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Hi folks. I'm back after my Scandinavian chess summer, which incidentally means we've got plenty of Olympiad action to check out. One of the great things about the Olympiad is that many club players get the chance to have a crack at some of the world's very best players, the sort that wouldn't usually find themselves playing down by 400+ points. This also means we get to see some incredible scares and upsets in phenomenally lopsided battles!
That's our theme for this month: underdogs causing some serious scares in Anti-Sicilians for their much-fancied opposition, on both sides of the board.

Download PGN of September '14 Anti-Sicilian games

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2.c3 Sicilian 2...Nf6 Mainline ...d6, ...dxe5 [B22]

We start off with Smerdon - Hendrickson, which sees White take on the endgame after 6...dxe5:

I've spoken about the potential of this line before, but perhaps I've been a bit too optimistic about White's chances. Certainly, in the game I could have maintained an edge with the energetic 14.Nb5!, but perhaps Black can equalize earlier with the rare 10...Be6!. The conclusion should be that White can still choose this line to play for two results, but in this game my opponent took advantage of my early inaccuracy to make my life very difficult indeed, and I was lucky to wring out a long win against someone 350 points below me.

2.c3 Sicilian 2...d5, 4...g6 [B22]

Winter Atwell-Mekjitarian is better news from the white side. Here, the player from Trinidad and Tobago achieved an excellent position against his strong GM opponent, over 450 points his superior!

This line has caused me problems for White in the past, and in the notes you'll see yet another example of a 2100 holding me to a draw. But I'm gradually getting the hang of these positions, and I could do worse than follow Winter Atwell's example in this game. White had several chances to steal at least half a point against the GM, but perhaps more importantly, the game is theoretically relevant as it shows that White should preserve a slight advantage in this annoying line with accurate play.

Queenside Fianchetto 2.b3, 4.Bxf6 [B20]

Averbukh - Kotanjian is another "2100 meets 2500" encounter, but this time White really should have captured the GM scalp. White was completely crushing his opponent for a good 20 moves or so, and must have rued the missed opportunity.

4.Bxf6!? may not look like much, but the structural change really puts the question to Black, as White can easily build up a sizeable advantage with natural moves (as happened here). This game is yet another decent advertisement for the seemingly harmless 2.b3, which Morozevich continues to use with good effect.

Closed Sicilian Botvinnik 7.Nh3 [B25]

It seems hardly fair to call Wojtaszek an 'underdog', but I guess everyone is when facing Magnus. In any case, our last 'lopsided battle' features the World Champion employing the Closed Sicilian. However, as you might expect, he's got a little wrinkle in store for us. 7.Nh3!? is probably just a very good move, with the subtle strategic point that the king's knight is much better placed with an eye to f4-d5 than on f3:

Black should be fine in these positions if he remembers that ...b7-b6 should often be preferred to ...b7-b5, due to the increased control over the central dark squares. The Polish GM had other ideas, but in the end, Carlsen's win once again looked effortless, see Carlsen - Wojtaszek.

Anti-Open-Sicilian 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 [B50]

Sticking with the Norway-Poland Olympiad clash, and another Polish star, Bartel, tried this rare system against the 2...d6 Sicilian:

I'm sure this has a name, but I don't know what it is. In any case, it's not totally harmless, as I discovered myself many years ago. In fact, after 5.Nxe5 Nbd7(?!), White can cause a lot of practical problems for his opponent with the rare 6.d4!?. I've included a bunch of analysis in the notes to Bartel - Lie for you to consider; however, 5...a6 is a bit of a downer and should just lead to equality.

Grand Prix Attack 5.Bb5-c4 [B23]

Fedoseev - Areshchenko is a good old fashioned Grand Prix...or so you might think, until you get to move 9:

That's right: White is going to play the Grand Prix WITHOUT playing f5! If you're thinking to yourself "But I thought that was the whole idea"'re probably right. I'm not a big fan of Fedoseev's 'positional' approach in this game, and I think Black should be able to get at least a small advantage after some accuracy. However, his 2700 opponent doesn't follow through, and White chalks up a surprising win. I've also included some recent updates on 9.f5 in case you want to know how things are looking there; the bottom line is that Black should still be fine, but a good working memory of the theory is needed.

Moscow Variation 3...Bd7, 5.0-0, 7...g5 [B52]

For entertainment value, you can't go past the game Vachier - Lagrave-Jobava.

7...g5!? may have been a powerful surprise weapon when it was first introduced by MVL himself on the black side, but these days it's almost the main line. In fact, it's almost certainly the most reputable ...g7-g5 thrust of the Anti-Sicilian variations we've studied! The positions that result are original and leave plenty of scope for creativity, an environment that suits both of these unorthodox GMs to a tee. This game swings back and forth over its 140 captivating moves; enjoy the ride!

Delayed Morra Gambit 3.d4 cxd4 4.Bc4 [B53]

Finally, Basil - Grischuk is a more routine expectation of a severely lopsided encounter. With the rating gap extending above 650 points (!), Grischuk makes short work of his opponent's dubious opening:

I've largely included this game because many of us know that one player who likes to experiment with crazy Bc4/d4/c3 systems against the Sicilian, and Grischuk's treatment is textbook.

Here's to the underdog! Dave

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