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It was a pleasure for me to play an exciting Najdorf game in the recent European Club Cup, so this game is included in the Update. This time we have a few relatively rare, but interesting sidelines.

Download PGN of October ’22 Open Sicilian games

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Sveshnikov 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 [B33]

The game Zhu, J - Abdumalik, Z saw Black opt for the relatively fresh approach with 9...a6, followed by 12...f5:

Jiner responded with the rare 13.b4, and after 13...f4 White's k-side became somewhat cramped. Luckily for Jiner, her higher-rated opponent overestimated the straightforward plan of attacking the h2-pawn, and at some point Black's heavy pieces were stuck on the k-side. As a result, White soon won the d6-pawn and the game.

At the moment, 13.Nc4!? looks like the main challenge for Black in this line.

Taimanov 5.Bf4 [B44]

The original setup with 5.Bf4 has gained popularity after the Candidates tournament. This time in Murzin, V - Chigaev, M an important theoretical position was reached after 9.Nd5:

It looks like Maksim was well-prepared in this line, as he came up with the exciting novelty 9...Nxe4! It leads to wild complications and seems to solve all of Black's strategic problems. However, a few moves later GM Chigaev wrongly played 15...Bg4? , and it turned to be a decisive mistake - eventually White converted his big material advantage.

Undoubtedly we should see more tests of 9...Nxe4! soon.

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

The next game, Liu, Q - Chen, Qi, saw the players enter a sharp theoretical position after 16...c5:

At this point White deviated from the previously covered Vachier Lagrave - Praggnanandhaa with 17.Bd3 Rc8 18.Bxc5. Perhaps Black got confused by this choice, so after the dubious novelty 18...Rc6?! White managed to consolidate and maintain the extra pawn. This game was full of mutual mistakes, but White's victory was well-deserved.

Undoubtedly, 18...Be4! should be played, and then Black's position seems acceptable.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.Kb1!? [B67]

In recent years the relatively rare 9.Kb1!? has became reasonably popular. In particular, it was successfully employed by Anish Giri in a couple of games. The key position after 11.f3 occurs in 2 games in this Update.

First, in Fedorchuk, S - Iskandarov, M Black opted for 11...Rc8 12.h4 h6:

As a result, Black's king was left in the centre and White managed to obtain a harmonious setup. At some point Sergey went astray with 18.Rhe1?!, which could have led to an unclear position. Luckily for GM Fedorchuk, his opponent quickly returned the favor with 19 ...Qb8?! and eventually White won with a direct attack.

In another game, Cheparinov, I - Kozul, Z, the experienced Rauzer player went for 11...0-0 12.h4 Rc8, which he had already employed in the past:

It looks like Ivan was well-prepared for this, and after 13.Ne2!? Bb5 14.Nd4 Black's counter-attacking chances were limited. The critical moment of the game came very soon, when 16...d5? allowed White to quickly develop a crushing attack.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bc4 Be6 [B90]

The next game, Baklan, V - Petkov, M, saw the players enter the fashionable theoretical position that arises after 9...Nbd7:

Here Vladimir deviated from my game vs Delchev with 10.Nh4, and this novelty seemed to confuse Momchil. Black reacted wrongly with 10...Rc8?!, which allowed White to take control of d5. Vladimir was consistently increasing his positional advantage, but the inaccurate 23.g3?! spoiled the lion's part of his advantage, and eventually Black achieved a draw.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 11.g4 b5 12.g5 Nh5 [B90]

In the game Bokros, A - Roiz, M Albert deviated from the main theoretical paths with the rare 15.Na5:

This move doesn't seem to pose Black any problems, but had White played 17.Nxe7+ he would have kept an approximate balance. Instead, the ambitious 17.Bxg5? left White with a weak d5-pawn, that was eventually lost.

Undoubtedly White should try something else on move 15.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.Be2 [B97]

The last game, Xu, Yi - Xu, Xi, saw an interesting theoretical discussion in the fashionable line with 10.Be2. Black deviated from the previously covered Savitsky - Levin with 12...Ne5:

This move is quite solid, but it looks like White was well-prepared for it and came up with a strong novelty 14.Bh5+! The effect of this surprise did its job, and Black soon went astray with 17...Qa7? This was the really critical moment of the game - as at this point White returned the favor with 18.Qf2?? and ruined his position, when instead, 18.Qg5+ would have offered White a stunning attack.

See you next month, Michael

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