This month's update covers 2 a3!?, 2 b3!?, 2 Ne2!?, a sideline of the Grand Prix Attack and a main line of the c3 Sicilian.
2 a3 [B20]
2 a3!? is too cheeky to be good but also too cool to be ignored:
My general feeling about this line is that Black players should steer clear of all the lines that try to directly refute 2 a3, for instance 2...e6 3 b4 cb 4 ab Bxb4. Even if White doesn't have sufficient comp for the pawn, this is precisely what White is hoping for.
The game given here, Collette, B - Georgiev, Kr, gives an idea of how Black can get a good position against 2 a3!? Without either side getting too excited.
Queenside Fianchetto 2 b3 [B20]
2 b3!? is a more serious attempt. I give two illustrative games here to show that the move has some venom:
The first is a powerful display by French GM Christian Bauer and the second is my only outing with the move - in both cases Black failed to equalise, but I do suggest improvements and don't believe 2 b3 is a theoretical threat to Black in the long term. have a look at Bauer,Ch - Wirig,A and Rowson, J - Shaw, J.
2 Ne2 [B20]
2 Ne2!? is not simply 2 Nf3 in disguise-there is a bit more to it than that! As I explain here: Vallejo Pons,F-Van Der Stricht,G.
Grand Prix Attack [B21]
2 f4 d5 3 d3!? is not a particularly conventional way to play the Grand Prix Attack, mainly because it is much harder to attack without the queens!
However, Luke McShane shows that the resulting queenless middlegame, although probably not actually better for White, does give plenty of chances to outplay an unsuspecting opponent. See McShane, L - Sedlak, N.
The C3 Sicilian [B22]
Most c3 Sicilian players are at home in IQP positions and few Black players want to walk in to a main line where the guy playing White has exactly what he wants. Krasenkov's approach in this game is becoming more and more popular: Black plays an early ...Bb4+:
takes the knight on c3 and then exchanges light-squared bishops with ...b6 and...Ba6. If White cannot prevent this plan then Black is at least equal, so this line should be studied carefully by both sides: Hansen,Su B - Krasenkov,M Bundesliga 2005.
The line 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 is one of the more venomous anti-Sicilians of recent years:
In the following game we see Britain's next Grandmaster (Congratulations Danny!) using it to considerable effect. I have included my own suggestion of how Black should react to the main line of this system in Gormally, D - Gourlay, I.
Chris from Germany had a query about 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 Nf6, as a possible solution to the perceived problem of 3 ...cd 4 Qxd4!? I have opted for this approach for a number of years and we will cover this in the next issue.