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Hello everyone,
This month we will focus on some relatively rare but aggressive ideas in various Sicilians.

Download PGN of March ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 [B33]

The game Shirov, A - Fedoseev, V saw Vladimir employ the relatively uncommon 9...Nf5:

Most likely, GM Shirov messed something up in his preparation, since the rare and interesting 13.Bxf5 was followed by 15.Qb3? and almost led to a defeat. Luckily for Alexei, his higher-rated opponent started to err, and eventually the game ended dramatically in White's victory.

The Four Knights 6.Qd3 [B45]

The next game, Harikrishna, P - Vitiugov, N saw Pentala deviate from the main theoretical paths with 6.Qd3:

This choice was hardly successful, as Nikita demonstrated his deep knowledge with 6...d5! and 7...Nb4! and easily solved all Black's problems. Moreover, the careless 13.Nxd5?? allowed Black to quickly decide the game in his favor.

Taimanov 6.Be2 Nf6 7.Ndb5 [B47]

In the game Deac, B - Volokitin, A Bogdan went for the relatively uncommon 7.Ndb5!? Qb8 8.f4:

In reply Andrei decided not to get back to a regular Scheveningen, and after 8...a6 9.e5! Black's king came under some pressure. The critical moment of the game came on move 14, when 14...Be5? put Black on the verge of collapse. Still, the further play was full of mutual mistakes, and was ended with a big blunder.

In my opinion, 7.Ndb5!? should be tested more often, when Black's best way to meet this seems to be 8...d6.

Taimanov 5...a6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.a3 [B48]

Another theoretical discussion in the Taimanov took place in Grischuk, A - Andreikin, D. Black went for the somewhat risky 7...d6, and soon a typical Scheveningen position has arisen:

In the Diagram position (after 11.Kh1) Dmitry decided not to force matters and chose 11...Re8. This strategy worked well, since Alexander missed a few great opportunities to extend his initiative, such as 16.Qf2! The really critical moment of the game came on move 21, when White committed a huge tactical mistake by allowing 21...Qxe1! Still, GM Andreikin's brave and energetic play was very impressive.

Classical 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 [B56]

The next game, Caruana, F - Dubov, D, has exceptional value for the line with 6.f3. In the position after 11.0-0-0:

Daniil went for the most common, but dubious 11...Na7?!, and after 12.Bxa7! White gained a favorable situation where Black had no counterplay. Daniil's novelty 18...Rfc8 didn't change much, so Fabiano managed to liquidate into an endgame where White was a pawn up. GM Dubov was defending well for a while, but the impulsive 25...Kf6? eventually enabled White to convert his advantage.

In my opinion, 6.f3 is a decent alternative to the most explored 6.Bg5.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Rg1!? [B90]

In Mekhitarian, K - Volokitin, A White managed to quickly surprise his higher-rated opponent with the rare 8.Rg1!?:

As a result, Andrei soon went astray with 9...Qb6?! and quickly came under a strong attack. Despite the queen trade, Black's position was difficult throughout the game, and eventually GM Mekhitarian won.

I expect to see more games with 8.Rg1!? soon, though 8...Be6 seems to offer Black acceptable play.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.0-0 [B94]

Another exciting theoretical discussion took place in Volokitin, A - Donchenko, A. In the well-known theoretical position after 10...Ne5:

Andrei chose the most aggressive 11.f4. Most likely, it came as a surprise for Alexander, as Black quickly erred with 15...Bg7?, followed by 18...Nb6? Luckily for GM Donchenko, Andrei soon returned the favor with 20.Nxe6? so the game soon ended in a draw.

In my opinion, 11.f4 doesn't seem to pose Black any problems - both after 11...Neg4 and 11...Be7!?

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qf3!? [B95]

In the last game, Predke, A - Vachier Lagrave, M, Alexandr managed to confuse his great opponent with the rare 7.Qf3!?:

I am not sure if MVL analyzed this system in detail, but 8...Qa5?!, should have led Black into a difficult position. GM Predke failed to handle the position precisely, though some of his decisions were very original and brave. Alas, the impulsive 26.g3? put White on the verge of collapse, and the game quickly lost its intrigue.

Anyway, I expect to see more practical tests of 7.Qf3!? soon.

See you next month, Michael

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