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2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5 and ...g6 [B22]
Just one game for this variation this month. We're back to one of my old favourites (cough, cough), with ...g6:
I have a pretty bad record against this myself, but there's no real rational reason for this. In any case, Fressinet - Tranchant shows a nice, safe way for White to get a small edge with the unusual 7.Nb5.
Wing Gambit delayed 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.b4!? [B30]
Moussard - Matlakov sees a rare Wing Gambit - actually a delayed Wing Gambit - featuring strong players.
I have more respect for the Wing than most of my grandmaster colleagues, and personally I think objectively White isn't worse after giving away the pawn. Of course, neither is White objectively better, but practical matters are a whole different story. I think White could really have tested his GM opponent - see the notes before White's tenth move - but this game certainly demonstrates the tricky potential of White's compensation.
Rossolimo Variation 3...g6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 [B31]
Two top-level clashes with 3...g6 feature this month. We'll start our discussion in the main line after 6.Re1.
Here Caruana - Grischuk saw the very rare 6...Rb8!?:
It's not such a bad move and so worth paying some attention to it, but in the notes I suggest that 7.e5!? might be a worthy candidate for an antidote. More tests are needed.
On the other hand, Jakovenko - Cornette features one of the 'real' main lines after 6...Nf6:
As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time understanding why this is considered main-line theory, as White practically gets a dangerous attack for free. Perhaps Black can defend with best play (see 21...Qc2!), but why would one voluntarily go in for this? I remain baffled.
2.Nf3 e6 3.Be2!? [B40]
On to two sidelines against 2...e6. The first, 3.Be2, has been analysed by me a few times in the past:
And this is no club game, either; I couldn't help but include a match-up between two candidates for the 2020 World Championship: Wei Yi and Yu Yangyi. The game ends in a short, sharp and well-played draw, but it goes to show that 3.Be2 deserves more attention.
2.Nf3 e6 3.b3!? [B40]
3.b3 is much more popular than 3.Be2 in practice, and I personally also prefer it.
One of the reasons is because I tend to find that players behind the black pieces don't seem to pay much attention to it, either in their home preparation or over the board. But it really can't be taken lightly; in Antipov - Kurajica, for example, White had won a pawn by move thirteen, although Black could claim a certain amount of compensation, but see the note 5...exd5 for Black's safest option in this line.
Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3 [B51]
Finally, two Moscows to finish. I included Maze - Demuth because it featured the almost-transposition to the Breyer variation of the Spanish that I have mentioned several times in the notes to archived games. It can come about after 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3 and eventually leads to the following diagram:
I find these positions somewhat easier to play for White, but what is definitely true is that the player more familiar with the standard themes and ideas of the Closed Spanish is going to feel more comfortable. In this game, both players misread the queenside opportunities slightly, but Maze is eventually the one who takes hold of the chances and wins in fine style.
Moscow Variation 3...Bd7 4.Bxb5+ Nxd7 [B52]
Hammer - Nakamura is a recent blitz game to finish off this month. Hikaru plays his trademark 4...Nxd7 line:
and Hammer opts for a typical Maroczy setup. However, White fails to keep check of the standard ...b5 break, and the game backs up the adage that Black can take over the advantage if he successfully executes this queenside thrust.
Perhaps I'll get to some more 2.c3 Sicilians next month. Until then, enjoy your (northern) Summer! Dave
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