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We're going to continue on a little further with our investigation of the 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 (or 2...d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6) Anti-Sicilian system. However, I never like to completely swamp a column with just one Anti, so we'll take a closer look at some 2.c3 Sicilian stuff as well, with a particular focus on the topical ...Bf5 system of 2...d5. And for the cherry on the top, I've got an exciting, random game in the Closed Sicilian to keep things interesting!

Download PGN of February '15 Anti-Sicilian games

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2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 5...Bf5 [B22]

The ...Bf5 system after 2...d5 continues to find plenty of supporters from all strengths on the black side. I can understand the attraction as, compared with other lines, it has lots of tricks that White can fall into and thus gives Black excellent winning chances. However, the right remedies for White have been discovered, as I've discussed at length in past columns. The bottom line seems to be: Follow whatever Maxime Vachier-Lagrave plays with the white pieces!

Mammedov - Gasimov (which includes Bayramov-Gasimov) is a good way to kick things off. White follows Vachier Lagrave-Moiseenko, showing that this very main line still seems to favour White:

In this game, Mammedov doesn't play in the most accurate fashion on move 15; instead, Ristic - Miljkovic, a slightly older game, continues on the most critical path. A key decision is on move 16:

This game updates my 'old' analysis of Vachier Lagrave-Moiseenko and suggest that White may have a smaller edge than I originally thought. No-one has tried the improvement 16...Be7 yet, so we'll have to wait and see what happens in future tests.

Finally, Skawinski - Sivuk considers Black's other main option (and Moiseenko's later preference) 7...e6:

Here I've covered White's absolute best response 8.Qa4!, as seen in another MVL game. White has excellent chances to obtain a significant opening advantage in this line, although again practical tests are scarce. One thing is for sure: if you play 2.c3, study these games!

2.c3 Sicilian 2...g6, 3...Bg7 [B27]

Our last 2.c3 game is Ni Hua-Ryjanova, which looks at the ...g6/...d5 setup for Black:

This is a very heavily analysed game, but I've done this in order to give you a one-stop game for all your needs in this relatively rare variation. Ni Hua really gives a masterclass on how to play the position with White, completely sucking the life out of Black's counterplay and making those knights look really stupid. White has excellent chances for a decisive opening advantage against this variation.

Moscow/Rossolimo Hybrid - 3.Bb5(+) 6 Re1 a6 7 Ba4 [B51]

Kazhgaleyev - Khusnutdinov picks up where we left off last month. I recommended 7...c4 last month in Nepomniachtchi,I-Vachier Lagrave,M. I've always been suspicious of 7...b5 8.Bc2 Bg4 on account of 9.a4!:

, but my analysis to this game seems to suggest that with accurate play (beginning with 9...g6!) Black can hold the balance. So it looks like Black has more than one good way to play against 7.Ba4.

Zaitsev Variation 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Bb5 Bd7, 7 c4 [B53]

Then we move on to a key line against our proposed system: The early Qxd4. This position can also arise (in fact, most commonly it does so) via the move-order 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Bb5. This is usually employed as an attempt to achieve a Maroczy Bind structure, but Black really has very little to worry about here:

David - Sardana shows what generally happens if Black plays in a classical fashion with 7...Nf6. Pay particular attention to the novelty for Black on move 10 that pretty much refutes White's inaccurate move-order in this game, and also to the note to Black's eleventh move, which details the theoretical equalizing tactic.

Of somewhat more excitement is Ly - Khusnutdinov, however, which shows Black's more aggressive alternative: 7...f5!:

Yes, Black really can get away with this here. So long as you know the next couple of moves by heart, you are guaranteed at least an equal game with Black.

Closed Sicilian 3...Rb8 [B24]

Finally, something a little different to finish things off. Himanshu - Rombaldoni features a rare and provocative attempt by Black to disarm the Closed Sicilian:

Yes, Black decides to neglect most of his forces and just launch his b-pawn down the board! This is soon followed by a similar thrust from his h-pawn, leading to an incredibly unorthodox and exciting encounter. This idea is certainly viable for Black, but it can't be better than the main lines for Black, so I'd reserve it for occasions when you are set on trying to unsettle your Closed opponent.

Enjoy, Dave

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