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Hello everyone,
Even though this time most of the games ended in a draw, all of them saw uncompromising fighting chess, so I am pretty sure that you will not be disappointed :)
On top of that, I am glad to offer interesting innovations in various systems. Yes, not just the Najdorf :) Enjoy!

Download PGN of May ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 Qc7 7.Nc3 [B43]

In our first game, Najer, E - Artemiev, V, the players entered into a fashionable position that might arise via different move orders (For instance, 5.Nc3).

In the diagram position after 7...Nc6 Evgeniy went for the most ambitious move, 8.Nxc6!, which is new to our site. Unfortunately, the game was marred by the blunder 13...h5?, so White achieved an effective and easy victory. However, as the analyses prove, even if Black plays much better White's chances still seem preferable.

Kan/Taimanov 5...a6 6.Be3 Nf6 [B46]

In the next game, Grischuk, A - Grachev, B, Alexander employed the rare and aggressive setup with 7.Qf3!?:

Boris reacted quite well, so Black's position was acceptable till move 13 when he wrongly allowed White to fix the weakness on b7. After this Black was doomed to passive defense untill the end of the game. The final blunder, 33...Rb1?, made Grischuk's task much easier, but his victory is definitely well-deserved.

Regarding the opening, 7.Qf3!? definitely deserves more practical tests. At the moment, 7...d6!? also looks playable for the second player.

Kan/Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 Bd6 [B48]

The next game, Shirov, A - Hambleton, A, has exceptional theoretical value for Taimanov fans. Indeed, the line with 7...Bd6 was previously considered insufficient for equality, but this time Aman was able to prove that 10...b5! offers Black good counterplay:

Moreover, in the further complex play he even managed to outplay his famous opponent and win in great style.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 8...Bd7 9.f4 Be7 [B67]

The game Elistratov, S - Grischuk, A saw quite a rare long theoretical line, where Black has a shaky pawn structure, but hopes to make use of his powerful bishops. In the critical position after 14...fxe6:

Semen employed the dubious novelty 15.Qh6?! and quickly got into a very unpleasant situation. Luckily for him his higher-rated opponent didn't manage to play precisely till the end of the game, so the point was shared.

Anyway, 15.g3 might pose Black definite strategic problems, but this system still looks playable for the second player. In particular, 15...Na5!? deserves serious attention.

Najdorf 6.h4 [B90]

The ultra-aggressive 6.h4!? occurred again in our next encounter, Yu Yangyi - Lu Shanglei. The players quickly entered into completely unexplored territory - White employing a novelty as early as move 7! The position after 7.h5 looked pretty normal for Black:

but he was soon outplayed (mainly, due to 12...Be6?!) and came under strong pressure on the k-side. Fortunately for Lu Shanglei, White didn't manage to convert the extra pawn into a full point at the end.

As mentioned before, 6.h4!? can be used as a surprise weapon, but wouldn't bother a well-prepared opponent.

Najdorf 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bc1 [B90]

In the next top-level encounter, Grischuk, A - Vachier Lagrave, M, Alexander came up with an interesting new idea, 11.Bd3:

The surprise had its effect, so after committing the positional mistake 14...Nbd7?! MVL got into a passive position and was brilliantly outplayed. Indeed, White had a good extra pawn, while Black's pieces were almost paralyzed by the strong d-passer. Still, the inaccurate 40.Re8+? allowed Maxime to get back into the game and eventually achieve a draw.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.a3 [B96]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Caruana, F - Vachier Lagrave, M, where Fabiano was the first to deviate from known paths with 14.h4!?:

At the moment it looks like the real test of his idea would be 14...Nc5! Instead, Maxime's natural response 14...d5?! led Black into a strategically dangerous position à la French. Another critical moment came on move 19 when GM Caruana spoiled his advantage with the premature 19.f5?!. The further complex play was full of mutual mistakes and ended in a draw on move 43.

Well, the line with 9.a3 is somewhat dangerous for Black, but it definitely doesn't refute the setup with 8...Qb6!

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 7...Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.f5 [B97]

In my opinion the last game, Wei Yi - Sandipan, C, has exceptional theoretical value since Black employed the new and high quality idea 10...Be7!? 11.fxe6 Bxe6! and easily solved all of his problems. True, the main 10.f5 Nc6 is considered absolutely fine for Black, but isn't Sandipan's approach simpler and doesn't it require less memorization of forcing lines?

See you next month, enjoy! Michael

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