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Highlights from the Rybka Aquarium book 26 February 2009

Sicilian Najdorf: 6. Bg5 running out of favour?

In 2007 the sharp 6. Bg5 in the Sicilian Najdorf featured a nice comeback. White players delivered some heavy blows at the very popular Poisoned Pawn variation, black’s most respected line against 6. Bg5. Two years later black has been able to come up with 3 reliable answers against white’s most dangerous plan:
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5

A) 12… Nfd7, the old move. Once giving black a lot of problems, but at present time it seems to equalise without too much trouble. The Aquarium book presents an interesting new idea, featuring 13.Ne4 Qxa2 14.Rd1 Qd5 15.Qe3 Qxe5 16.Be2 Bc5 17.Bg3 Bxd4 18.Rxd4 Qa5+ 19.Rd2 O-O 20.Bd6 f5!?

B) 12… Nd5, very solid and still standing firm as a reliable move. It is known for almost 2 years now and sofar white has been unable to gain an edge.

C) 12… g5!?, leading to a very murky position after 13.exf6 gxh4 14.Be2 Qa5 15.O-O Nd7 16.Kh1 Qg5 17.Rf4 e5 18.Nd5 exd4 19.Bf3. Here 19… Bd6 20.Qxd4 Ne5 is very safe for black, while the Aquarium book prefers the new try 19… Bc5!? and white must avoid some pitfalls to avoid disadvantage.

Will we see a decline in the popularity of 6. Bg5? At this moment the Poisoned Pawn seems absolutely fine for black, putting the ball firmly in white’s court.

Sicilian Najdorf: English attack 6. Be3 e5

With the danger of 6. Bg5 fading away, the English attack featuring 6. Be3 is again becoming white’s main choice to combat the Najdorf. The Aquarium book is paying a lot of attention to this line, with numerous new ideas and original Rybka analysis. One of black’s most popular replies is 6. Be3 e5. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 O-O 10.O-O-O Nbd7 11.g4 b5 12.g5, here are some of the interesting lines in the Aquarium book:

A) 12… Nh5 13.Kb1 and now the normal move 13… Nb6 and the new idea 13… Rfe8!?

B) 12… b4!? is the still the most interesting option. After 13.Ne2 Ne8 14.f4 we get another branche:

I) A new side line deserving attention is 14… exf4!?

II) The absolute main line is, however, 14… a5. Play continues 15.f5 and here we have another important moment coming up:

X) Black was not doing too well in the spectaculair line 15… Bxb3 16.cxb3 a4 17.bxa4 Rxa4 18.Kb1 Rxa2!?, but 2 fresh new ideas might revive interest in this sideline: 19.Nc1 Ra8 20.Nb3

and here black continues 20… Qc7!? or 20… Qc8!?, intending Qc6 and Qa4.

Y) The absolute main line is still 15… a4 16.Nbd4 exd4 17.Nxd4 b3 18.Kb1 bxc2+ 19.Nxc2 Bb3 20.axb3 axb3 21.Na3 and here we have a final branche:

1.) 21… Qc8!? is a recent try, deserving attention.

2.) 21… Ne5 is the main move, the Aquarium book is focussing on many new lines featuring:

• 22.h4 Ra4 23.Qc3!?
• 22.Qg2!?
• 22.Bf4!?

All in all 6. Be3 e5 remains a very interesting battleground in the Najdorf, with black currently holding his own quite well.

Sicilian Najdorf: English attack 6. Be3 e6

Black’s other main move in the English attack is 6. Be3 e6. An overview of the ideas covered in the Aquarium book: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 leading to the following position:

A) Here white can try 9.a3!? (stopping b5-b4), which black can answer by 9… h5!? (stopping g2-g4).

B) The main line goes 9.g4 b4, and white has an important choice to make:

I) Currently 10.Na4 h6 11.O-O-O Ne5! seems quite adequate for black, after 12.Qxb4 Bd7 13.Bf4 g5 14.Bd2 both 14… Be7 and 14… d5 are acceptable.

II) Hence 10.Nce2!? seems more dangerous for black, with the first interesting new try coming up after 10… h6:

X) Lately white has tried the very sharp 11.Nf4!? to refute black’s setup. Some interesting lines covered deeply in the Aquarium book are:

11… Qc7 12.Nfxe6!? fxe6 13.Nxe6 and now 13… Qb8 or 13… Qc6;
11… Bb7!? 12.O-O-O e5 and now either 13.Nf5, 13.Nde6!? or 13.Nfe6!?

