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Hello everyone!
Despite the uneasy epidemic situation in Latvia, the exceptionally strong open tournament was held successfully. Most of the top players were participating, and the strongest players qualified for the Candidates tournament. Naturally, I would like to focus on this big event.

Download PGN of November ’21 Open Sicilian games

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The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Rb8 [B45]

Our first game, Kryvoruchko, Y - Jobava, B saw Baadur employ the rare 9...Rb8 in an extremely common line of the Four Knights. It looks like Yurij wasn't surprised, and White reacted well with 11.c4, inviting Black to capture the undeveloped Bf1. Despite the decent novelty 13...c5!:

the position was still dangerous for Baadur, and after the impulsive 16...h6? he was quickly crushed.

The Four Knights 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 [B45]

In the next game, Paravyan, D - Morovic Fernandez, I, White chose the relatively rare 10.a3!?:

Visually, Ivan managed to handle this position well and convincingly achieved a draw. However, the situation in this line doesn't seem clear - 13.Bd3!? which was played by Vishy Anand, might pose Black definite problems.

Classical Sozin, Benko System 6.Bc4 Qb6 7.Nb3 [B57]

The next game, Ter Sahakyan, S - Gelfand, B, saw the players enter the well-forgotten Sozin Attack. On move 8 Boris deviated from the main theoretical paths with 8...Qd8!?:

Samvel reacted with the quiet 10.a4, but it had a great effect: Black immediately erred with 10...b6? which allowed White to create strong pressure along the d-file.

In general, it was definitely not Boris's day, but Samvel's consistent and energetic play is very impressive.

Najdorf, Sozin Attack 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 [B87]

In Matlakov, M - Chigaev, M Maxime decided to test his experienced opponent in a relatively rare line that was recently seen at the top level. In the position after 13.Qe1:

GM Chigaev wrongly deviated from Kramnik - Grischuk with 13...Nc5, after which Black was struggling to develop his play along the c-file. Still, the critical moment of the game came on move 18, when the impulsive 18...Nca4? practically killed the intrigue.

In general, this mix of the Be3 and Bc4 systems hardly poses Black serious problems, but it often leads to a sharp struggle.

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

In the very important (from a competitive point of view) game Yu Yangyi - Vachier Lagrave, M White chose the relatively forgotten line with 9.f4, but it looks like Maxime wasn't surprised. In the theoretical position after 18.Nf5:

Black came up with the ambitious 18...b4!? which was never tried before. This novelty seems to offer Black decent play, but then Maxime soon erred with 22...Ree8? Luckily for him, the Chinese Grandmaster soon returned the favor with 27.Bxe5? and the game ended in a draw after interesting play.

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

The game Vokhidov, S - Zhou, J saw Black deviate from the previously covered Grischuk - Wojtaszek with 10...Nbd7!?:

GM Vokhidov reacted with the novelty 13.Bc4, but it doesn't seem to offer White anything special. Moreover, the inaccurate 15.Qd3?! put White in a dangerous situation, and after interesting play with mutual mistakes the higher-rated player gained the upper hand.

In my opinion, 13.Qf3!?, as played in one preceding game, seems to offer White more chances.

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

Another interesting discussion in one of the most fashionable lines with 6.Be3 took place in Sasikiran, K - Vachier Lagrave, M. In the well-known theoretical position after 17...Qxa5:

Krisnan introduced an interesting plan, starting with 18.Bd3 g6 19.Be4. White's full control of the light squares made it tougher for Black to handle the position, and Maxime soon went astray with 26...Kh8?! Luckily for MVL, his lower-rated opponent missed a great chance: 27.f4! would have posed Black serious problems. Instead, the timid 27.Rgf1? led to a repetition of moves.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.Bb3 e6 [B94]

In the last game, Hovhannisyan, R - Najer, E , Robert decided to test his experienced opponent in the side line with 9.Bxf6. Evgeniy reacted well with 10...Nd7! and 12...Bd7, getting ready to castle q-side:

An approximate balance was kept till move 24, when the timid 24.Rd3?! allowed Black to take over the initiative. Even though Robert's further play was far from his best, GM Najer's endgame technique is worth studying!

Regarding the opening, 13.Kb1!? seems somewhat more flexible. However, 9.Bxf6 still can't be considered too dangerous.

See you next month, Michael

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