Top-Level Repertoire against the Sicilian - Part 1
Hard times for the devotees of the Sicilian?
Several books, pretending to dismantle it, have already been released; besides, nowadays White is using no less than 16 (!) moves against the Najdorf! Now the time has come for GM Ivan Cheparinov to take the word - he is going to give his views on the open Sicilian lines.
The whole material will be divided in two parts regarding the most popular Black’s replies to 2.Nf3. Here is the first of them, which is basically a review of 2…d6 with the starting position arising after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3
The database consists of 24 theoretical chapters, 24 interactive test positions, a Memory Booster, and a Video Version (7.5h Running Time).
Now, we shall briefly present the content of the database.
In Chapter 1 the less popular Black’s options on move 5 are covered:
- 5…Nbd7?! is the least of them because of the vigorous 6.g4!
- similar to some extent is 5…Bd7 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3! with a timely g2-g4;
- after 5…e5 the principled 6.Bb5 leaves Black with a choice between the two moves from above, the main line after the better one 6…Nbd7 goes on with 7.Nf5 a6 8.Ba4! with firm control over the central light squares, which is supported by the sample lines.
The Classical Dragon with 9.0-0-0
5…g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 is the initial position, when 9.0-0-0 is the general recommendation.
As usual, each separate section of this database is starting with the rare continuations. Thus Chapter 2 is dealing with the earlier deviations like the Dragodorf with or without postponing the castling to the short in combination with h7-h5, while in Chapter 3 an attention is paid to Black’s minor options on move 9.
The remaining Chapters are concentrating on the most popular replies:
- Chapter 4 shows that there are no substantial developments in case of 9…Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6, to which 11.Kb1! remains the acid test;
In Chapters 5-7 the main reply 9…d5 is explored. The preferred move order to it is 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4, by which White is intending to neutralize Bg7 and rely on his better pawn structure:
- Chapter 5 features 12…Nxc3 13.Qxc3 Bh6 14.Be3 Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Qb6, which was quite popular already in the 90’s.
Here the fresh approach 16.Re1!?, rather than accepting the sacrificed pawn, is preserving White’s hopes for an advantageous ending;
- the old theoretical favourite 12…e5 13.Bc5 Be6/Re8 14.Ne4 is the subject of Chapter 6, worth of special attention is the subtle 15.h4!;
- finally, in Chapter 7 the author is delving into 12…Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4!
After 14…Qa5 15.b3 Qc7, due to the already protected Na4, there is the analogous promising idea 16.Re1, while 14…Qc7 requires more patience from White, his best is to play 15.Nc5 and only then 16.Bc4 with a small, but lasting edge.
The Keres attack 5…e6 6.g4
- In Chapter 8 Black’s other options on move 6 – 6…d5?!, 6…a6 and 6…Nc6 are covered. As a matter of fact, the last two options are not rare, but, as soon as they allow 7.g5 for free, their popularity has recently decreased. Indeed, the spatial advantage really matters in such mutual races, but the eventual course of the game after the immediate central break looks rather grim for Black;
- Chapter 9 is dedicated to the harsh 6…e5 7.Nf5 h5, when White keeps the upper hand by 8.Bg5! hxg4 9.Nd5 Bxf5 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.exf5 Bh6 and the instructive thrust 12.h4!, thus depriving the enemy bishop of reaching the desired g5-square;
- Chapter 10 reveals a non-traditional way to meet 6…h6 with 7.Rg1!? instead of the common 7.h4.
One of its biggest points is seen after 7…Nc6 8.Be3 Be7 9.Qe2!? with castling to the long, while the usual h2-h4 advance is still delayed till the most appropriate moment.