Y) 11.O-O-O Qc7 12.h4 d5 is white’s main choice, leading to a final branche:

1.) White’s logical try 13.Bh3 – eyeing e6 – is a bit in a crisis, following 13… Nb6 14.b3 dxe4 15.g5 Nfd5 current Rybka analysis comfirms black has nothing to worry about.

2.) 13.Bf4!? is more to the point, when black has to be careful. Two sample lines:

13… e5 14.Bh2 Qa5 15.Kb1 exd4 16.exd5 with wild play;
13… Qa5!? 14.Kb1 dxe4 15.fxe4 when taking on e4 or g4 is rather dangerous.

Conclusion: 6… e6 is a viable alternative to 6… e5, leading to sharp and enterprising play with chances for both sides.

Semi-Slav Meran: Anand’s choice

In the Semi-Slav defence 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 white players have turned their attention to the Meran defence again, since 5.Bg5 h6! appears fully satisfactory for black. In the FIDE WC 2008 match Anand-Kramnik the Indian grandmaster came up with some new fresh idea’s. Following 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 a6 9.e4 c5 10.e5 cxd4 11.Nxb5 axb5 12.exf6 gxf6 13.O-O Qb6 14.Qe2, Anand introduced the novelty 14… Bb7!? leading to the position in the diagram:

After 15.Bxb5 the new Rybka Aquarium book covers both Anand’s choices in depth:

15… Bd6 16.Rd1 Rg8 17.g3 Rg4 and now Kramnik’s 18.Bf4!? and the alternative 18.b4!? are examined in detail, as well as the interesting try 18.Nd2!?
15… Rg8 and here the Aquarium book analyses 16.Bf4 Bd6 17.Bg3 f5 18. Rfc1, as well as the new idea 18.a4!?

Both lines lead to unbalanced and interesting positions, full of chances for both sides.

Semi-Slav Meran: the enterprising 7.g4!?

Another sharp idea in the Semi-Slav defence is 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4!?, when we reach the following position:

You’ll find up to date coverage in the new Aquarium book, with many new ideas and sharp continuations in all three main lines:

7… Nxg4 8.Rg1 Nxh2 and 8… Qf6;
7… h6 8.Rg1 e5, as well as 8… dxc4 and 8… Qe7;
7… dxc4!? 8.Bxc4 and now 8… b5 9.Be2 h6!? or 8… e5 9.g5 Nd5 10.Bd2.

The sharp 7.g4!? offers dynamic play with non standard positions.

Sicilian Sveshnikov: black is OK

The positional variation is still one of the most popular tries against the Sicilian Sveshnikov. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 O-O 12.Nc2 Bg5 13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.b3 Kh8 17.Nce3 g6 the agressive move 18.h4!? is the critical line: 18… Bxh4 19.g3 Bg5 20.f4 exf4 21.gxf4 Bh4+ 22.Kd2 leads to the position in the diagram:

Here theory books recommend 22… Ne7 23.Qg1! Nxd5 24.Nxd5 and now 24… Be6. The Aquarium book concentrates on two other defences:

A) 24… Bf6!?
B) 24… h5!?

In both lines black seems to be OK, although the final verdict is not yet clear.

Ruy Lopez Zaitsev: gaining in popularity

With the Marshall still being one of the most popular Ruy Lopez lines at top GM level these days, the complicated Zaitsev variation seems to be making a nice comeback. Without having to defend a slightly worse ending (as in the Marshall) black goes for an unbalanced position, with many dynamic chances. White’s most agressive try since the Kasparov-Karpov matches is still 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4!?, where currently attention is focussed on the line 12… h6 13.Bc2 exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 Nd7 17.Ra3 c4 (Karpov mainly favoured 17… f5).

Now the original sideline 18.Ree3!? is strongly met by 18… Nc5!, hence 18.axb5 axb5 19.Nd4 is critical, but black is doing fine with both 19… Rxa3 and 19… Qb6.

Are you looking for a sharp, dynamic system that offers you a fair share of the chances when playing black, the Zaitsev might be the right choice for you.

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