningen [B80 to B89]

In the following position Topalov's 11...Ne5 has been all the rage recently:

so it was surprising when Gelfand played 11...d5!? in Leko, P - Gelfand, B, and even more surprising was how quickly he was winning!

It is Perenyi piece sac time! I love to see these games, although I would be terrified of playing this line myself - with either colour!

In this 'tabiya' position Black almost invariably continues 11...d4 (see the eBook), but in Pikula, D - Krivokapic, M Black preferred the intriguing 11...Bb4!? to eliminate the knight. In this game he was brutally crushed, but Black's idea might have some mileage.

Timman was horribly mangled when he allowed the Keres Attack in Ziska, H - Timman, J, but his lowly-rated opponent really played extremely well.

Najdorf [B90 to B99]

As I mentioned in the introduction, this has always been fashionable but it is really popular at the moment! In fact we might soon have to open a new section on just for the Najdorf!!

In Shirov, A - Bologan, V Shirov eschews the English Attack and instead plays the positional line with 7 Nf3:

and wins nicely. I expect to see this line more often!

Svidler, P - Morozevich, A is, however, a super-sharp English Attack where Black plays a strong novelty on the 18th move, sacrificing a pawn. Unfortunately for him he then falters, after which Peter's impeccable technique does the rest.

Leko, P - Nielsen, P features the 6 g3 e5 7 Nb3 line again, and once again Black suffers, although as John-Paul points out, Leko messed up the endgame and it could have been a draw.

Back soon! Tony Kosten


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