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Hello everyone. This month, we're going to do something highly unusual, even frowned upon, within ChessPublishing: we're going to step on another section's toes! Specifically, I've snuck behind the lines of both Flank Openings and the French Defence in devoting the majority of this month's column to the King's Indian Attack (KIA).
The reason for this is because I've become acutely aware that I have been neglecting White's anti-Sicilian options after 2.Nf3 e6. The explanation for this is relatively simple: without Black having played ...d6 or ...Nc6, White doesn't have the option of 3.Bb5, which leads of course to huge branches of anti-Sicilian theory.

Download PGN of December '14 Anti-Sicilian games

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King's Indian Attack 3 g3/d3, Qe2 setup [B40/C00]

In general, white players who play 2.Nf3 have four options after 2...e6:

  • Transpose to the 2.c3 Sicilian with 3.c3, having committed Black to e6-systems. This is a neat idea, and quite popular, although White also must be ready to meet 3...d5 (e.g. 4.e5 d4!? - see previous months).
  • Bite the bullet and learn the Open Sicilian (heaven forbid!) against systems with ...e6, e.g. Taimanov, Kan, Scheveningen, Four Knights.
  • Play 3.g3, usually with the intention to favourably transpose to the Open Sicilian with a later d2-d4. This is a very popular choice, which Carlsen tried out in the World Championship match with Anand (the game wasn't very theoretically important, however, so I've left it out).
  • Play 2.d3 and transpose to a King's Indian Attack.

Thus, if White is set against an Open Sicilian and doesn't want to play a 2.c3 Sicilian, the KIA becomes a very important option. The justification for 3.d3 is that if Black wants to achieve the most principled setups against the KIA, he will need to 'waste' a tempo with ...e6-e5, essentially leaving White two tempi up in a reversed King's Indian Defence. So Black is left with slightly more passive systems that leave the pawn on e6. Our focus this month is on Black's most common and classical setup: ...c5, ...e6, ...d5, ...Nf6, ...Nc6, ...Be7, with a view to playing on the queenside. White, on the other hand, plays as Black does in the King's Indian Defence: he aims for a brutal kingside attack.

Jones - Van Wely is the best place to start our investigation. I'm aware that not all subscribers to this column have access to the other sections that cover the KIA, so in this game I've put a bit more time into commenting on the earlier moves to give you a feel for how the opening develops. Furthermore, Gawain Jones should be a bit of an expert on the KIA, having recommended it in his 2011 book How to Beat the Sicilian Defence. After the standard moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 d5 4.Qe2 Nc6 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.e5 Ne8 Gawain played the thematic 9.c4:

This handy move is often crucial to holding up Black's queenside expansion as well as keeping the pressure on the centre, and in this game Gawain uses it to good effect in quickly building up an overwhelming position.

The other knight retreat for Black on move eight is 8...Nd7, which tends to be much more popular in practice:

However, I've always felt that White has the easier game in this line. The attacking plan on the kingside is just so natural that White barely has to do any thinking at all. The only key thing to remember is not to get too foolhardy; patience is a virtue in this variation, and controlling Black's attack as well as keeping an eye on the centre is of great importance. We see this in Longson - Van Kampen, another England-Netherlands battle, in which White achieved a comfortable advantage and stole half a point off his much-fancied opponent.

These two games illustrate the dangers facing Black on the kingside, so it's no great surprise that Black has a couple of key alternatives to castling on move seven. Andriasian - Lintchevski considers the sensible 7...b6, developing the c8-bishop and keeping open the option of castling queenside:

However, Black is now a tempo slower in a future queenside attack that must involve ...b5. In this game, Andriasian invited such a transposition with the unusual 8.Bf4, but I have analysed the main line 8.e5 Nd7 9.c4 in some depth. White has excellent chances to gain an advantage in this variation.

Finally, the somewhat rare 7...b5 makes a lot of sense in light of what we've just seen. Black delays kingside castling but also doesn't bother to show any restraint with his queenside play:

Now if White opts to try to transpose to older lines of the KIA, Black won't have wasted a tempo on ...b5. Despite this, 8.Re1 is still the main line, as we see in Fedorov - Manea. Despite White's win in this game, my view is that White should prefer the very rare 8.exd5!:

After 8...exd5 9.d4 c4, Yemelin - Vitiugov continued with the sensible 10.c3, but Magnus Carlsen's 10.Ne5!? looks to be the most promising for White. The game now resembles more of a Tarrasch Defence from a queen's pawn opening than a KIA, but the change of landscape seems favourable for White in my opinion.

2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6 ...e6/...b6 system [B22]

Okay, that's enough KIA for one edition! To break things up a bit but still keep the same 2.Nf3 e6 theme, Smerdon - Gormally sees a 2.c3 Sicilian with Black's ...Nf6/...e6/...b6 system. Someone once asked me if I could think of any tricky trap-lines for Black against the 2.c3 Sicilian, and I mentioned both 2...d5 3.exd5 Nf6!? and this line, featuring 7...Bb7 8.Nc3 Na6?!:

I've actually played this as Black myself in blitz and rapid games, usually with good effect: White often immediately captures on d5, and I love the look of shock in their faces after Black replies 9...Bxd5!. The point of this is that White's bishop gets trapped after 10.Bxa6 b5, giving Black an excellent position.

However, as I started analysing this game, I realised that in fact 'falling' for the trap with 9.Nxd5! is in fact the best move, as after 9...Bxd5 White has the strong but unplayed novelty 10.Bg5!. It looks like White can secure a hefty advantage after this move. Nevertheless, in the game (which, incidentally, pitted a ChessPub Anti-Sicilian columnist against a former Open Sicilian columnist!) I opted for the rare but sensible 9.a3!? This is an easy no-theory-required method to get a slight edge, although in the game I was lucky enough to get much more than that out of the opening.

From the diagram, I played 12.Nh7!!, after which Black's position falls apart on both sides of the board.

Rossolimo 3...e6 4 0-0 Nge7 5 d4!? [B30]

Next, a real treat! Former ChessPub author and all-round 'good bloke' Kevin Goh Wei Ming has analysed one of his own anti-Sicilian games from the recent Olympiad. In Goh Wei Ming-Salgado Lopez, Kevin repeated Caruana's very interesting line 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.d4!?

Kevin patiently explains the typical themes underlying White's setup in this variation, and demonstrates in the notes that after 11.Rb1! White could have maintained an advantage. Unfortunately, a brutal tactical oversight led to his undoing in what must have been a painful game to annotate! Nevertheless, this line still looks to me to be promising for White, and it's heartening to see the author of a forthcoming book on the heavy 6.Bg5 Najdorf playing an anti-Sicilian with White!

Moscow 3...Bd7 4 Bxd7+ Qxd7, 6 e5 [B52]

Finally, our highest-rated contest this month: Nakamura - Gelfand saw the mercurial American try out the apparently toothless 6.e5!?:

This line has always been considered harmless, but the truth is that Black has to play accurately to secure dry equality, with very little opportunity to press for an edge. It's a nice, safe alternative for White (which makes it a somewhat surprising choice by Hikaru!). In this game, White pushes and prods and eventually forces a decisive error in the queenless middlegame, but the evaluation of the variation remains the same: with best play, Black equalises.

That's all for now. One more piece of advice: even if you don't care much about the King's Indian Attack, I would suggest playing over these games anyway; there's a lot of useful material to improve your general chess understanding in these notes. Have fun! Dave

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