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This update is mostly a Najdorf special. In fact, six games saw the position after 5...a6. It's surprising how popular the so-called Bartel line 6.Nb3 is becoming nowadays - almost every month I see good players employing it. This time we even have 2 games from top players, so I guess the talented Polish Grandmaster can be satisfied with his contribution to chess :)

Download PGN of November ’16 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 5.Bd3 g6 [B42]

Our first game Oparin, G - Kamsky, G saw quite a rare line with an early fianchetto, 5...g6, which was successfully employed by Gata before. However, this time his opponent was able to show the strategic drawbacks to Black's setup.

In this rare theoretical position after 11.c4 Gata came up with a natural novelty, 11...Qe5, but it was brilliantly refuted by White's energetic play, starting with 12.0-0-0! Despite the mutual mistakes in this game, White's victory is impressive and well-deserved.

In general, 5...g6 doesn't offer Black an easy life, but can be used as a surprise weapon from time to time.

Kan/Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 d6 [B48]

In the game Anand, V - Leenhouts, K Black employed the rather rare 7...d6, which wasn't covered on our site before:

It looks like Vishy was well-prepared for it, as he replied correctly with 8.Nxc6! and got a promising initiative. However, a few moves later the situation changed completely, and the lower-rated opponent got a nice chance to gain a full point in this game. The main critical moment came on move 20, when Koen committed the blunder 20...Qb4 and eventually lost. Had he played 20...0-0 or 20...Qa3 it would have been very difficult for Vishy to defend.

The Scheveningen with 8.Qd2!? [B84]

The next game, Ivanchuk, V - Van Wely, L, illustrates the merits of the setup with long castling quite well. The position after 10...Qc7 was already covered on our site in Ponomariov,R - Ivanchuk,V, and there I'd suggested 11.g4!? as a possible improvement over Ruslan's play:

This time GM Ivanchuk was on White's side, so he decided to follow my recommendation. Loek's reaction wasn't the best, so Vassily managed to develop a decisive attack within a few moves. Alas, one blunder on move 23 was enough to spoil everything, so the game ended in a draw after some interesting play.

Regarding the opening, 9...Nc6?! is inaccurate, whereas 9...b5! looks perfectly playable for Black. Before this White can also prefer the immediate 8.Qd2!?, so I expect further practical tests of this aggressive setup with Qd2 and 0-0-0.

Najdorf Defence, Bartel's line 6.Nb3 [B90]

Finally we have got to the above-mentioned games with 6.Nb3.

This position after 6...Nc6 7.Be3 was previously covered in the memorable game Bartel,M - Gelfand,B, where Boris went for 7...e6. This time we will consider some other possibilities.

First, it should be clear that the 7...g6?! which was played in Anand, V - Vachier Lagrave, M is a serious inaccuracy, and after 8.Nd5! White was able to fix a clear positional advantage. Luckily for Maxime his great opponent didn't manage to handle the position properly, so after 14.c3? Bb7! the situation changed drastically, and Black's pieces slowly started to dominate the board.

Instead of this, the 7...Ng4!? that was tested in Grischuk, A - Kokarev, D looks quite solid. Perhaps the position after 8.Bd2 Nf6 was deeply explored by Alexander during his home preparation, since Dmitry had already played it before:

Still, the original novelty 9.h4!? didn't pose Black serious problems. Double-edged play lasted till move 21, when GM Kokarev committed a terrible mistake and lost on the spot.

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

Another theoretical discussion took place in Sutovsky, E - Szuhanek, R, where Ranko didn't hesitate to check his opponent's home preparation in the line with 8...Be7 9.f5 Bc8, where Emil has previously lost 2 games:

It looks like this time White managed to pose Black real problems by means of 11.a4!, heavily limiting Black's active possibilities. In the further play Black was completely outplayed, but Emil's inaccurate 30th move could have spoiled all his advantage. Luckily for GM Sutovsky, his lower-rated player was the last to err.

In general, 8...g6!? looks like the most attractive continuation for Black in this system, but we need more practical tests for a final assessment.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5, 12.0-0-0 [B90]

The next game Inarkiev, E - Oparin, G is a warning sign for the system with ...h7-h5.

In the theoretical diagram position after 14...Be7, White came up with the dangerous new idea 15.c4!? At the moment I cannot actually see how Black can solve all his problems after this, and Oparin's natural reply led him into a dangerous position. The further play was full of missed opportunities (especially with the mutual mistakes on 30), but was quite entertaining.

Anyway, the ball is back on Black's side in this theoretical line now.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 [B94]

The last game, Nijboer, F - Gelfand, B, saw White employing the rare idea 11.Qe2!?, intending to support the quick e4-e5 advance:

In my opinion, both players were playing quite well till move 18, when Boris wrongly left his king in the centre. Starting from this moment Black's position slowly went from bad to worse, but luckily for Boris Gelfand, his opponent didn't withstand the pressure and eventually lost.

See you next month! Enjoy! Michael

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