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c3-Sicilian with 2...e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Ng5 [B22]
One of the modern ways for Black to play against the Alapin is with 2...e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Nf6, inviting (as we have seen before) a Fried Liver with extra c-pawn moves from both sides. One of the most robust ways for White to meet this, not tested before at the very highest level, was seen in Nepomniachtchi, I - Carlsen, M and began with 5.Ng5 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.d4:
Black is more or less obliged to accept the loss of the bishop pair and the fracturing of their queenside pawns, but in return obtains a central pawn mass which should not be underestimated.
The Chameleon Variation 3.Nge2 e6 4.d4 d5 [B23]
First off a bit of improvisation from yours truly, facing an opponent quite well known for using the 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 move order to head back into an Open Sicilian after ruling out some options. I reacted with 2...Nc6 3.Nge2 e6 4.d4 and now 4...d5!?:
It is principled for White to accept with 5.exd5 exd5 6.dxc5 d4 7.Ne4 and now I would perhaps prefer the entertaining 7...f5 for a future test, rather than the 7...Nf6 of Pijpers, A - Fernandez, D.
Rossolimo with 3...Nf6 4.Nc3 Qc7 [B30]
The clash between first and second place winners at the British Championships occurred as soon as round 1 in Adams, M - Jones, S. Following an initial 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Nc3 Qc7 Adams opted for the less confrontational 5.d3, so that the first interesting decision occurred only on move 11 after Black’s 10...Qc7:
The quiet 11.Re1 probably allowed Black to equalise (and indeed White only won in the end after taking considerable risks) while 11.f4 might have been a more critical way to follow up White’s opening strategy. There is still plenty of life in the opening debate after 5.d3, it seems.
1.e4 c5 2.h4 [B31]
Over the course of the summer I played two games with the rather excessively creative variation 1.e4 c5 2.h4 Nc6 3.Bb5, one of which was Fernandez, D - Rosen, E. It is worth remembering that in many lines of the Rossolimo, White would benefit from not having the f-pawn blocked, and (thinking back in particular to Grischuk’s game from recent months) the h-pawn thrust is useful not only against ...g6 setups but also ones with ...e6. As such, Black needs to be careful when selecting a line where this liberty is not rewarded. A logical continuation was 3...Qb6 4.a4 Nf6 5.d3 a6 6. Bxc6 Qxc6 7.c4 e6:
Here White has a number of playable moves, the most consistent of which is 8.h5, while Black’s aim of pushing ...d5 is perhaps not the panacea they imagined.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bd3 [B40]
In similar vein we have a line which was tried recently by Carlsen and Grischuk, fitting into the whole schema of preparing d4 with a bishop on c2, and which Black felt compelled to meet in vigorous fashion in the game Carlsen, M - Firouzja, A. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bd3 Nc6 White castled with 4.0-0:
One of the most structurally reasonable alternatives to ...d5 (accepting the IQP) was Firouzja’s 4...g5, sending play decidedly in a Rossolimo direction, with Carlsen’s treatment of the later opening then being especially commendable.
Moscow with 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bxd7+ Bxd7 6.Re1 [B51]
Finally, a two-part drama featuring myself and rockstar American grandmaster Hans Niemann. For our clash in the Las Vegas Super Swiss I had prepared the idea of 6.Re1:
In our first matchup, Fernandez, D - Niemann, H, Hans opted for 6...e5 7.c3 Ne7 8.d4 Nc6 9.Nbd2 and here the adventurous 9...g5, muddying the waters. I was by no means averse to this and went all in with a piece sacrifice, perhaps having some advantage quite early on but coming off second best in a long struggle.
In our second game, Fernandez, D - Niemann, H, played in the following tournament, Hans went for 6...Nf6 7.c3 e6:
which essentially gets solid equality (though the note 11.Nfd2 is worth a try) and this time it was he who sacrificed the piece, with incredible complications and a suitably dramatic denouement. All in all, the line rewards further study and deserves a place in an Anti-Sicilian repertoire.
Until next time, Daniel
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