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This time we will consider some relatively rare Sicilians but also the most theoretical Najdorf lines. Most games are selected from top-level events, the Online Olympiad and Carlsen's tournament.

Download PGN of September ’20 Open Sicilian games

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Kalashnikov 6.c4 Be6 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 [B32]

We start with Anand, V - Maghsoodloo, P, where Black employed the relatively fresh 8...g6!?:

This ambitious way of development leaves the d6-pawn more vulnerable, but offers Black more counter-attacking chances on the k-side. In fact, Vishy didn't manage to find a refutation, so after 13...b5! Black got a decent counterplay. The further interesting play was full of mutual mistakes, but one moment had to be mentioned: at the end Vishy missed the winning 33.Qa7!, and Parham won with a direct attack.

Sveshnikov 6.Nde2 [B33]

The next game, Andreikin, D - Zhigalko, S saw Dmitry go for the rare 6.Nde2 in order to surprise his experienced opponent at an early stage of the game. The logical reaction from Sergey led to a critical position after 12...Bb6:

At this point Dmitry played 13.Nd5 with the idea of a quick h2-h4, but the consistent 15.hxg5? led him to material losses after 15...Bd4! Luckily for GM Andreikin his lower-rated opponent failed to handle this position properly, so after committing a few mistakes it was Black who was defeated by a direct attack.

In my opinion, 13.Bc4!? offers White promising compensation, but in general 6.Nde2 shouldn't bother Sveshnikov players.

Classical Richter-Rauzer 6.Bg5 Bd7 7.Qd2 Rc8 8.f4 [B61]

The game Vokhidov, S - Bashirli, N saw an interesting theoretical discussion in one of the sharpest lines of the Classical with 6...Bd7. In the important endgame position after 15...Be7:

White twice went astray with 16.Bd3?! and then 17.Kb2? and soon got into a completely lost position. However, Nail failed to accurately convert his extra pawn into a full point, so that after 25...Ra8?! and 27...Rb8? White got back into the game. The really dramatic moment came at the end, when Shamsiddin played 36.Bd4??, allowing his opponent to promote.

In my opinion, this line is somewhat dangerous for Black, as 16.Bc4! seems to put him in an unpleasant position.

Scheveningen 5...a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 [B80]

The next top-level game, Ding Liren - Carlsen, M, saw White employ the relatively rare 8.a3!?:

A few moves later Ding Liren could have take the game into known paths with 12.h4, but instead he went for the quieter 12.Kb1. As a result, Black managed to quickly push ...d6-d5 and more or less solve his problems. On move 17 Magnus inaccurately played 17...Qc7?!, which could have allowed White to seize the initiative. Luckily for the World Champion, his opponent missed a few great attacking opportunities (such as 19.Nxe6!), and was eventually crushed by a direct attack. A short, but very exciting game!

Najdorf 6.a4 g6 [B90]

In the next game, Anand, V - Duda, J, White chose a quiet setup with 6.a4 in order to minimize risk. In the position after 11...Bxg4 Vishy deviated from the most challenging 12.Nd5! and soon came under some pressure along the c-file. Still, had he played 16.Qf2 Black could hardly pretend at claiming any superiority, while instead the careless 16.Rd2?! allowed GM Duda to take over the initiative and slowly outplay his great opponent.

Even though GM Anand was far from his best, Black's play in this game was very illustrative.

Najdorf 6.h3 b5 [B90]

In the game Sjugirov, S - Sarana, A the players entered the theoretical position after 8...Nc6:

which previously occurred in Abdumalik - Kotronias, see the archives. Sanan deviated from that game with 9.0-0 and after 11...Be7 White had to make a choice. In my opinion, the real test for the setup with 8...Nc6 would be seen had White played 12.Be3, whereas 12.a4 turned into a loss of tempo. A few moves later GM Sjugirov employed the unsuccessful innovation 15.Re1, which was followed by 16.f4? and soon got into a lost position. Alexei's technique wasn't perfect, but he was still lucky to win this game.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 h5 [B90]

Another somewhat uncommon line was seen in Nakamura, H - Carlsen, M, where Magnus played 12...Bh4+!?:

wasting a tempo in order to provoke the weakening g2-g3. On move 14 Hikaru chose an interesting positional concept with 14.Na5!? that hardly offers White anything special, but leads to a complex strategic struggle. His decision was fully justified: Hikaru managed to completely outplay his great opponent, and had he found 36.Rb8! or 37.c5! this would have been a real masterpiece! Instead, he soon went astray with 39.Rb8?, so at the end it was White who had to (successfully) struggle for a draw.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.Bb3 e6 9.Qd2 Be7 [B94]

Another theoretical discussion took place in our last game, Lagarde, M - Bosiocic, M. The position after 11.Rhe1 was previously seen on our site:

was previously seen on our site, but the most common 11...h6 is new for the archive. The next moves for both sides were very natural, and then Maxim came up with a novelty, 17.Nf5!?. I am pretty sure that the consequences were analyzed by him in detail, while Marian had to make his decision over the board. Alas, Black didn't manage to withstand the pressure, and 21...a5? led to a quick loss.

Despite such a defeat, 17.Nf5!? doesn't seem to pose Black serious problems.

See you next month, Michael

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