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This month has a heavy focus on the 2.c3 Sicilian. Strictly speaking, I haven't limited myself to developments only from the last month, as during a recent tournament I discovered some important games that have been played over the past half a year but had slipped under my radar.

Download PGN of May '14 Anti-Sicilian games

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2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 5...Bf5 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Na3 [B22]

In particular, pay close attention to Vachier Lagrave-Moiseenko, my 2.c3 followers! Here, MVL makes an important contribution to the theory of the 2...Qxd5/Bf5 variation, almost (dare I say it) putting one of the main lines to bed. This is a great opportunity for players of the white pieces to pick up some quick wins with 8.Bc4!:

However, Sivuk - Moiseenko sees Black's recent improvement over this line: 7...e6!

This is a very rare move and so far most players are yet to switch to it, but I really think it's Black's best shot at equality, given MVL's improvement. The line needs a lot more practical testing, but my gut feeling is that Black has enough compensation for the pawn to hold the balance. I'm sure we'll have more to say about this in coming months.

2.c3 Sicilian French Defence set-up 2...e6, delayed d4 [B22]

Zhao - Lin was a nice game to find this month. One of the most annoying anti-2.c3 lines for me is the simple 2...e6, offering a transposition to a French. Jun Zhao tries a different track, however, making use of the omission of d2-d4 to throw in a quick check on the e-file:

It's actually quite annoying for Black to handle, and not at all easy to maintain equality. Not a bad idea to know, and one I plan to use in future!

2.c3 Sicilian/Morra 2...g6, 5.Bc4 [B22]

Ibarra Jerez-Rodriguez Guerrero is our last 2.c3 game, although it's really more of a Morra. This is another intriguing game to study, because again White finds a crafty idea in an otherwise annoying line (at least to me!). Instead of simply recapturing on d4 in the 2...g6 variation, White instead attempts to transpose to a reasonably nice variation of the Morra:

In the game, Black declines the offer with the insipid 5...d3 from the diagrammed position, but to be honest, I'd be happy to play the positions with White if Black accepts the pawn.

Reversed Anti-English [B23]

I have no idea what this system is called, so I've opted for the above, which is certainly the most important feature of this game. In Aronian - Karjakin Aronian surprises his opponent with a very rare 1.e4!?, but quickly transposes into something he knows well: the anti-English system he often employs with the black pieces! In such quiet positions, this can't really be good enough for an advantage, but somehow Lev manages to get one anyway!

In the diagram, Aronian could have played 17.Nh5!!, with the fiendishly attractive idea of sacrificing two knights on h7 and g7. White wins!

Moscow 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4, with b3 [B52]

Karjakin features again in our next game, Karjakin - Mamedyarov , in which we take a look at the Maroczy approach to 3...Bd7 in the Moscow.

This line isn't my personal favourite, but that's probably just a style thing; in general, White should never lose these positions, and the notes make clear that a well-prepared practitioner can certainly try to eek out the full point. Check out the notes to move 17 to see how Rozentalis plays this line.

Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6, Carlsen's 7.c4 [B51]

Moving on to 3...Nd7, Nakar - Oleksienko continues the discussion about the c2-c4 theme in the Bd3 variation. Black's idea of clamping down on d4 before White can open the position makes a lot of sense:

In general, though, I have faith in White's chances in this line; be sure to check out the notes to White's tenth move.

Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.0-0 [B51]

Finally, a little self-advertisement for this column: I managed to put my analysis from last month to good use in Smerdon - van Oosterom. We followed the notes to Jones-Eggleston, but by the time the first new move appeared on the board, I was already clearly better:

and my very talented opponent was forced to resign after my 17th move. So there you go: pay attention to my notes! :)

Cheers, Dave

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