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One Anti-Sicilian system which retains a number of loyal adherents is the Moscow or 3 Bb5+ Variation. It's not received too much coverage on this site of late, and so I've decided to devote this update to developments in it whether Black opts for the ambitious 3...Nd7, the uncompromising 3...Nc6 or the solid 3...Bd7.

Download PGN of August '08 Anti-Sicilian games

The Moscow: 3...Nd7 [B51]

Meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ with 3...Nd7 remains a decent try if Black wants to tempt White forward towards a sharp struggle. We begin our coverage by examining the fairly recent development 4 d4 cxd4 5 Qxd4 a6 6 Bxd7+ Bxd7:

White does have the superior development here, but it's far from easy to crack the black position, as we'll see in Nguyen Anh Dung - Zhang Zhong.

These ...Bxd7 systems are one reason why White has been re-exploring the alternatives to an early d4 of late. One old, fairly positional system is 4 0-0 Nf6 5 Re1 a6 6 Bf1, but this is a bit too slow to really test Black who appears to be holding his own after 6...b6, as we'll see in Al Modiahki-Gelfand.

I quite like the idea of following in Kaufman's footsteps as White with 4 c3!? Nf6 5 Qe2 a6 6 Ba4:

This is quite a sensible approach, especially if White is happy enough with a Lopez-like struggle. That said, Black shouldn't be too troubled here if he has some idea of what to do and he should consider the active 6...c4!?, as well as the 6...Qc7 7 d3 g6 8 0-0 Bg7 of Chudinovskikh - Inarkiev.

The Moscow: 3...Nc6 [B51]

I think that it's correct to classify 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ Nc6 as part of the Moscow Variation, although obviously it often comes about via a Rossolimo move order. A recent trend is 4 Bxc6+!? bxc6 5 0-0:

This is a decent enough approach if one is happy to play a fairly unexplored position in which both sides have their trumps. Objectively, though, it's about equal, as we'll see Black demonstrating after 5...Bg4 in Hillarp Persson-Tiviakov.

Fashionable though 4 Bxc6 is, the main line after 3...Nc6 remains 4 0-0 Bd7 5 Re1 Nf6 6 c3 a6 and now we'll take a look at 7 Ba4. I've long quite liked 7...c4 here, but Peter Svidler has a large amount of experience in Ruy Lopez structures and so preferred 7...b5 8 Bc2 e5 in Ni Hua-Svidler:

However, Svidler's 9 h3 g6!? was rather ambitious and it's not clear that Black obtains wholly sufficient compensation for the pawn which he must lose after 10 d4 Bg7 11 dxc5! dxc5 12 a4.

The Moscow: 3...Bd7 [B52]

The main line of the Moscow Variation remains 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ Bd7 when 4 Bxd7+ Nxd7 is fairly common amongst grandmaster ranks, but not at lower levels. That might well be because play often leads to a Hedgehog, as it did in Malakhov - Kozul after 5 0-0 Ngf6 6 Qe2 e6 7 d4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Be7 9 c4 a6 10 b3 0-0 11 Bb2:

Objectively Black should be OK here, although without the light-squared bishops he may find it harder to break with ...d5 or ...b5, and needs to be a little more patient than Kozul was.

I can't believe that meeting 4...Qxd7 with 5 0-0 promises White any advantage, but this variation retains its adherents. A relatively decent follow-up is 5...Nc6 6 Re1 Nf6 7 b3, although Black should be able to equalize with both 7...e6 and 7...g6, as we'll see in Vachier Lagrave-Guilleux. If Black prefers to begin with 5...Nf6, thereby sidestepping the 5...Nc6 6 Re1 Nf6 7 d4!? gambit, White might try 6 e5 dxe5 7 Nxe5:

Black is, though, very solid here and should be fine whether he opts for Tony's 7...Qd6 or the equally solid 7...Qc8 of Christiansen - Milman.

That should have filled in a few gaps in our coverage of 3 Bb5+. Next month I'm delighted to say that David Vigorito will be here. Richard

Please post you queries on the Anti-Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions or queries.