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Hi folks,
This month’s update covers several lines that are becoming trendy right now. Hopefully, armed with the analysis from this update, you’ll be able to stay ahead of current theory for some time to come. Enjoy!

Download PGN of July ’24 Anti-Sicilian games

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Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 e5 4 0-0 Bd6 5 Na3!? [B30]

We’ll kick off with a rare response to the recently popular 3...e5 line of the Rossolimo. The game Beerdsen, T - Van der Hagen, L from the NK Rapid featured the relatively new 5 Na3!? in the below diagram:

With Black’s position holding up well in the more forcing 5 c3 and 5 d4 lines, it’s only natural that attention has switched to quieter options for White. The Knight will generally be well-placed on c4 after a subsequent doubling of Black's c-pawns with Bb5xc6. However, White often has to exchange on c6 earlier than they might like to, as otherwise both White's Bishop and Knight can become targets. Black reacted well with the prophylactic 5...Bc7! (I’ve explored the various other moves Black has tried so far in the notes) and even had a more comfortable position at one point after White’s slightly hasty exchange on c6. However, later on Black tried to combat White’s activity on the Queenside directly, with disastrous consequences. The game and the notes are a good illustration of how to handle these doubled c-pawn structures for both sides. I expect we’ll see more tests of 5 Na3!? in the future.

Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 Nc3 Nd4 5 e5 Nxb5 6 Nxb5 Nd5 7 Qe2!? [B30]

Next up is a relatively seldom-played challenge to the risky 3...Nf6 4 Nc3 Nd4 line against the Rossolimo, namely the Gawain-endorsed 7 Qe2!? in the below diagram:

This has only been played eleven times in my OTB database, but it is ranked highly by the engines. In the game Svane, R - Kraus, T from the recently-concluded Teplice Open, Black responded with one of the most critical replies, the ambitious 7...Nf4!? White didn’t back down from the challenge, and following 8 Qe4! Ne6, White unleashed the novelty 9 d4!? which posed very tricky problems for Black, with White winning a well-played miniature. The previously tested 9 0-0!? is Gawain’s recommendation, and I’ve also covered this in the notes. In any case, this line looks quite promising for White.

Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 Nc3 Qc7 5 Re1 e5!? [B30]

Our final Rossolimo for this month features the recently trendy 5...e5!? in the below diagram:

White won another sparkling miniature in the game Yaniv, Y - Ezra, P from the SixDays Budapest GM event last month. The funny thing is, White’s first fifteen moves had been played as long ago as 2007! White has four different tries on move six which all appear to promise a little something for the first player. In this game, White went for the unassuming 6 d3, when Black’s reluctance to allow Bc1-g5 from White resulted in a much worse fate, as 6...h6? was met by the energetic 7 Nd5! and carnage ensued. I haven’t been able to find a way for Black to equalise fully after 5...e5!?, and there are many pitfalls along the way.

Alapin Variation: 2 Nf3 e6 3 c3 Nf6 4 e5 Nd5 5 d4 [B40/22]

Our next game features a very rare choice for White in one of the 2...Nf6 Alapin mainlines, namely 13 h4!? in the below diagram:

This has only been played four (!) times according to my database, but as you may have guessed, it’s one of the engine’s top choices! The game Antipov, M - Woojin, C from Saint Louis last month is a perfect demonstration of White’s attacking chances. A couple of casual moves from Black led to White establishing a painful bind on the Kingside dark squares with the typical h4-h5-h6 advance. Black needs to deviate quite early on to secure reasonable counterplay. I’m definitely expecting to see more tests of this line in the future.

Alapin Variation: 2 Nf3 e6 3 c3 Nf6 4 e5 Nd5 5 a3!? [B40/22]

Staying with this line of the Alapin for a moment, we’re going to check out an innocuous-looking flank pawn move for White, namely 5 a3!? in the below diagram:

This is somewhat tricky for Black to face, depending on which line the second player prefers to choose against 5 d4. Practitioners of either ...b7-b6 or ...Nb8-c6 related systems may be in for some unpleasant surprises! Black’s choice of 5...d6 in the game Kraus, T - Sylvan, J from the Teplice Open was very sensible, but it allowed White to showcase his idea in its purest form: 6 d4 cxd4 7 c4!? Several very strong players have given this a go recently. Although Black can realistically hope to secure equal chances with any reasonable Knight retreat, plenty of hurdles exist along the way. In this game, Black fell behind in development and was despatched in short order. 5 a3!? is certainly an interesting weapon for White.

Anti-Taimanov/Kan Variation: 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Qxd4!? [B40]

Next up is another trendy line involving an early Queen escapade to the e3 square, with sharp consequences. The game Popovic, D - Indjic, A from the recent Serbian Championship featured an interesting anti ...e6 system for White:

Usually, these Qd1xd4-e3 ideas are aimed at establishing a Maroczy structure with c2-c4. However, in this case, White simply prepares to Castle Queenside and fianchetto the dark-squared Bishop if allowed. Black obliged in this game by playing the somewhat passive 6...d6?! when after 7 b3! White drummed up strong attacking chances in an Open Sicilian-style position. More critical tests of White’s idea are 6...Bb4 and 6...d5, and I’ve examined these extensively in the notes. In the game, Black recklessly left his King in the centre, but when White missed one chance to gain a huge advantage, Black’s strategy was justified, and he ended up winning a well-played endgame. This line is well-worth knowing about as I can see it becoming more popular over the coming months.

Anti-Najdorf/Dragon: 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Bd3!? [B54]

Next we’re going to check out a line that I’ve been meaning to cover for some time. The move 5 Bd3!? is a borderline Open Sicilian which has the same purpose as the Prins Variation (5 f3) in that White hopes to achieve a Maroczy Structure with c2-c4 before developing the Queen’s Knight.

This line has become topical over the past couple of years and surprisingly, Black doesn’t have that many good options against it. It’s probably more challenging for a Najdorf player to face, as typical Najdorf moves such as ...a7-a6, ...e7-e5 and ...e7-e6 don’t work well here. The game Saydaliev, S - Bernadskiy, V from Tashkent last month saw Black opting for the Kingside fianchetto with 5...g6!? and this is indeed one of the more reliable choices for Black (along with 5...Nc6! which I’ve examined in the notes). White went straight for a Maroczy with 6 c4 and Black’s move-order was probably not the most precise, as White was able to establish a firm grip on the d4-square and avoid any tactical exchanges involving ...Nf6-g4 (see the notes for details). Black eventually challenged White’s bind with ...e7-e6 and ...d6-d5, but the Uzbek talent playing White handled the resulting pawn tension very well and won a nice game against his GM opponent. This line is a worthy addition to White’s arsenal and a very useful surprise weapon.

Moscow Variation: 3 Bb5+ Nd7 4 0-0 a6 5 Be2!? Ngf6 6 d3 b5 [B51]

Finally, we’ll now examine a recently topical line of the Moscow Variation, which Dan looked at earlier this year. The game Dronavalli, H - Tan, Z from the Cairns Cup last month featured a new move for us, 6...b5 in the 5 Be2 line of the Moscow:

White responded with the critical 7 a4! and Black had the usual choice of ways to meet this advance (7...Rb8, 7...Bb7 and the game continuation, 7...b4). Black definitely chose the most solid option, but with the excellent novelty 8 c3! White managed to achieve dangerous attacking chances in any case. After missing a couple of relatively straightforward wins, White gave Black the chance to complicate matters and survive to an ultimately drawn ending. This 5 Be2 line is a fresh way to pose problems for Black that I’m sure we’ll see more of.

Until next time, David

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