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Hello everyone,
As a member of the Israeli National team I was happy to take part in the Online Olympiad, and I think that one of my games is attractive enough to include in this update. On the other hand, all the other games are selected from real, 'offline' tournament practice. Hopefully, this is gonna be a positive tendency!

Download PGN of September ’21 Open Sicilian games

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

In the game Nikitenko, M - Roiz,M White employed the relatively uncommon 8.Be3!?:

This tricky choice made me quickly go astray with 9...Be7?! and Black came under strong positional pressure. Luckily, my opponent soon returned the favor with 15.Nb6?! and eventually I took over the initiative and won after an interesting struggle.

Undoubtedly, the real test of 8.Be3!? would be seen had Black played 9...b5!

Kalashnikov 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 Be7 [B32]

The game Aizenberg, B - Bosiocic, M saw another fashionable line in the Kalashnikov. In the position after 10...0-0:

Benny went for the quiet 11.Bd3, and this choice paid off as Black soon committed the serious positional mistake 14...Bxd5? As a result, White obtained a powerful initiative due to his strong unopposed light-squared bishop and eventually managed to score a nice victory.

Despite such a defeat, the line with 7...Be7 still looks perfectly playable for Black.

Kan 5.a3 [B41]

In the game Antipov, M - Quparadze, G White managed to surprise his experienced opponent with the rare 5.a3:

Giga responded with the solid, but somewhat passive 6...d5 and came under some positional pressure. However, had Black played 12...Qxd1 the resulting endgame would be acceptable, but instead the impulsive 12...Nd4? quickly led to a collapse.

I expect to see more practical tests of 5.a3 very soon.

Taimanov 6.Be3 a6 7.g4 [B48]

The game Karjakin, S - Rapport, R saw an interesting theoretical discussion in one of the sharpest and most fashionable lines of the Taimanov. In the position after 11.Rg1:

Richard deviated from the previously covered Grandelius - Brunner with 11...Qc4!? It looks like Sergey didn't analyze this position deeply, and soon White played the faulty 14.Bg2?! As a result, Black's knight was perfectly placed in the centre, and Richard managed to take over the initiative. The further play was full of mutual mistakes, but still Sergey would be satisfied with sharing the point.

Regarding the opening, I find 12.Ng3!? somewhat more attractive for White.

Scheveningen, Keres Attack 6.g4 h6 7.Rg1 Nc6 [B81]

The next game, Grandelius, N - Ftacnik, L, is a good illustration of the danger of allowing the classical Keres Attack nowadays.

I previously suggested that 8.Be3!? was one of White's most promising setups, but it wasn't seen on the site till now. Lubomir's 9...d5?! turned out to be a serious mistake, after which Black was on the verge of collapse. Even though Nil's further play was far from the best, his eventual victory was logical: Black's pieces were too undeveloped during the entire game.

At the moment I can hardly recommend anything attractive for Black after 8.Be3!?

Najdorf 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 [B90]

The game Svidler, P - Shankland, S saw Sam demonstrate his decent opening preparation in the 6.Bd3 line. In the position after 10...Ne5:

Peter came up with the natural novelty 11.a4, planning to seize space on the q-side. In response, GM Shankland correctly played 11...g6! and quickly obtained a harmonious position. It was a well-played game by both players, and a draw was agreed because of a repetition.

At the moment, 7...Be6!? looks like a good choice.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 [B90]

More deep opening knowledge was demonstrated in Aronian, L - Van Foreest, J, where Levon entered a relatively uncommon position with 12.Nd5:

Perhaps Jorden wasn't familiar with this system as he immediately went astray with 12...Nxd5?, which allowed White to occupy the key c6-square. White's positional advantage was close to winning, but the inaccurate 28.Nc6? could have spoiled a lot. Luckily for Levon, his lower-rated opponent was the last to err.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7... 12. g5 Nh5 [B90]

The last game, Dominguez, L - Vachier Lagrave, M, was also practically decided by excellent home preparation. The players quickly entered a well-known theoretical position after 19...exf4:

which was previously covered in Leko - Giri. At this point Lenier introduced a powerful new idea 20.h4! followed by 21.Bd3!? and soon the critical position was reached. The surprise effect did its job, and Maxime immediately erred with 23...Qd7?, and was eventually defeated by a direct attack.

Even though 23...Qe8! seems to solve most of the problems, I still expect more practical tests of 20.h4! soon.

See you next month, Michael

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