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Success for ChessPublishing authors this month, and some fantastic new ideas from the very top to reinvigorate the Moscow. Let's take a look!

Download PGN of March '14 Anti-Sicilian games

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2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, delayed d2-d4, 9.Na3 [B22]

We start off with former Antis columnist Sam Collins employing his favourite 11.Nh4!? in the main line of 2...Nf6:

Against his well-prepared opponent, who had previously been on the end of the same system against Godena, Sam deviated with 16.Qxd3!. Black probably is okay in this variation, but it's incredibly dangerous to defend over the board, and I continue to be impressed by this line for White, see Collins-L'Ami,A.

2 c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, ...e6 & ...d6 [B22]

I kept the columnist pride up in Smerdon - Van Foreest. The talented Dutch prodigy whipped out some preparation he hadn't had the chance to use on his way to becoming European Under 14 Champion last year. Black's idea to combine 7...Nb6 with 8...Bd7 is a little bit passive:

but does feed off the old main line in this variation, in which Black was always considered to be fine. In the game, I kept at a strategy of aiming for a small endgame advantage, which, as is often the case against talented juniors, paid dividends.

Grand Prix Attack 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bc4 [B23]

Williams-L'Ami,A saw the tactical English grandmaster employ Gashimov's 5.Bb5+/6.Bc4, followed by a further retreat to e2 when kicked:

The resulting positions look a little like a reversed Classical Dutch setup against the English - right up Simon's alley! I really like this approach for White, but of course you'll only get to play it against opponents who plop ...d6 out early. This game is a fantastically complex battle between two exceptional tacticians, though with one huge oversight! Can you spot the mate in four from the diagram?

Moscow/Rossolimo Hybrid 4.0-0, 6.h3 [B51]

Lots of spicy Moscow action in this edition.

First off, another Williams game, though this time he's with the black pieces. The rare 8...g5!? is something of a Williams trademark:

so his opponent - who is known for his outstanding opening preparation - was ready to counter. Twan's play in this game is pretty much textbook for how White should handle this tricky flank attack, and it almost puts the whole variation to bed. But see 16...h5!? in the notes to Burg - Williams for a wild-west approach to making it playable for Black.

Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3 [B51]

Then we move on to the real treats of this month. Adams - Mareco and Carlsen - Nakamura both take on 3...Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3, with Black employing the fashionably early ...b7-b5 thrust. Although the positions are slightly different (see diagrams), on both occasions White counters with c2-c4!, a new and, dare I say it, dangerous idea:

6.c4 in Adams-Mareco.

7.c4 in Carlsen-Nakamura.

White immediately seeks to open things up as a "take that" to Black's neglected kingside development. Some of the resulting positions can resemble open Sicilians (some sort of Scheveningen/Najdorf setup) but without the usual pawns on b7 and c2. I think the difference favours White, and the standard sacrifices on e6 seem to only grow in bite. A really promising new development in this fashionable system!

Moscow 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0-0 [B52]

Caruana - Gelfand, on the other hand, sees a less successful c2-c4 move in the Moscow. Gelfand's 6...Nf6! in the main line 3...Bd7 Maroczy system has always been the reason I've been put off 6.c4, so it's worth us finally looking at a good example of this on ChessPublishing:

The ensuing exchange sacrifice looks very juicy for Black in my opinion, and although White can avoid it with some alternatives on move 10, these take the sting out of White's setup. In the game, Caruana plays in the most principled fashion, but is lucky to save half a point after Gelfand quickly takes over the initiative.

Finally, another of my own games to finish - Smerdon - Burg, apologies! But after I've been going on and on in past columns about the virtues of the 'harmless' old main line against 3...Bd7, I finally got the chance to put it to the test. The resulting positions look toothless, even to a computer's eyes (eye?), but the kingside attack is incredibly dangerous. And, of course, White always has the option to bail out with mass exchanges on the c-file, but that approach wasn't necessary in this game. In fact, from the diagram, Black's position is perhaps indefensible:

It continues to baffle me that this variation isn't more popular among white players, and that theory still considers it all to be benign. Maybe black players will catch on in a year or two, but until then, there seems to be easy points to be had for the clued-up 3.Bb5+ exponent. Definitely worth a close inspection, especially because poor Twan played all the most popular moves for Black in this line, all the way up until it was already too late!

Till next time, Dave

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