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c3-Sicilian: 2...Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 [B22]
The news for White in the other main lines after 2.c3 Nf6 with ...d6/Nc6 isn't as spectacular this month. Salgado Lopez-Pavlidis featured the main line in the 8.Bb5/10.Nxd7 variation:
Black went for the rare ...g6 kingside development, which I'm generally not a fan of, but played well enough to just about equalise before tragedy struck.
Tomazini - Ardelean saw the 8.Bb3 and 9.d5 sacrifice line:
Black followed one of the many tried and true equalising lines, and didn't have too many problems reaching an equal endgame, before the lower rated white player eventually pushed too hard. As much as I like playing this variation for White, there are just too many easy routes to equality for Black at the moment.
c3-Sicilian: 2...d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Na3 [B22]
Cherniaev - Hunt saw the Na3 line of 2...d5 reached through a rare move order, 4.Na3!?:
before quickly falling back into the usual sort of endgame. This was a good choice by White, blunting the fine tactical skills of one of England's most dangerous female players, but Alex blew it all with an unfortunate hallucination.
Grand Prix Attack 2.f4 e6 [B23]
Next, we continue with GM Stuart Conquest pulling out the accelerated Grand Prix with 2.f4:
I think this is quite a dangerous system if it wasn't for Black's best reply 2...d5. Stuart's Grandmaster opponent preferred the quiet 2...e6 and after a few moves the game closely resembled a better version for White of a line of the anti-Alekhine's defence, itself considered slightly better for White! Stuart won a nice game in effortless fashion, but the critical test of White's setup remains 2...d5. See Conquest - Bellon-Lopez.
Moscow Variation: 3...Nd7 [B51]
We then move on to the topical 3.Bb5+ Moscow. Carlsen - Anand was of course the much anticipated match from the recent Norway Supertournament. Although the game was drawn, we'll see that White had quite a few chances to get a nice edge in the endgame, and if this is the best Anand can find for Black in this line, expect Carlsen to throw out a few more 3.Bb5's in their upcoming world championship match!
Moscow Hybrid 2/3...Nc6 [B51]
In the former, after 4.Bxc6+, Black repeats an old variation famously played in Kasparov-Polgar, 6...g5!?:
Still, I can't condone making 9 pawn moves out of your first 10 opening moves, all in order to win a pawn! Gallagher shows that the line is still as dangerous for Black as ever, winning with a nice attack.
In the latter game, Gawain plays the more popular 4.0-0 but forgets his theory with 10.Qd1, allowing the annoying 10...Bh6!:
Still, he quickly demonstrates that Black hasn't entirely solved his problems, building up a nice little edge before sacrificing unsoundly. Shirov was unable to refute it at the board, however, and the game ended in perpetual check, a result that was crucial to Gawain's (and my!) Guildford team winning the Four Nations Chess League.
Till next time, Dave
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