2.c3 Sicilian [B22]
As I mentioned last month, one problem for Black in the 2.c3 Sicilian is generating winning chances while avoiding too much risk. In Kalezic - Areshchenko White tries to steer the game to a draw immediately with the rare 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Bb3 d5 8.exd6 Qxd6 9.Nxd4?! After 9...Nxd4 10.Qxd4, instead of trading queens immediately, which certainly equalizes, Black plays 10...Qg6!? 11.Qf4 Bd7! 12.0-0 Bc6 13.Qg3 Qxg3 14.hxg3 when the exchange of queens has unbalanced the pawn structure:
In the end, White did not manage to hold...
Grand Prix Attack [B23]
It is not often we see a GM battle in the Grand Prix Attack, let alone a miniature. In Perelshteyn - Diamant Black ventures 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb5 Nge7 6.exd5 exd5 7.Qe2 g6 8.Qe5 Rg8:
which has been played by Shirov. After 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Qe2 I cannot see the appeal in Black's position and White scores a decisive victory.
In Stojcevsk - Najer we look at the main line with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6, which is very popular. After 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 is always a bit risky for White, because after 5...e6 the bishop may get hit by ...d5. White often attempts to sacrifice a pawn here with 6.f5 (which is perhaps good enough for equality), but if instead 6.0-0 Nge7 7.d3 d5! 8.Bb5?! (we have looked at the safer 8.Bb3 recently as well) 8...0-0 I suspect Black is already better...
Rossolimo 3...e6 [B30]
There has been some high level action recently in the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bc2 Bb7:
In Carlsen - Radjabov White played 8.Qe2 9.e5 d4 10.Be4, when Radjabov's slightly unusual 10...Qb6, while playable, required careful handling. Maybe the opening alone cannot be blamed however, because Magnus did manage to go 5-0 with White in this supertournament.
Svidler - Nakamura saw the American champion play his friend and nemesis. Svidler essayed the slightly uncommon 8.a4!? which also saw White getting some pressure that he parlayed deep into the endgame.
The games of Kotronias and Bacrot in the Rossolimo are always worth paying attention to. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nc3 Nc7 8.Bxc6 dxc6 9.Ne4 b6 10.Nf6+ Kf8 11.Ne4 Bg4 12.d3 Ne6 13.Ned2 Black has always been considered to have good equalizing chances, albeit without great winning chances:
Bacrot uncorked 13...g5!? here, which proved worth the risk in Muzychuk - Bacrot.
Moscow Variation [B52]
We have not looked at the fashionable 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bg7 9.h3 in awhile. Although this move is not terribly dangerous, it is a bit annoying, especially as the equalizing 9...Qc7 trick leads to a position with extremely limited winning chances for the second player. In Glek - Shirov Black plays the more combative 9...0-0, Normally White plays 10.Be3 here, but why can't he just castle? Well, he can, although it does allow Black to initiate double-edged play with 10...Rc8 11.b3 b5!?:
Zaitsev Variation [B53]
This line keeps coming up and I always think it is worthwhile to look at because it is easy to forget how to play for Black because Sicilian player do not face it too often. Considering the positions that arise look like Open Sicilians, it's good to stay on top of things. This month we have two games in the main line. White won both, but not because of the openings which looked good for Black theoretically.
After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Bg5 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Rhe1 0-0 White played the unusual 11.Qd2 in Sammour Hasbun-Kudrin. Black reacted in the best way with 11...h6! 12.Bf4 (12.Bh4 Nxe4! 13.Rxe4 Bxh4 and however White recaptures, Black wins back his material with interest) 12...e5 13.Bg3 Rc8 which gives Black a good position.
The main line is 11.Kb1 Qc7 (11...h6 also has a very good reputation) 12.Qd2 Rfd8 13.Nd4 when Trent - Williams saw Black uncork 13...b5!?:
In this game White (correctly) took the pawn and managed to defend. The pawn sacrifice has been played very rarely, but my first impression is that it is fully viable!
Until next month, David