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Yours truly was happy to once again take part in the Olympiad (in Baku) after an 8-year break. It was a really exciting event with lots of interesting games. Therefore it's not really surprising that half of the games in this Update were played in Baku. I suppose that this update would again suit most Najdorf Players (7 games!)

Download PGN of September ’16 Open Sicilian games

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Taimanov 5...a6 6.Bf4!? [B46]

The first game of our Update, Andreikin, D - Zubov, A saw Dmitry employing the somewhat rare, but quite dangerous line with 6.Bf4!? Even though Alexander's play can easily be improved, the position after 9...Nf6 still looks quite unpleasant for Black:

Therefore, Dmitry's nice victory is a serious cause of concern for Taimanov fans.

English Attack 8.Qd2 b4 [B80]

Our next game Dominguez Perez, L - Grandelius, N saw a theoretical discussion in the relatively rare line with 9.Nd1, where Nils has some previous experience. It looks like Lienier's novelty 10.g4!? doesn't pretend to refute the line, but it definitely contains some poison:

For instance, the correct 10...e5 followed by exchanging the light-squared bishop isn't a trivial decision at all. Instead, 10...h6 as played by GM Grandelius led to a risky position, though Black was able to achieve a draw in the end.

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

The next exciting encounter, Nedev, T - Amonatov, F, saw White employing the very ambitious setup with 10.g4 a5 11.Bb5!?:

I have to admit that this way of limiting Black's q-side counter-play seems safest, so White's position shouldn't be worse, as occurred after 11.0-0-0?, say (see Khismatullin - Sjugirov, from the archives). Moreover, had Trajko played 17.h4! it would have been very difficult for Black to develop any counter-play and avoid the positional pressure. Alas, GM Nedev was in far from his best form, so after committing a few more mistakes he was crushed by a direct attack.

Back to the opening, I have a few suggestions for Black, such are 13...Nd7!? and 16...g6!?, so I expect further practical tests in the position after 11.Bb5.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 b5 [B90]

In our next game, Predke, A - Kovalyov, A, Black came up with the ambitious novelty 8...Nxe4, which was briefly analyzed in my notes to Vachier Lagrave - Ortiz Suarez:

The real test for this 'greedy' continuation would be 9.a4!?, whereas the game's 9.g3 doesn't pretend at more than sufficient compensation for a pawn. Moreover, the inaccurate 16.Nec3?! then gave Anton a nice chance to seize the initiative, but he underestimated White's attacking potential and eventually lost the game.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nf3 [B91]

In the next game, Safarli, E - Brkic, A, White tried to confuse his opponent with the original 7.Nf3:

In my opinion, this retreat cannot pose Black any problems, but it can be used as a surprise weapon. Indeed, Ante's reply 7...Qc7 doesn't seem optimal, but it would still have offered him a solid position had he played 9...Nbd7! Instead of that, the inaccurate 9...Be7 allowed White to benefit from an unusual knight route and seize the initiative. Despite Black's obvious mistakes in this game, Safarli's energetic play was still very impressive.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 [B91]

The top-level game Adams, M - Giri, A has exceptional theoretical value, since both players are experts in the recently fashionable line with 7.Nde2. For some reason 8...0-0 wasn't seen on our site before, though it is Black's 1st choice according to the statistics:

Most probably many players were not happy with the reply 9.a4, which heavily limits Black's active possibilities, but it looks like the knight's route to b4 can definitely solve these problems. In this game Michael went for 9.0-0, instead, but then after 9...b5 it was more difficult for White to occupy the key d5 spot. In fact, I do not see any moment when Anish could have faced any problems, and at the end it was even White who had to be happy with a draw.

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

In the game Azarov, S - Salem, A the players entered a very complex and interesting theoretical position after 13...g5. Now instead of 14.h4, which was earlier covered in Giri - Vachier Lagrave, Sergei came up with a dangerous new idea - 14.Bg2 Rb8 15.e5:

As the analysis proves, this pawn sacrifice is fully correct and poses Black definite practical problems. The really critical moment of the game came on move 22, when Black over-optimistically went for 22...Qxg4?. This could be a decisive mistake, but GM Azarov didn't manage to punish his opponent for his greediness and eventually even lost the game.

In general, the position after 15.e5 seems perfectly playable for Black, but it's hard to find the precise defensive moves without home preparation.

Najdorf Poisoned Pawn 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2, 12.fe Nfd7 [B96/7]

The last game, Wei Yi - Lu Shanglei, saw another theoretical discussion in this long and well-explored Poisoned Pawn line. The position after 17.Bg3 is well-known to our subscribers, since it has already occurred in a few games from our PGN Archive:

However, 17...Qd5!? as played in this game is a new move for us, and probably it is the easiest way of solving the problems. The players were following the recent game Najer - Vachier Lagrave (where this move was successfully employed by MVL) till move 23, when Wei Yi tried to improve over Evgeny's play with 24.Kf2. As the analyses prove, this idea can hardly pose Black any problems - in fact, Lu Shanglei's reply wasn't necessarily the best. Moreover, White's play was tougher from a practical point of view, so it's not that surprising that Wey Yi didn't manage to maintain the balance and got into serious trouble. At the end, he missed a golden opportunity to save the game, but Black's victory in this game still looks well-deserved.

The Olympiad is over, but many exciting events are coming, such as the Tal Memorial.

See you next month! Enjoy! Michael

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