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This month was full of spectacular top-level tournaments, such as the Tbilisi GP and the European Individual Championship. As usual, we have important novelties and sharp Sicilian battles in almost all our games. Enjoy!

Download PGN of March '15 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov with 9.Nd5, 11.c4 b4 12.Nc2 0-0 13.g3 [B33]

Our first game, Alekseev, E - Kogan, A, saw an interesting theoretical battle in one of the most popular positional lines. In the well-known theoretical position after 15...Qc5, Alekseev went for the rare 16.Qe2!?:

It looks like the correct 16...a5! should offer Black adequate counter-play, while Artur's 16...Rb8?! led to some trouble. The first critical moment came on move 24, when Evgeny spoiled the lion's part of his advantage. In the further play Kogan was on top form, as he managed to exploit some other White inaccuracies and secure a draw. In general, this game proves once more that Black's position is dangerous from a strategic point of view and requires very precise play.

The Kan 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Qd3 [B41]

The game Ragger, M - Pichot, A illustrates Black's recent troubles in the fashionable line with 7.Qd3!?

In the theoretical Diagram position after 8.a3, Black's safest option seems to be 8...Bxc3+ 9.Qxc3 0-0 with a slightly worse, but solid position. Instead, Pichot was trying to build up a hedgehog set-up with 8...Be7. This approach doesn't promise Black an easy life, and after 13...h5?! Pichot found himself in a very difficult position. The decisive mistake came on move 17, when Ragger was able to develop a powerful and attractive attack.

The Classical Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 g6 [B60]

Our next game Sutovsky, E - Firat, B also has definite theoretical value. The theoretical Diagram position after 8...Bd7 was covered on our site before, and Black's results were not too bad:

However, Emil's set-up with 9.Nde2! seems extremely unpleasant. It looks like Black doesn't get any compensation for his compromised pawn structure. Indeed, even though White's play wasn't the most precise, Black was under strong pressure throughout the game. Finally, the decisive mistake came on move 32 and led to an immediate loss. Even so, had Firat played 32...Kf8, the result would still be unclear.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5, 10.0-0-0 [B90]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Akopian, V - Oparin, G, where the young Russian Grandmaster tried the rare 11...Qc7:

It looks like this way to handle the position is not optimal, so Vladimir's plan with an early Nc3-d5 definitely poses Black some problems. In general, Akopian's play in this game was impressive, though had Grigoriy played 35...Kh7! , the final result would still be unpredictable.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 [B90]

The game Oparin, G - Zhigalko, S saw another sharp Sicilian battle:

when in the Diagram position (after 12.f4) Zhigalko introduced the important novelty 12...Na4! It looks like this innovation definitely solves all of Black's problems. Moreover, White's practical task is even more difficult in the arising complications. In fact, after 19.Qd2? b4 Black was already much better. The further complex play was full of mistakes, where both sides committed serious errors, but in the end it was Zhigalko who achieved the victory.

In general, this game makes the whole concept with an early ...Nfd7-b6 more attractive for the second player. Possibly White's main hopes are connected with the interesting dynamic position which may arise after 14.Rg1, but this assessment requires more practical tests.

Nadorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.g3 b5 [B90]

In Sethuraman - Wei Yi the young Chinese Grandmaster tried another interesting way to fight against the extremely popular 6.h3!?:

In the Diagram position, after 8...b5, White came up with an original early novelty 9.Nd5!?, though later the game transposed to known paths. In the game Wei Yi was able to achieve a draw quite easily, but 10.Ndc3!? or 18.f3! seem to pose Black some problems. In general, it looks like 8...b5 is playable for Black, but White should be able to secure a small edge.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 [B94]

Our next game, Iljiushenok, I - Khismatullin, D, is also quite important for Najdorf Players. 7.Qe2 always used to be one of White's most dangerous weapons, but now it looks like 7...Qa5!? offers Black a comfortable way to solve the problems. Indeed, after 8.f4 (which looks most principaled, though White has some playable alternatives) Black may choose between 8...h6!? or the 8...e5 that Khismatullin played.

Both look perfectly playable for Black, but in the Diagram position (after 10.Nf5), the second player should have opted for 10...b5! Instead, 10...g6 11.Nh6 Ba3 could be strongly met by 12.Bc1! Another critical moment came on move 14, when Denis committed the terrible mistake 14...Nxf6?. White had various winning possibilities, but luckily for Khismatullin, the lower-rated player was satisfied with a draw.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6, 10.e5 [B97]

Our last game, Radjabov, T - Grischuk, A, saw a long theoretical line, where White employed the relatively rare 13.Bg3!?:

This idea doesn't seem to refute the concept of grabbing the pawn, but the second player must be well prepared in order to parry all the threats. The critical moment of this game came on move 16, when Alexander erred with 16...Nc5, as after 17.Nc3! White was able to develop a decisive attack quite quickly. The real test of Radjabov's approach would be tested had Alexander played 16...Qa1+. No doubt, the arising complicated positions require more practice!

See you next month!

Enjoy! Michael Roiz

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