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2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 5...Bf5 [B22]
We kick things off with a fine victory by fellow ChessPublishing columnist Danny Gormally in a ... Hey, wait a minute! Is this the same Gormally who, only a few months ago, wrote in his column that anti-Sicilian players are 'wimpy' and not 'proper men'? Indeed, the very same, and in fact he uses our very own ChessPublishing analysis to catch fellow columnist Gawain Jones out in his pet 2...Qxd5/Bf5 c3-Sicilian.
In the diagram from Gormally - Jones, Danny has just ventured my suggested 8.Nd2!, White's most promising try for an advantage:
Objectively the position should still be level, but Black has to play accurately to ensure he doesn't fall into a worse endgame. In the game, Gawain quickly erred, but fought back to almost hold a brilliantly see-sawing affair.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 4...g6 [B22]
Continuing last month's theme of how to get winning chances against 2.c3, we look at a game in which a 2000-rated club player uses the ...Qxd5/...g6 system to completely outplay a strong grandmaster. Okay, a mediocre grandmaster. Okay, fine, it was me, alright?
In Smerdon - Schulte my opponent tried the unusual 9...Bg4!? (see diagram above), which has the practical advantage that if White doesn't play the most principled (but albeit risky) move 10.dxc5, Black is absolutely fine and fighting for the initiative. Guess which mediocre grandmaster played something else? In the end, I was very fortunate to steal half a point, essentially by chance.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, 6...d6 [B22]
Tiviakov - Bu revisits one of the main, main, main lines of 2.c3. The evaluation has been and probably will always be "White can try for a niggle in many ways, but Black should equalise".
I present it as a good example of the right attitude in playing for a win with Black against 2.c3: Equalise first, and then just continue to play. Tiviakov's 14.Rc1 isn't going to change any evaluations any time soon, but just look at the way the Chinese grandmaster played natural moves and waited for his experienced opponent to go wrong.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...g6, 3...Bg7 [B27]
Naiditsch - Shoker demonstrates the other approach to 'beating' the 2.c3 Sicilian. Black employs a very risky sideline right from the get-go in order to unbalance the position. As I mentioned last month, I really cannot recommend this sort of strategy; indeed, I love seeing my opponents play this way against my Antis, as I feel it immediately justifies my choice of 'wimpy' system. After 5.Na3!, Naiditsch was already clearly for choice against his 2500 opponent:
and only an unfortunate blunder much later in the game prevented him recording a sparkling brilliancy.
Rossolimo Variation 3...e6 4 Bxc6, 6 h4!? [B30]
Areshchenko-S.Zhigalko takes another look at Zhigalko's own 6.h4!?:
I really like this move, but Areshchenko's new try 9.Bg5!? doesn't seem to be any improvement on last month's 9.Na3. White really has to take care of his king if he's going to run an h-soldier down the board so early on. Check out the notes to Black's 17th move to see an incredible attacking variation that unfortunately didn't materialise on the board, but highlights the dangers facing White if he's a little nonchalant.
Rossolimo 3...e6 4 0-0 Nge7 5 d4!? [B30]
Next, we're going to take another look at Caruana's favourite 5.d4 in the Rossolimo. It continues to impress me, not just as a sideline but as a legitimate try for an advantage against 3...e6. Yu Yangyi-Yap demonstrates that an early attempt by Black to escape to an endgame promises no easy life, either.
Rossolimo 3...g6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 [B31]
Navara - Jirovsky revisits one of the oldest and most well-analysed lines of the 3...g6 Rossolimo, championed in Gallagher's classic Beating the Anti-Sicilians from the '90s. Here I'm going to go out on a limb and award the sideline 11.a3! an exclamation mark, as I think it promises White excellent chances for an advantage:
White's goal is to flip in a3/...a5 before returning to the usual Nh2/f4 plan, and we'll see that Black's attempts to avoid this aren't without their own pitfalls. Essential reading for 3.Bb5 aficionados!
Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4 0-0 [B51]
Finally, something a little different. One of our great Antis champions pulls out a sideline with only a 20% score: 6.c4!? in the 3...Nd7 Moscow:
Statistics are often deceptive, and here this is also the case: this move is a cunning attempt to transpose to a favourable version of the main lines. Black often counters with a quick ...e5, leading to blocked positions that are deceptively double-edged. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly wrong with this move, and Black has a few tricks he needs to avoid, so it's worth adding it to the Antis repertoire, see Rozentalis - Ki.Georgiev.
Happy New Year! Dave
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