Sicilian-phobia Part Two - Closed Sicilian

ogerboy
ogerboy
Jan 8, 2009, 12:00 AM |
10 | Opening Theory

As the name suggests, players playing white (with the Closed Sicilian) does not intend to open up the centre with d4 in the near future. Instead, they usually play on the king-side first, then decide whether they want to open up the centre or not.

The move order that defines the Closed Sicilian is usually 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 (or d6) 3.g3. A search in the Chessgames.com database reveals that the Closed Sicilian surged in popularity, starting from the 1960's, when Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer started using it with remarkable results. It was not long before most of the worlds wanted to give the Closed Sicilian a try too

.

Before moving on to the main variations, here is a game which Spassky won as white with the Closed Sicilian. This is the first game I came across which stars the Closed Sicilian. This game helped me understand the ideal set up for white, as well as possible ideas and strategies in the Closed Sicilian.

 

Black's Second Move Alternatives

There are 9 alternatives to 2...e6, 2...d6 and 2... Nc6. 2...g6 usually to one of the three. So anyway, here are the moves that I am going to analyse.

a) 2...a6
b) 2...Nf6?!
c) 2...e5!?
d) 2...b6
e) 2...d5!?
f) 2...f5!?

a) 1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 a6 Strangely, this move is more popular than 2...g6 according to Chessgames.com. I have no idea on what's the intention of this move (if only those chess engines can speak... they seem to know what they're doing against 2...a6), however, it does look your opponent is preparing a queenside advance. Since this article's topic is on the Closed Sicilian, I am going to suggest the simple 3.g3 as it should bring you to familiar positions. After 3...Nc6 4.Bg2 d6 5.Nf3 I am suggesting this instead of 5.f4, as this can lead your opponent playing a very common mistake. 5...e6 6.0-0 Nf6 (6...Ne7 should lead up to the same thing - opening up the centre with d4. Because black has wasted time on moving his a pawn, unlike in the Open Sicilian, he has yet to get ready to castle) 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7. A common mistake here is 8...Be7? to get ready to castle. However, that can be met with 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10. e5! Nd5 11. Na4 0-0 12. c4 which gives white an extra pawn. Going back to after 11.Na4, if black replies with 11...Qb4, 12.Qxb4 Bxb4, 13.Bf4 still works as 13...Rd8 can be met with Nb6.

Bb7, then he's going to end up in way more trouble. 12.c4 Nc7 13.Qb3 Rb8 14. exd6 and black loses a piece. e.g. If 14...Bxd6 loses to 15. Rd1 Qe7 (Ba8 loses to 16.Rxd6!) 16.Bxc6+ with an extra piece for white. 14...Qxd6 fails to 15. Rd1 Qe5 16. Bf4 wins the knight. If 15...black chooses Qb4 instead,

Going back to the main line after 8...Bd7

8...Bd7 9.Be3 in my opinion this is the best move in the position. The hole on b6 will become an important part of the white player's strategy. A possible continuation would be

9...Be7 10. f4 0-0 11. a4  had white played a4 on move ten, black can reply with Ne5. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

b) 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6?! This move is bizarre to say the least, but have been played. As we all can see, the move e5 kicks the knight back to g8. I think what black might be planning is to counter attack in the centre, like in Alekhine's defence and such. The only difference is that the black knight in Alekhine's Defence is much more active and useful!

After 3.e5 Ng8, there are two continuations which I suggest you to try - 4.Nf3, and 4.Bc4. All the engines I have point their fingers at Nf3, however, I am going to let you decide, as both of them are most likely to transpose. 

4.Nf3 prepares to open up the centre with d4, and followed by a possible f4 sometimes later in the game. The Gameknot database shows that after 4.Nf3, Nc6 is the most popular response, followed by e6. If your opponent chooses 4...e6, then simply play d4. And just to tell you, of the four games in the Gameknot database, all of them were won by white.

If your opponent chooses 4...Nc6, you have a choice of either Bc4 or Bb5, then castle. Whichever you choose, the black players has yet to ask themselves how they are going to develop their kingside pieces! A possible continuation after 4... Nc6 5.Bc4 e6 6. 0-0 Ne7 7.d4 with a clear advantage for white. If your opponent does not take on d4, the move d5 can really give a hard smack on his (or her) face.

 

c) 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e5?! Another bizarre move, and it doesn't take a genius to point out the weaknesses and the holes 2...e5?! leaves behind. However, there are always people out there who thinks they can make you tip your king over by surprising you.

You can pretend that this is any double king pawn opening game, with black playing a ridiculous second move. There are no knight on c6, so you can chuck the Ruy Lopez thought out of the window. So...

