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Hello everyone,
In my opinion one of the most exciting events this year was the Isle of Man open, where everybody had a chance to challenge the elite players. Therefore most of the games are selected from this event. It's good to see the well-forgotten Rauzer making a return at the top level (with excellent results for Black!), and this time I am happy to analyse 2 enjoyable Rauzer struggles.

Download PGN of November ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Qa5+?! [B33]

Our first game, Eljanov, P - Schneider, I, saw Ilya employ the relatively rare and rather dubious 9...Qa5+?!. However, it seems that this surprise didn't impress Pavel, and he reacted well with 12.Bd3! The following natural play from both sides led to a theoretical position after 16...0-0:

Now White produced the natural novelty 17.Nc2 and got promising play due to his powerful passers on the q-side. In general, it was a well-played game by GM Pavel Eljanov, who was very close to victory, but the dramatic mistake 41.Nb8? spoiled all his efforts, and allowed Black to achieve a draw.

Taimanov 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.f4 Bb4 [B48]

In the game Hansen, E - Sethuraman, S the players entered the well-known theoretical position after 16.Nc5!:

when the Indian Grandmaster employed the natural novelty 16...Ncd6 in order to maintain the other knight in the centre. Alas, Black soon committed a serious mistake, 18...Nxe4?, and was convincingly outplayed.

Even though Black's play in this encounter can certainly be improved, I still don't see an attractive way of handling the position after Carlsen's 16.Nc5! So, the ball is in Black's court now.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 8...Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.Bd3 [B68]

The next game, Shirov, A - Le Quang Liem, saw Alexei employ the relatively rare, but natural, way of handling the position with 11.Bd3:

The further play of both sides led to a critical moment on move 15, when GM Le Quang Liem wrongly damaged his pawn structure with 15...gxf6?! and soon got into big trouble. Had White later played 28.h7! Black would hardly have been able to resist, but instead 28.Be4? drastically changed the route of the game. Luckily for the author of the famous 'Fire on the board', his opponent was the last to err, so eventually White earned a full point.

Regarding the opening phase, 12...a5! looks like a definite improvement over Le Quang Liem's play. I expect to see further practical tests of 11.Bd3 soon.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 8...Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.Bxf6 [B69]

In the game Le Quang Liem - Gupta, A the players entered the theoretical position after 16...Na5 that was analyzed in detail in the previous update:

Here White played the novelty 17.Rhe1, which was correctly met by 17...b4 18.Ne2 e5!, restricting the mobility of both white knights. After that Abhijeet started to outplay his higher-rated opponent and eventually won the game following interesting complications.

Undoubtedly, the whole concept with 16...Na5 followed by ...e6-e5 looks good, so White should switch to other ways of fighting for an advantage.

Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 [B90]

An interesting theoretical discussion took place in Kokarev, D - Vorobiov, E, where Dmitry (who is an experienced Najdorf player himself) employed the relatively fresh 15.Kb1:

It looks like Evgeny was well prepared, as after 15...Qc7! 16.h5 b4 Black managed to develop sufficient counter-play on the q-side. Moreover, the unsuccessful innovation 19.Ndb5?! quickly put White under strong pressure, and eventually GM Vorobiov won the game in great style.

At the moment, 19.Bh3, as played earlier, seems critical. However, even then Black's position looks acceptable.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 Be7 8.Bg2 0-0 9.0-0 [B91]

The next game, Bacrot, E - Saric, I, also has significant theoretical value. In the important position after 11.Nec3, where Black previously faced some strategic problems, Ivan came up with an interesting novelty 11...Rb8!?:

and quickly managed to equalize. However, the inaccurate 19...Rd6?! could have put him under positional pressure had White played 20.Rxd6. Instead, the premature 20.cxb4?! led to a quick draw.

Possibly White's play can be improved, but still 11...Rb8!? looks like a good solution.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qe2 [B96]

The game Patel, A - Bruzon, L saw the players enter the sharp theoretical position after 14.Rg1:

At this point Black chose the somewhat risky 14...g6, and after 15.Bg3 e5?! got into a dodgy position. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, but the really critical moment came on move 25, when Advait missed a clear win (25.Nd4!) and went astray with 25.Qh2? Following this GM Bruzon started to outplay his lower-rated opponent and eventually the game ended in Black's victory.

Undoubtedly, 15...e5?! is a certain mistake, while 15...Nb6 seems to offer Black acceptable play. Still, 14...g5, as previously analyzed in Eliseev – Sjugirov, looks more attractive.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.e5 [B97]

The last game, Sutovsky, E – Keymer, V, saw the players enter a very long and deeply explored theoretical line. In the position after 21...f5:

Emil employed the original 22.Nc3, avoiding regaining material. In my opinion the real test of this rare move would be seen had Black played 22...Rf6!?, whereas after 22...Nf6 White is out of risk. Moreover, in the further complex play GM Sutovsky managed to pose his young opponent definite practical problems, which he failed to solve. In particular, 30...Nexd7?! turned out to be a serious mistake that yielded White a big advantage.

In general it was a well-deserved victory for GM Emil Sutovsky.

See you next month, Michael

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