An Opening Novelty
By Chad Lieberman
The Sveshnikov (or Pelikan) Variation of the Sicilian Defense seems to defy universal positional principles of chess. The thrust 5...e5 automatically creates a backward d-pawn as well as a big hole on d5 for white's knight to inhabit.
While the variation was sparsely employed before its revival in the seventies and eighties, chess theorists and grandmasters discovered the dynamic potential of this awkward opening during that time period.
In the main line, black has the positional disadvantages mentioned above plus doubled f-pawns. It was the realization that these pawns could be liquidated with the dynamic thrust ...f5 which proved this variation's ability to challenge white. Since then, many strong players have adopted the 7.Nd5 variation for white as KJP does in this week's featured game. This sideline avoids allowing black the f-pawn break and instead seeks to take full advantage of the backward d-pawn and whole on d5.
After researching this opening, I have found no evidence of 12...e4 which Shiva plays here. This novelty could mean major changes for this opening system. In the pawn structure that results, black seems to have all of the play.
The squares c5 and d3 are excellent posts for black's knight. The dark-squared bishop blazes down the long diagonal, and the light-squared bishop can be placed on a6 to pressure the c4 pawn. Not to mention the endgame advantage of a protected passed pawn.
Shiva misses his chance to take the initiative with 15...Bxc3! This creates doubled white c-pawns and increases the possible effectiveness of ...Ba6. The continuation might be 16.bxc3 Qa5 17.Be3 (17.Qd4 Nc5 18.gxf5 Nb3) 17...Qxc3 18.Bd4 Qh3 and black is better.
KJP makes his final mistake with 28.Nd4? Blockading black's e-pawn is essential to holding the white position together. Black has difficulty trying to dislodge the bishop from e3, but this move is an invitation to trade and then push the e-pawn, opening the long diagonal to the white king.