3. Bc4 looks quite promising - strengthening your hold on the weak d5 square. At this point, your opponent have three weaknesses in his/her position -

1. The backward 'd' pawn
2. The hole on d5
3. He/She have not developed any pieces

It is Black's move - he can solve one of the problems, will probably never solve all of them, so it would be quite pointless to analyse any further (perhaps it was pointless to analyse 2...e5 at the start). If I were playing white, I'd probably push the d pawn from d2 to d3, followed by f4, Nf3, and castle. Anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of chess can tell you that you would be guaranteed a good middle-game.

d) 2...b6 This is perhaps the only sensible move (is 2...a6 a sensible move? I don't know...) from the list. Again, since this article's topic is on Closed Sicilian, I am going to assume that everyone loves to fianchetto their white squared bishop. 3. g3 Bb7 this has been the only move which have been played according to the Gameknot Database.  4. Bg2 at this point, almost anything black do can be met with d3, followed

by f4 - just like in main line Closed Sicilian. For example, 4...e6 5.d3 Nf6 6.f4 d6 7.Nf3 Be7 with a tough middle game in store for both players, however, white may be able to get a chance to use his/her extra space to his/her advantage, perhaps with a future e5.

 

 

 

e) 1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 d5!? It looks to me as though black is offering a free pawn - but I am not sure, as I can't find any information regarding it. Fruit seems to think so. I am suggesting you to take with the knight instead of the pawn.

Oh, and one thing - does anyone know that in some games in the Chess.com database - white took the pawn with 3. exd5, black actually took back with Qxd5 - what the heck? Stranger still, white did not take the queen - white actually played some other simple developing move! does anyone have anything that they want to say?...

Anyway, after 3. Nxd5, it doesn't seem like black has anyway of getting compensation for his/her pawn.

f) 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 f5?!  There are 3 games which played this move according to the Chess.com Database. Two of the games continued 3. exf5, while the other played 3.d3. The game which declined the offered pawn was the only one that lost. I don't want to make you, the readers, think that I chose that move because it have the higher win record, but that does indeed seems to be the better move. When Fruit analysed the position, it also went towards the path of 3. exf5.

So 3. exf5 Nf6 4. Be2  and black is already in trouble.

Main Line 2...Nc6/d6/g6

According to Gameknot database, 2...Nc6 is the most popular response. 2...d6 and 2...g6 are most likely to transpose into the 2...Nc6 line. 2...e6 is a different matter, as your opponent may have the thought of advancing his d pawns two squares forward

in his mind.

So anyway after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3, 3...g6 is the most popular reply, so I am going to take it as the main line. 3...e6 can be met with 4.Bg2, preventing your opponent from playing d5. Play may continue 4...d6 5.f4 Nf6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.d3 0-0 8.0-0 Bd7and now 9.h3!? preparing Kh2 to open up a file on the king-side for your rooks may be interesting. 

3...g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 Nf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.0-0, and now, at this point, various replies have been tested. Like the 2...Nc6 followed by 3...e6 line, I am suggesting the white player to continue the game with a king-side pawn storm, like in the game at the left. 

Of course, normal play in the centre such as (after 8. 0-0) Be3 and then a timely d4 is also perfectly playable, as I know not everyone likes the idea of advancing the pawns which were sheltering their king. 

Main Line 2...e6

1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 ranks second to third in popularity after 2. Nc3 according to various databases. At this point, I am going to suggest (or rather, Fruit is suggesting...) 3.Nf3. I know that this article is on Closed Sicilian, and I was assuming everyone loves to fianchetto their light squared bishops, I do see a certain sense of logic behind Fruit's move - to fianchetto your light squared bishop does look a bit too slow for me, as if your opponent wants to surprise you (with the rarely seen) 3...d5!?, you can confidently play 4. exd5. This looks strange, as it gives up the centre, however, with the open e file, your aim is to develop your king-side pieces first, castle, and bring your rook to the e file. 4...exd5 5.Bb5+ and now, you are ready to castle and bring you

rook to glare down the e file. 

The most popular response after 3.Nf3 is 3...Nc6, so I am going to take it as the main line. Again, if I was playing white, I would not fianchetto the light squared bishop. But I am not you, so really, you can do whatever you want. Instead, what I am going to do with the light squared bishop is to play it on b5. After 4. Bb5, you castle, and only then do you play d4. This position, after getting Fruit to analyse it, white is actually up by half a pawn!

A possible continuation could be, after 4. Bb5, 4...Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6.d4 cxd4 (6...0-0 7.d5, according to Fruit, white is up by more than a pawn) 7.Nxd4 0-0. And now, to keep the advantage, Fruit suggests Bg5 to stop black from playing Bc5 (black can still play it, however, after Nf3, black has to deal with the threat of e5). 

Here is a final diagram of how the main line 2...e6 should go, for those of you who do not have a chessboard in front of you. 

The next part of Sicilian Phobia will be on the Open Sicilian - and I would try to hand it in sometimes next week. Please be patient, as the amount of theory of the Open Sicilian is staggering - I just hope that Fruit don't crash sometimes before next week...

 

 

 

Bibliography/Resources

Unlike the Open Sicilian, which have the half of the Wikipedia article 'Sicilian Defence', Closed Sicilian on Wikipedia lasts nothing more than a few words! Most of the information above is based on games in Chessgames.com, Gameknot database, and the analysis of Fruit. I do believe Fruit to be quite strong, as stated on its website, Fruit was the Vice World Computer Chess Champion of 2005.

Chessgames.com

Gameknot.com

Fruit 2.2.1

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