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Hi everyone,
An interesting selection of very recent games for you this month.

Download PGN of January '08 Anti-Sicilian games

Queenside Fianchetto [B20]

2.b3 had a rare world-class test in Mamedyarov - Van Wely:

White won but it really wasn't due to the opening. Still, this shows that 2.b3 can work as a practical weapon even at exalted levels.

c3 Sicilian [B22]

Ushenina - Nijboer and Goodger - Dinger are two recent examples of stronger players with Black trying to beat 2.c3.

Nijboer takes the theoretical approach and equalizes easily with 8...Bd7, a reliable alternative to the hugely analyzed (and even more drawish) main lines:

he then shows great determination to grind out a win.

Dinger's method is to play a less usual line and avoid dull endgames: he is wiped off the board by a classic IQP attack, before being gifted a lucky draw.

Certainly I could have selected two different games to send a different message, but my suggestion is: learn a main line and polish your endgame technique. Otherwise you will always be looking for the next "surprise" anti-c3 line.

Grand Prix Attack [B23]

The Grand Prix Attack with Bc4 only works well against 2...d6: otherwise White's bishop will be hit by ...d7-d5 at an early stage. Mitkov - Mikhailuk shows how dangerous the GPA can be against an unprepared opponent.

This is the 8th time Mitkov has reached this position. His score is 8-0. I am generally not a great believer in opening statistics, but it's time for those on the Black side to take the hint.

King's Indian Attack [B40]

Is the King's Indian Attack an Anti-Sicilian? I claim "yes" and Harikrishna - Navara shows an interesting way for Black to avoid the main lines as early as move 4:

It didn't work for Navara this time, but the idea is fixable.

Bb5 Variation [B51-52]

English IM Andrew Greet has a pet line in the 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 variation, which avoids Black's well-known drawing lines, 9. b3:

It is not very threatening but works against the unwary, as Greet - Urbina Perez shows.

Still on 3.Bb5+, the reply 3...Nc6 is useful as it gives Black a single answer to 3.Bb5(+) whether the previous move was 2...d6 or 2...Nc6 (handy for those who vary between the Najdorf and Sveshnikov):

In Smeets - Cheparinov the Bulgarian openings expert drifts into a passive position following a line his "boss" Topalov had previously played. Naturally, Black has improvements.

Till next time, John

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