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Dear friends,
I am happy to offer you another theoretical update covering various lines, although this time White's pieces were dominating, for some reason, scoring 7-1 overall :)

Download PGN of November '15 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Rb8 [B33]

We start with the top-level game Topalov - Gelfand, where Veselin employed the very rare 12.g3!? in order to surprise his well-prepared opponent:

It looks like the real test of this idea would occur had Boris activated his dark-squared bishop by means of 12...Bg5. Instead, after 12...0-0 13.h4 Black's position became rather passive. A few moves later, Gelfand managed to get a rid of his weak d-pawn, but it didn't really change the unpleasant character of the battle. The players entered an endgame where Topalov was able to grab one of the q-side pawns. Unluckily for Veselin, converting his material advantage into a full point was a very tough task, so the game eventually ended in a draw.

Sveshnikov 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c4 [B33]

Our next game Shirov - Klekowski illustrates how dangerous Black's position might be, from a strategic point of view, if the second Player chooses a passive way of handling the position. Indeed, after 13...Rb8?!:

Alexei was able to prevent Black from opening-up the f-file (the prophylactic 17.Kf1 is quite impressive) and fix a clear advantage. The critical moment came on move 20, when Klekowski missed a nice opportunity to simplify matters (20...Nd4 led to a worse, but perfectly playable endgame), so White's q-side initiative quickly became decisive.

Kan/Taimanov Four Knights with ...e6 6.a3 [B45]

The game Vallejo Pons - Fier saw White deviating from the main theoretical lines with 6.a3. Moreover, after his original 9th move 9.Qd2 (the usual 9.0-0 was covered on our site before) the players entered into a complex and unexplored position:

The first critical moment came on move 12 (in the diagram position), when Fier erred with 12....b5, allowing White to occupy the important central square by means of 13.Bg5! As a result, White got a long-lasting initiative, but after committing mistakes on the 19th and 20th moves, GM Vallejo Pons spoiled his advantage. A draw was agreed on move 31, when the position was balanced.

In general, 6.a3 doesn't seem to pose Black any problems, but it can lead to rich dynamic positions.

Kan/Taimanov Four Knights with ...e6 6.Ndb5 Bb4 7.a3 [B45]

Our next game Berg - Westerberg saw Black deviating from the main lines with 9...Nxd5. This move was recently tried by some strong players such as GM Safarli, and it definitely requires some attention. The value of the position after 12...Be6 seems critical for the whole line, as Black's play looks very natural:

Apparently, though, Berg's innovation 13.Bh6! causes Black concrete problems, so I am not sure if Westerberg's concept will find new followers. Despite some inaccuracies, Emanuel's victory looks convincing and fully deserved.

Kan/Taimanov 7.Qf3 Bd6!? [B48]

The opening line which took place in Das - Gopal is becoming more and more popular, but it is new for our site at the moment. In the diagram position after 8.0-0-0 Be5 White has a choice between several logical ways of handling the position:

In this game White came up with the interesting novelty 9.Nde2. The main idea behind this move is to avoid any possible simplifications and prepare the typical f2-f4 advance. The real test of this original concept would occur had Gopal played 10...d5!, immediately exploiting some disharmony in the opponent's camp. In my opinion, Black should be totally OK in the complex arising position, but instead of that, after 10....0-0? White's idea was fully justified, so Das was able to develop a powerful attack and won in a nice style.

Regarding the opening line, 9.Nxc6!? looks like the most promising way to fight for the initiative, but this assessment definitely requires further practical tests.

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

Another theoretical discussion took place in Durarbayli - Kreisl, where the players entered into a very sharp position after 14...d6:

I already explored this position in Muzychuk - Sethuraman, where Black got a good position after the opening. In this game, however, Vasif came up with the logical novelty 15.Kb1. Black's reaction was really unsuccessful, so after 17 moves White had won a pawn, while Black's king lost the right to castle. Despite White's convincing victory, this line still looks playable for Black - 15....g6! would be a clear improvement over Kreisl's play.

Kan/Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Be7 9.f3 0-0 10.0-0-0 [B48]

Our next game, Paragua - Krush, also has a significant theoretical value. It looks like 11.Kb1!?, which is much less popular than 11.g5, definitely poses Black serious problems. It's hard to mention a better way of handling the position, but 11...Bb7 12.g5 Nh5, as was also played by Irina in her preceding game, was precisely met by 13.Nxc6!:

and as the analysis proves, this position seems to be very unpleasant for Black. However, Mark's terrible mistake on the following move completely changed the situation - White's position was completely lost till move 19, and only Irina's subsequent inaccurate and careless play enabled Paragua to get the full point.

In general, the ball is definitely in Black's court, and 11.Kb1!? looks very promising for White in this line.

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

In our next game Nakar - Tari, Aryan went for the somewhat less explored setup with 9...h5, having the bishop on e7. White's reaction was quite principled, so the players entered into an important theoretical position after 14...Qc8:

In my opinion, the most promising continuation here is 15.Rac1!?, as was played by Ivanchuk many years ago. In that case White's play might be somewhat more easier, though Black's position is perfectly playable. In this game White tried a different setup of rooks - 15.Rfc1 instead, and after 15...Bd8?! his original idea was fully justified and enabled Eylon to get a clear edge and win in nice style. Still, in my opinion, removing the rook from the k-side doesn't look natural, so 15...e4! should offer Black decent counter-play.


See you next month, Michael

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