The Sicilian Taimanov – a problem and solutions

A reader, “Mr X”, pointed out a big improvement for White in a sideline given in The Sicilian Taimanov. So, with thanks to Mr X, I will share the problem line, and offer a couple of my own suggestions to patch the sideline.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0–0–0 Ne5 9.Qg3 b5 10.a3!? Bb7! 11.Bxb5!? Rc8 12.Bd3

The author met this rare sideline with a sharp line leading to a repetition. It’s on page 423 of Chapter 20. But there is a problem lurking at the end of that line, as Mr X pointed out in an email to us.

The main line continues 12.Be2 Neg4 and then, for example, 13.Qxc7 Rxc7 when Black has ample compensation.

12…Nh5 13.Qg5 g6 14.f4 f5 15.fxe5 Be7 16.Qh6 Bf8

With a repetition, was the expectation. Except, as Mr X pointed out, White has a superb queen sacrifice.

17.exf5! Bxh6

Black can allow a different queen sac with: 17…exf5 18.Qxh5! gxh5 19.e6±

18.Bxh6 exf5 19.Rhe1±

White has ‘only’ two minor pieces and a pawn for the queen, but the black king is stuck facing an angry mob. Even the engine doesn’t fancy defending Black’s position. For example:

19…Qb6 20.Be2 Rxc3 21.bxc3 Qc5 22.Kb2 Qb6+ 23.Nb3 Bxg2 24.Rd2!+–

Eyeing the g2-bishop while also preparing to double rooks. Black has a grim position.

So what should Black do instead? I will offer two options.

a) 12…Nxd3+ 13.cxd3 Qxg3 14.hxg3 d5!?N

Black should avoid 14…Bxa3?! 15.bxa3 Rxc3+ as in Gantner – Jaksland, Porto Carras 2018, because 16.Kd2!± would have been strong, with the point 16…Rxa3 17.Rb1!.

15.e5 Ng4

One possible line is:

16.Nf3 Nxe3 17.fxe3 Bxa3 18.bxa3 Rxc3+ 19.Kb2 Rc8 20.Rc1 Ke7 21.Rxc8 Bxc8=

If the knight lands on d4 then White will have the prettier minor piece, but Black looks to be defending comfortably. It’s rather boring though.

b) 12…Neg4!?

This would be my preference, as it’s more fun than the alternative. A similar idea was our preferred answer to 12.Be2. Despite being a pawn down, Black has no reason to fear an exchange of queens, as doubled isolated pawns on e3 and e4 are no prize for White.

13.Qxc7 Rxc7 14.Rhe1

Instead 14.Bf4?! is met by: 14…Rxc3! (messier and less convincing is 14…e5?! 15.f3) 15.f3 (15.bxc3 Nxf2 is good for Black) 15…Rc8 16.fxg4 Nxe4 Black is clearly better.


With compensation. For example:

15.Kd2 Nxe3 16.fxe3 Ke7

Black has fine compensation for the missing pawn.

9 thoughts on “The Sicilian Taimanov – a problem and solutions”

  1. I do not play the Taimanov and will probably never do so. Yet I applaud Quality Chess for this update. It further increases my already very high confidence in the company. It would have been easier simply not mentioning the problem and not putting time in finding solutions and share them with the readers. Yet you did.

  2. @John Shaw
    Thanks for posting! Your second solution probably solves the wole line.
    I analysed 12.Ba4 with lc0 and Sugar NN. lc0 always finds interesting novelties, although in this case I think none of them give White an advantage.
    Here is what I found:
    12.Ba4 Nxe4 13.Nxe4 Bxe4 14.Bf4
    (14.b4!?N – this is the first novelty, I think it deservers to get mentioned, it would be a real surprise in a tournament game, why in the world would White play on kingside? – Bg6 15.Bf4 Bd6 16.Nxe6! fxe6 17.Rxd6 Qxd6 18.Be5 Qd3! (only move) 19.Qxd3 (19.Kb2 Rxc2+! =/+) Bxd3 20.Bd6 (20.Rd1 Bb5 21.Bb3 Bc4= with repetition) Bb5! This ensures Black full equality. 21.Bb3 Bc4 22.Kb2 Rc6… – no need to analyse further, Black has activity down the c-file, White can try avoiding draw with Bc5, but it doesn’t give him any advantage)
    14…Qa5 15.Bxe5 Qxa4 16.Rd2 f6 17.Bd6 Kf7 18.Re1 Bg6 19.Bxf8 Rhxf8 20.Qd6 Kg8 21.g4!?N – 2nd novelty, also found by lc0, fun fact is I let put it to analyse from 14.Bf4 and it found all the main line moves, 21.g4 is when it deviates. Stockfish at first considers this as better for Black, but that is far from correct. From what I analysed it is completely equal. I think White has easier first few moves from here, but it doesn’t feel like enough.
    21…Qc4 (21…Rb8 22.Re3! +/= – similar to Vachier game that Pavlidis mentioned) 22.Kb1 Rfe8 – suggested by lc0 (I also analysed 22…Rb8 23.Re3! a5 24.b3 a4 25.b4 e5 26.Ne2 Qxg4… +/=)…

  3. @Anonymous

    I had a look at this link….not sure that I like his chances especially when you consider that the same publisher is producing a Taimanov for black by a 2700 plus GM.

  4. I know that this is not the correct place to ask this, but I was watching the Rapid and Blitz Championshis in Moscow today and I was wondering about what was coming up in 2020 for QC? Perhaps a new Caro Kann repertoire book (with B15 4..Nf6 and 5..exf6) or a black repertoire book with the Dubov Tarrasch line?

    Merry Christmas guys!


  5. @James2

    Firstly, I like how you said “and” as if it’s totally obvious why watching the blitz/rapid world championship would make you think about our publishing plans for 2020! (No explanation needed – just a bit of friendly teasing on my part, which helps to get me through the day.)

    To answer your question, we do have some exciting books in store and I was actually a bit surprised when I returned from the Christmas break this morning and saw that our ‘Coming Soon’ section had not yet been updated, along with our 2020 catalogue. It seems like there are a few minor updates needed for one or two of our front-cover designs. Once these have been fixed, the Coming Soon section and new catalogue will give you a good idea.

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