Tuesday, 5 June 2007
"Off-book" in the c3 Sicilian
Earlier today, I posted a position from Israeli International Master Yochanan Afek's column on Chess Vibes.
Yochanan and I have met once over the board, when he surprised me with a move in the c3 Sicilian that, despite being played by very strong players such as Michael Adams and Miguel Illescas Cordoba, doesn't merit a mention in either Chandler's book "The c3 Sicilian" or in Gallagher's "Beating the Anti-Sicilians".
Our game was published by Malcolm Pein in the Daily Telegraph, but unfortunately I was on the receiving end of a hammering!
Afek,Y - Coathup,R [B22]
Isle of Man, 29.09.2001
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cd 5. Nf3 e6 6. cd b6 7. Bc4
Chandler and Gallagher only consider 7 Nc3, 7 Bd3 and 7 a3. Afek's bishop move aims for quick development and an attack on the Black king. In many lines White gives up the bishop pair with Bxd5 in order to leave Black with a compromised pawn structure.
7 ... Bb7 8.0-0 d6 9.Qe2 Nd7 10.Bxd5 Bxd5 11.Nc3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 d5 13.Qg3 a6 14.Bg5 Qb8 15.Rac1 g6 16.h4 h6 17.Bf4 Be7?? 18.Nxd5 exd5 19.e6 Qd8 20.exd7+ Qxd7 21.Rfe1 g5 22.Bd6 1-0
My choice of 8. ... d6 has been played in other games, but it looks preferable to play 8 ... Be7, castle quicker and challenge White in the complications that follow. I foolishly lost another miniature at the Isle of Man two years later to Finnish FM Riku Molander again after 8 ... d6.
Here's an example of how play can develop after 8 ... Be7:
Schweber,S (2450) - Miles,A (2560) [B22]
Konex Buenos Aires (2), 1979
1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 e6 6.Nf3 b6 7.Bc4 Bb7 8.0-0 Be7 9.Bxd5 Bxd5 10.Nc3 Bc4 11.Re1 0-0 12.d5 exd5 13.Nxd5 Nc6 14.Re4 Ba6 15.Rg4 f5 16.Rg3 Kh8 17.b3 Nb4 18.Nxe7 Qxe7 19.Ba3 Bc8 20.e6 f4 21.Rh3 a5 22.Qb1 h6 23.Ne5 Rf6 24.exd7 Bxd7 25.Ng6+ Rxg6 26.Qxg6 Bxh3 27.gxh3 f3 28.Bb2 Re8 29.Rf1 Kg8 30.Kh1 Qf7 31.Qxb6 Nd3 32.Bd4 Nf4 33.Qd6 Re4 34.Qb8+ Kh7 35.Be3 Nxh3 36.Qg3 Qf5 0-1
Schweber seems a keen practitioner of the line (is this the same Schweber who famously drew a won ending against Fischer?). Two Argentinean GM's, Najdorf and Panno, have played 7 ... Na6 against him in this position, intending to play Nac7 maintaining the knight on d5.
Finally to prove that even Grandmasters can go down quickly with the Black pieces in this line, check out what happened to Joel Benjamin when he tried 7 ... Ba6 against Michael Adams.
Does anyone know if 7. Bc4 is covered in the later books by Rozentalis, Play the 2 c3 Sicilian, or Collins, Chess Explained: The C3 Sicilian?
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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.