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I am new to this site, but not new to the Anti-Sicilians as I have played most of them on both sides. My feeling is that having extensive experience of the Anti-Sicilians with White is more of a confession than a boast. Serious players in search of an opening advantage should be playing the Open Sicilian. Therefore, my approach is to assume that the reader is mainly interested in playing the black side, although I have a few thoughts for those who feel the need to play such lines with White.

Download PGN of December '07 Anti-Sicilian games

2 c3 Sicilian [B22]

Richard Palliser concentrated on 2.c3 last month, and I agree with his general conclusion: it is not likely to lead to an advantage. In fact, playing 2.c3 isn't about theory; it's more of a lifestyle choice.

There are several lines where Black should equalize without too much trouble, just choose one of the "big" lines. To give just three examples, 2...Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 followed by either 4...Nc6 or 4...e6; or 2...d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 5.d4 Nf6 6.Nf3 Bg4. The existing theory is fine for Black in all these lines, and White's plan is just to play the positions better than Black.

Repertoire books certainly influence chess fashion and being ready with new ideas against their recommendations is always useful. To that end, I have a couple of thoughts for 2.c3 players. Goodger - Shaw reveals a deadly idea for White against a Rogozenko suggestion.

Meanwhile, Shaw - Ghaem Maghami shows 6.a3!?:

a move order trick to avoid the line suggested by Richard Palliser in his recent book.

Keres line with Ne2 [B20 & B24]

For all that, I stick to my belief that White should be playing the Open, and one Anti-Sicilian that perhaps can be used as a stepping-stone to that aim is Keres' 2.Ne2. White can play the Open against 2...e6 and 2...Nc6, but avoid the 2...d6 lines (in particular the Najdorf) with 3.g3:

Those on the Black side should pay attention to this line as enough 2600+ players used it in 2007 to boost its popularity in 2008 at lower levels: Vallejo Pons, Bruzon and Baklan are among the 2.Ne2 regulars. Kupreichik - Khismatullin shows a new way for Black to play against the critical pawn sac line.

Vallejo Pons-Areshchenko demonstrates a transposition from the Keres to a rare Closed Sicilian line.

2 Nf3 Various [B50]

White can also feint towards the Open lines with 2.Nf3 and then decide on move 3 whether to duck out. However, finding a good alternative to 3.d4 after 2...d6 is a continuing problem. The chance of a "real" c3-Sicilian has gone, but 3.c3 Nf6 4.h3 has had a number of highly rated supporters in 2007, Zvjaginsev, Malakhov and Bauer among them:

A good antidote for Black is shown in Zvjaginsev - Lastin.

Moscow Variation [B52]

Instead, the more popular 3.Bb5+ is looking less threatening than it used to, with 3...Bd7 the most solid reply. Svetushkin - Motylev shows an aggressive approach for Black in a well known position, 14...d5:

Leading to some unusual tactics.

Queenside Fianchetto [B20]

Those looking for a no-theory Anti-Sicilian line for White may consider 2.b3. This line has scored well for me, despite my belief that Black is fine after most sensible moves. The trick is to understand how to play the position. I gained my understanding the easy way: I borrowed someone else's. The man to copy is Georgian GM Gelashvili with Gelashvili - Gassanov an entertaining starter.

Till next time, John

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