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I always play the Sicilian in response to e4 and have played a few thousand games with it so far. From playing it, it seems that the Sicilian Defense is exactly what it says, a "defense", and I often find myself on the defensive at the beginning warding off one of white's many ready made attack plans. (Am I right in thinking the Sicilian is a particular "defensive" opening for black or does the black player usually have to be on the defensive regardless of opening?) I speak here of such things like The Grand Prix attack, the Smith Morra gambit, the closed Sicilian, The Bowlder attack, The Rossolimo, the Maroczy bind, etc. If white goes into the open Sicilian, I like to play the Dragon, and here yet again are two ready made attack plans for white, the Yugoslav and the Levenfish.
From my understanding, these attacking plans were invented by GMs and near GMs in the middle of the twientieth century when the Sicilian began to get popular. The average white player today is not having to think for themselves or come up with a strategy on their own, they're just using one that's already been made.
And also for black there seems like a lot that you have to know. For the white player, they only need to pick out one plan and they can devote all their study to that one plan. For black, if you want to play the Sicilian, you have to study all the plans.
I wanted to ask the chess players here who play the Sicilian as black, what do you think about all the attacking plans. Which ones do you find easiest and which do you find most difficult to go against?
For me, the easiest has to be the Smith Morra gambit, and I always accept this gambit. I also fare well against the Yugoslav attack if games go into the open Sicilian dragon.
The hardest for me would have to be the Grand Prix attack, but that's probably because I've studied it least of all.
If it makes you feel any better, I hate facing the Sicilian as white. I feel like if I try to attack, they'll know the lines better (because they'll be playing their favorite variation, whatever it is). I usually use an anti-Sicilian.
I know this isn't what you were asking for, but just to let you know that in these sharp theoretical lines white can be just as uncomfortable.
I've never found the GP Attack to be very dangerous, easily countered by activity in the centre and/or queenside. Closed Sicilian is maybe a little more dangerous, especially when White gets in f5 and threatens f6 or fxg6 (I play the Hyper Accelerated Dragon and still fianchetto my dsb in these lines)
Smith Morra is usually harmless although I decline with 3...g6.
Rossolimo I avoid with the HAD; the 4.Qxd4 lines can be sharp and both sides get plenty of chances. Black must know what he's doing here.
Maroczy; I've never really believed the hype; it's a difficult kind of game to play for White and certainly it is not a two-result game as some believe (although it will very very often go to an endgame)
Here's what I play/goes through my head against the GP attack:
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 and we have:
# 5.Bc4 e6 and I play Nge7, 0-0, b6, Bb7, d5 in some order, stick a piece on d4. Don't react to White on the kingside until you have to - may take some experience - you should be pushing to open lines on the queenside and place pieces in the centre, especially d4.
# 5.Bb5 Nd4 (just learn this move) and then same ideas.
By the way, the Sicilian Defence really isn't one of those defensive openings like the Caro-Kann, where White takes a little extra space and pushes with it - in the Sicilian Black often has to counterattack instead of spending moves on defence.
Thanks for the informative replies.
If you're the black player, I sugest you to play the scheveningen variation.
1.e4 c52. Nf3 d63. d4 cxd44.Nxd4 Nf65.Nc3 e6Black can proceed with rapid development and the opening provides sound counterchances and considerable scope for creativity.
I do have a chessbase DVD on the Scheveningen by GM Lubomir Ftacnik, though it's uncommon that someone will go into the open Sicilian lines to begin with. I hope to learn all the Sicilian variations eventually but as of now I've already spent a lot of time learning the Dragon and feel like I'm just beginning to be good at it. To learn another Sicilian system right at this moment seems overwhelming especially since I am studying all the anti-sicilians too.
Black spends most of the opening moving only pawns and lacks in development and space. The only way White isn't going quietly into the night is if he attacks and tries to take advantage of these things. Thus many plans were made and explored to find different means of attacking the king. Any other strategy leads nowhere since Black has no weaknesses on the board and the only way to get them is for White to go poking around (attacking). This is just the price of playing this way. The same goes for openings like the Pirc, French, Caro-Kann and so on. The difference with the sicilian is that White creates his own weaknesses when he attacks and that creates tactical chances for the opponent.
The most important thing imo is to try understand what White is trying to do in all these attacks. Too many people memorize lines only to find themselves lost after White plays a weird move. Most games I win with White are because of this lol.
Maybe I'd rather use the word counter-attacking than defensive but it's true that in the Siclian (particularily in the open Siclian) white usually gets development advantage and is therefore doing the early attacking. On the other hand, black has solid structure and if he manages to defend then there usually is active counterplay later on especially if white has overextended. You could even say that black's idea in the Sicilian is to win in an ending.
Of course, one must understand that even inside the Sicilian complex there are variations that are wildly different in character. Morra is a gambit aimed at gaining development advantage so it stands to reason that black must proceed extra carefully early on but on the other hand a central pawn is usually worth some suffering. The Lasker-Pelikan variation does gives black active play and doesn't give white similar development advantage as some other lines but black's position isn't as healthy either and he is much less likely to win in the ending. The Maroczy bind in the accelerated dragon could probably genuinely be classified as defensive setup for black.
There's a lot for white to know also. If one plays the open Sicilian then he must prepare for Najdorf, Dragon, Lasker-Pelikan, Kan/Taimanov, Classical etc. whereas black only needs to know one of these lines. In anti-Sicilians there's probably less to know but even so, if one for example plays the Rossolimo 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5, then he needs to learn a different system after 2. d6 (maybe 3. Bb5+ but that's really quite different), 2... e6, 2... g6 etc.
And then there's also the small matter of what to do against 1... e5/c6/e6/d6/Nf6 etc. If you play the Sicilian with black and something else than 1. e4 with white you don't really need to know that much about these (although knowing some basics is still very usefull).
Of course you are probably correct that after something like 1... Nf6 there's less theory to learn and after something like 1... a6 less still
Thanks everyone, a lot of good responses and info here. I actually had completely overlooked black's alternatives to 1.e4 other than c5 since I hardly ever play as white (maybe once every 500 games) and always play the Sicilian in response to e4 myself.
I'm glad that the Sicilian in general is seen to be a "defensive/counter attacking" opening and that I wasn't doing anything wrong, as I find in my games it's uncommon for me to launch a kingside attack and I usually win via endgame and not checkmate in the middle game. The one exception is the Yugoslav attack against the Dragon where I get to attack white's king castled queenside. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I like the Yugoslav attack so much, though I don't mind defending (and have a lot of fun defending things like the Smith Morra after I accept) it is nice to be in that situation where I get to attack white's king position at the same time they're attacking mine.
i find the sicilian to be a great attacking weapon, depends on the line...black can play a hedgehog structure, a very counterpunching sicilian type
black has to be aware what to do in side variations and has to be content to try to outplay white from some equal positions
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