The Sicilian Hole

  • GM Gserper
  • | Feb 2, 2014

Many openings (especially when you play Black) have specific strategical problems typical for that particular opening. If you play the French Defense, then the bishop on c8 is your constant headache. In the Tarrasch Defense you need to live with an isolated queen pawn. The Dutch Stonewall gives White full control over the 'e5' square. 

The typical problem for many variations of the Sicilian Defense, especially those where Black plays e7-e5 (the Sveshnikov variation, the Boleslavsky variation, et cetera ) is a permanent 'hole' on the 'd5' square. Black hopes that the activity of his pieces should compensate for this weakness, but if something goes wrong...

The next game illustrates such a case very well. In fact, it is one of those games which each proverbial Russian schoolboy should know. The reason is simple: it was published in the famous Soviet book that was preparing kids to reach the Soviet 3rd category (roughly USCF 1500 level).

The diagrammed position is picture perfect of the strategical disaster of Black's plan. Notice the smart 15.Bg5! move that eliminated the only defender of the 'd5' square - Nf6. As the result, Black's 'bad' Bf6 was not a match to the beautiful Nd5.

The following game demonstrates a slightly more complicated case of the same positional concept. White first sacrificed a pawn to trade Black's Be6 - the main defender of the key 'd5' square. And the maneuvre Bg5xf6 should be already familiar to you by the previous game.

Again Black's dark-squared bishop was amazingly useless.

While these two above mentioned games are really 'positional chess 101' (practically all Soviet chess players of my generation learned them in a very early age), this pattern is so common that you can easily find hundreds of good examples. Look how Bobby Fischer implements the same strategical tools to obtain a strategically winning position with his Nd5 totally dominating the whole board. Just like Smyslov and Boleslavsky, he trades the light squared bishops first and then swaps his dark-squared bishop for his opponent's knight. You can see why Spassky once called Fischer the best product of the Soviet Chess School!

Finally, let me show you one of the most amazing games with this strategical idea. No matter how many times you replay it, the game will always fascinate you. In order to eliminate the defender of the key 'd5' square, Garry Kasparov sacrifices the whole exchange!

A truly unbelievable game! Kasparov sacrificed the exchange in the opening and then played like if nothing happened!

As you could see in all these games, Black's dark-squared bishop cannot really compete with White's Nd5. But what happens if instead of the knight White has a bishop on the 'd5' square? We will discuss this situation next week!



  • 7 months ago



  • 3 years ago


    I am studying the sicilian opening. I found this article very interesting and very helpful.

  • 3 years ago


    I can't say enough. You are one of the best teachers.

  • 3 years ago


    Fantastic article! As I've increased my understanding of Sicilian games, I've slowly learned (from several painful defeats) to avoid e7-e5. White's knight always gets to d5 and effectively ruins Black's plans by dominating the center, with no foreseeable way to remove it. Your posted games and annotation clearly illustrate the problems associated with this position. LOVED the Fisher game, 35. Qb3 was a beautiful and brilliant move. The Kasparov game was unbelievable!

  • 3 years ago


    great artic !

  • 3 years ago


    it took me more than 3 yrs to understand these concepts because  there was no one to teach in u present it for can be so unfair....

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    Wow, cannot believe I am actually understanding strategy this time and what makes the hole weak. That was real fun. 

  • 3 years ago


    Great !

  • 3 years ago


    Great article! Thanks..

  • 3 years ago


    Liked it, TY!

  • 3 years ago


    Just by scimming through the article it is a 'must read',  which I will do later this day, when I have more time. Now I'm off to my appointment.

  • 3 years ago


    Where I can find how to play Sicilian for black?

  • 3 years ago


    nice article ... i'm not a sicilian palyer but i will use it as agiants the sicilian 

  • 3 years ago


    Great article on the Boleslavsky hole, love that Kasparov game.

  • 3 years ago


    So, 37...Bf4 38.g3 Bc1 runs into  the same move, 39.Ne3! threatening 40.Nf5+ winning the black queen, and removing the knight from attack by the black queen. Before that, Black could not take the knight on c4 because of Ra7+, winning on the spot (that is why White was able to play 36.Ra1, leaving the knight "hanging").

  • 3 years ago


    Hi, Spencer!

    Yes, Black can play 37....Bf4, but after 38.g3 there is no mate.

  • 3 years ago


    Can black play 37...BF4? It threatens mate and cannot be defended by the pawn on the g file. Any rebuttals out there? I can't find a counter mate threat by white on the next move that would put the game more in white's hands.

  • 3 years ago


    In Kasperov-Shirov, why is 37. Ra8 not just bonecrushing?  Maybe im missing something?

  • 3 years ago


    yes but what do yoou do when your opponent does not push d5. the ppl i play always push ....e5 then ...f6 eventially other pawns on the board that prevents nf3

Back to Top

Post your reply: