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Hi all,
The main event of this month was definitely the ECC in Crete, although, this update actually includes games from various tournaments. Only 2 draws this time, and as usual most of the games saw uncompromising Sicilian battles and have significant theoretical value. Enjoy!

Download PGN of November ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 5...a6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 Qc7 [B46]

We start with Wei, Yi - Ivanchuk, V, where Vassily deviated from the main theoretical paths and played 7...Qc7. The first critical position was reached after 12...Be7:

when the young Chinese Grandmaster introduced an interesting innovation 13.Bg3, maintaining the tension. His idea was fully justified since Vassily soon committed 2 serious mistakes - 16...Qb6+ ?! and 18...Rd8? and got into big trouble. In general, despite the inaccurate 23th move, White's victory is well-deserved.

As the route of the game proves, 7...Qc7 doesn't seem to be an equally good alternative to the main 7...d5.

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

Our next game, Theodorou, N - Duda, J, could have been a typical opening disaster. Indeed, in the theoretical position after 9.0-0-0:

the young Polish Grandmaster came up with a very unsuccessful novelty, 9...b5??, after which White had a couple of winning possibilities! Nikolas's play was good enough till move 15, when he first went astray with 15.Bxb5?! Still, had White then played 16.Ndxb5 it would have been difficult for Black to stay in the game. Instead, a further piece sac by 16.Nf5?? drastically changed the route of the game, so Black quickly won.

Regarding the opening, Black's best option seems to be 9...h4 10.Qh3 Ng6, which might offer adequate counter-play. Still, I do not fully trust Black's setup, and 9.f4!? looks quite dangerous at the moment.

Scheveningen 6.Be2 Be7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 [B83]

In the game Miton, K - Nisipeanu, LD the players entered into a rare theoretical position after 9.Nb3:

No doubt Nisipeanu's next move, 9...a5!, is an important novelty that enables Black to fully solve his problems. Moreover, the careless 12.0-0?! allowed GM Nisipeanu to seize the initiative and win the game in nice style.

So, in general, after the quiet 6.Be2 Black might benefit from keeping the knight on b8 for a while. However, there is no doubt that the Keres Attack with 6.g4 is by far the most dangerous line.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.h3 Be7 9.f4 [B90]

I guess that our next game, Shubin, K - Sakaev, K, has exceptional theoretical value for Najdorf players. Indeed, in a well-known theoretical position GM Sakaev played a fresh move, 9...b5:

The real test for this natural-looking move would be seen had White played 10.Qf3, whereas the obvious reply 10.f5 made it easier for Black to increase his initiative on the q-side. The really critical moment came a few moves later, when the committal 13.0-0-0? quickly led White to a ruined position. Instead, after the correct 13.Bd3 Kirill would obtain only a slightly worse position.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7... 12.g5 Nh5 [B90]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in a game between two Najdorf experts, Leko, P - Giri, A. In the relatively minor line with 12...Nh5 Anish came up with a natural innovation after 16.exd5:

16...Bxd5 and quickly got a comfortable position. The play was balanced till move 31 when Anish played 31...Rxd1?!, which was followed by a draw offer. Luckily for Anish his opponent didn't try to push, though the final position contains definite danger for Black.

Anyway, 12...Nh5!? looks perfectly playable for now.

Najdorf 6.Be3 with 8...h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 g6 12.0-0-0 Nb6 13.Kb1 [B90]

This fashionable and important position is seen in 2 games from this update.

First, in Schroeder, J - Areshchenko, A Black recaptured with 13...Nfxd5 and later, in the diagram position, came up with the dubious novelty 15...Nxe7?!.

This innovation led to a difficult endgame, that soon became lost. Luckily for Alexander his young opponent didn't manage to play precisely till the end, so 24.Rxg6? allowed Black to achieve a draw. No doubt the previously played 15...Qxe7 is much better, and then White doesn't get that much.

In the other encounter, Inarkiev, E - Vachier Lagrave, M, Black played the 13...Nbxd5 that was already seen in Ernesto's practice before. Indeed, the players were following GM Inarkiev's preceding game till move 17, when Maxime came up with an important novelty, 17...Nf4!:

As I was assuming in my previous annotations, this innovation allowed Maxime to activate most of his pieces and obtain sufficient counter-play. Moreover, after the inaccurate 23.Qc3? Black managed to seize the initiative, but later went astray with 26...hxg4?. Luckily for Maxime, his opponent was the last to err, so Black eventually got the full point.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.0-0-0 [B94]

The last game, Durarbayli, V - Li, R, saw White employing the interesting novelty 13.Bd3!?:

In comparison to the previously played 13.f3, White might benefit from opening-up the f-file quite fast. Indeed, Black's somewhat slow plan involving his king's transfer to g7 enables White to increase his initiative on the k-side by means of 15.f4!, followed by 16.Bf2!.

In general, a well-played game by GM Durarbayli. However, despite the defeat, 13.Bd3 doesn't seem like a refutation of Black's setup.

See you next month, Michael

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