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Unsurprisingly the super-strong European Club Cup in Eilat last month saw a number of important Sicilian developments. The Najdorf especially held up well there and in that opening it would appear that 6 Bg5 is losing ground in the popularity stakes; something which certainly can't be said of the English Attack.

Download PGN of November '12 Open Sicilian games

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The Kan 5 c4, 7 Qd3 [B41]

Meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 with 5 c4 has never had the greatest of reputations, but 5...Nf6 6 Nc3 Bb4 7 Qd3!? has received some high-level support over the years:











It's time to rectify the situation that this line has never been covered on ChessPub. The immediate counterstrike 7...d5 must be critical, whereas 7...Qc7 8 a3 Be7 9 Be2 0-0 10 0-0 gave White decent chances for an edge in Giri - Landa.


5 Bd3, 6...e5!? [B42]

One of the opening lines of 2011 was 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0-0 e5!? 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6. It hasn't been quite as popular in 2012, but is still fairly trendy as well as quite critical:











Black's solid defences continue to hold up well enough after 9 Nf5 g6 10 Ne3 Bc5, which may explain why Motylev tried the rare 9 Nb3!? in Motylev - Bologan. This prevents the second player from actively deploying his dark-squared bishop, but still leaves him very solidly placed.


The Taimanov, English Attack [B48]

It's time to catch up with developments after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Qd2 Nf6 8 0-0-0 Bb4, since we've mainly focussed of late on 8...Be7, which often leads to the Brazilian Taimanov. With the bishop on b4 Black can also follow up with 9 f3 0-0 10 g4 b5 11 g5 Nh5:











Black had been struggling a little here, but 12 Nde2 Ba5! is an important novelty, to meet 13 g5 with 13...b4. Indeed, the opening turned out well for him in Mekhitarian - Iturrizaga Bonelli, although he only eventually triumphed after a number of adventures.



The Najdorf: English Attack 6 Be3 Ng4 [B90]

In response to a recent subscriber request I've taken a look at developments after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Ng4. It's worth noting that in many recent grandmaster games play has gone 7 Bc1 Nf6 8 f3 which suggests that the variation is in decent health overall. One important line is, of course, 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 10 Qd2 Nc6 11 Nb3 Be6 12 h4:











If Black has to exchange on h4 he runs the risk of facing a long-term pull, so 12...Rg8!? makes a lot of sense and is followed up in very active vein in Muzychuk - Ju Wenjun.


6...e5 [B90]

Quite a trendy line for White is 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 h3!?, intending g2-g4 while keeping the f3-square free for the queen:











I had to face this in Palac - Palliser in Eilat and was fairly happy with how 8...Nbd7 9 g4 Rc8, menacing a certain sacrifice, turned out.

Another of my games in the ECC was Bok - Palliser where White preferred 7 Nf3 and inspired by the efforts of Joe Gallagher, I decided to give 7...Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Qc7!? a whirl. After 10 Bb3 Be6 White has tested quite a number of continuations, but 11 Nh4 g6 is the critical variation in my opinion:











With the new move 12 Qd2!? Bok had in mind the dangerous plan of 13 Bh6 and 14 Nf5, but by means of 12...Nc6! I was able to maintain rough equality, meeting 13 Bh6 with 13...Rfe8 14 Nf5 Bxf5 15 exf5 Nd4.


The Najdorf: 6 Be2 [B92]

Quite a number of 2700 players have opted for 6 Be2 of late, usually meeting 6...e5 with 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0 9 Re1 Be6 10 Bf3, clamping down on d5:











I still quite like those lines where Black deploys his rooks actively on the c-file, but Navara - Shirov makes a decent case for 10...Qc7 11 a4 Rd8!?.


The Najdorf: 6 Bg5 Delayed Poisoned Pawn Variation [B96]

One reason why 6 Bg5 is beginning to plummet in the popularity stakes is the Delayed Poisoned Pawn Variation, 6...e6 7 f4 h6 8 Bh4 Qb6:











White is really struggling to show anything here and 9 Qd2 Qxb2 10 Rb1 Qa3 11 e5 dxe5 12 fxe5 Nd5 just seems to lead to an unbalanced but fairly level endgame as we've seen on several occasions. To my surprise a young Dutch star went in for it in Giri - Popilsky, but never obtained any advantage whatsoever.


Until next month, Richard

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Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms (just the polite ones, please), etc. Drop me a line at the Open Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write directly to richard@chesspublishing.com