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Hi everyone,
This month's update features some unusually beautiful games, including several remarkable queen sacrifices. I suspect most of you have seen Carlsen's wonderful finish to his World Championship match, but Romain Edouard and Arkady Naidistch also part with their most powerful piece. Most games come from the European Club Cup, which is always a great event to follow.

Download PGN of December ’16 Anti-Sicilian games

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Keres line 2.Ne2 Nf6 3.Nbc3 d5 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Nxd5 Qxd5 [B20]

2.Ne2 is a hybrid between an Anti-Sicilian (when White continues with g3 or c3) and a transposition to the main lines. The featured line is Black's most principled attempt to punish White's flexible approach, and several GM games have discussed the gambit arising after 6.d4 e5 7.Nc3 Qxd4. In Morozevich, A - Gelfand, B White introduced the novelty 8.Bd3?!:

This wasn't a great idea and Gelfand had a chance to be much better, though the game ended in a hard fought draw.

Queenside Fianchetto 2.b3 g6! 3.Bb2 Nf6 [B20]

This line looks like nothing for White, despite its recommendation by the Sveshnikovs in their recent blitz and rapid repertoire book. We've looked at a number of White's options in this position, but in Senders, M - Reindermann, D White essayed 4.Bxf6:

This shouldn't be confused with apparently similar positions from the English, and Black gets a great game by castling and playing ...d6 and ...f5.

c3-Sicilian: 2...Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 d5 7.exd6 Qxd6 8.0-0 [B22]

In Vachier Lagrave, M - Ivanchuk, V the French number one (and occasional world number two) surprisingly went into this line and, after 8...Be6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Na3 dxc3 11.Qe2 Bxb3 12.Nb5 Qb8 13.axb3 e5, opted for 14.bxc3:

(instead of the more common 14.Nbd4 we've covered before). A fighting game ensued, but White was struggling to demonstrate compensation, and Ivanchuk again demonstrated how easily he can beat any player in the world with either colour when he's in form.

Rossolimo: Move-Order Tricks 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 [B30]

In Edouard, R - Vega Gutierrez, S, after 4...g6 5.h3 Bg7 6.e5 Ng8, instead of 7.Bxc6 (which we've covered before) Edouard played the critical 7.0-0!?:

This is a really natural sacrifice after Black has lost two tempi, and Gutierrez has abysmal results here (admittedly, against strong opposition). The game was a great advertisement for White's chances, with Edouard landing a beautiful and typical queen sacrifice which, after some minor adventures, led to a quick win.

Bacrot, E - Moiseenko, A features a line recommended for Black by Richard Palliser, 4...Qc7 5.0-0 Nd4 6.Re1 a6 7.Bf1 d6:

Moiseenko shows good preparation, in particular in being aware of 13...f6! (as demonstrated by correspondence players), and easily neutralises a very strong opponent.

Rossolimo: 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 [B31]

In Naiditsch, A - Jeitz, C White used a 500+ rating point advantage to win against a principled line, 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Re1 e5:

This looks logical for Black and I think he can equalise with precise play.

Vitiugov, N - Huzman, A features Vitiugov's pet line, 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Nc3, when 5...d6 was met by 6.e5!?:

This gives rise to interesting positions, though Vitiugov quickly established a bind after his opponent hesitated.

5 f3 Variation 5...e5 6.Nb3 Be7 7.c4 a5 8.Be3 a4 [B55]

In Carlsen, M - Karjakin, S, Carlsen relied on this line to defend his world crown. Karjakin tried to create play with the unusual 11...Na6:

, but Carlsen again showed that he understands Maroczy structures better than anyone. He got everything White wants in such positions, before landing a stunning queen sacrifice to end the match.

Till next time, Sam

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