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Dear Chess friends,
I am glad to introduce a new update which is full of games from various events. In my opinion, this time there are even more important novelties than usual!

Download PGN of May ’18 Open Sicilian games

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

We start with the game Abdumalik, Z - Antal, Ge, where the players entered one of the sharpest lines of the Taimanov with 7.Qf3. The position after 12...b5 was previously covered in Saric - Giri, where Anish managed to illustrate the merits of Black's setup:

Since then many games were played in this line, but somehow only now is there any news. Seemingly, Zhansaya's way of handling the position (especially 17.f5!) makes the situation critical for Black in this line. In fact, the experienced Grandmaster from Hungary was convincingly outplayed.

No doubt, the ball is now in Black's court.

Taimanov 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Ne5 9.Qg3 b5 [B48]

The more fashionable line occurred in Vavulin, M - Khanis, S. The important position after 13...Nd5 was previously covered in Karjakin - Caruana, where I suggested 14.h3 as a possible improvement. Indeed, as the route of the game proves, Black still some problems to solve in this line. In my opinion, the critical position for the whole line seems to be seen after 16...Be7:

Since Khanin was previously crushed after 17.Be4, it was tempting for GM Vavulin to follow Lomasov's footsteps. However, this time Semen was well-prepared and introduced the decent novelty 22...d6! that seems to solve Black's problems. In general it was a well-played game, which ended in a draw after some spectacular play.

Regarding the opening, 17.Kb1!? looks promising for White and should be tested more.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7...Be7 8.0-0-0 0-0 9.f4... 11.Kb1 [B65]

The next game, Iljiushenok, I - Gutenev, A, has exceptional theoretical value for one well-known line in the Rauzer. In the position after 12...h6:

Ilia employed the fresh (at least for our site) and dangerous 13.Qe3!, and after 13...Kf8?! 14.Bd3 White managed to develop a crushing attack very quickly. Even though Gutenev's play can easily be improved, this line looks extremely shaky for Black.

Najdorf 6.Qd3 [B90]

We proceed to Vitiugov, N - Kamsky, G, where Nikita employed the rare 6.Qd3, that was seen in just one game in our PGN Archive. In response Gata went for the flexible setup with 6...Nbd7!? 7.Be2 g6, following my recommendation from Van Kampen - Adair. The main critical moment of the game came on move 17 after 16...Re8:

when the inaccurate 17.Bf3?! could have led to an inferior position had Gata played 17...Ne5! Instead, after 17...g5? it was Black, who had to struggle for a draw till the end of the game. Even though this game was full of mutual mistakes, it is still enjoyable to watch.

Najdorf 6.h3 b5!? [B90]

Undoubtedly, the next game, Abdumalik, Z - Kotronias, V, also has significant theoretical value. Indeed, Vasilios's fresh way of handling the position with 8...Nc6!:

looks good and might attract lots of Najdorf players. Alas, after 10.0-0 GM Kotronias started to go astray with 10...g6?! and was soon convincingly outplayed by his young opponent.

Despite such a defeat, I expect new practical tests of 6...b5!? to follow soon.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 [B91]

The next game, Navara, D - Wojtaszek, R, saw Radoslaw illustrate the quality of his home preparation. In the position after 12.Bg5:

he correctly deviated from his preceding encounter vs Anish Giri and played 12...0-0!, which was previously employed successfully by another Najdorf expert, GM Vachier Lagrave. In response David came up with a natural novelty, 13.a4, but it didn't change much - Black didn't experience any problems, so the game shortly ended in a draw.

At the moment, it looks like only 11.Nxf6+!? might still offer White a tiny advantage in this line, but we should wait for practical tests to follow.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 e6 [B94]

The game Grandelius, N - Olszewski, M is a typical opening disaster. First, Black played 8...Qa5?!:

which doesn't seem natural - in this line Black shouldn't delay the development of his k-side pieces this way. However, the real mistake came on move 10, when 10...e5? was nicely refuted by 12.Qh5! Frankly speaking, the game could have ended before move 20, but 14.Bxf6? left Michal in the game. The last critical moment came on move 26, when 26...f5! would have kept the intrigue. Instead, Black played 26...Rd8? and quickly lost.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6... 12...g5 [B96/97]

Our last game, Bezgodov, A - Paravyan, D, saw David employing the very rare 14...e5:

In my opinion, White's reaction 15.Nb3!? is more challenging than 15.Nd5 (as played in the only preceding game), but his next move (16.Bf3) does not seem to be the most energetic. As a result the dynamic balance was kept till move 25, when Alexei went astray with 25.Rf2? and got into trouble. On his go GM Paravyan wrongly played 27...Kf8?, which could have spoiled all the advantage. Luckily for David, his experienced opponent was the last to err in this game.

No doubt we shall see more tests of 14...e5 in the long run.

See you next month, Michael

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