It used to be that 3.Bb5+ was almost always met by 3...Bd7, but with both 3...Nd7 and the Hybrid Variation 3...Nc6 attracting followers, there are more interesting games to see.
After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.c3 is a bit unusual. Immediately attempting to open the position with 4.d4 is White's most common move, and probably a better try for an advantage. After 4...Ngf6 White must play 5.Qe2, because Re1 is not possible yet. In Benjamin - Krush Black got a good game with simple means following 5...a6 6.Ba4 e5 7.d4 b5 8.Bc2 Be7 9.0-0 0-0:
This "Spanish" setup looks fine for Black and Black quickly gains the initiative. Unfortunately when faced with an abundance of strong continuations, Krush misses a hidden resource and the win, and then the draw, slip away.
In another game from the U.S. Championship, Christiansen plays an unusual idea with Black. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Ba4 8.Bc2 we look at the provocative 8...g6!? in Hess - Christiansen. 9.d4 Bg4 is Black's idea, waiting for White's central advance in order to pressure the centre. Here White did not respond in the most forceful way, but he wins a difficult struggle anyway. GM-elect Robert Hess has had tremendous success recently. He generally plays simple openings and then outworks his opponents in the middlegame. I believe his play here will suddenly shoot him to #6 on the U.S rating list, behind only Kamsky, Onischuk, Nakamura, Shulman, and the relatively inactive Seirawan.
After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 is a little more accurate than 5.c3. Now 5...Nf6 is normal. Instead 5...a6 avoids 5...Nf6 6.h3!? which is a little annoying, but not especially dangerous. Here, however, the cure is worse than the disease. 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4! Nf6 9.Nc3 e6 10.Nd5!:
As I found out for myself... See the notes to Wahono - Paragua which instead continued 6.Nc3!? a6?! (Black should prefer 6...e6, 6...e6, or 6...g6) 7.Bxc6 Bxc6 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 This is okay, but 9.Qxd4! would transpose above. After 9.Nxd4 White still has chances for a small edge but in our featured game he was gradually outplayed.
A relatively uncommon line is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.h3:
This line is not troubling to Black theoretically, but it is certainly playable. The best response is 8...Bxf3 9.Qxf3 g6! When White can try to prepare the d4 advance with 10.Qd1. Usually this is met with the clever 10...Bh6, but in Yang Kaiqi-Dao Thien Hai, Black plays 10...e5!? which also seems playable.
In Greet - Wells a couple of fine authors do battle and White chooses the odd line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4. This move has always made a strange impression on me - I do not see how White can fight for the initiative this way. I guess it is just a game, and Black gradually gets the better of things here when White has some sudden ambition.
In the main line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bg7 9.f3 0-0 Ivanchuk avoids facing his own weapon by playing 10.Be3 in Ivanchuk - Shirov. This avoids 10.0-0 Rc8! Which could is always called "the Ivanchuk line" since he introduced this extremely effective antidote to White's play back in 2003. However, after 10.Be3 Black has avoided more aggressive setups with Bg5, and following 10...Nc6 11.0-0 Rac8 12.b3 e6 13.Rc1 Rfd8 14.Qd2:
Shirov shows off his own preparation and breaks free with 14...d5! Ivanchuk is caught off guard and goes down quickly.
Zaitsev 4 Qxd4 [B53]
Once in a while White avoids queenside castling and plays an unusual Maroczy structure with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.c4. This should not be dangerous, but Black mixes up his plans and suffers a serious case of wrong rook syndrome in Ni Hua-Zhou Jianchao.
In the main line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Bg5 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 sometimes White plays 10.Qd3 instead of the traditional 10.Rhe1. I think Black can try to take advantage of this with 10...Qa5!:
Grand Prix Attack [B23]
Grandmaster Bogdan Lalic was good enough to send us one of his recent games. I have felt for a long time that 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 is a strategically risky way for White to play. After 5...e6 6.d3 (perhaps ?!) 6...Nge7 7.0-0 d5!:
Black has good chances of taking over the centre and the initiative. After 8.Bb3 0-0 9.Qe1 Lalic plays 9...Na5!? when Black may eliminate the b3-bishop or even try to hunt it down with a subsequent ...a6 and ...b5. See the notes from us both in Dutina - Lalic.
Until next month, David