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Hello everyone,
I mostly don't trust blitz games, but this time I decided to include Steinberg - Dubov because it involves an interesting side line of the Kan. Also, Shevchenko - Volokitin has exceptional theoretical value for the 6.Bd3 Najdorf, in my opinion.

Download PGN of May ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Kan 5.Be2!? Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 [B41]

We start with the above-mentioned Steinberg, N - Dubov, D, where the players entered a very interesting theoretical position after 7...Nd5:

Nitzan opted for 8.Bd2, and after the dubious 9...Qc7?! White got very promising play for a pawn. The further struggle was full of mutual mistakes, but overall White's victory was well-deserved.

Still, the energetic 8.0-0!, as previously played by Anish Giri, seems to pose Black more problems.

Kan 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.Nb3 Ba7 [B42]

The next game, Duda, J - Carlsen, M, saw the relatively forgotten Kan line with 6...Ba7. GM Duda went for an ambitious setup with an early 8.Be3, when White can still opt for 0-0-0 at some point.

In the Diagram position after 10...b5 White chose the prophylactic 11.a3, but it was nicely met by the energetic 11...e5!, followed by 13...Nd4! and Magnus managed to solve his opening problems, but still he had to take some risks in order to score a full point.

In my opinion, 11.0-0-0!? might pose Black more problems in this line.

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Bb7 [B45]

In Caruana, F - Rapport, R the players entered an interesting theoretical position after 12.Be2 that was recently covered in Saric - Abasov:

Richard's new idea 12...Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Qb5 led to a somewhat inferior endgame, where Black hopes to solve his problems due to his strong centralized knight. However, the inaccurate 16...a5?! could have led to a very difficult position had Fabiano fixed the pawn structure with 18.a4! or 19.a4! and eventually Richard managed to achieve a draw.

It still looks like 12.Be2 is quite annoying and it makes 8...Bb7 less attractive for Black.

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

The next game, Firouzja, A - Rapport, R, also saw an exciting theoretical discussion in this long and well-explored line of the Four Knights. In the position after 16...Qb6 Alireza deviated from the recently covered Navara- Abasov with 17.Be2:

However, it looks like Richard was well-prepared for it. In fact, he reacted with a decent novelty 18...Nc8!?, followed by 19...d5 and managed to activate most of his pieces. In general, it was a well-played game by both players.

Classical, Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd3 Bd7 8.Ndb5 [B62]

Another exciting novelty was introduced in Mastrovasilis, D - Fier, A. In the position after 14.Nab1 Black deviated from Delchev - Shevchenko (see in the archive) with the surprising pawn sacrifice 14...d5!?:

Perhaps the surprise effect of Fier's deep home preparation was so great that Dmitry quickly lost his patience and blundered with 21.Nd2??

Undoubtedly, we shall see more practical tests of Alexander's innovation soon. At the moment, 15.exd5 seems critical.

Najdorf 6.Rg1 h5 [B90]

In the next encounter between 2 Najdorf experts, Paravyan, D - Chigaev, M, David played the aggressive 6.Rg1, that recently gained popularity on the high level. Maksim reacted with the rare 6...h5!? 7.Bg5 b5:

and then GM Paravyan came up with the novelty 8.a4. It led to an unbalanced position, where White had sufficient compensation for a pawn, but not more. Alas, this interesting game was decided by one serious mistake 20.Nf4?, and White was crushed by a direct attack.

In my opinion, the previously played 8.Bd3!? offers White more than David's novelty.

Najdorf 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 Be7 [B90]

Deep opening preparation was demonstrated by the young Ukrainian player in Shevchenko, K - Volokitin, A in another trendy sideline. In the position after 11...g6:

Kirill chose the rare 12.a4!?, that only occurred in 1 preceding game. Since GM Volokitin was on the Black side in that game it didn't came as a surprise, and he decided to follow his own play till move 14. It was definitely a risky decision - Kirill's new approach, starting with 15.Bc2! followed by 17.f4! and 19.Nf5! let White develop a crushing attack. A real masterpiece!

Even though Andrei's play can be improved (for instance, 15...Qc7? was a clear mistake), I still find 12.a4!? quite dangerous for Black.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 h5 [B90]

We end with Baskin, R - Sethuraman, SP, where the higher-rated player chose the relatively uncommon mix of ...h5 and ...Be7. In the position after 15...Rfc8:

Robert impulsively pushed 16.g4? GM Sethuraman failed to exploit it properly, but after 20.Bxg4? Black's attack on the q-side eventually prevailed.

Regarding the opening stage, I find 10...Bxd5 strategically risky. In fact, both 16.Rc1 and 16.a3 seem to offer White the better chances.

See you next month, Michael

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