Sicilian Study No. 1
I'm going to spend 30 minutes today studying the Sicilian Defense. By "study" I mean I'm going to read the Wikipedia entry and summarize it below.
Before I did my research (i.e., read Wikipedia), all I knew about the Sicilian is that starts with: 1. e4 c5 (no problem):
After a bit of research (i.e., reading Wikipedia), I discover that the usual reply is 2. Nf3 (developing and preparing d4) d6 (to prevent e5 down the road) 3. d4 cxd4 (take the gambit) 4. Nxd4 Nf6 (developing, attacking the center, preparing kingside castle) and then 5. Nc3:
Whether or not I'll remember this in a game is a different matter altogether.
(Side line: I can't go on until I figure out the best response to the awfully simple 1. e4 c5 2. d4:
I'm pretty sure this is how I'd reply as white, before learning the Sicilian at least. So what do I do? I look it up on Chess.com's opening explorer. It turns out that this one is called the Smith-Morra Gambit. Out 3252 games, 2762 players took the gambit and as they only lost 31% of the time, I'm going to do that too. No Morra worries: just take the gambit! Maybe I'll understand why later. )
Alright, back to the mainline: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3:
According to my research (i.e., Wikipedia), there are six (!?) main responses to 5. Nc3. Frankly that's at least 5 more responses than I'm prepared to study the moment. Thankfully, it's black's call as to which direction to take it. It's a toss up for me between the Najdorf (the most popular) or the Dragon (the coolest sounding). Since I'm not a huge fan of a blocked in fianchettoed bishop, the basic idea of the Dragon variation, Najdorf it is.
The Najdorf variation starts off with 5... a6, a badass prophylactic that shuts down a lot of white's early attacking chances:
This move takes the b5 square away from white and shuts down both 6. Bb5+ and 6. Nb5 (by either knight). 5.... a6 also prepares for a b5 pawn push by black in the future. Ultimately, black wants to play e5 for all the normal reasons (develop, develop, develop, control the center, make an alley for the bishop to leave by, help the king get castled).
That's my 30 minutes and then some. There's a lot more to explore in the Najdorf... like another whole Wikipedia page! So that will have to wait until another day. Now I'm going to go try out my newfound opening skillz on unsuspecting chess.com members (and watch my rating plummet).
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