ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Dear Chess fans,
This time we will mostly see complex positional play in the majority of the games. I hope this won't disappoint you - after all there are still important theoretical novelties, beautiful tactics and even some drama! I guess that all of us are attracted by the outstanding Candidates tournament, which is in progress. Therefore, I am happy to cover an exciting Najdorf battle from this event. Enjoy!

Download PGN of March ’18 Open Sicilian games

>> Previous Update >>

Kan/Taimanov 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.Be2 [B41]

In recent years the solid 5.c4 poses more and more strategic problems for Kan players. Our first encounte, Steinberg, N - Smirin, I, is no exception - in the theoretical position after 12.c5:

Ilya employed the novelty 12...Be7, but failed to change the unfavorable character of the play - Black was doomed to passive defence. However, although Nitzan managed to fully outplay his higher-rated opponent, he missed 2 winning chances with 34.Qf7?, and then 38.b5? , so the game ended in a draw. Even though Smirin's play can definitely be improved, at the moment I don't see an attractive way of handling this line for Black.

Scheveningen, Keres Attack 6.g4 h6 7.h4 Nc6 8.Rg1 [B81]

In my opinion, the next game, Baramidze, D - Ftacnik, L, really has exceptional theoretical value for the theory of the Keres Attack. The position after 10.Nxd5 was previously covered on our site:

but Lubomir's way of handling the position with 10...exd5 11.Be3 Qxh4! is new and might solve Black's problems. David went for the aggressive 12.Nb5, but, as the analysis shows, Black had several ways to obtain an acceptable position. The critical moment came on move 18, when the greedy 18...Nxa2? invited serious trouble. Despite this quick loss, this line now looks perfectly playable for the second player.

Scheveningen 9.f4 a6 10.Qe1 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5 [B84]

In the next game, Xu, Yi - Alekseenko, K, the players entered into a relative sideline of the Scheveningen with Qe1. The position after 13.Qg3 was already seen on our site before, and in 2 games in our PGN Archive Black was doing well:

Instead, Kirill played 13...Bc6, here, which is also quite solid. However, on the next move he wrongly moved his queen to b8, and then Black's king came under strong pressure. Moreover, the inaccurate 15...g6?! allowed White to develop a powerful attack and win in nice style.

Najdorf 6.h3 g6 [B90]

The next game, Abdumalik, Z - Kotronias, V, saw Black employing quite a rare setup with 6...g6. In response, Zhansaya led the game down quiet paths with 10.0-0, but her opponent was well-prepared and came up with an important novelty 13...Rc8!:

In general this game was well played by both players, but 22...Rc7? led Vasilios onto a difficult position, which he failed to hold.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 Nfd7 9.h4 [B90]

In the game Abdusattorov, N - Vidit, S the players entered one of the most fashionable and sharpest lines of the Najdorf with 6.h3. In the well-known theoretical position after 11...Nc6:

Nodirbek chose the aggressive 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13.Qd4, but after 13...0-0 it wasn't easy for the young Uzbek player to develop his initiative on the k-side. The really critical moment of the game came on move 15, when GM Vidit wrongly took the g5-pawn. Had White played 16.Rg1! Black's king would have been in serious danger, whereas 16.Rh6?! led to a dynamic balance, which was kept till the end of the game.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3, 12...Nh5 [B90]

The only Sicilian battle that took place in the Candidates tournament so far is Caruana, F - Mamedyarov, S. In the theoretical position after 15...Bxf6 Fabiano employed the rare 16.Kb1, but it didn't came as a real surprise to his opponent:

Black was doing very well till move 22, when the inaccurate 22...Qxh2? followed by 25...Nc5? made Shakhriyar's position lost. On his turn Fabiano didn't manage to play precisely till the very end, so after some interesting play White's advantage disappeared. A very spectacular game!

Regarding the opening, 12...Nh5 still looks perfectly playable for the second player.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 [B91]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Ragger, M - Wojtaszek, R. In the position after 13...Nf6:

Marcus came up with a novelty, 14.a4!, which definitely poses Black some fresh problems. The real test for this idea would have been seen had Radoslaw played 14...Nxd5, while after 14...Bxd5?! Black came under serious positional pressure. In the further play both players committed mistakes, but Radoslaw should definitely have been happy with sharing the point.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 [B94]

Our last game, Xu, Yi - Sarana, A, saw White employing the interesting idea 12.Re3!?:

I guess Alexey wasn't surprised since it already occurred in his opponent's practice. Indeed, after the innovation 13...Qa7! Black could be satisfied with his opening. The first critical moment came on move 15, when GM Sarana wrongly decided to keep his king in the centre. However, only after 23...Bf8? did White manage to convert his initiative into something serious.

No doubt 12.Re3!? should be tested more in practice, but it could hardly refute Black's setup.

See you next month, Michael

>> Previous Update >>

Please feel free to share any of your thoughts at the Open Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write directly to