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The Najdorf and Sveshnikov still seem to rule the Sicilian roost, certainly at the higher levels, which is again reflected in this March update.
Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian by John Emms and Richard Palliser arrived a little while ago, and makes an interesting read - see the Book Reviews.

Download PGN of March '07 Open Sicilian games

Sveshnikov [B33]

One of the most important mainlines is 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 11. Bd3 Be6 12. O-O Bg7 13. Qh5 f4 14. c4 bxc4 15. Bxc4 O-O 16. Rac1 Rb8 when White normally plays 17 b3, but here, in Volokitin, A - Yakovich, Y, the talented young Ukranian played the surprising 17. Nxf4!? instead:

Now this old move doesn't have a very good reputation, but when I examined Adorjan's recommended antidote (see the notes) I noticed that White had a big improvement, and I have no doubt Volokitin had noticed this, too!

In their book Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian (in the last chapter 'Surprising the Sveshnikov'), John Emms and Richard Palliser actually suggest playing the move 6 Nde2!?, and it made me wonder whether the current good theoretical stature of the Sveshnikov will start forcing players to look at the other sixth move alternatives instead.

Maybe this process has already started?! In Volokitin, A - Kuzubov, Y White played 6 Nf5!?:

and at the end of the ensuing, semi-forced, sequence played a very rare move and won fairly easily. However, if you look at the notes you will see that Black had a lot of superior choices at several points in the game, so it remains to be seen whether this was a once off surprise, or whether anyone else will try this move again.

Najdorf, English Attack [B90]

Ex-World Champion Topalov has been suffering a bit against 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3 recently:

He first lost badly to Ivanchuk (see the notes), and then was clearly worse out of the opening in Leko, P - Topalov, V, although he actually managed to turn the position around and then Leko had to struggle long and hard in an unpleasant rook and pawn ending to finally draw.

There were some interesting games featuring 6 Be2 recently, and I decided to analyse Dvoirys,S-Wang Yue where White played 9. Kh1 which was met by Gelfand's line with 9...b6 (this was my recommendation in my Najdorf book):

Normally White plays a combination of a4 and f3 here, but in this particular game White played 10. f4!? instead, and was completely destroyed!

A game like this (and the accompanying notes) illustrates why we so love to play the Najdorf: all the fun themes are there for Black, the ...d5, ...e4 counter thrust and the ...Rxc3 Exchange sac!

6 Bg5

Do you remember my game against Georgiev from the August 2005 update? If not here it is again: Kosten - Georgiev,Kr.

Unfortunately this exciting piece sacrifice, which I played after seeing Luther suggest it in the 'Experts' book, has now been diffused, see Luther, T - Sasikiran, K.

In the 19th move note there is a game from Brazil that followed my Georgiev post mortem analysis right up to move 27, Black resigning a couple of moves later. Is this just a coincidence or was White a subscriber?

I am thinking of naming the 8...Nc6 move of Savchenko, B - Naiditsch, A the 'Poisoned Pawn Bluff', it seems that Black just cops out. Having said that he then went on to win in superb fashion, so maybe there is more to this than meets the eye?!

Next a couple of games in the mainline with an early ...h6:

Now, I am not very keen on playing 11. Bd3 here, as this allows Black to play Browne's Variation which still has a good reputation, see Mamedov, R - Areshchenko, A, a model dark-squared demonstration from Black, although the finish to this game is a bit odd.

As I've said before, I think 11. Be2! is the critical test of whether Black can avoid the g4 mainline this way, and in Spraggett, K - Andriasian, Z the Canadian former candidate brilliantly refuted 11...g5. This is the critical position:

Here, instead of the theoretical 16. Rhf1 he sprung the devastating move 16. Nxf7! on his opponent. Unfortunately for him he obviously ran short of time, and instead of winning a brilliancy he later missed a forced mate (and a number of other wins) and only drew.

See you all next month, Tony Kosten


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