Sicilian-phobia Part Three - Open Sicilian

Jan 13, 2009, 12:00 AM |
6 | Opening Theory

The Open Sicilian is the most popular response to 1...c5, with more than 287897 games played by players rated above 2000 according to Gameknot database. Obviously, white intend to open up the centre with d4, usually on move three, after 2.Nf3.

Unlike in the Closed Sicilian, we need not to analyse every possibility after 2. Nf3, because if you intend on opening the centre with d4 on move three, then you are most likely to do it anyway, no matter what kind of ridiculous ideas black may come up with.

The exceptions are only about 2 or three. We shall explore them later, however, for now, let's just look at the Open Sicilian in action.




Black's Second Move Alternatives

The following lines are the only ones which you do not continue with the normal plan of playing d4 and opening up the position. All three are rarely seen, but just in case your opponent wants to put up a surprise - you'll be ready.

a) 2...f5?!
b) 2...d5!?
c) 2...Nf6

a) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 f5?! I guess this move is not as bad played in the Nf3 move order compared to the 2.Nc3 move order. As we can see, the knight on f3 blocks the d1-h5 diagonal for the queen and possibly the light squared bishop. However, the knight can always move...

3.exf5, and here, 2...d5 is more popular than 2...Nf6, but I am going to briefly look at both of them anyway.

If 2...d5 - Fruit analysed the position, and concluded that either 3.Bb5+ or 3.Ne5 should give white an advantage. In my opinion, I think 3.Ne5 is the more logical move.

The strange thing is that this move have never been tested in above 2000 rated play! The purpose of the move, at first glance, to our human eye, appears to be the Qh5+. However, Fruit have another idea - to exchange the knight for the light square

bishop. 3...Nf6 4.Bb5+

The reasons why I think Fruit wanted to exchange the knight for the bishop are because -
1. The bishop pair - usually having a pair of bishops equals an instant advantage to the computer, even though there might not be that much of an advantage as I can't quite see the future of the light squared bishop.
2. The light squared bishop is the only piece that targets the extra pawn on f5 (well, for now).

I don't think there is any point of analysing any further - especially when the move 2...f5 is rarely seen. Your plan would be to castle, and then reposition your bishop to either a square that defends the pawn on f5 (c3 followed by Bc2 via Bd3 or Ba5) or to f3.

If 2...Nf6 Fruit analysed the position and concluded white with an advantage of 1.21 if 3.d4 is played. Why argue with the 2005 Vice Computer Chess Champion? 3.d4 At this point, various replies was listed by Fruit. Again, it'd be pointless to analyse every possible moves which black can make, as the move 2...f5 have been only 5 (!) times according to Gameknot database. I am just going to briefly outline the plan for white.

Your first step will

be to tuck your king in first, and then just tear open the position (dxc5 if black did not take your d pawn at the first place). Try to stop black from castling if possible with Bc4 if the reply d5 is either not possible or will only leave black with a weakness on e6. All in all, the reply 2...f5?! is more of a psychological test of mental strength than a test of your chess playing ability. 


b) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d5!? Like 2...f5?!, I doubt you will ever see this move played, as according to the Gameknot database, of all the games played with both players rated above 2000, only 15 games have d5 as Black's second move.

3.exd5 - at this point black has two choices - either take with the queen or play Nf6. According to Fruit - they are both almost just a

s bad.

If 3...Qxd5
This is the more popular reply. It doesn't take Einstein to figure out that this is a clone of the Scadinavian Defence, only with most of the functions either missing or malfunctioning. 

4.Nc3 - In the main line Scadinavian, after Nc3, Qa5 is the main line. Unfortunately for black, the Qa5 button has been accidentally crushed with a hammer - more commonly known as 'the pawn on c5'. 

It doesn't really matter where the queen try to hide now, after 4.Nc3. When you look at the position, you will easily find a sign, flashing

in all sorts of bright colours 'white has a clear advantage'. At the right is an example of how white should use his/her advantage. 

c) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 This move is ranked sixth in popularity according to the Gameknot database.

We all can see that there is a strong resemblance between the current position and the position arrived from the Alapin (1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6). The most popular reply to 2...Nf6 is 3.e5, and that's the route that we are going to take.

At this point, black has four moves recorded on the Gameknot database. 3...Nd5 makes the most sense, and it definitely looks like the main line to me. However, I will just briefly analyse the other three possibilities.

3...Ng8!? is a ridiculously illogical move. Any sensible developing move in the position after 3...Ng8 will be a good move. 

3...Ne4? just gives the white player a free piece. The knight is trapped after 4.d3.

3...Ng4?! was seen in Nigel Donovan - Michael Twyble game, which ended in a draw. Instead

of the immediate 4.d4, Fruit suggested h3, then d4 or Bc4.

Anyway, back to the main line after 3...Nd5. 4.Nc3 does not look like a  bad move - it is ranked second in popularity and it's the move which Fruit suggests. If black plays 4...Nxc3, dxc3 is more successful than bxc3.

