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Queenside Fianchetto 2.b3 g6, 4.h4!? [B20]
Our first game probably saw its first bemused expression after White's second move, and an even bigger one after White's fourth:
Motylev - Potkin saw Black try the very sensible, very critical counter to 2.b3 with the ...Nf6/g6 system. This is indeed an excellent response by Black. However, Motylev's interesting flank thrust definitely deserves attention!
2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5 Mainline, 6.Na3 a6 [B22]
We then take a quick stop-off into more routine 2.c3 Sicilian territory. Smerdon - David continues our discussion about 6.Na3 against 2.c3 d5 with ...e6. At the Tromso Olympiad, my strong Italian opponent played the rare 6...a6!?, which is quite logical:
White can build up a little bit of pressure, but Black's choice is good enough for equality if he is prepared to defend rather passively.
2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6 Delayed d4, 7...d6 [B22]
Then, Tiviakov - Ferreira sees one of our favourite Antis proponents facing the common 7...d6 against perhaps the modern main line of all of 2.c3:
Check out 10.h3 in the notes for my opinion on White's best chance for an advantage.
Rossolimo Variation 2.Nc3/3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Bc4 [B23]
Next, two games where Alexei Shirov is on the receiving end of this Anti, which is popular at club level. After 3...Nd4 4.Bc4, Shirov tried the two main lines against weaker players in the recent Riga Open.
In Sanders - Shirov, Alexei followed the main line of the seminal game Svidler-Leko here:
however, it's a risky strategy, and Shirov was practically lost at one point. This line looks like lots of fun for White!
Armbrust - Shirov was played three days earlier, but these positions are also double-edged and give White good chances, particularly against strong players!
In this game, the lowly-rated white player plays courageously and energetically, and claims a great scalp.
3.Bb5 Moscow/Rossolimo hybrid 7.Bc4!? [B51]
Baklan - Mamedov is one of the little gems of this month's issue.
7.Bc4!? looks like such a nonsensical retreat. Why invite ...b5 voluntarily? The reason is as subtle as it is clever, and this is definitely one surprise weapon for White you should add to your repertoire!
Suba Move order 4.dxc5 [B53]
Usually 3...Nf6 is an invitation to transpose to a normal Open Sicilian without allowing 4.Qxd4. And theoretically, alternatives to 4.Nc3 have always been considered harmless. But is that strictly true? At the recent Olympiad, Marie Sebag decided to test the waters by going down the critical, forcing lines after 4.dxc5:
The critical point of this variation is Black's seventh move, where the choice is between a murky endgame pawn sacrifice and an equally unclear 'two pieces for a rook' ending. In either case, an extremely well-prepared White player has good chances to score a win without any thinking over-the-board! Don't miss the game Sebag - Hou.
Moscow Variation 3...Bd7, 7.Qe2 [B52]
Finally, our last little surprise weapon this month is seen in Kuzubov - Rasulov:
We've looked a lot at 7.Re1 in this position, which we have concluded gives White excellent chances of playing for two results, but objectively Black should be able to equalise. 7.Qe2 is therefore a useful addition to the arsenal. The idea is to keep e1 free for the retreat of White's Nf3, with a view to kicking back the black knight on e4 with f3, etc. It leads to less forcing positions than 7.Re1, and in the game Kuzubov makes easy work of his 2500 opponent.
Til next time. Enjoy the surprises! Dave
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