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Sam's pretty busy on the playing front this month, so I've stepped in and enjoyed taking a look at a number of Anti-Sicilian lines in which I've long taken an interest. It certainly shouldn't come as a surprise to regular readers that our attention will mainly be on the c3 Sicilian.

Download PGN of February '13 Anti-Sicilian games

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c3-Sicilian with 2...Nf6: Mainline with ...d6, ...Nc6 and 7.Bc4 [B22]

The line 1 e4 c5 2 c3 Nf6 3 e5 Nd5 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 cxd4 d6 7 Bc4 Nb6 8 Bb5 has a pretty drawish reputation, but Sam showed a new idea for White in the January update, namely Vajda's 8...dxe5 9 Nxe5 Bd7 10 Nxd7 Qxd7 11 Nc3 e6 12 0-0 Rd8 13 Qh5!?. Perhaps that inspired White to repeat the line in Mamedov - Smirnov, where Black deviated with 12...Rc8:

Just like 12...Rd8, this seems fine for Black and after 13 Be3 a6 14 Bxc6 Rxc6 it's not long before White gets in d4-d5, leading to highly drawish simplification.

If Black is after the full point he should likely prefer 7...dxe5!?, as recommended by Peter Wells in Dangerous Weapons: Anti-Sicilians. White players should take a look at the idea of 8 dxe5 Ndb4 9 Qxd8+ Nxd8 10 Na3!?, since it's not clear he has too much after 8 Bxd5 Qxd5 9 Nc3:

Here Black usually retreats to d6, but Shirov's 9...Qa5!? deserves attention too, especially if followed up with 10 d5 Nb4!?, rather than 10...e4 with which he soon got into a spot of bother in Sveshnikov - Shirov.

2...Nf6 delayed d4 [B22]

Mamedov switched sides and faced 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 Bc4 Nb6 6 Bb3 in Korobov - Mamedov, which is obviously much more of a winning try for White. The sharp line 6...c4 7 Bc2 Qc7 8 Qe2 g5 hasn't been seen so much of late, but still seems fine for Black from what I can see. Korobov opted for 9 h3 Bg7 10 e6, which isn't too impressive since Black's centre is a handy asset after 10...dxe6 11 Nxg5 h6 12 Nf3 Bd7:

White should still be OK in this sharp position (the players are set to castle on opposite sides), but 13 b3? was a rather careless choice from the Ukrainian Grandmaster.

2...d5, 5...Bf5 [B22]

Finally, I couldn't resist having a look at developments in one of the lines of 2012, namely 2...d5 3 exd5 Qxd5 4 d4 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bf5!?. White hasn't done too well in practice after 6 Be3 Nf6 7 Na3 cxd4 8 Nb5 0-0-0 and I'm surprised c3 practitioners are still going down this route:

9 Nbxd4 was tried in Poptapov - Khairullin, but with 9...Ng4 Black took the bishop-pair and was already slightly for choice.

The Grand Prix 2...a6!? [B23]

Meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 with 2...a6!? is a handy wrinkle for Kan and Najdorf players. One independent continuation is 3 f4 b5 4 Nf3 Bb7 5 d3 e6 6 g4!?, a Grand Prix where both sides have been quick to stake out some territory:

After 6...d5 Black should have sufficient counterchances and the anti-positional 7 e5?! h5! unsurprisingly failed to impress for White in Cicak - Blomqvist.

The Nimzowitsch Sicilian 2...Nf6, 4.d4 [B29]

Meeting 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e5 Nd5 with 4 Nc3 requires some preparation, hence why some Grandmasters prefer 4 d4!? cxd4 5 Qxd4 which should give White a slightly improved version of a c3 Sicilian line (there's no need to go c3 any more):

After 5...e6 I quite like 6 Bc4, but Kamsky makes a convincing enough case for 6 g3!? in Kamsky - Ibarra Jerez.

Moscow Variation 3...Nc6 [B51]

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ Nc6 4 0-0 Bd7 5 c3 Nf6 6 Re1 a6 7 Bf1 Bg4 remains quite a topical line. After 8 h3! Bxf3 9 Qxf3 Black faces an important choice: to fianchetto or not. Caruana initially did, but then switched to 9...e6 10 d3 Be7 11 Nd2 0-0:

After 12 Qd1 his 12...Nd7 may be best, but in any case White should have a small edge with his bishop-pair, as we'll see in Edouard - Van Kampen.

Sam should be back next month and may well have tested plenty of Anti-Sicilian ideas in the meantime, Richard

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