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As luck would have it, many of the critical games of the British Championships fell into one of my two columns. I analyse some of them here, together with some from the start of the World Cup.

Download PGN of July ’23 Anti-Sicilian games

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Anti-Sveshnikov with 4...Be7 5.d3 d6 6.Nd5 [B30]

First off a couple of nice games from this fairly topical line, which resembles an Italian after White plays 4.Bc4. In Caruana, F - Mchedlishvili, M Black reacted with 4...Be7 5.d3 d6 6.Nd5 Nf6 7.Nxf6+ Bxf6 8.0-0 0-0 and now faced an interesting decision after 9.c3:

A recurring theme is that White tries to push b4 at some moment and Black reacts by capturing it and then pushing ...d5. A version of this happened in the game, while other interesting versions can occur if Black opts for an immediate 9...Re8, which would be my recommendation.

Anti-Sveshnikov with 4...g6 5.d3 h6 6.Nd2 Bg7 7.Nf1 [B30]

In Willow, J - Gasanov, E Black reacted with 4...g6, arguably a marginally worse reaction but fundamentally just a different one. While it is interesting for White to consider 5.Nd5!?, intending c3 and d4, Jonah just went for 5.d3, reaching a typical position for the line after 10. Ned5:

Here Black retains equality with the atypical 10...Nh5!?, while allowing the knight trade (as in the game) led to White developing strong pressure, although in a rather different way than Caruana did.

Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 e5 7.a4 [B31]

A couple of months ago I analysed the interesting line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 e5 7.a4!? and here I get to take it for a spin in Fernandez, D - Vignesh, B. Black unhesitatingly played the natural moves 7...a5 8.Be3 b6 9.Na3 Ne7:

I would perhaps prefer 9...Qc7 for Black in practice, while the text lets me set up various ideas involving a b4 break.

Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.c3 Qb6 [B31]

Not an especially major line, but in my search for something untheoretical and yet playable against a youthful opponent recently, it checked all the boxes. In Narayanan, S - Fernandez, D both sides played logically until 12.d3:

Here I played the maximalist 12...e5, which is definitely in the spirit of the position but asks a little too much of it at my present state of development. Preferable was 12...Nxd6.

Rossolimo with 3...g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nc3 [B31]

The first round of the World Cup always throws up some interesting rating mismatches, which due to the nervous situation often are not as one-sided as one might expect. An example was Predke, A - Balogun, O where the White player, newly affiliated to the Serbian federation, had an advantage of over 400 points. Play began 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nc3 Nc7 8.Bxc6 dxc6:

Here he opted for the cautious 9.h3, which is not unreasonable given the importance of ...Bg4 in some of these positions. (Praxis is perhaps a bit kinder to 9.Ne4, a line which can be improved by 16.Ra4!? in the notes.) A few moves later, a bishop-pair versus knight-pair imbalance occurred, where a leitmotif was Black’s unwillingness to push their f-pawn.

Moscow Variation with 3...Nd7 4.a4 Ngf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 b6 [B51]

Next up a deep dive into the Hedgehog-adjacent lines of the Moscow starting with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.a4 Ngf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 b6. One of the heroes of the early stages of the World Cup, Emre Can, had many chances to put away a 2700 opponent in their mini-match, not least in the game So, W- Can, E. The key opening point arose after Black’s 11...0-0:

The opening phase is essentially over and White needs to decide if and how they are fighting for the d5-square. The database majority choice is the rather oblique 12.Nd2, and I think 12...Qc7 is then best met by 13.b3. Instead, Wesley went for the more direct 12.Bc4, which met a rather elegant reply in the form of the novelty 12...b5! In what followed, only Black ever had winning chances.

Zaitsev mainline 8.Bg5 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Rhe1 0-0 11.e5 [B53]

We can more or less subdivide the Qxd4 systems into ‘old’ and ‘new’; the new being the versions where White tries to push c4, and the old being the ones with a knight on c3. This nomenclature is perhaps about to be challenged since a couple of games from the World Cup went down the ‘old’ path, with reasonable success for White. I refer to the position after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Bxc6 Bxc6 8.Bg5 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7:

It turns out even taking on f6 is not totally harmless, but the present game provided motivation to recheck some of the lines after 10.Rhe1 0-0 11.e5 dxe5 12.Nxe5. While MVL chose 12...Qa5, it seems that either 12...Qb6 or 12...Bxg2 should be considered as more critical equalising tries. See Dragnev, V - Vachier Lagrave, M.

Alapin with 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Na3 [B22/C10]

It isn’t clear to me why my chess program classifies the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Na3 Nf6 6.d4 Nc6 as a French, but as we can readily see, it is an Anti-Sicilian. The first game in which points were taken off Michael Adams at the British Championships featured this line, with matters becoming interesting after 9...Nxd4:

Black’s position is a bit passive and not much favoured by computers, but for a human it’s not trivial to see how White should develop their attack. In particular, Black had an opportunity to generate reasonable counterplay on move 14, and White’s Fischeresque decision to win the bishop pair on move 16 (16.Nxd7), while extremely natural, also leaves Black’s path to neutralising the pressure as, dare I say, a reasonably natural one. See Adams, M - Gasanov, E.

Until next time, Daniel

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