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Dear Subscribers,
This month is full of important chess events, so selecting the games wasn't an easy task. As always, the update includes important theoretical novelties and sharp Sicilian battles.

Download PGN of May '15 Open Sicilian games

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The Kan 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.a3 [B41]

Our first game Quezada Perez-Akopian is quite an unpleasant surprise for fans of the Kan, since White illustrated a dangerous strategic idea of leaving the rook on a1 in order to advance the a-pawn:

It looks like, in the Diagram position after 13.Rfc1, Black shouldn't touch the Ra8 for a while. A possible improvement might be 13...Ne5!?, but further practical tests are needed for a clear assessment. Anyway, after 13...Rac8 14.a4! Akopian's position seems already unpleasant. He then committed 2 mistakes on moves 18 and 22, and quickly lost. An impressive achievement from the Cuban GM!

The Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Be7 9.f4 d6 [B48]

In the game Socko - Lazarev Black opted for the slightly passive, but less explored 9....d6. This line was analysed in our PGN archive in Ponomariov-Ivanchuk, where in reply Ruslan went for the modest 11.Bf3. In my notes to that game I mentioned the most ambitious move, 11.g4, and this current game proves that this continuation does indeed offer White great attacking chances.

Still, in the Diagram position after 13.Be3, Black's position might not be so bad had Lazarev played 13...b5. Instead, the greedy 13..Bxg4? was nicely refuted by the Polish Grandmaster.

In general, 9...d6 looks like a possible way of handling this line, though 12.Qxd4!? is a potential improvement for White.

The Classical Richter-Rauzer 7...a6 8.0-0-0 h6 9.Nxc6 [B66]

Our next game Berescu, A - Lupulescu, C saw a complicated battle in one of the sharpest lines in the Rauzer:

In the Diagram position, after 13...Nh7, White had to choose between various tempting continuations. It looks like the lower-rated player didn't mind making a draw, as he went for 14.Bd3, which led to a perpetual check in a previous game of Lupulescu. This time Black pushed for more with 19...Bxc3, but White wasn't in danger at any moment, so the game ended in a draw anyway.

In my opinion Black's position is somewhat shaky in this line, but White still has to find a clear way to prove it. At the moment, 14.Ne4!? looks the most promising.

Najdorf 6.Qd3!? [B90]

In our next game Van Kampen-Adair White employed the extravagant 6.Qd3!? in order to surprise his lower-rated opponent. The surprise effect worked well, as Black replied with the dubious novelty 8...e5?!:

and found himself under strong positional pressure. The first critical moment came on move 12, when Robin could have won a pawn by means of 12.Bg4! Instead, he erred with 12.h4? and lost his advantage. Black's further play was impressive, and Adair was able to exploit White's additional mistakes and achieve a convincing victory.

In general, 6.Qd3 hardly poses Black any serious problems, but it leads to unexplored territory, so definitely requires some attention.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f4 [B90]

The game Almasi - Bruzon saw another theoretical discussion in a fashionable line. The players were following the game Sutovsky, E - Das, A, which I've covered previously.

In the Diagram position after 12...0-0, Zoltan deviated from that game with the dubious novelty 13.Be2?! White's setup lacks harmony after that move, so 13....Qb6 allowed Black to seize the initiative. Bruzon's play was strong and energetic till move 17, when 17...Rfe8?! Allowed White to consolidate. In the end, it was even White who missed a chance of getting some advantage.

Najdorf 6.h3 Nc6 7.g4 Qb6 [B90]

In Nepomniachtchi - Sjugirov Black tried a rather fresh way of handling the fashionable 6.h3 line, 7...Qb6!?, which has gained some popularity, mostly due to the efforts of Alexander Grischuk. In this game Ian came up with an early novelty, 9.f4:

, but it doesn't look dangerous for Black. In fact, Sanan could have tried to exploit the delay of developing the Bc1 by means of pushing ...d6-d5 at an early stage of the game. His choice of 10...Nd7 was less principled, but the complex positions that arose were double-edged up till the 28th move, when Sjugirov started to err. Ian's play wasn't clean either, but finally he won in nice style.

In general, 7...Qb6!? offers rich play for both sides and definitely requires more attention on our site.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5... 9.Be3 Be6 10.Qd3 [B92]

Our next game, Ponomariov - Shankland also has a definite theoretical value. The move 10.Qd3 was seen twice in our PGN archive, but 10...Nc6!? was only suggested in our notes. At the same time, it looks like this continuation may solve Black's problems quite convincingly. The critical position arises after 11...Na5:

Most probably, White's only chance to pose Black any problems is connected with 12.Nd5!?, which wasn't tested in practice yet. Instead, Ponomariov went for 12.Nd2. This modest move should be met by 12...Rc8, which offers Black comfortable play. Instead of that, 12...d5?!, as was also played earlier, leads to a slightly inferior endgame. The further play was full of mistakes from both sides, but Shankland was able to achieve a draw at the end.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7... long line with 13.f5 Bxg5+ [B99]

Our last Top-level game Karjakin - Ivanchuk saw another theoretical battle in one of the oldest lines of the Najdorf. In the theoretical Diagram position after 15...Qd8, White is at a crossroads:

In my opinion, 16.h4!? is somewhat underestimated and may pose Black problems. However, the text move 16.Rg1 is well-known to our subscribers and it also has a good reputation. It looks like 21...Nf3! definitely makes this line playable for Black. In fact, Vassily easily solved all his problems, and a draw was agreed on move 25.

Summing up, this line still doesn't look really safe for Black, since White has several promising continuations, such as 16.h4, as was mentioned before, or 18.exf7+!?

See you next month, Michael Roiz

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