Closed Sicilian/Grand Prix Attack [B23]
Pentala Harikrishna just made one of the best results of his life by winning a strong closed event in China with 8.5/11 and no doubt gaining around 25 rating points in the process (no small achievement when you are already 2650 or so).
Harikrishna - Bu was one of the games that helped him on his way. I think Black was fine out of the opening, and it made me wonder how White should respond to 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6!?:
In any case, White was also fine, and played more carefully in a complex middlegame.
In the Rossolimo, Svidler - Sutovsky features an important line of the main line Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.Bxc6 bc!?:
This move is usually associated with a fairly passive set-up involving ...f6, ...Nh6-f7 and ...d6 but Sutovsky shows that it can be played more combatively too, and he had the better of this short draw.
Svidler - Leko featured the more solid 4...dc:
and both players did everything we would expect them to until Svidler grabbed a fairly hot-looking (in the sense of dangerous rather than sexy) pawn and Leko seemed to gain excellent counterplay. Then at some point Leko lost the thread and his position went from looking better to lost in a handful of moves- quite an odd turn of events at this level.
In any case, I have always felt that Black should not allow white to exchange dark-squared bishops with Bh6. In the resulting positions Black may be solid, but White usually has the more pleasant position with no risk. By keeping the bishop pair with ...h6 Black puts more psychological pressure on White and I think this game gives further support to the idea that this is a feasible approach for Black, even if the result did not.
2 c3 Sicilian [B22]
I have included Motylev - Malakhov from way back in 1996 because I wanted a quality game to reply to Paul from the University of Reading, who was curious to know more about the Hodgson/Gallgher line against 2.c3, especially the line I mentioned in passing: 2...d5 3.ed Qxd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Nf3 cd 6.cd e5 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Be2!? e4 9.0-0:
I struggled to find theoretical material on this line so if anybody knows of any I would be happy to put it on here. For now I offer my own thoughts, combined with some pointers from Fritz.
My overall feeling is that the resulting positions are better for White, but if Black prepares carefully he might find a way to emerge unscathed with some extra material.
Pavasovic - Borisek is yet another win by Pavasovic in the c3 Sicilian, again included for the instructional value. As is often the case in the c3 Sicilian, White does not appear to have much at first sight, but he risks almost nothing in the process and Black often struggles to solve his slight problems, if only because they are relatively unfamiliar.
That's all for now - I hope you are enjoying the summer, and, in between Chesspublishing updates, getting plenty of time away from your computers! Jonathan