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Hi folks,
This month, we’ll mainly be focusing on Bb5 (+) ideas along with taking a look at Aronian’s pet Anti line for shorter time controls. A lot of the lines haven’t had many OTB tests, so I’ve delved deeply into correspondence games where necessary. Enjoy!

Download PGN of June ’22 Anti-Sicilian games

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Carlsen/Zaitsev Variation: 2 Nc3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Bb5 Bd7 6 Bxc6 Bxc6 7 Nge2!? [B23]

We’ll begin with a novel idea from the game Nguyen Duc, H - Karthik, V from the inaugural Maharashtra Open. In the below diagram, White went for 7 Nge2!?,

which is an interesting twist on the usual 7 Nf3, transposing into the mainline Zaitsev Variation. While clearly not a serious try for an advantage, it has been tried by several GMs over the years and does lead to fresh positions. White followed up with a Queenside fianchetto in Carlsen style and showed off his knowledge of typical attacking motifs in a well-played Kingside assault.

Rossolimo Variation: 3...e6 4 0-0 Nge7 5 Re1 b6!? [B30]

Next, we’ll take a look at an interesting idea that has been tried by some strong players recently,

namely 5...b6!? or 5...a6 6 Bf1 b6!? in the above diagram. In the game Gavrilescu, D - Caruana, F from the Superbet Blitz, Fabiano achieved a comfortable position and was en route to outplaying his opponent from an equal ending before the blitz factor kicked in. The endgame is actually fascinating and well worth studying! From an opening perspective, however, Black’s idea remains playable and is probably worth trying more often than as an occasional surprise weapon. I’ve given a complete overview of the current theory in the notes and provided many new suggestions for both sides.

Rossolimo Variation: 3...g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 d4!? [B31]

Moving on to another branch of the Rossolimo, we have two games featuring the dynamic 3...g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6, which was championed by Gelfand a few years ago. The game Moussard, J - Aryan, C from the Sharjah Masters showcased the very interesting 5 d4!?, which has been covered previously in the archives. I’ve taken this opportunity to thoroughly investigate Black’s alternatives on move five along with the game’s 5...Bg7. Aryan should excellent preparation/understanding when in the following position,

he played the very precise 9...Qd6! What followed was a well-played draw and I have been unable to find any meaningful improvements for White. However, as you can see from the notes, there are still many pitfalls to be avoided for Black in this line, confirming that 5 d4!? is still a dangerous weapon for White.

Rossolimo 3...g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 0-0 Bg7 6 Re1 Nh6 7 c3 0-0 8 h3 f5 9 e5 Nf7 10 d4 [B31]

The game Svane, F - Kotronias, V from the HSK GM event in Hamburg featured an old Gelfand favourite from the Greek theoretician.

However, the usually very well-prepared Kotronias avoided the critical line in the above position (14...Bxf3!) in favour of the dubious novelty 14...e6?! He still managed to generate significant practical chances and was on balance probably unlucky not to draw in the end. I’ve delved deeply into Black’s alternatives leading up to (and including) move fourteen using correspondence games, and brought the theory of this line right up to date.

Delayed Alapin: 2 Nf3 d6 3 c3 Nf6 4 Be2 g6 5 0-0 Bg7 6 Bb5+ [B50]

In Guijarro, A - Liren, D from the Chessable Masters, White went for a delayed Bb5+ idea on move six, which has been featured numerous times in the archives.

I’ve taken a detailed look at Black’s various options to block the check in the notes. Ding replied with the most ambitious line, 6...Nc6!? but soon went wrong and ended up suffering for most of the game before securing a draw in an opposite-coloured Bishop ending a pawn down. Black should be fine in several different ways, but if this line is still enough to surprise the world number two, then it’s a useful option to have in one’s repertoire.

Delayed Alapin: 2 Nf3 d6 3 c3 Nf6 4 Be2 g6 5 0-0 Bg7 6 d3!? [B50]

Now we’ll take a look at a pet line of Aronian’s, the only non Bb5 (+) related idea in this update, the unpretentious 6 d3!? in the same variation from Guijarro, A - Liren, D. Aronian has scored ten wins, three losses and no draws in this line at shorter time controls recently. The key position arises after the further 6...0-0 7 Be3 Nc6 8 Nbd2:

Black obviously has numerous different approaches here, but it’s surprising how often even very strong players have gone wrong and allowed White to capture the centre with d3-d4 free of charge. Our main game, Aronian, L - Shevchenko, K from the Superbet Blitz continued with 8...e5 (8...Ng4!? is also quite good) and a manoeuvring struggle ensued. Black missed a couple of chances to equalise early on and had to defend a worse position for most of the middlegame until Aronian blundered an exchange. This being a blitz game, the clock then became a factor and Black was unable to hit upon the right plan to convert his advantage, allowing White to gain enough compensation. The position became difficult for Black and he missed one crucial opportunity to force a drawn Rook ending before White won decisive material. It will be interesting to see if other strong players follow in Aronian’s footsteps when trying to avoid heavy-theory lines.

Moscow Variation: 3...Nd7 4 0-0 a6 5 Bd3 Ngf6 6 c3 b5 7 a4 [B51]

The first of our two games in the Moscow Variation is Vokhidov, S - Yakubboev, N from the Sharjah Masters. Black played the combative 3...Nd7 line, and in the below diagram, he chose a move that was pointed out by Sam as being very dodgy for Black,

namely, 7...c4?! I’ve checked Black’s alternatives in the notes, and provided White with a couple of new ideas against the mainline 7...Bb7. Both the game’s 8 Be2 and the more common 8 Bc2 are very dangerous for Black. In the game, Black defended well and achieved equal chances but eventually lost a very complicated struggle.

Moscow Variation: 3...Bd7 4 Bxd7+ Qxd7 5 c4 [B52]

Finally, we see the legendary Vishy Anand introduce a new idea for OTB chess in the mainline of the Moscow Variation. In Anand, V - Vachier-Lagrave, M from the recently-concluded Norway Chess,

Vishy played 12 Nb3!?, which had only been tested in correspondence games previously. The idea of avoiding the exchange of Knights is well-known, but White usually goes for 12 Nde2 instead. Vishy’s idea deserves more tests, even though he returned the Knight to d4 for some reason a few moves later. Maxime missed a chance to equalise and then chose the wrong moment to execute the standard ...b7-b5 break, losing the d6-pawn in the process. Vishy’s technique was exemplary in bringing home the full point.

I hope you enjoyed the update and I’ll see you next month.


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