2 b3 [B20]
Richard Palliser was kind enough to send me this game, even though he ended up losing! In Hague - Palliser Black plays 1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 d6 4.Bb5 Nf6!? essentially dismissing White's grand plans to double Black's pawns and get pressure on the long diagonal:
Neither of these things happens, and Black equalizes very easily. In the notes we also see Palliser take his revenge with 2...d6, which is also satisfactory. The 2.b3 line does not give much hope for an advantage, but as Short has shown, it can be a useful weapon for occasional use.
2.c3 Sicilian [B22]
In the 2.c3 Sicilian, one of the main lines goes 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Bb3 d5 8.exd6 Qxd6 9.0-0 Be6 10.Na3 dxc3 11.Qe2 Bxb3 12.Nb5 Qb8 13.axb3:
Here Black almost always continues with 13...e5, which although satisfactory, requires careful handling from Black. There is another line, however, which has been under the radar even though it has been known for many years and was even approved by Rozentalis (a big expert on the White side) in his 2002 book on the 2.c3 Sicilian. Pirrot - Parligras takes a look at 13...g6!?
Grand Prix Attack [B23]
I have seen a lot of club players lose the thread quickly when handling the Black side of the Grand Prix in the structure that results after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d3 a6 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.Qe1:
White's play is more obvious while Black needs to know some subtle handling. After 9...Qd7! we see some ideas for Black in Roy Chowdhury - Gupta.
Closed Sicilian [B26]
I have long felt that 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Be3 was harmless because of 6...e5!:
A strong statement perhaps, but Krapivin - Sjugirov is the latest example of Black getting some initiative in this centre-motivated line.
Kevin Goh Wei Ming was kind enough to provide me with a couple of instructive examples in the Rossolimo. They are quite different from each other however, especially if we look at the strength of the opponents!
In Goh Wei Ming - Teo Weixing we consider the rare line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Qb6!? which Kevin considers an interesting but little known sideline:
This game provides a good example of the side with the knights opening the position and 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bxc6 Qxc6 6.d4 cxd4?! 7.Nxd4 proves to be quite dangerous for Black.
The line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 is flexible and continues to be popular. Not long ago we looked at the line 4.Nc3 Qc7 5.0-0 a6 6.Bxc6 dxc6!?:
In Goh Wei Ming - Ni Hua White plays 7.h3! (instead of Shirov's 7.e5) and almost upsets his 2680 rated opponent.
One of Magnus Carlsen's favourite lines to play with White is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4. In Svidler - Carlsen he tries it from the other side. After 6...b5 7.Bc2 d5 Svidler plays the rare 8.a4!? He gets some pressure but Black holds pretty easily. There is still some room for new ideas here, however.
In the hybrid line 3...d6 the continuation 7.Ba4 remains popular. Here Black takes a 'Spanish' approach with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.c3 Nf6 6.Re1 a6 7.Ba4 8.Bc2 e5:
I think this approach is sound but may not suit a lot of Sicilian players. For White however, the Spanish positions could be rather attractive. Karjakin shows his familiarity with White's ideas and really puts the squeeze on Black in Karjakin - Timofeev.
3 c3 [B50]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.c3 Nf6 4.h3!? is a slow approach where White also may try to play in 'Spanish' style. In De Jong - Giri we look at a solid response. 4...Nc6 5.Bd3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.Bc2 0-0 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nb4 10.Bb3 d5 (Black avoids the trap 10...Nxe4?? 11.Qe1) 11.e5 Ne4 looks fairly level although there is plenty of play.
Until next month, David