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Hi guys and girls. I've decided to focus this month on practical variations: lines that I think have a high chance of appearing in practice, while maximising one's chances of getting an edge against an unsuspecting opponent. Of course the bias remains towards those wielding the white pieces, but the notes are equally valuable to the second player who wishes to avoid getting caught in the opening.
Speaking of practical chess, I'm also going to take this opportunity to philosophise a little about what I think should be the goal in the opening for Antis players. Let's be honest: playing Anti-Sicilians cannot objectively be better than playing the Open Sicilian; that's why they're called Antis! However, the lines in this column are often far more practical against a booked-up theory hound who studies the Najdorf over breakfast. Often you'll see me evaluating a position as "a slight pull with good chances to play for two results", or something similar. In my opinion, if a line in an Anti-Sicilian leads to a position that may objectively be close to equal but in which only White can play for a win, with no realistic risk of losing, that's a theoretical success in my book. That's practical chess as it should be!
Right, enough philosophy; let's get to the chess. Plenty of 2.c3 Sicilians this month and a couple of gambits after 3.Bb5+ as well ... and a delayed Wing Gambit!

Download PGN of October '13 Anti-Sicilian games

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2.a3, Wing Gambit [B20]

My soft spot for offbeat gambits led me to choose Dobrov - Blom so as to show you some interesting stuff after 2.a3. The game quickly leads to a variation of the Wing Gambit that I believe is very respectable for White:

in fact, I'll try and convince you that despite being a pawn behind, White is already better in the diagram position!

2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, 5...e6, 6...d6 7.a3 [B22]

In Barrenechea Bahamonde-Korneev we again revisit the old 7.a3 line of the popular ...e6/d6 setup after 2.c3 Nf6. Again I'll mention that my preference remains for 7.Bc4, but the lowly-rated player behind the white pieces does a respectable job of trying to rehabilitate an exchange sacrifice against one of Black's most formidable replies to the old main line.

We'll take a look at 11...Nc3 in the diagram position and try to see just how much compensation White can get with this new idea.

2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, delayed d4, 12.Re1 [B22]

Mammadov - Smirnov sees the main line of 2.c3 Nf6 with a delayed d4, and allows us to look at 12.Re1, never before analysed on ChessPub:

I think it's a very important variation for all 2.c3 players to look at, however, especially because it's been heavily analysed in the correspondence chess community. Check out in particular 14.Qh5!? in the notes as a potential improvement for White in this very topical line.

2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6, 5...e6, 6...b6 [B22]

In Pourramezanali - Kotronias we take a look at the ...e6/b6 line of 2.c3 Nf6, one of my pet favourites when playing on the black side. I've picked this game because it features the old main line 12.Re1, which for some reason hasn't been looked at on ChessPub:

I guess the reason is because it's far less exciting than the razor-sharp 12.Ng5, but actually I think the rook move might be White's best try for an objective advantage. In this game the Greek legend behind the black pieces first marches his king to f6 and then sacrifices his queen in a remarkably creative display, but pay close attention to 16.Rh3 in the notes. This is very old theory, but I've taken a good look at it and I believe with best play White should preserve an edge.

C3 Sicilian 2...d5, 5...Bg4 6.dxc5 [B22]

We return to one of my favourite 2.c3 lines in Tiviakov - Morchiashvili. The Dutch Antis specialist tried the rare 8.Be2!?, and while ultimately I'm not convinced it's better than the main line, the game is very instructive.

White is happy to give back the extra pawn in order to achieve a superior endgame, as is so common in this variation, and Tiviakov squeezes the point without allowing a drop of compensation.

Rossolimo/Moscow Hybrid ...d6 + ...Nc6 [B51]

In Vachier - Lagrave-Ortiz Suarez we investigate 6.h3!? in the Rossolimo/3.Bb5+ hybrid, an interesting sideline that usually reaches a closed position with many themes from the Closed Spanish.

Despite the blocked centre, the French star whips up a deadly kingside attack that finishes with a delicious queen sacrifice.

Moscow Variation 3...Nd7 4.d4 [B51]

In the first of two dangerous gambits of the e4 pawn after 2...d6 3.Bb5+, Alekseev - Krush sees the American woman surprisingly accept the offer after 3...Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.0-0. This pawn is really too hot to touch - in fact, I go so far as to conclude that the correct annotation should be "5...Nxe4?":

Still, this capture seems to happen a fair bit at club level, so pay close attention to the notes - in my opinion, White should be completely winning after five more moves in this line!

Moscow Variation 3...Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0-0 [B52]

We take another look at the tricky 7.d4 sacrifice of 3.Bb5+ Bd7 in Prusikin - Ftacnik:

The game doesn't change the evaluation of accepting the pawn, as we saw in Zhigalko-Sjugirov much, but I imagine that a lot of players on the black side would also decline the gambit over-the-board. Prusikin demonstrates that White emerges with a nice edge in this case. Incidentally, the day after I analysed this game I got the chance to play the gambit myself in a rapid tournament in the Netherlands, which finished in checkmate a dozen moves later; this sacrifice is not easy to meet over the board!

Til next month, Dave

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