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Hello and welcome to the April update. I seem to be settling in to a kind of rhythm of focusing on particular lines one month, and then looking at a more varied sample the next, so this month there are lots of bits and bobs, with the best bits being the 2 Na3 bits, and the best bobs being the rest. Next month we will look more closely at 2 b3!? which is not at all straightforward to handle for Black, and is a good weapon for anybody looking to whip up a quick initiative with White.

Download PGN of April '06 Anti-Sicilian games

Tricky Move order

Before I forget, many thanks to John Watson, who pointed out that the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4.Qxd4 is normally called the 'Vasyukov':
«By every measure (and I'd guess the universal opinion of those who specialize in it) 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 is called the Vasyukov (sometimes spelled 'Vasiukov'). He dominated the theory with original ideas. Whether it's an Attack or Variation I don't know.»

John also had a query:
«Incidentally, what's the word on the move order 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 ? I haven't seen this taken seriously, but with some cooperation it might avoid 1e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 [the 'anti-Vasyukov' ?]. Of course Black has several options that look good enough but it might be nice to pin one down with authority.»

Thanks for the information and the question. The possibility of this move order hadn't occurred to me for a while, but I think there are two promising answers, neither or which wins by force, of course, but both of which would discourage me if I were White.

The first is 2...a6!? With the point that 3.Qxd4 can be met simply by 3...Nc6, and 3.Nxd4 Nf6 4.Nc3 e5! is thought to be a relatively favourable Sveshnikov for Black because Ndb5 is not possible, and Nf5 can be met comfortably with ...d5. White can try 3 c3!? But most of the good lines against the Morra Gambit involve ...a6 anyway, so this is not a problem. The second possibility is not quite as reliable as Black, but gains higher marks in terms of cheekiness. This is 2...h6!? With the idea that 3.Nxd4 Nf6 4.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 leaves White without 7.Bg5. However, White has other moves here, and, if none of them appeal, 3.c3!? is far more dangerous for Black in this case than after 2...a6 (though I would still prefer to be Black).

So I would say 2...a6 is the most accurate answer to this move order, and I would just add, as a note of caution, not to try 2...e5?! which looks clever when you see 3.Nxe5 Qa5+, but less so after 3.c3! when White has a favourable Morra Gambit.

Zvagintsev - 2 Na3 [B20]

What can I say? This move is alive and well. Rather than over-theorise at this stage of the opening's development, I think it is best to sit back and watch for a while.

Malakhov has joined Zvagintsev in the ranks of strong GMs who are willing to play this way with White, and I suspect he won't be the last. To be clear, 2.Na3 is not a great move, but nor is it a bad move, and it is not as audacious now as it was a few months ago. Black has to play the opening well not to emerge with a disadvantage. I offer some early thoughts on this line in the games: Zvagintsev - Ponomariov, Malakhov - Sasikiran and Malakhov - Nisipeanu.

2 a3 [B20]

This is every bit as cheeky as 2.Na3 but I suspect its shelf life will not be quite as long:

Nonetheless, occasionally it gives rise to sparkling games, as with the following: Williams - Duncan.

c3 Sicilian [B22]

Just when I think I have a sense of direction in the theory of the c3 Sicilian, I see games that highlight gaps in my knowledge of the opening. This was the case with the unusual 7.Bd2!? in Shaw - Sigfudsson:

and the highly ambitious 9...g6!? in Scripchenko - Lautier:

Grand Prix Attack [B23]

I included Hillarp - Persson-Kempinski mainly because the opening seemed relatively unusual and Tiger's play makes an elegant impression. I am not sure of the theoretical implications, but my impression is that Tiger's 5.e5!?, though dangerous, is not a serious problem if Black plays correctly:

Rossolimo [B30]

I think we will need to return to 3...Nf6 in a future update:

Chandler - Chernaiev is further evidence that this is one of Black's most promising answers to the Rossolimo.

Finally, my belated apologies for the tardiness of this update, and my advanced apologies for the tardiness of the next one. I am about to go to the Olympiad in Turin, so it is unlikely that my May update will be online until around June 10th.

Until then, Jonathan

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