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Three interesting games this month, from English GMs on the white side of the Moscow & Rossolimo. I especially enjoyed working through McShane-Moussard, and am left feeling that almost no amount of time would do that game justice!

Download PGN of December ’23 Anti-Sicilian games

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Hyper-Accelerated Dragon with 3.c3 [B27]

We kick off with Esipenko, A - Nakamura, H and a line which has a lot of crossover with the Caro-Kann. Following 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.c3 d5 4.e5 Nakamura chose the accurate 4...a6:

It is dangerous to allow White options with Bb5 (+) in this line. Curiously, the same doesn’t really apply to Black’s ...Bg4 ideas, and while the game still wasn’t totally equalised there was a strong impression that 5.d4 Nc6 and now 6.h3 was perhaps not the most critical way the Russian could have handled things.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Re1 b6 [B30]

Next the first effort by a top English player in the form of Adams, M - Gukesh, D from the London chess classic. While I don’t think 5...b6 is necessarily the best move, it is a strong contender and the further 6.c3 a6 7.Ba4 c4 brought Black extremely close to equality:

Black’s subsequent play in the late opening was extremely strong, until an ill-judged king walk which may have been played with psychological motives in mind. An experienced elite player like Adams was never going to be particularly fazed, and White reacted well, obtaining a winning position before agreeing a draw.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Re1 a6 [B30]

Another candidate move of Black’s is 5...a6 as played in Alexakis, D - Mitsis, G from the Greek championships. Depending how the next few moves evolve we can end up with a dissolved centre, an Open Sicilian structure or indeed something more resembling a French Defence.

The battle in these positions revolves around the conditions under which Black is permitted to play ...f6 (it can never be eliminated entirely) and with this in mind, White’s choice of 13.Nbd2 was perhaps a tiny bit inaccurate. An instructive game from the perspective of French-Sicilian crossovers.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.d3 Qc7 [B30]

Another very popular line and this time we get to a structure where it’s particularly important to remember that pawns do not move backwards. In Vocaturo, D - Predke, A, a game critical for the outcome of the European Teams, White immediately moved one forwards with 6.e5, and after 6...f6 7.Bf4 Ne7 8.0-0 we reach a critical decision point:

I am not against Black’s choice of 8...fxe5, but also interesting are 8...Nf5 and 8...Ng6.

Moscow with 3...Nd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 a6 6.Be2 [B51]

A position which is really not far off being an Open Sicilian (particularly after White later plays Nc3 instead of trying to push c4) arises after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 a6 6.Be2. Some repetitions of moves brought us to the following position with the unintuitively high move-count of 16:

White has a very Open Sicilian-esque choice of ways to proceed with the battle for the centre, and particularly the d5-square. In many of the lines the theme of Bg5xf6 makes an appearance, and my conclusion was that the game continuation of 17.Nd2 can perhaps be improved upon slightly, see Jumabayev, R - Deac, B.

Moscow with 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3 Ngf6 6.Re1 [B51]

Next, we get to the first effort by McShane in the London Chess Classic, where despite a forgettable finish he demonstrated some interesting preparation. In round 9 came the game McShane, L - Volokitin, A, where he uncorked the following pawn (pseudo-)sacrifice in what appeared to be an uncritical variation:

Black can avoid complications with ...Bxf3, but in the game opted to fasten his seat-belt for the sacrificial mess that ensued (likely all preparation though!) after 11...Bc6 12.Ng5.

Prins Variation with 5...e5 6.Nb3 d5 [B55]

Capping off a deceptively action-packed update we have McShane, L - Moussard, J, where the important opening action was perhaps in the couple of moves starting with 9.Bb5:

Black immediately faces a choice between ...h6 and the game’s 9...Qb6, which then became progressively more complicated with 10.Qd3 Nd7! 11.N1d2 dxc3 and now 12.Nc4. The Frenchman found a relatively level-headed way to bail out, but suppressed his ambitions for too long and then landed himself in a very tricky endgame.

All the best, Daniel

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