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Kicking off my adventures as the (temporary) Anti-Sicilian columnist, we have a mixed bag assembled from across the ECO codes- featuring two sparkling wins by Alexander Grischuk, as well as a sparkling effort from Lagno to defeat one of her greatest rivals in the female world elite.

Download PGN of May ’23 Anti-Sicilian games

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c3-Sicilian 2...d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Na3 [B22]

I start off with a subscriber query relating to this line, with a survey on the interesting try 6...a6 7.Nc4 Nbd7 8.a4:

(David did a lot of work on 8.Be2 earlier this year.) See Theoretical Survey- 8.a4.

c3 - Sicilian 2...e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 [B22]

In this month’s game Chen, P - Harsha, B White opted, not for the Italian-adjacent 4.Bc4, but for the Scotch-adjacent 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 exd4 6.Nxd4, which has interesting similarities and differences to the 1.e4 e5 opening. The game continued 6...Bb4 7.Nxc6:

Much easier equality seems to be offered by the game’s 7...dxc6 than by strictly aping the Scotch approach of taking with the b-pawn. Then, after 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 Be6, I think 10.Bg5 was already a small step in the wrong direction.

Closed Sicilian with 2...a6 [B23]

One line that hasn’t been seen on our pages for quite a while is 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.g3 b5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.d3 e6 and now the extravagant-looking 6.Nh3!?, reserving the decision about the f-pawn for after Black has committed their own d-pawn. The game Sosa, T - Santos Ruiz, M attracted my attention largely for the speed of White’s victory, but also how clean it was. Play continued 6...Be7 7.0-0 Qc7:

With the exception of White’s next move which is largely a matter of taste (I prefer 8.Re1), everything else White did was pure textbook and illustrates the raw attacking potential White has in this line.

Rossolimo with 3...e6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.d3 [B30]

Our first Grischuk masterclass comes in a fashionable line of the Rossolimo, with Black continuing 5...Qc7 (the idea is to prepare ...e5 without giving information about the g8-knight.) After 6.0-0 Ne7 there has been some recent interest in 7.h4!?:

Black’s most logical approach is probably 7...e5 8.h5 and now 8...h6, when I suggest the novelty 9.Nh4 instead of the existing 9.Nh2. Meanwhile against 8...d5, Grischuk’s 9.Nh2 made perfect sense. See Grischuk, A - Vakhidov, J.

Rossolimo Variation 3...g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 e5 [B31]

In terms of Black wanting to keep the maximum possible number of possible routes to d4 open for the g8-knight, the move 6...e5 makes more sense than the alternative 6...Nf6. Popularity-wise it’s also close, and this month no less than Hou Yifan chose the pawn push, which wound up being met by 7.a4!?:

This insertion is far from innocuous. Letting the pawn get to a5 undermines the whole basis of Black’s queenside, while replying with ...a5 leads to difficulties with the b6-square. Even so, I don’t think 7...b6?! can really be the right way for Black, and White went on to win nicely in Lagno, K - Hou, Y.

Queenside Fianchetto 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3 [B40]

The second Grischuk win of this month took place in the deceptively calm waters of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3 b6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bb7:

Between the main game Grischuk, A - Erigaisi, A, which featured 6. Bd3, and another game from this year in the 6.Nd2 variation (in the notes) it seems like there are a few new ideas in this reasonably well-established line.

Moscow Variation with 3...Nd7 4. Ba4 [B51]

A recurring theme in the 3...Nd7 Moscow is always Black’s ability to try and take play into a Spanish structure with an ...e5 push. In Neiksans, A - Kantans, T Black ended up doing just that after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 and now 5...e5:

I investigate the next 6-8 moves with a particular focus on analogies to theoretical Spanish positions. White won more or less thanks to the positional motif of d5, b4 and a4, though things became messy around the time control and could potentially have swung the other way.

Prins Variation with 5...e5 [B55]

A couple of months ago I was surprised by an opponent’s choice of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3 in Maltsevskaya, A - Fernandez, D (she normally allows the Najdorf.) Temporarily blindsided and unable to remember theory, I found myself entering the endgame variation of 5...e5 6.Nb3 d5 7.Bg5 dxe4 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8:

It is perhaps reasonably well known that White should play 9.Nc3 here rather than recovering the pawn, but not so well known why. Even after the less inspiring 9.Bxf6+ gxf6 10.fxe4, I failed to equalise in the most efficient manner and found myself taking enormous risks to obtain even the slightest of winning chances. A brilliant psychological play by the Polish IM/WGM.

Until next time, Daniel

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