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Hello everyone,
No doubt the World Cup is probably the most spectacular event of the year, from many points of view. Therefore, half of the games here were selected from Tbilisi. Even though 4 games ended in a draw this time, almost all of them saw uncompromising Sicilian battles. Enjoy!

Download PGN of September ’17 Open Sicilian games

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Kan/Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.a3!? [B48]

We start with Grischuk, A - Cori, J. The match wasn't easy for the higher-rated player, but in this decisive game Alexander managed to crush his opponent in great style. In the theoretical position after 7.a3:

Black committed the common mistake 7...Nf6?!, letting White increase his initiative on the k-side with 8.f4!. The next unsuccessful decision was 9...Nxd4?!, which invited new trouble, but had Jorge then played 14...0-0-0 Black's position would still be playable. Instead, 14...Qc5?! allowed Alexander to achieve an important victory rather quickly.

In general 7.a3!? isn't toothless at all, but 7...b5! offers Black adequate counterplay.

Scheveningen without ...0-0, 8.Qd2 Bd7 9.f4 [B84]

In the next game, Kulaots, K - Vitiugov, N, the players entered a relatively rare line in the Scheveningen, when Kaido came up with the dubious innovation 12.g4?:

and quickly got into a lost position. Luckily for GM Kulaots his higher-rated opponent was far from his best, so after committing a few serious mistakes it was Nikita who should have been happy with a draw. A really exciting game with mutually missed opportunities.

Regarding the opening, Black's way of handling the position looks perfectly playable, but 11.Nb3! should definitely be tested more often.

Najdorf 6.Nb3 [B90]

The next game, Mamedov, R - Iniyan, P, saw an interesting theoretical discussion in Bartel's line with 6.Nb3.

In the above diagram position after 13.Na5 Black came up with a natural novelty 13...Bd5, and took the game into a complex endgame, where White had sufficient compensation for 2 pawns, but no more. In general a well-played game by both players, but at the end Rauf missed a great opportunity to press.

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

In my opinion the next game, Duda, J - Kovalyov, A, has exceptional theoretical value. In the well-known theoretical position after 14...Nbxd5 (which was previously covered in Carlsen - So, see the archives) GM Duda played 15.Nc6!:

To be honest, now Black's position seems very dangerous even after the best 16...Nxb4, while 16...Nxe3?! made it even worse. The critical moment came on move 19, when GM Duda started to err and eventually spoiled all his advantage. Instead, had he played 19. Nc6! the position would be lost for Black.

Well, the ball is definitely in Black's court now.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.f3 Be6 8.Be3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 [B90]

Another interesting theoretical discussion took place in Demchenko, A - Areshchenko, A, where the Russian Grandmaster employed the fresh idea 12.a3!?:

A few moves later Alexander followed my recommendation from Gabrielian - Kokarev and played 14...Nb6. The really critical moment of this exciting game came on move 19, when GM Areshchenko didn't manage to stand the pressure and went for the passive 19...Rg8?, when instead 19...Rg5! would have offered him excellent play.

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

In our next game, Anand, V - Kovalyov, A, Anton tried to deviate from the main theoretical paths with 8...h5?!:

His great opponent reacted with a quiet plan involving 9.Be2 and quickly got a big advantage. Vishy's play was perfect till move 23, when his mistaken piece sacrifice drastically changed the route of game. A painful defeat for GM Vishy Anand, who was knocked out.

Najdorf 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 [B91]

Another important novelty was employed in the encounter Vidit, S - Areschenko, A. The position after 9.Nd5 contains a definite strategic danger for Black, as was already previously illustrated in a few games on our site:

However, this time GM Areschenko was able to solve his problems with 11...Rb7! After this innovation Black got a comfortable position à la Sveshnikov and even managed to bring the dark-squared bishop to c5. Alas, after that Alexander started to err, and the game was decided by a blunder on move 33. Well, even so, the brilliant 34.Rb8!! still looks impressive.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Qd3 [B92]

The last game, Nepomniachtchi, I - Karjakin, S, saw White employing the rare 10.Bd2!?:

It looks like Black's standard reaction 11...Bxd5 12.exd5 Nc5 yields White more attacking chances than after the main 10.Be3, as was illustrated by Ian's 15th move 15.Qh3! After this Black was under strong pressure on the k-side, and Sergey only managed to release it after 19.Rh3? At the end, it was Ian who was lucky to achieve a draw by perpetual.

Anyway, at the moment 10.Bd2!? looks rather promising and needs to be checked more in practice.

See you next month, enjoy! Michael

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