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Hi folks,
We’re going to cover an array of different aggressive options for White and Black this month. Somewhat surprisingly, a lot of these ideas have been rarely played OTB and are virtually untouched in Correspondence play. Hopefully this update will encourage the reader to try out these ideas before they become more popular. Enjoy!

Download PGN of March ’23 Anti-Sicilian games

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c3-Sicilian: 2...Nf6 3 e5 Nd5 4 Nf3 d6 5 Bb5+!? [B22]

There have been several more tests of the new line I covered last month in Narayanan - Muradli, the 5 Bb5+!? from the below diagram:

In Kosteniuk, A - Salem, A.R. from the recent PRO League Prelim, the former Women’s World Champion and Alapin specialist decided to give this line a whirl against her higher-rated Emirati opponent. After 5...Bd7 6 Bc4 e6 7 d4 cxd4, Kosteniuk eschewed my recommendation of 8 Bxd5 (which I tried out myself this month - see the notes) for the simple recapture 8 cxd4. This leads to a typical Alapin position where Black is a tempo up on the mainlines, but has committed to ...Bc8-d7 somewhat prematurely. Despite the extra tempo, Black must play precisely to coordinate his pieces properly, as the Bishop can easily get in the way if Black plays natural moves by analogy with the mainlines. The game is a rare case of a very strong GM falling for the Greek Gift sacrifice! A fine attacking effort from Kosteniuk nonetheless. I’m sure we’ll see more tests of the 5 Bb5+!? idea over the coming months.

Grand Prix Attack: 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 a4!? [B23]

Noted Grand Prix specialist GM Kadric, who has demonstrated his attacking skills in this variation before in the archives, essayed a rare idea in the mainline. The move 5 a4!? in the below diagram has been recommended by GM Perelshteyn in a relatively recent Chessable course:

We’ve seen 5 a3!? and of course White’s two main moves, 5 Bc4 and 5 Bb5 in the archives, but this double-step of the a-pawn is new for us. Whereas 5 a3!? clearly hints at the b2-b4 advance, pushing the a-pawn two squares is more prophylactic in nature. White gives the King’s Bishop a potential retreat square on a2 while also preventing any Queenside expansion from Black and staying flexible. White can decide the fate of his light-squared Bishop depending on which set-up Black chooses. In the game Kadric, D - Drasakovic, L from the Montenegro Championship, White went all out on the Kingside and won in impressive fashion. I’ve covered a similar a2-a4 approach from White after 2...d6 in the notes as well, as Kadric also had a nice win against Moussard in this line in the recently-concluded European Individual Championship. In the main game, my feeling is that Black should also play flexibly with 5...a6!? but see the notes for more details!

Carlsen Variation: 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Qd2 g6 6 b3 Bh6 7 f4 Nf6 8 Bb2 0-0 9 0-0-0 a5 10 Kb1 a4 [B23]

We recently covered 10 a4 from White in the below diagram:

and this is indeed White’s main move. However, after the standard alternative 10 Kb1?, Black can immediately advance with 10...a4! himself, causing White to regret his lack of respect for Black’s aggressive posturing on the Queenside. The game Karacsony, G - Hrabusa, M from the Slovakian Team Championship ended in a short but entertaining draw where the advantage changed hands several times. Even the final position was good for White! However, it looks like 10 Kb1? should definitely be avoided!

Closed Sicilian: 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nge2 a6 4 g3 b5 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Nf6 7 Re1 [B30]

Our next game features a sneaky move from White, namely 7 Re1 in the below diagram:

White prepares to meet 7...b4 with 8 Nd5! Despite the fact that the Knight on e2 blocks the Rook’s view along the e-file, this line is very dangerous for Black. The game Yilmazyerli, M - Manafov, V from the EICC in Vrnjacka Banja ended in a fairly quick win for White, and it looks like there is a choice of promising continuations for him on move thirteen. The positions resulting from the piece sacrifice are quite chaotic, but much easier to play for White. I have some thoughts on how Black can avoid these complications and also point out some improvements over previously published analysis in the notes.

Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 e6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 b3 e5!? [B30]

The game Lobanov, S - Ibarra Jerez, J. C. from the Airthings Masters featured a very sharp line of the Rossolimo which I briefly covered in the game Esipenko - Moiseenko from last year’s May update. Black played 5...e5!? in the below diagram:

and White continued with the critical 6 Nxe5 Qe7 7 d4. Black chose 7...f6!? 8 Nf3 Qxe4+ 9 Kd2!?, hoping to tuck the King away on b2, and now 9...Qf4+ is a novelty from Black (I only mentioned 9...Ne7 in the notes to Esipenko - Moiseenko). Ibarra Jerez has tried this twice over the past month, winning this game but losing another to Fedoseev. In general, the idea looks playable for Black, but Ibarra Jerez’s choice on move eleven in both of these games should not be repeated. From White’s point of view, 11 Nxd4!? looks like a better try for an edge. I’ve also covered earlier alternatives for both sides in the notes.

Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 e6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 d3 Ne7 6 Nbd2!? [B30]

Next, we’ll see another relatively rare idea in the Rossolimo, which has been briefly covered by Jonathan Rowson in the archives, but has received a lot of recent attention:

In the game Svane, F - Radovanovic, N from a recent Bundesliga weekend, White opted for 6 Nbd2!? in the above diagram, which is only the fifth move common choice here. White plays flexibly and prepares to counteract Black’s plan of ...d7-d6 and ...e6-e5 by playing e4-e5 himself. White’s reluctance to commit his King to either side gave him the opportunity to throw his Kingside pawns down the board and win in impressive fashion. However, I think Black should be able to generate enough counterplay if he’s well-prepared. Still, it’s clear that 6 Nbd2!? will only become more popular over the coming months.

Rossolimo: 3 Bb5 e6 4 0-0 Nge7 5 Re1 a6 6 Bf1 d5 7 d3 d4 8 e5 Ng6 9 g3 [B30]

The game Sindarov, J - Vaishali, R from the Tata Steel Challengers featured an interesting gambit idea from White in one of the mainlines of the Rossolimo with 3...e6.

White simply sacrificed the e5-pawn with 10 Bg2!? Another gambit idea, 10 Nbd2?! (which looks less accurate) and the more materialistic 10 Qe2 (which leads to typical KIA-style positions) are also covered in the notes. In the game, Black was unable to cope with the Catalan-style pressure White received for the pawn, but I think accurate defence would have enabled her to equalise. In any case, White’s pawn sacrifice is completely sound and deserves more tests!

Hybrid Variation: 4 0-0 Bd7 5 Re1 Nf6 6 h3!? a6 7 Bf1 g5!? [B51]

Our final game features a heavyweight struggle between Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H from the Airthings Masters. Carlsen went for the quiet 6 h3!? in the below diagram:

Naka was not content to allow Carlsen a chance to reach a standard, pleasant position after a subsequent c2-c3 and d2-d4 from White, and instead presented him with an immediate challenge: 6...a6 7 Bf1 g5!? Despite being covered by John Shaw in the archives as far back as 2008, this move is still quite uncommon. Carlsen reacted in thematic fashion by breaking in the centre with 8 d4!, which has John’s seal of approval and was also recently recommended by Bologan in his Rossolimo book for New In Chess.

The game continued with 8...g4 9 d5 gxf3 10 dxc6 Bxc6 11 Qxf3 reaching something of a tabiya for this line, where Nakamura essayed a novelty: 11...Rg8. I’ve covered the other previously played alternatives in the notes. Naka’s idea shouldn’t be enough to equalise, and Carlsen built up a commanding position before allowing Black to execute a Queenside pawn break and generate sufficient activity to hold the balance.

This eventually led to a Rook ending where White was always on the back foot. Despite the position being lost for White on several occasions, Carlsen eventually managed to hold the ending two pawns down.

A titanic struggle! In general, Black’s idea should probably still be reserved as a surprise weapon, but it can certainly pack a punch!

Until next month, David

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