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Hello everyone,
There were so many exciting events this last month that selecting 8 games was a tough task. I think that this is the first time that all the games were played in different tournaments. In my opinion this update has exceptional theoretical value. In particular, after Demchenko's novelty 22...e5! this line of the Rauzer looks acceptable for Black.

Download PGN of September ’18 Open Sicilian games

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Taimanov English Attack 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Bb4 9.f3 Ne7 [B48]

We start with Svetushkin, D - Miladinovic, I, where the players entered the well-forgotten theoretical position after 10...d5:

Dmitry responded with 11.Bg5!?, which seems the most challenging, since Black has to accept the pawn sacrifice, and then his king is stuck in the centre. The critical moment came on move 15, when Igor went astray with 15...Nc6? and was convincingly defeated.

No doubt 15...f5 must be played, and then White has to choose between several promising possibilities, but Black's position doesn't look too bad anyway.

Taimanov 7.Qf3 Ne5 8.Qg3 h5 [B48]

The next game, Bacrot, E - Maze, S, saw Black employing the relatively rare 9...Ng4!?:

In reply Etienne came up with the novelty 10.Bd2, and managed to pose Black definite practical problems. Indeed, 12...Bb7?! looked the most natural, but it turned out to be inaccurate and invited some trouble. After that Sebastien was nicely outplayed and got into a lost position after 22 moves. However, Etienne's 23.Rhd1? prolonged the intrigue till the end of the game, even though Black's position looked suspicious the whole time.

At the moment, 9...Ng4!? looks perfectly playable for Black, so maybe 9.0-0-0 is more precise than 9.f4.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 7...a6 8.0-0-0 Be7 9.f4 Bd7 10.Nf3 b5 [B69]

We proceed to Pena Gomez, M - Demchenko, A, where in this long theoretical line Anton employed the fresh idea 16...Na5!?:

This was recommended by me earlier, in my notes to Elistratov - Grischuk. It looks like White responded in the most challenging way, but after the innovation 22...e5! GM Demchenko managed to prove that Black's play on the q-side fully compensated his structural drawbacks. Moreover, after the careless 33.Bxe4? White was very close to defeat, even though the game did eventually end in a draw.

Najdorf/Scheveningen 6.h3 e6 7.g4 h6 8.Bg2 [B81/90]

The next game, Shirov, A - Paravyan, D, saw Black trying to deviate from the main theoretical paths with 12...Qc7:

Alexei responded with the ambitious 13.Rad1 b5 14.e5, and this was fully justified after 14...d5?!. Now, had White played 15.Nxd5! it would have been very difficult for David to withstand the attack, but GM Shirov wrongly went for another tempting idea with 15.f5? and soon got into trouble himself. At the end the game ended in a draw as a result of mutual mistakes and very spectacular play.

Regarding the opening, 14...dxe5! looks acceptable for Black, but I wonder what GM Paravyan's idea was in case of 13.Qd2!?. I expect further practical tests of 12...Qc7 soon.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3, 12.g5 Nh5 [B90]

Another theoretical discussion took place in Kobalia, M - Jakovenko, D.

In the diagram position after 14.exd5 Dmitry employed the relatively unexplored 14...f5, although this could have transposed into the usual paths had White played 15.gxf6. However, it looks like Mikhail's reply 15.Rg1! is stronger and seems to pose Black serious strategic problems. In fact, even though Dmitry's further play wasn't bad, he still lost the game without a real fight.

At the moment, the more common 14...f6 seems most attractive for Black.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 [B94]

The next game, Pichot, A - Bellahcene, B, saw the players enter into another fashionable theoretical position, that was already explored on our site on several occasions:

Alan's 15.Nd2 definitely looks challenging, and then after a few natural moves from both sides the players came to a critical point on move 18. At this moment Bilel deviated from the previous encounter with 18...Kh7?!, which gave White time to develop an attack on the k-side. Then Alan also went astray with 20.Qg2?!, but eventually he managed to gain access to his opponent's king and win the game anyway.

Undoubtedly 15.Nd2 needs to be tested more. At the moment it looks like 18...Na4! might offer Black acceptable play.

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

The next top-level game, Grischuk, A - Vachier Lagrave, M, has exceptional theoretical value for one of the most fashionable lines in the Najdorf. In the position after 17.Rhg1:

Maxim introduced the important novelty 17...Qb6!, which I suggested in my notes to his previous encounter vs Anish Giri.

The further natural play from both sides led to a critical position after 22...Qa4, where Alexander reasonably decided to force a draw by repetition with 23.Nc3. Had he played 23.Qe2 the result would be unpredictable, though Black should be fine.

In my opinion the real test of Maxim's innovation would be seen had White played 18.Rxg4, and then major complications would follow.

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

In the last game, Savitsky, S - Levin, Ev, White chose the relatively uncommon 10.Be2, which doesn't seem to pose Black any problems, but still contains some venom:

The first critical moment of the game came on move 14, when Evgeny wrongly returned the extra piece with 14...0-0? and soon got into big trouble. Moreover, his next mistake 18...Rxf6? could have led to a quick disaster, but then Sergey returned the favor with 20.Rb3?, so Black managed to achieve a draw.

Since Black has a few decent ways of handling the position after 10.Be2, I don't expect further practical tests of this line at a high level, but it can be used from time to time as a surprise weapon.

See you next month, Michael

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