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Hi folks,
This month, we’ll take a look at several lines that may not stand up to engine scrutiny, but can be very difficult to meet in a practical game. We’ll also dive deeply into a topical line of the Carlsen Variation in particular. Enjoy!

Download PGN of September ’22 Anti-Sicilian games

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Carlsen Variation: 2 Nc3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Qd2 e6 6 b3 d5!? [B23]

This game features an unusually early pawn advance from Black against the Carlsen Variation, namely 6...d5!? in the below diagram:

This isn’t covered by Gawain in his Coffeehouse Repertoire, as he naturally assumed that Black needed to play ...Ng8-f6 sooner or later! However, what’s special about the game Li Chao - Wen Yang, from the Beijing - Shenzhen match in the Chinese Rapid Team Championship, is that it’s not the first time this entire game has been played! The same perpetual was seen between Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave in the Zagreb Rapid and Blitz last month. Black’s pawn sacrifice is very interesting. Capturing with the Knight on d5 is probably the most critical move, but no one has dared to play it yet. Black seems to have enough compensation in any case, but more tests are definitely needed. Li Chao continued with 8 Qxd5 and, oddly enough, Black’s 8...Qf6?! in response wasn’t the most accurate, despite leading to the same perpetual as its predecessor. I think White can achieve an edge against 8...Qf6?! if he plays precisely, but the alternative, 8...Qe7+! looks fine for Black. It will be interesting to see if this line gains traction over the coming months.

Carlsen Variation: 2 Nc3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Qd2 g6 6 b3 Bh6 7 f4 f5!? [B23]

Our next game features another sharp line of the Carlsen Variation, namely 7...f5!? in the below diagram:

This is the second most-popular move and Sam has covered it before in the archives. The game Erigaisi, A - Muradli, M from the Dubai Open ended in a quick win for White after a blunder on move fourteen from Black, but the line remains playable, if somewhat dangerous. I’ve given a complete survey of both sides’ options in the notes. It’s a fascinating battleground where I think Black is holding his own in a number of ways.

Closed Sicilian: 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nge2 Nc6 4 g3 d5!? [B23]

The game Nguyen, P - Bernadskiy, V from the Polish League featured an unusual line of the Closed Sicilian, where White gives up a pawn and castling rights to fight for the advantage:

White indeed has a huge plus score from this position! Things aren’t all that bad for Black, however, but he needs to be precise. Black went for 9...Qf6!? in the game, which is more or less OK, and after missing a chance to pose significant practical problems for Black, White was on the backfoot and later lost due to a tactical oversight. The line is definitely an interesting try for an advantage for White and needs to be taken seriously.

Rossolimo Variation: 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 4 Nf3 a6 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 0-0 e6 7 b3 [B23/B30]

The game Daulyte-Cornette, D - Terbe, Z from the European Women’s Championship in Prague, featured one of the mainlines of the 3...e6 Rossolimo:

White essayed 7 b3 in this position, which has always struck me as the most natural way to continue (I covered the topical 7 Nd5!? in some depth in the May update). The game itself soon looked a lot like an unusual Open Sicilian, where Black allowed the exchange of White’s e-pawn for her b7-pawn, giving White a stable advantage. I’ve covered several interesting early alternatives for both sides in the notes. What amazes me about this line is that the Nc3-d5 idea is incredibly frequent and crops up no less than three times in different variations on move ten, almost regardless of Black’s ninth move! Black should be able to defend, but precision is certainly required!

Rossolimo Variation: 3 Bb5 e6 4 0-0 Nge7 5 Re1 a6 6 Bf1 d5 7 exd5 Qxd5?! [B31]

This practical weapon has been tried by several strong players and no firm consensus has been reached as to the best response from White:

The game Sanal, V - Kuzubov, Y, E from the Turkish Super League featured the rare 7...Qxd5?! in this position. Theoretically, this definitely isn’t the best choice for Black, but it can be a useful surprise weapon, and I’ve given a complete survey of White’s tries in the notes. Probably 8 Na3! is the strongest option, but White’s 8 Nc3!? was also quite natural. He followed up by manoeuvring the Knight to g3, where it was captured by Black’s Knight on f5, whereupon an unusual IQP position soon arose with White’s pawn on g3 instead of h2. White made good use of this in the game by advancing his g3-pawn and generating strong attacking chances, but it was only a later blunder that cost Black the game. Theoretically, Black was doing fine after move ten, which goes to show that 7...Qxd5?! has its place in theory, even if it is far less reliable than the more common 7...Nxd5.

Rossolimo 3...g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 0-0 Bg7 6 Re1 Nh6 7 c3 0-0 8 h3 f5 9 e5 Nf7 10 d4 cxd4 11 cxd4 c5 [B51]

This next practical weapon was enough to topple a seasoned Sicilian slayer. The game Tiviakov, S - Suleymenov, A from the President of Uzbekistan tournament in Tashkent, featured the dubious 12...e6?! in the below diagram:

I covered a similar idea from Kotronias in the June update. This move should never give Black equal chances from an objective standpoint, but Black was able to create enough confusion and practical chances on the Kingside to beat the very solid and experienced GM playing White. The game was wild and featured numerous improvements for both sides, which I’ve highlighted in the notes. This is only the third time someone has dared to try this line with Black! Depending on your risk tolerance, it might be worth a punt!

Moscow Variation: 3...Nd7 4 d4 cxd4 5 Qxd4 a6 6 Bxd7+ Qxd7!? [B51]

The game Piesik, P - Kozak, A from the Polish League featured a slightly unusual recapture that I also covered recently in the July update, namely 6...Qxd7!? in the below diagram:

I looked at 7 Nc3 before, but this game featured the somewhat less popular 7 0-0, and Black subsequently uncorked 8...f5!?, which is a new move for our site. Once again, this line probably isn’t sufficient for equality from an objective standpoint, but it worked a treat in this game. White only has one way to fight for an edge. In the game, White played a bit too ambitiously and neglected his development, finding himself in a lost position as early as move seventeen. Worth a try for Black? It’s up to you to decide!

Anti-Najdorf/Dragon: 2 Nf3 d6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 dxe5 5 Nxe5 [B52]

Finally, we take a look at a game that featured one of my favourite Anti-Sicilian lines for White. The game Pechac, A - Aczel, G from the Skalica Open, saw Black falling into a well-known trap that is actually new for our site:

White can leave the Rook hanging by playing 10 Bg5! (10 Rg1!? is also a good try for an edge as well). Black has one way to reach a playable game, but I think most players have reached this position by accident and have not been able to find the correct response. Black has a significant improvement on move six as well. I’ve taken a look at all of White’s tries against the latter, the correct approach for Black on move ten, and all of the ways in which he’s gone wrong in the past. This line remains a very dangerous option for White that Black needs to know well.

Until next month, David

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