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This time we will mostly focus on the European Championships in Serbia, where there were a few early novelties in various Sicilians.

Download PGN of March ’23 Open Sicilian games

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Kalashnikov 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Be6 7.Bd3!? [B32]]

The strategic risk that Kalashnikov players run was fully illustrated in Korobov, A - Stremavicius, T. In the position after 7.Bd3!?:

Black went for a fashionable setup with 7...Nf6 and 8...g6. Although Titas managed to place his knight in the centre, Black still lacked real counter-play, and after the inaccurate 17...Qa3?! White quickly obtained a big advantage with 18.Nb5! Despite Anton's mistake on move 26, his victory is certainly well deserved.

All in all, 7.Bd3!? looks like an attractive way of development that offers White some advantage.

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Rb8 [B45]

The game Ivic, V - Danielyan, V can be considered to be an opening disaster. Indeed, the higher-rated player was defeated with White in just 22 moves! In the relatively rare theoretical position after 12...cxd5:

Velimir played the risky 13.Nd6?!, and after 13...f6 Black obtained promising compensation for a piece. Moreover, Vahe came up with an interesting novelty 15...Ba5!? that quickly provoked White into goinmg astray with 17.Bb2? The rest of the exciting play was full of mutual mistakes, where the final position was bad, but still playable for GM Ivic!

Although this was an impressive win for IM Danielyan, the line with 9...Rb8 still cannot be considered as good as the main paths..

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 [B45]

In the next game, Santos Latasa, J - Predke, A, Black deviated from the most explored paths with 10...Ne3!?:

I am not sure if both players were equipped with deep analysis, but it looks like optimal play by both sides led to an approximately equal position. Nobody took any risks, and game was drawn on move 22.

Well, we are looking forward to seeing more practical tests of 10...Ne3!?.

Taimanov 7.Qf3 Ne5 8.Qg3 h5 [B48]

More deep home preparation was demonstrated in Stankovic, M - Lagarde, M, where Milos played the new (for our site) 9.h4!?:

GM Lagarde played a few natural moves, but White quickly developed a strong attack with 11.Bxb5! that was still analyzed by Stankovic at home. Black's defensive task seemed tough from a practical point of view, and after 17...Qc6? he was quickly defeated by a direct attack.

Although 17...Qb6! might hold the position, I am not sure if many Taimanov players will want to follow in Lagarde's footsteps.

Taimanov 7.g4 Nge7 [B48]

The next game, Can, E - Quparadze, G, saw Black deviate from known pahts with 7...Nge7:

Emre reacted well with 8.Nb3 d5 9.Qd2! and achieved a promising attacking setup. However, very soon he erred with 11.Bc5?! and let Black solve most of his development issues. Moreover, his next mistake, 14.Nc3?, led White's position to a quick collapse.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.Kb1 [B67]

In the top-level game Giri, A - Abdusattorov, N Anish deviated from his own play in preceding games with 11.f4!?:

The Uzbeki star reacted well, but what he played was deeply analyzed by GM Giri in his home preparation. In fact, White came up with a strong novelty 15.Nxe4! that poses Black certain practical problems. As a result, Nodirbek erred with 15...Bxe4? and got into a difficult position. Luckily for him, at some point Anish failed to play precisely and allowed Black to achieve a draw.

Najdorf 6.h3 g6 [B90]

In Spyropoulos, N - Donchenko, A the German grandmaster chose a relatively less explored line to try his chances in the Najdorf. In the position after 10...h5!?:

Nikolaos came up with the natural novelty 11.Nxc6, that could have worked perfectly. Indeed, the careless 15...Rd6? would have led to a difficult position had White found the strong 15.Nd5! Luckily for GM Donchenko, his lower-rated opponent returned the favor with a double mistake, and eventually Black won.

In my opinion, 6...g6 is an interesting option in case you need a win with Black.

Najdorf 6.Be3 Nc6 7.f3 e5 [B90]

The last game, Shirov, A - Popovic, D, saw Dusan trying to confuse his experienced opponent with the rare and aggressive 12...b5!?:

which was previously played successfully by GM Grandelius. The further decent play by both sides led to a critical position after 22.Kf1. At this point Dusan wrongly went for the sacrificial 22...Qd6? followed by 23...e4? Luckily for him, GM Shirov returned the favor with 25.exd5? and the game ended in a draw by perpetual check. Instead, 25.Nd4 would have offered White a winning position.

In general, 6...Nc6 is still relatively less explored, and maybe it will be tested more at the high level.

See you next month, Michael

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