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Filling in for John, I've elected in this update to cover various developments in the Bb5 Sicilians, not least in the fairly topical and important Rossolimo line 3...Nf6 4 Nc3 Qc7 5 d3!?, as well as a certain wild game from the recent Reggio Emilia tournament.

Download PGN of December '10 Anti-Sicilian games

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Rossolimo [B30]

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 Nc3 (3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bb5 is, of course, another important way to reach this position) 4...Qc7 Black has been in decent health for a while now, but of late the seemingly-innocuous 5 d3!? has gained a number of grandmaster supporters:

Thus the move cannot be so innocuous and Black must beware stumbling into an inferior version of the 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 system with White meeting ...Nd4 with Nxd4 cxd4; Ne2, after which c3 will highlight the then slightly-misplaced queen on c7.

At this juncture 5...a6!? may well be quite critical, with the idea of 6 Ba4 b5 7 Bb3 e6, blunting White's bishop. More often Black has preferred 5...e6 or 5...Nd4, but I'm by no means convinced that either is sufficient for equality and after the latter with 6 Ba4 e5 7 0-0 Be7 8 Bg5 White obtained a definite pull thanks to the hole on d5 in Vachier Lagrave-Tirard:

Another fairly popular response is 5...d6, which we must take seriously for it has been the choice of the Zhigalko brothers, leading practitioners of the 4...Qc7 system. However, with 6 0-0 e6 7 Bxc6+! Qxc6 8 e5 White quickly obtained a pull in Adams-A.Zhigalko, going on to completely outplay his opponent in a manoeuvring, Advance French-like struggle.

After 5 0-0 Nd4 White has also tried 6 d3, but this is now a little less convincing and 6...a6 7 Ba4 b5 8 Bb3 Nxb3! 9 axb3 Bb7 seems OK for Black:

Clearly the position resembles the 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 variation and in Edouard - Polgar after 10 Bg5 e6 11 Bxf6 gxf6 White must have been fine with his knights and better structure, but Black eventually triumphed by making good use of her bishops and dynamic potential.

One reason that there has been so much experimentation with early d3 ideas is that the main line, 5 0-0 Nd4 6 Re1 a6, has been considered to be fine for Black for a while now. White has pretty much abandoned the aggressive 7 e5 and 7 Bc4, usually preferring to manoeuvre with 7 Bf1 Ng4 8 g3 Nxf3+ 9 Qxf3 Ne5 10 Qd1:

However, I really can't believe that this is a particularly promising version of the Closed Sicilian for him, as we'll see in Kovacevic - Lenic.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 [B40]

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 if White wants to fianchetto on the kingside, he usually begins with 3 d3, but 3 g3!? gives him some independent ideas and was advocated by John Emms in Dangerous Weapons: Anti-Sicilians. This approach is new to the site and we give it some coverage in Short - Movsesian, where an extremely original and intriguing position was reached after White's 12th:

After 12...hxg5 13 Nxg5 Bxg2 Black is two pieces to the good but faces a rather dangerous attack after 14 Nb5. Thus Movsesian declined the piece and it wasn't long before Short tragically blundered after what had been a most-inspirational effort on his part.

Moscow/Rossolimo hybrid [B51]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ Nc6 brings about a well-known hybrid of the Moscow and Rossolimo variations. This month I've focussed on White's Lopez-like option, 4 0-0 Bd7 5 Re1 Nf6 6 c3 a6 7 Ba4:

Surprisingly, to me at least, the solid 7...b5 was seen in 50-odd games in 2010 according to TWIC, whereas the more dynamic 7...c4 enjoyed only a paltry five appearances! The former move is admittedly in decent health with 8 Bc2 Bg4 9 d3 (9 a4 has been more common) 9...e6 10 Nbd2 d5 one reasonable-enough set-up for Black, as we'll see in Stellwagen - Timofeev, where he scores a crushing and instructive positional victory.

I can't see any reason why 7...c4!? hasn't been more popular, though, with 8 Bc2 Ng4!? one intriguing possibility. Another is the immediate 8...Ne5!? 9 Nxe5 dxe5 which was new to me until I saw it in Chernyshov - Kryakvin:

If White now advances with 10 d3 Black will obtain a pretty solid position, but perhaps he should also go for the solid approach after 10 Qe2 Qc7 11 b3 by exchanging on b3, since 11...b5!? was likely a touch too ambitious in the game.

Moscow Variation [B52]

Finally, we come to the variation 3...Bd7 4 Bxd7+ Qxd7 5 0-0 Nf6 6 Nc3 g6 7 d4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bg7 9 f3 0-0 10 Be3 Nc6 11 0-0:

I have to admit that I'm surprised people are still playing this as White, unless happy to gradually outplay a lower-rated opponent. White just doesn't have anything after 11...Rac8 12 b3 e6 and 11...a6 is another good approach, as we'll see in Movsesian - Navara.

That's all for now and so I'll return you to John's experienced and very capable hands, Richard

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