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c3-Sicilian 2...Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Bb3 d5 8.exd6 Qxd6 9.Na3 a6! [B22]
This line has always been fine for Black, but is occasionally essayed by GMs who hope their opponents have forgotten their theory. In Kamsky, G - Paravyan, D, after 10.0-0 Bf5 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.cxd4 Blacked eschewed the reliable 12...e6 for the more adventurous 12...g6:
Full marks for creativity, but this defence seems riskier than the established alternative.
Carlsen Variation 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd2 [B23]
Since Magnus showed the way at the Gashimov Memorial, GMs have been eager to play the fresh positions in this line.
Nakamura, H - Vachier Lagrave, M featured a Dragon setup with 5...g6 6.b3 Bg7 7.Bb2 Nf6 8.0-0 0-0, which MVL turned into a Nadjorf after 9.Kb1 Qa5 10.Nge2 e5:
Black did just fine in the game, but I think Nakamura could have played for more by delaying Nd5.
Fedoseev, V - Najer, E featured a double fianchetto after 5...Nf6 6.b3 e5 7.Bb2 Be7 8.g3 0-0 9.Bg2:
White came out on top in a very unclear and double-edged game, which is certainly the aim when playing such a fresh position.
Closed Sicilian 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nh3 [B25]
The Closed Sicilian has always been an option for players wishing to avoid theoretical battles, and the development of the knight to h3 got a boost of popularity since Carlsen used it to win an extremely clean game against Wojtaszek a few years ago:
In Artemiev, V - Dubov, D, two of the brightest new Russian talents face off, and White wins an excellently-played game.
Tiviakov Grand Prix 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Bc4 e6 5.Nge2 [B23]
Black can get into a lot of trouble in this line if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, as illustrated by Movsesian, S - Kraemer, E where the highly dubious 5...g6?! was played:
Movsesian refuted Black’s opening and, after some inaccuracies, concluded with a devastating attack.
Rossolimo 3...g6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Re1 Nf6 [B31]
This line used to be popular before Boris Gelfand showed everyone how to force a draw by putting their knight on h6! In Saric, I - Lalic, B, after 7.e5 Nd5 8.c4 Nc7, White avoided the forcing 9.d4 in favour of the more conservative 9.b3:
Black needs to be energetic to equalise, and managed in the game, although the final result wasn’t in his favour.
Moscow Variation 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bg7 [B52]
Vladimir Malakhov is one of the godfathers of the Bb5(+) Sicilians and he produced two impressive wins in team competitions in Russia and China. In Malakhov, V - Timofeev, A, the players followed the long forcing line 9.h3 Qc7 10.b3 Qa5 11.Bd2 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 Qe5 13.Qb1 f5:
This leads to an endgame which Black can draw with accurate play, but Timofeev stumbled into an inferior rook endgame. I can’t remember the last time Malakhov drew a superior rook endgame!
Moscow Variation 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Nxd7 5.0-0 Ngf6 [B52]
Malakov, V - Fang, Y featured the line with 6.Qe2 e6 7.c3 Be7 8.d4 0-0 9.Rd1:
resulting in a model win for White.
Till next time, Sam
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