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Hello everyone,
I was lucky to participate in the recent European Club Cup in Macedonia - it was an exciting event, where many top players were involved. Most of the games in this Update were played there, but there is also 3 others that are not from online tournaments - a great tendency! Lots of decisive games, and both draws resulted from very sharp and uncompromising battles, so I hope you will enjoy it!

Download PGN of October ’21 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Bg5 12.Nc2 0-0 [B33]

In our first game, Asadli, V - Dubov, D, Daniil employed the relatively rare and well prepared idea 14...Kh8!?:

It seems that White's somewhat modest reaction, 15.Be2, came as a surprise to GM Dubov, as he immediately went astray with 15...f5? Even though Vugar also erred with 17.Nce3? he still had a great winning chance at the end. A short, but exciting game, that ended in a draw by repetition.

I am pretty sure that we will see more tests of 14...Kh8!? soon, while White's most challenging option seems to be 15.Bc4.

Kan 5.a3 [B41]

In the game Lomasov, S - Rublevsky, S Semen employed the original 5.a3!? which was successfully employed by GM Antipov (see the game from the last Update). GM Rublevsky reacted with the natural 5...b5, but it looks like this was exactly what his opponent expected.

In fact, after the strong 9.b4! Black came under strong positional pressure. Still, had Sergei played 12...f6 Black's position would be worse, but playable, while 12...a5? led to a quick collapse. This was a real masterpiece from IM Lomasov!

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

The next game, Navara, D - Abasov, N, saw an interesting theoretical discussion in the long mainline, where Nijat has a lot of experience. In the well-known position after 15...Qxc5:

David played 16.Qd6 (the most common move statistically), that leads to an endgame where Black has decent compensation for a pawn. Still, this kind of endgame was analyzed by GM Navara in detail, and his deep preparation paid off - Nijat quickly erred with 26...Be4?.

Despite such a loss, this line looks perfectly playable for Black both after 22...g5, and 22...Ra3!?

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7.Qd3 Bd7 [B62]

In the game Delchev, A - Shevchenko, K White deviated from the main theoretical paths with 8.Ndb5!?:

It feels like Kirill had good preparation in this line, since he came up with the great novelty 14...Bg7! Black soon obtained a comfortable position a-la Sveshnikov, but the inaccurate 17...Ra7? could have led to a strategically difficult position. Luckily for GM Shevchenko, his opponent returned the favor with 18.Bg2? and was eventually convincingly out-played.

In general, 8.Ndb5!? doesn't seem to pose Black big problems, but it might be used as a surprisie weapon.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 8...Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Kb1 b4 [B67]

In my opinion, the next game, Mastrovasilis, D - Maghsoodloo, P, has exceptional theoretical value. In the position after 13.Ne2. that was previously analyzed in Anand - Demchenko Parham played 13...Qb6?!:

White reacted with the most natural 15.Ng3?, but this is actually a serious mistake! As a result, after 15....h5 16.Bc4 Na5 Black obtained decent counter-play on the q-side. The really critical moment came on move 21, when Dmitry wrongly played 21.Rxd1? and quickly lost. Instead, 21.Qxd1! would have maintained the balance.

Regarding the opening, 13...Qb6?! seems dubious in view of 15.Qh6! - it only occurred in 2 games so far, but it looks like a clear refutation of Parham's way.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 8...Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Kb1 Qb6 [B67]

In the game Brkic, A - Bacrot, E Ante decided to deviate from the main theoretical paths with 14.Bd3!?:

In response, Etienne came up with a novelty 14...Rdg8, but it looks like this idea wasn't analyzed by him in detail. In fact, after the most natural 15.g3 Black committed several serious mistakes one after another, wand already 18...Qc5? let White decide the game by direct attack.

Overall, I find 14.Bd3!? promising, but it hardly poses Black the most problems.

Najdorf 6.a4 e5 [B90]

In the next game, Tari, A - Firouzja, A, Aryan demonstrated his decent theoretical knowledge in the relatively quiet line with 6.a4. In the rare theoretical position after 9...Be7:

he went for the interesting pawn sacrifice 10.Nd5!? Alireza's decision not to accept it was natural, but Black quickly came under strong positional pressure on the q-side. The critical moment came on move 19, when 19.b4? made it possible for Black to regroup his forces and make some counter-play. Alas, GM Tari didn't manage to withstand the pressure, and after 23.Bf4? the game practically lost its intrigue.

Undoubtedly, 8.Nd2!? might be annoying for an unprepared opponent.

Najdorf 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 [B90]

In the last game, Svidler, P - Donchenko, A, in a well-known theoretical position Black chose the rare 9...Bg4!?:

Peter reacted with 10.Be2 Be6 11.Nd5, similar to the main line. In comparison to 9...Be6, Black managed to avoid the exchange of his light-squared bishop, though after 13.f4 White still had some initiative on the k-side.

The further play was full of mutual mistakes, but it feels like Alexander shouldn't have been satisfied to share the point at the end.

Anyway, 9...Bg4!? looks like a good alternative to 9...Be6.

See you next month, Michael

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