The other playable reply from black after 4.Nc3 is e6, when Bc4 looks quite good for white. For example, 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.d3 Nxc4 7.dxc4 and black may feel quite cramped. 



Sicilian Dragon 


The Sicilian Dragon is characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6. The 'Dragon' is named so because itwas thought that the black pawn structure resembles the constellation 'Draco'. It is one of the sharpest openings (Wikipedia).

To fight fire with fire, we are going to use the Yugoslav Attack. 6.Be3 Bg7 (6...Ng4? 7.Bb5+) 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6. And now, both 9.Bc4 and 9.0-0-0 lead to extremely sharp positions. However, it is stated in the Wikipedia article on Sicilian Dragon that after 0-0-0, the freeing manoeuvre can sometimes lead to equality for black. The point of 9.Bc4 is to prevent black from playing d5. 

Your plan in the Yugoslav is quite simple, castle queen-side, trade off the dark squared bishops with Bh6, then all you have to do is attack! You will try to open up the h file, while your opponent must seek for counter-play on the queen-side or get crushed by your stampede of pawns.

After Bobby Fischer defeated Bent Larsen, who used the Sicilian Dragon, he revealed his secrets to the world on beating the Dragon, "pry open the h-file, sac, sac, ...mate" (NSW Junior Chess Magazine). And who better at doing what Fischer just quoted than the very talented Tal? At the right is a game in which Tal crushed his opponent with the Yugoslav Attack.

Sicilian Najdorf

The Sicilian Najdorf is characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. Black's last move is to deny the b5 square for the bishops and knights.

Black's plan is usually to start a minority pawn attack on the queenside and put pressure on White's e4 pawn. Often this can be done through playing ...b5, ...Bb7, and putting a knight on c5. White also has to look out for exchange sacrifices by Black on c3 where White usually has a knight posted guarding the important e4 pawn. This exchange sacrifice is a recurring theme in the Sicilian Defence - Wikipedia.

The position after 5...a6 is one of those where white has tried almost every legal move. The Gameknot database, showing only games played by players with 2000 + rating, have 19 moves tested/recorded. Heaven knows what players below 2000 rating have been trying.

I am going to suggest 6.f3. This move allows your dark sqaured bishop to safely arrive at e3 without the hassle of the black knight.

A possible continuation may be 6...e5 (should black respond with 6...e6 - Perenyi Attack, White's strategy should still be the same) 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0. To say either side to have an initiative would be either way too optimistic or way to pessimistic. Both sides would race their pawns to the enemy king. The game at the right is a very instructional game on how this should be done. 

Sicilian Sveshnikov

The Sveshnikov Variation is charterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5.

I remember when I was younger - that was the only opening I'd play because that was the only opening I knew. I forgot how I knew about it in the first place, but I have played it before for some time, so thankfully, I know a bit of theory.

The most popular continuation is 6.Nb5, and that is the route I am going to suggest. According to Gameknot database, it is played almost 15000 times more than the second most popular continuation - 6.Nb3.

White's last move threatens Nd6+. I learnt that the hard way - I used to think that after 6.Nb5, a6 look quite logical, and was surprised when my opponent followed up with 7.Nd6+. According to Wikipedia, in the position after 6.Nb5, bishops are stronger than knights.

Returning to the main line after 6.Nb5. 6...d6 is probably the only reply you are ever going to get.

A possible continuation might be 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 and now, instead of the more popular Bxf6, Fruit suggested 10.Nxe7!? followed by c4. 

I think both options are quite playable for both players. Perhaps Fruit judges that bishops are still better in this position, but... you be the judge.



Scheveningen Variation

The Scheveningen Variation is characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6. Again, this is the position where almost every legal move have been tried one time or another. The continuations that Fruit suggests are either the English Attack (6.Be3) and the Classical Variation (6.Be2). You can choose from either of them, as they are both quite


The Classical Variation is used by great chess gods - one of them being none other than Anatoly Karpov. The most popular continuation according to Gameknot database would be 6. Be2 a6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 Qc7 9.Kh1. According to Wikipedia, the main idea behind the Classical Variation is to plan a kingside attack, by bring most of his/her pieces pointing at the kingside. A kingside pawn storm is also possible.

The English Attack has a strong resemblance to the Yugoslav Attack which we explored when dealing with the Dragon Variation. White's plan is to castle long and start a kingsi

de assault.

Again, I will take the most popular continuation listed by Gameknot database as the main line. 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 h6 10.0-0-0.The strategy for both players are quite - if not exactly the similar as the one seen in the Yugoslav Attack.



Well - there you go! I have never realised writing this would be so hard - especially with all those heavily analysed theory and variations! 


Wikipedia - I have no idea how I am to finish this without Wikipedia.

Fruit 2.2.1 - The same can be said for Fruit, the 2005 World Vice Computer Chess Champion. 

Gameknot database - An extremely informative and helpful database.

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