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Unsurprisingly games from the Russian Championship and the Olympiad rather dominate this month. I can't offer anything so attractive as Ivanchuk's lovely win against Wang Hao, although his win against Vachier Lagrave was no mean effort either.

Download PGN of September '12 Open Sicilian games

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The Sveshnikov 9 Nd5, 11 c4 [B33]

Attention after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 rather remains fixed on 9 Nd5 Be7 10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 c4, but 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 f5 11 c4!? was recently resurrected by Volokitin and may appeal to the materialist. After the topical line and then 11...b4 12 Nc2 0-0 White often fianchettoes, but he prefers the simple 13 Be2 in Bauer - Moiseenko:

Following 13...a5 14 0-0 Bg5 15 Qd3 Be6 16 Rad1 Black is extremely solidly placed if he swaps on d5, but Moiseenko prefers to maintain the tension with 16...Kh8!? and eventually induces some inaccuracies, although it's only a late blunder which costs the unfortunate French Grandmaster the game.

The Kan 5 Bd3 Bc5 [B42]

The line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Bd3 Bc5 was pretty topical in the Russian Championship. After 6 Nb3 Ba7 7 0-0 Nc6 Sergey Karjakin switched from 8 Qg4 to the slower approach with 8 Qe2 d6 9 Be3:

Black is very solid here and was never in any real danger after 9...e5 10 Bxa7 Rxa7 11 Nc3 Nf6 in Karjakin - Vitiugov, but Potkin's play against Vitiugov suggests that White may be able to obtain a small edge with some extremely accurate play in a Maroczy set-up.

An important alternative for Black is 6...Be7, but after 7 Qg4! Bf6 (fashionable, but not necessarily better than 7...g6) 8 Qg3! Nc6 9 Nc3 Nge7 10 Bf4 e5 11 Bd2 d6 I rather like White's chances:

The Kosintseva sisters like to go 12 h4 here, but Karjakin refines their approach with 12 0-0-0!? en route to winning a miniature in Karjakin - Flores.

The Four Knights [B45]

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 if White wants to avoid a Sveshnikov then 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 e5 Nd5 8 Ne4 Qc7 9 f4 is the way to go. Black's main move has been 9...Qb6, but 9...Qa5+ has received some attention of late. However, after 10 c3 Be7 11 Bd3 f5 12 exf6! Nxf6 13 Nxf6 Bxf6 14 0-0 White obtains a pull:

This was converted in exemplary fashion in Grischuk - Andreikin, so it would seem that Black should either go back to 9...Qb6 or explore 12...gxf6!?.

The Taimanov 8 a3 [B48]

A tricky little move after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Be2 Nf6 is 8 a3!?, since by no means every Taimanov player is happy to go into a Scheveningen set-up, even if some of the leading exponents, like Movsesian, are. In any case I feel that 8...b5!? may well be Black's best move, since the white position is rather easy to play after 8...Be7 9 g4 d6 10 g5 Nd7 11 h4, a highly logical novelty introduced in Bologan - Munoz. Black countered well enough with 11...Na5! 12 Qd2 b5 when...

...13 Nf5!? was a shocking blow, if a thematic enough idea, but even this didn't promise White more than reasonable play for his piece.

The Classical Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer 7...a6, 9 f4 [B67]

An important branching of the ways occurs after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2. I've finally taken a look at the idea of meeting 7...Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0 9 f4 h6 with 10 h4!?, although our main game features the other main line, 7...a6 8 0-0-0 Bd7 9 f4 b5 10 Bxf6 gxf6 11 Kb1 Qb6:

Just two months ago I was rather critical of young Daniil Dubov's choice of line against Alekseev and while I did suggest a clear improvement for Black, I was by no means certain it was sufficient. Dubov, though, looked deeper and used the improvement to have the better of a draw with a prestigious opponent in Svidler - Dubov.

The Najdorf: 6 g3 [B91]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 g3 is never going to be hugely fashionable or critical, but after 6...e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 Bg2 an important trend is for an early ...b5. That can be played without delay or after 8...0-0 9 0-0 when 9...b5!? 10 a4 b4 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 Qxd5 Ra7 13 Be3 Be6 14 Qd3 Rb7 reaches something of a tabiya:

15 Rfc1!? was introduced in Ponomariov - Safarli, where 15...Qc7 rather walked into 16 c3, with advantage White, but whether he is doing so well after 15...a5!? 16 c3 Nd7 isn't clear.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5, 7...Qc7 [B96]

Vachier Lagrave has plenty of experience with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qc7 and Ivanchuk has also employed this line as Black, so Ivanchuk - Vachier Lagrave was always going to be a struggle to sit up and take note of. After 8 Bxf6 gxf6 9 Qd2 the solid approach is 9...Nc6 followed by ...Bd7 and long castling, when Black may be able to equalise with care, or White may retain a small pull. More adventurous is 9...b5 10 Bd3 Bb7:

To my surprise 11 0-0!? was a novelty from Ivanchuk. It may well not promise White any advantage, but the Ukrainian superstar followed up a deep piece sacrifice on d5 by blowing away the young Frenchman.

Until then, Richard

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