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2.b3 Sicilian 2...Nc6 3.Bb2 d6 [B20]
We start off with another little wrinkle in the offbeat 2.b3 variation:
First Morozevich, then Grischuk and Kramnik, and now Carlsen playing this move? It might be time to take things seriously! It's hard for me to believe White can strive for a genuine advantage with this move, but against slightly weaker, theoretical opposition, it's certainly a good practical choice.
Carlsen makes short work of his opponent, but make sure you check out the notes to this and the other recent 2.b3 games we've covered in case you want to take up this line, see Carlsen - Leitao.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, 5...Nc6, 6...d6 [B22]
Soors - Grandelius is the only c3 game I've chosen this month.
The diagram comes from a reasonably popular endgame line that Black can employ after 2.c3 Nf6. Like the similar attempt to get the queens off, this line gives White great chances to secure an endgame advantage, so long as he's accurate over the next half-dozen moves. Pay attention!
Rossolimo/Anti-Sveshnikov 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 g6 [B30]
Moving to 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6, I wanted to include the game Hector - Medvegy largely as an excuse to show you some analysis I've been working on after 4.Nc3 g6. This is an important line as it can arise from the Anti-Sveshnikov 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5, and indeed that's how this game reached the diagram:
You'll find plenty of powerful ideas in the notes to move 8, and in fact, a well-prepared wielder of the white bits can feel confident of catching out his opponent in the jungle of sharp tactics that can arise.
Rossolimo 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Re1 [B30]
Jones - Hamitevici displays my favourite line against 3...e6.
At first, White's play in the diagram might seem a little counterintuitive, voluntarily giving up the bishop pair and then switching to an Open Sicilian structure after all. However, Black will have a few problems to solve in finishing his development, while White's position plays itself. This game is a fantastically entertaining struggle, definitely worth a look, while the note to White's 13th move suggests that White is looking good from a theoretical perspective as well.
Rossolimo 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 [B31]
Sutovsky - Goryachkina features 3...g6, with Aleksandra trying out an interesting system by delaying her e-pawn advance:
The time saved on this manoeuvre enables her to preserve her king's bishop, and as far as I can tell, this should enable Black to neutralise White's normal strategies. Although White eventually wins this game, Black's choice of opening has won my approval for now.
Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 [B51]
Moving on to 2...d6 3.Bb5+, Jianu - Wojtaszek saw the Romanian adopt the old Maroczy setup against 3...Nd7.
This isn't my favourite choice as readers will well know, but it's a solid system and gets Carlsen's seal of approval. Jianu decides not to follow Carlsen-Anand from the last game of the World Championship, but by simply giving up the d6 pawn, Black was able to reach an easy endgame in which the two bishops provided sufficient compensation for the draw.
Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6 5.d4 [B51]
Our second Gawain - Game, against Eggleston, instead looks at the more tactically complex 4.0-0. The diagram can be reached either through this move order or 4.d4 Nf6 5.0-0, and leads to positions where a good knowledge of the subtleties can easily earn the first player some quick points:
In my experience, Sicilian players rarely bother to go too deeply into understanding these "theoretically equal" sidelines, which is exactly what an Anti-Sicilian aficionado wants to hear. I've decided to put in a bit of time in guiding you through the most important branches of this variation in the notes to this game, so make sure you don't skip the analysis!
Moscow 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4, 9.h3 [B52]
Finally, Carlsen - Nielsen is our second Antis game from the World Champ this month. Against his good friend, Magnus played the relatively harmless 9.h3 - okay, it was only a rapid game, after all.
In my opinion, Black has multiple ways to equalise against this move; see the notes to Black's 9th, 11th and 17th moves for my chief recommendations.
Ciao for now, Dave
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