2.c3 Sicilian [B22]
Black plays an unusual move order with 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 d6!? in Howell - Miroshnichenko. Grandmaster David Howell is one of the main practitioners of the 2.c3 Sicilian, but this move seemed to catch him a little off guard. Nevertheless, White got a little something until he fell for a little trick that handed Black the initiative, which he duly converted into victory.
After 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Be2 cxd4 7.cxd4 e6 White plays the slightly inaccurate 8.h3. Black takes advantage of this with a thematic idea: 8...Bb4+ 9.Nc3 Bxf3! 10.Bxf3 Qc4!:
This reminds me of the Scotch Gambit! Black equalizes fairly easily, but White was not worse and when Black rushed to simplify his position he came undone rather quickly. See Khamrakulov - Mogranzini.
The line 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bb3 has its adherents, and this move can be dangerous if Black is not careful. In Rabiega - Agopov Black played an ambitious but risky line with 8...dxe5 9.d5 Na5 10.Nc3 f6, and when he neglected to kill the dangerous b3-bishop in good order White quickly seized the initiative.
Closed Sicilian [B25]
A popular line at club level is 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e5 7.Nh3. One point is that after 7...Nge7:
8.0-0 0-0?! (8...Nd4! is better) 9.f5! is very dangerous for Black. In Larino Nieto-Stefansson, White jumped the gun with 8.f5?! As the game shows, after 8...gxf5 9.Qh5 h6! Black has ample defensive resources because he has not yet castled. Sometimes defence wins.
Probably the most theoretical line of the Closed Sicilian begins with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3:
Now preventing d3-d4 with 9...Nd4 allows 10.e5!? which we will look at in a future update. A popular way to avoid these lines is with the less theoretical (for now!) 9...b6!?. In Starostits - Ki. Georgiev after 10.Bf2 Black plays 10...Rb8 11.Qd2 e5!? Reaching a good Botvinnik setup. In a drawish-looking position Georgiev unleashes a fantastic exchange sacrifice that quickly trips up his lower rated opponent.
Rossolimo Variation [B30]
After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Nc3 we have not looked at 5...a6!? Even though this is not uncommon (5...Nd4 is Black's other main possibility):
In Felgaer - Prasca Sosa White correctly opens the position with 6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 when White must use his initiative, otherwise Black can look forward to a future with the bishop pair. Here White plays very creatively and offers a somewhat speculative piece sacrifice. As often happens, when Black declines White's initiative becomes overwhelming.
Moscow Variation [B51]
There are two successes for White this month, and they are both rather unusual. In Jones-S.Williams Black plays the speculative 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Ba4 c4 8.Bc2 Ng4 9.b3 b5 10.bxc4 bxc4 11.Qe2 Nge5 which was tried by Ivanchuk against Svidler a few months back. After 12.Na3 Nxf3+ 13.gxf3 Ne5 14.Nxc4 Williams introduces 14...Bb5!? (Ivanchuk played 14...Nxc4 15.Qxc4 e6). All of this looks a bit fishy to me, but Black has 1.5/2 now after Jones played 15.Nxe5? which looks exciting...but fails.
I like to harp on about move orders in this variation, and here we have another example of Black getting punished for not getting it right. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.c3 6.Ba4, Black keeps delaying ...Nf6, which would hit the e4-pawn, and soon runs into trouble. After the further inaccuracies 6...c4?! 7.Bc2 Bg4 8.h3 Bh5 9.Na3 b5 10.Qe2 e5?!11.d3! cxd3 12.Bxd3:
Black is just about lost. See the crushing upset Sethuraman - Dreev.
Until next month, David