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I'm delighted to say that we feature two novelties by leading Najdorf expert Joe Gallagher this month, although neither is in a fashionable line of the 6 Bg5 variation where the trendy 6...Nbd7 and 6...e6 7 f4 h6 both continue to hold up well.

Download PGN of March '12 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov 11 c4 [B33]

As we've seen in the last two updates, slightly surprisingly 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 Nd5 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c4 b4 12 Nc2 0-0 13 g3 has caught Shirov's attention of late. He tried his new-found pet line again in Shirov - Krasenkow, where the Polish Sveshnikov authority switched from defending 13...a5 to 13...Bg5 14 Bg2 Qa5!? 15 0-0 Qc5:

I quite like this way of exploiting the absence of an early ...a5 and the queen is undoubtedly well placed on c5, covering d6 while pressing on c4. Shirov got on with it on the kingside after introducing a new move, 16 Kh1!?, but never had any advantage and it seems that the ball remains in White's court here.

The Kan 5 Bd3 [B42]

After Romanishin's 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0-0 e5 the line 7 Bg5! h6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nc3 g6 10 Ne3 Bc5 has become pretty fashionable of late with Fabio Caruana very much to the fore. Initially he didn't really get very far on the white side against Nakamura at Reggio Emilia, then he switched sides to score a notable victory in Wijk aan Zee against Topalov, and most recently at the Aeroflot Open he introduced the aggressive novelty 11 b4!:

Black's main trump is his dark-squared control, so he can't really go in for 11...Bxb4 12 Nd5 Qd6 13 Nd2 as giving up that bishop would leave him horribly exposed. Thus he tried 11...Ba7 12 Na3 d6 13 Nac4 Nc6 in Caruana - Bocharov, but after a further accurate move, 14 Qd2!, it was clear that White was doing well and he soon seized the initiative on the queenside.

The Scheveningen 7 Qe2 [B80]

Quite a popular transposition out of the Taimanov is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Be3 Nf6. Here White usually pushes his f-pawn or deploys his light-squared bishop, but the rare 7 Qe2!? is most certainly not without venom:

I can't help but feel that 7...e5 must be critical in response, partly because 7...Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0 9 g4! just looks quite pleasant for White who went on to record a crushing victory in Adams - Morrison.

The Najdorf: 6 Be3 e5 [B90]

The line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3 isn't quite as popular as it was a couple of years ago, partly because of Anand's 7...Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Qc7. Shirov being Shirov tried 10 Bb3 0-0 11 Nh4!? in Shirov - Gallagher:

White hopes to get something going on the kingside, but even after 11...g6 Black is solid enough there and 12 f4 exf4! 13 Bxf4 Nbd7 14 Nf3 Rfe8 gave him easy equality.

6 Bg5 Nc6!? [B94]

Gallagher had faced 6 Bg5 two days earlier in Gibraltar and opted for the rare 6...Nc6!?:

After 7 Qd2 play often transposes to the Rauzer with 7...e6, but Saric's 7...Nxd4!? 8 Qxd4 Qa5 is a decent alternative from what I can see. White preferred the other critical line, 7 Bxf6 gxf6, in Lind - Gallagher, but after 8 Nb3 Black had a number of options, with the Anglo-Swiss grandmaster opting to introduce 8...Rg8!?.

6 Bg5 Nbd7 [B94]

Le Quang Liem is not only over 2700 these days, but he also likes to uphold the topical variation 6 Bg5 Nbd7. Interestingly after 7 f4 Qc7 8 Qe2!? he decided not to repeat 8...e5!? and instead went into the Gelfand System [B96] with 8...e6 in Lu Shanglei-Le Quang Liem. After 9 0-0-0 b5 White does best to follow in Shirov's footsteps with 10 a3, whereas 10 g3 b4 11 Nd5 exd5 12 exd5+ Be7 13 Re1? wasn't the happiest of novelties for the Chinese Grandmaster:

This may look a little awkward for Black, but after 13...0-0! 14 Qxe7 Re8 15 Qxe8+ Nxe8 16 Rxe8+ Nf8 his queen outclassed White's uncoordinated pieces.

Another critical line is 7 Bc4 Qb6 8 Qd2!? Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 0-0 e6:

As we've seen before, Wang Yue was once successful with the bishop sacrifice on e6, but this doesn't convince after precise defence, and so in Negi - Le Quang Liem White tried 11 Bd5!?. The sacrifice is dangerous if accepted, but Black didn't have too many problems after the prudent 11...Nc5!.

6 Bg5 Delayed Poisoned Pawn [B96]

The other fashionable choice against 6 Bg5 is 6...e6 7 f4 h6 8 Bh4 Qb6 with 9 Qd3!? Qxb2 10 Rb1 Qa3 11 f5 Be7 recently receiving several tests:

However, I'm not too convinced by this, at least so long as Black avoids 12 fxe6 fxe6?!, which has led to a couple of spectacular defeats. Much stronger is 12...Bxe6! when I'm not even sure White can equalise, as we'll see in Swiercz - Wojtaszek.

Will the Romanishin Kan and the 6 Bg5 Nbd7 Najdorf remain quite so topical over the coming months? Time will tell I dare say... Richard

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