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Hello everyone,
This Update will be especially interesting for Sveshnikov fans - 3 games are dedicated to the very fashionable 7.Nd5 line. Also, there is a very important theoretical discussion in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf that is based on the memorable game Caruana - MVL, from the recent Candidates tournament.

Download PGN of May ’21 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 9.c4 Ng6 [B33]

In our first game, Socko, B - Piorun K, White managed to quickly surprise his opponent with the rare 10.g3:

The surprise effect did its job, and after 11...Be7?! Kacper quickly got into a passive position with a problematic knight on g6. Luckily for him, GM Socko missed a few promising possibilities such as 19.h6! and 21.c6! , and eventually a draw was agreed in an equal position.

Undoubtedly, Black's play can easily be improved - both 10...Be7 and 11...f5! seem to solve the problem of the awkward knight.

Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.c4 [B33]

The next top-level game, Vachier Lagrave, M - Giri, A, saw White employ the well-forgotten 9.c4 move, followed by 10.c5:

This aggressive idea didn't really confuse Anish, who reacted well with 10...Na6!? and managed to set-up a blockade on the d6-square and practically solve all his problems. However, starting from 17...h6?! he began to err, and came under strong positional pressure. This game was full of mutual mistakes, but the main critical moment came at the end, when MVL led the game into drawing paths with 36.h3? when instead, after 36.Qc2! Black's position would be very difficult.

Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4 [B33]

Another interesting opening idea was introduced in Jobava, B - Grischuk, A, where Baadur went for his favourite 12.a5!?:

Perhaps Alexander wasn't perfectly prepared for this rare idea, and played the strategically dubious 14...f4, followed by 15...Rf6?!. After this both players started to err, and eventually this exciting game was decided by the terrible blunder 29...Qxc4??

In any case, Baadur's concept with 12.a5!? looks quite attractive at the moment.

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

The next game, Kokarev, D - Kezin, R, saw Dmitry employ the relatively fresh 9.Bf4!? d6 10.Bg5, that seems to pose Black definite practical problems:

In my opinion, the main test of this idea would be seen had Black played 10...Ng6, while 10...b5 11.a3 Bb7?! followed by 14...Rc8? could have led to a quick disaster. Luckily for Roman, his higher-rated opponent first played 15.e5? prematurely, and then let Black activated his pieces with 18.dxe5? After that Black's win was just a matter of time.

Despite such a defeat, 9.Bf4!? definitely looks promising for White at the moment.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 g6 7.Bxf6 exf6 8.Bc4 [B60]

The game Sanal, V - Bogosavljevic, B illustrates Black's dynamic potential in the well-forgotten6...g6 line , that was recently renovated by Daniil Dubov. In the critical position after 9...0-0:

Vahap decided not to grab the pawn and went for the quiet 10.0-0, but it looks like this is exactly what his opponent was expecting! In fact, Boban came up with the decent novelty 11...Be5!, and after the passive 13.Bd3?! White quickly found himself on the defending side. Despite some inaccuracies at the very end, this was a positional masterpiece by GM Bogosavljevic, and his victory is well-deserved.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 h6 8.a3 [B81/B90]

In Gajewski, G - Wojtaszek, R White quickly deviated from known paths with 8.a3, and after 9...Nc6 the players entered a rare and interesting theoretical position:

Grzegorz chose the somewhat unusual 10.Qe2, and after 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 e5 Black obtained a decent position with good counter-attacking prospects. Moreover, the careless 15.h4?! soon allowed Radoslaw to sacrifice the exchange and eventually decide the game by a direct attack.

Still, 8.a3 isn't as toothless as it appears. For instance, 10.Qd2!? might offer White the better attacking chances.

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

The next game, Shirov, A - Grandelius, N, saw Alexei trying to improve over the previously covered Visakh - Bronstein with 11.Bc4!?, which I had suggested in my notes to the game:

Nils reacted well with 11...Be7, but soon took too many risks with the ambitious 13...Rc8?! On his turn Alexei didn't try to refute his idea with 17.Nf5!, so an approximate balance was kept almost till the end of the game. The really dramatic moment came on move 39, when Alexei missed the beautiful 39.Rxf6+! and was crushed by a direct attack.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 [B97]

We end with Xu, Xiangyu - Lu, Shanglei, where White followed in the footsteps of Fabiano Caruana with the somewhat shocking 16.c3!?:

It has to be mentioned that deep opening preparation in this line allowed Fabiano to score an important victory in the last Candidates tournament in Russia. It is not surprising, that this idea was analyzed in detail by both Chinese players, and on move 23 GM Lu Shanglei introduced a new and convincing way of solving the problems with 23...Nf6, that immediately took the game into drawing paths.

Well, this game is very typical of modern chess: sometimes the result can be predicted right after the opening.

See you next month, Michael

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