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Hello everyone,
Your truly has just finished the ECC in Antalya. It was a really exciting event, where we saw a lot of spectacular Sicilian battles. However, I've decided to select some games from other interesting tournaments too. Once again, most of the games belong to the Najdorf section. Enjoy!

Download PGN of October ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 6.a3 [B47]

We start with Motylev, A - Kezin, R, where Alexander followed Grischuk's successful experience with the rare 6.a3. This time his lower-rated opponent reacted well with 7...b5, so the players entered into an important theoretical position after 10.0-0:

As the analyses prove, Black's practical task wasn't easy, but it looks like the precise 10...Rc8! should offer Black a solid position. Instead, the passive 10...d6?! allowed White to develop a powerful initiative on the q-side. Even though Alexander's further play was far from being perfect, he eventually scored a convincing victory.

Kan/Taimanov 7.Qf3 d6 [B48]

The next encounter, Kryvorucko,Y - Mogranzini, R, saw a theoretical discussion in one of most fashionable lines with 7.Qf3. In the rare theoretical position after 9...Bxc6:

Yurij came up with the fresh and dangerous idea 10.g4! It looks like the precise reaction 10...b5! would offer Black acceptable play, but we need further practical tests for the final assessment. Instead, Roberto played 10...Rc8?! which seems inaccurate and could be strongly met by 12.Bd4!, interrupting Black's development. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, where the higher-rated player eventually won in great style.

Regarding the Opening, Anand's 8.Nxc6 still seems more challenging.

Scheveningen/Najdorf 6.h3 e6 7.g4 h6 [B81/90]

In the next game Anand, V - Grandelius, N the players entered into into a well-known position after 9...Nc6, when Vishy came up with a fresh and aggressive idea - 10.Nxc6!? bxc6 11.Qd2:

In general, it was a well-played game by both players, apart from the inaccurate 24...Rc7?!, after which Black was doomed to passive defense. Luckily for Nils, this time his great opponent failed to handle the better endgame precisely, so the game ended in a draw after a short struggle.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 [B90]

Another interesting theoretical discussion took place in Popov, I - Nepomniachtchi, I. In the position after 15.Nec3 Ian played the fresh and natural 15...0-0!?:

and got a comfortable position, but soon erred with 17...Qg5?! Then Ivan missed the strong 18.Nb6! and wrongly switched to passive defense. In general a well-deserved victory for GM Nepomniachtchi, whose team eventually won the title.

No doubt at the moment this line looks perfectly playable for Black both after 15...0-0!? or 15...b5, so the ball is in White's court.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Nbd7 9.Qd2 b5 10.0-0-0 [B90]

One more important innovation was introduced in Jakovenko, D - Palac, M. In the theoretical position after 17...a5 Dmitry came up with a dangerous knight jump 18.Nf5!?:

To be honest, it looks really scary, but only the cold-blooded 18...Rc8! might offer Black acceptable play. Instead, the passive 18...Ne8?! quickly led Mladen to a critical situation. Indeed, had Dmitry played 28.Rxe7!, the game would be nicely decided by a direct attack. Instead, 28. Qe3? allowed GM Palac to stay in the game. The further play was also full of mutual mistakes, where the higher-rated player was luckier.

Well, this line looks extremely shaky for Black, especially after 15.Nc6!

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 a5 [B90]

In the next game, Sasikiran, K - Tologontegin, S, White employed the rather rare 11.Qf2:

This move is hardly pretending to refute Black's setup, since both 11...Qc8!? and Semetey's 11...a4 seem to solve the problems. The first critical moment came on move 13, when Black should have played the new 13...Qc7! Instead, the passive 13...Qc8?! 14.N5a4 led Black to a strategically bad position. In his turn, Krishnan wrongly played 15.Bxa6? (novelty!) and spoiled all his advantage. Luckily for him, his opponent ran out of time when the position was still about equal.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.a3 [B96]

Our next game, Sasikiran, K - Lu Shanglei, saw a long theoretical line which was previously considered extremely dangerous for Black. Indeed, Lu Shanglei's innovation 15...h5?! definitely wouldn't change this assessment:

Moreover, Black was close to losing the game till move 25, when Krishnan drastically changed the favorable route of game with 25.Bxe5? At the end it was GM Sasikiran who has to be satisfied with sharing the point.

At the moment 13...Bb7 seems to be the only adequate way of handling the position.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7, 13..0-0 [B99]

Our last game, Sutovsky, E - Huschenbeth, N, saw Emil employing the new 16.Kb1!?:

As the route of this game proves, this quiet move can be very dangerous if the second player is unprepared. The really critical moment came on move 17, when Niclas played 17...e5? and was quickly crushed. Instead, 17...exf5! looks perfectly playable for Black and should be tested soon.

See you next month, Michael

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