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Two wins for each side, and four draws. Maybe the most theoretically relevant game this time was Vitiugov-Predojevic.

Download PGN of January ’24 Anti-Sicilian games

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2 c3 Sicilian with ...Nf6, 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 d6 [B22]

We start off with Khanin, S - Giri, A and a good demonstration of White’s chances in the IQP positions that can arise after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 d6 7.exd6 Bxd6 8.d4:

After 8...Nc6 I think White made the correct choice in eschewing the Rubinstein structure (9.dxc5) and instead opting for the simple 9.0-0. As we will see, this particular IQP position has the benefit that Black may soon wish their d6-bishop was on f6.

Closed Sicilian with 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 [B23]

Next up a very action-packed game, one of two from a recent closed tournament in the Philippines. The critical position for this line seems to be the one after 9.Be3:

In Quizon, D - Tran, T Black went for the artificial-looking 9...Ne7, which looks at least a bit impractical and possibly also a bit worse. In the notes I suggest that Black is probably doing fine after 9...Nf6.

Rossolimo with 3...Nf6 4.Nc3 Qc7 [B30]

Our next game was perhaps most noteworthy for the rook endgame , but still I wanted to give a summary of my current thoughts on the position after 7.Bf1:

Probably if I had to pick a move for Black here it would be 7...e5, while a slightly worse version of the same thing unfolded for Black in the game after 7...d6 8.Nxd4 cxd4 9.Nd5 (9.Ne2 is also possible) 9...Nxd5 10.exd5 g6. Here 11.d3 was played in Motylev, A - Shevchenko, K, while 11.c4 seems to improve.

Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1 [B31]

Perhaps the theoretical highlight of this month was Vitiugov, N - Predojevic, B. White essayed the thematic 8.a4 in a theoretical position, and after 8...Nf6 9.a5 0-0 (Diagram) it seems to me that the position calls for a more precise move than one might expect.

White tried 10.Be3, which was met by the novelty 10...Rd8! and probably Black had equalised. Instead, 10.Bg5 is worth looking at.

Queenside Fianchetto with 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3 b6 [B40]

Conquering my aversion to analysing blitz games (including Titled Tuesday), I crack on next with the game Pranav, V - Yoo, C. White is something of a specialist in 3.b3, and a critical moment arises already after 3...b6 4.Bb2 Bb7 5.Nc3:

There might be nothing objectively wrong with 5...a6, but it gives White a version of an Open Sicilian that compares favourably with lines of the Kan. As such, more principled might be 5...Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nf6, although here too there are a couple of ideas that White can look into. An interesting line to investigate further.

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

A couple of games in this line for us today. The first was Aronian, L - Caruana, F (a high-profile enough encounter for the most exacting taste!) and, slightly surprisingly, Black went for 5...g6 6.c3 Bg7 7.Bc2 Ngf6 8.d4, by which time White had established an almost ideal pawn centre:

That being said, of course, making use of these things is never trivial and after 8...0-0 it was worth White having a think about exactly how to move forwards.

The second was the very tense encounter Seemann, J - Moussard, J , which I got the chance to spectate live. Here Black opted for 5...Ngf6 6.c3 e6 which also, more or less, allows White the chance to obtain a big centre. (I also check ...b5 pushes at various moments.) Nevertheless, after the further 7.Re1 Be7 8.Bc2 b5 9.d4 Bb7 10.Nbd2 it still isn’t crystal clear that White is better:

Black might need to react with some accuracy here, though, since castling would invite an e5 push and the game’s 10...cxd4 ended up looking a little simplistic. Perhaps 10...Qc7 is more accurate.

Moscow with 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7 Qxd7 5.0-0 [B52]

Finally, another game with a similar theme. After 5...Nc6 6.c3 Nf6 7.Re1 this month’s game Megaranto, S - Quizon, D saw a test of the relatively offbeat 7...g6 8.d4 Bg7, again allowing White the famed c3-d4-e4 pawn centre:

Any advantage White has is fragile in the extreme, however, with perhaps only 9.Nbd2 or 9.Qd3 maintaining it. Meanwhile, the game continuation 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.cxd4 d5 saw Black navigate back to comfortable equality and cued us up for a middlegame full of exciting twists and turns.

All the best, Daniel

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