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Two games from Carlsen this month: a win with Black where he was losing, and a loss with White where he was (probably) winning. But perhaps most importantly, we look at the miniature Caruana-Abdusattorov.

Download PGN of August ’23 Anti-Sicilian games

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Alapin with 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 [B22]

First off, a trio of Alapins starting with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5. The first was an effort by yours truly from the British Championships, continuing with 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 and now 6...b6. A few more natural moves brought us to the juncture after 11...Bb7:

In Ashton, A - Fernandez, D I had been looking to create winning chances against an opponent known to be extremely solid, which is probably easy enough against White’s more ambitious tries but required some ingenuity after the game’s 12.Bf4.

Next up, in Lintchevski, D - Vlasenko, M Black chose the more common 6...Nc6 instead, leading to a bit of a modern tabiya following 7.Bc4 d6 8.0-0 Be7 9.Qe2 0-0 10.Rd1 Bd7:

In blitz it is perhaps more testing to go for the dynamic 11.Nc3 here and assert that the damaged queenside pawns are of no importance. In classical chess I am more a fan of the game move 11.Bd2; one of the reasons for this game being selected despite the brief notes was that it was echoed nearly exactly a few days later. Another is to underscore my own preference for 6...b6 as Black.

Alapin with 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bc4 [B22]

Instead of 5.d4, Magnus Carlsen essayed the immediate 5.Bc4 in the recent encounter Carlsen, M - Caruana, F. Surprisingly, his almost equally renowned opponent went for the offbeat 5...Nb6 6.Bb3 c4, getting outplayed to the point where it seemed he might lose a miniature following 13.Na3:

It takes a special kind of talent to defend positions which are not sharp, but have quite reliably passed the +1 mark. This Caruana proceeded to do, and when his opponent over-pressed, even managed to seize his chances for the full point.

Closed Sicilian with 2...Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 [B23]

Next, I give a couple of recommendations for Black along the path to the tabiya reached after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nf3 Nxb5 5.Nxb5 a6 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 e5:

before investigating two of White’s important queen moves in the resulting position.

In Hari, M - Manish Anto, C White chose the more human 9.Qd3, achieving a good measure of control over the d5-square (by the standards of the genre) and had his opponent play ...Kh8 and almost immediately ...Kg8 back. So up to a certain point White’s play is very commendable, and then his opponent got right back into things with a well-calculated pawn sacrifice ...Bd8-a5. There is much more to this game than initially meets the eye.

Nimzovitch Variation with 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nc3 e6 5.Ne4 [B29]

A very sharp and modern line and a favourite of the young Uzbek player Nodirbek Abdusattorov. I recap some of the lines with 5.Nxd5 before moving onto the game continuation; perhaps the most interesting moment is on move 9 after Black has played 8...Qc7:

We are in practically new territory, with only 6 games played to date. The move chosen in Caruana, F - Abdusattorov, N was 9.Bd3, which while logical had never been seen before; I argue it may give Black good equalising chances especially compared with the exotic-looking 9.Rg1!?

Rossolimo with 3...e5 4.0-0 Bd6 [B30]

Building on last month’s Spanish theme was the heavyweight clash Giri, A - Carlsen, M, with the critical opening position perhaps occurring immediately after 4...Bd6:

I quite like both 5.c3 and 5.d4, and am less keen on the game’s 5.d3 from a theoretical as well as stylistic perspective. There follow some instructive move-order nuances from both sides, with the option of 13.Nh2 actually being a very useful one to bear in mind for these Spanish-type positions.

Anti-Najdorf Sicilian with 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 [B50]

Seeking freshness in a recent morning OTB game, I opted for 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 in the encounter Fernandez, D - Matviishen, V. Black unhesitatingly played the natural moves 3...Nf6 4.e5 dxe5 5.Nxe5 a6 6.g3 Qd6:

There is theory on 7.Nc4, but I was vaguely aware of it being relatively unfavourable to White (there is a recent NIC article on the subject) and so I opted for 7.Nf3. The sharp play which followed made it abundantly clear that both players wanted to win, unlike the majority of the top boards in that round!

Until next time, Daniel

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