The Classical Sicilian 5…Nc6 6.Bg5
- in Chapter 11 the alternatives of 6…Bd7 and 6…e6 are presented. Besides to the precarious 6…e5?, the readers will find clear-cut ways to a large advantage against the queen sallies as well, e.g. 6…Qb6?! 7.Be3! and 6…Qa5?! 7.Bb5! Bd7 8.Bxf6. A reversed move order by White looks very strong in reply to 6…h6?!, while 6…a6 is questioned by the trendy 7.Nxc6. Still, 6…g6 remains a tough nut to crack, but in the main line White is playing on two results;
- the subject of Chapter 12 is 6…Bd7 7.Qd3!? Rc8 and now the calm developing move 8.Be2!?
The possible firework 8…Ne5 9.Qd2 Rxc3!? should not confuse White - 10.Bxf6! Rc8/c5!? 11.Bg5, thus reaching a solid position in the spirit of the Maroczy bind;
- Chapter 13 features 6…e6, to which 7.Qd3!? comes once again into the limelight.
The author is exploring the leading line 7…Bd7 8.0-0-0 a6 9.f4 and the ensuing numerous branches in great detail.
Challenging the Najdorf Variation with 6.Bd3
- In Chapter 14 Black’s minor alternatives are mentioned, including 6…Qb6?! and 6…Qc7, as well as the couple of jumps of Nb8. Noteworthy is the original sequence 6…Nc6 7.Nxc6! bxc6 8.b3!;
- the combination of 5…a6 and 6…g6 in Chapter 15 must be studied in close connection with the relevant lines in Chapter 2;
- the same fianchetto is seen in Chapter 16 after 6…e6 7.f4, when the direct 8.e5 should not be underestimated, as pointed out in the annotations to the other Black’s options. After the textmove 7…g6 White is able to claim some advantage in pure positional manner, especially when the traditional plans are preceded by 8.a4;
Starting with Chapter 17, the emphasis is entirely on 6…e5 7.Nde2:
- then both 7…Qc7 and 7…b5 are met by 8.Bg5, while 7…Nbd7 overprotects the defender of the key d5-square, but locks Bc8. The natural continuation 8.0-0 Be7 (a special attention should be paid on the fresh idea to meet 8…b5 with 9.b4!) 9.Ng3 Nc5 10.Be2 leads to a good version of the 6.Be2 variation from White’s perspective;
- Chapter 18 deals with 7…Be6 8.f4 exf4 9.Nxf4 and the consequences of capturing the bishop and the pros and cons of bringing the bishop to the c4-square;
- Chapter 19 is covering the most interesting deviation 7…Nc6 8.0-0 Be6 9.Kh1 Rc8!? and the intriguing pawn sacrifice 10.Nd5!?
The final five Chapters are concentrating on 7…Be7 8.0-0
- Chapter 20 demonstrates why, compared to the previous Chapter 19, after 8…Nc6 9.Nd5! White benefits from his castling;
- the same insertion is discussed in Chapter 21, which features 8...Be6 9.f4 and the alternative plans to the one in Chapter 18;
- from Chapter 22 till the end the suggested repertoire is focused on 8…0-0 9.Ng3.
As usual, the alternatives of the main reply 9…Be6 (including the preliminary 9…Bg4) are examined at first;
- 9…Be6 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 Bxd5 12.Bxh7 Kxh7 13.Qxd5 Nc6 is the subject of Chapter 23.
After 14.Nf5 Qd7 the author is coming up with the logical novelty 15.Qd3, followed by 16.f4, thus posing new problems in front of the second player;
- in the final Chapter 24 the alternative capture 10…Bxd5 is analyzed. After 11.exd5 g6 the central pawn is supported by 12.c4 and after 12…Re8 13.Kh1 White insinuates that f2-f4 is coming next.
However, as explained, the proper moment for this push is yet to be defined, including after 13…Nbd7, when the probable refinement 14.b3!? is not only building a chain against any queenside counterplay, but the b2-square can be exploited in certain cases as well. Essential is 14…h5 15.f4, when the main line goes on with 15…exf4 16.Bxf4 h4 and the promising piece sacrifice 17.Nf5! creates practical problems for Black.