Repertoire Hole: Sicilian

Jul 1, 2008, 1:16 PM |


WIth only one weekend between now and the next tournament, my white repertoire is still full of holes.  On the Sicilian front, I thought I was happy with 1.e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. d3 d5 4. e5 and  on 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. d3 and on going into the queenless middlegame after 4. de.  The problem is the queenless middlegame (D) forces me to add another element to the Sicilian repertoire to deal with lower-rated black players, who will always try to simplify, given the opportunity. 

And what is that element going to be?  I've looked at Closed Sicilian options, along with the trendy 2. Na3 lines and while both are playable, each leads to the type of positional hand-to-hand combat I'd just as well avoid with weaker players.  I am not trying to change my style -- I'm a tactician, not a positional impressario.  I recently heard Josh Waitzkin (of "Searching for Bobby Fischer" fame) talk about falling out of love with chess after bringing in a coach who was raised in the Soviet School, who instead of allowing him to flourish in the wide-open tactical melees he enjoyed, was trying to force him to play more quiet, positional themes.  Waitzkin chided that while such an approach might have been winning chess, it wasn't fun chess.  And when the activity ceased to be fun, he thought it time to find another activity to take up. 

So, returning to my Sicilian dilemma, I want something "open", but that doesn't devolve into a battle of who knows the most theory.  I trust that most A-players and low experts will know the theory of their pet Sicilian lines better than me.

 The Smith-Morra Gambit is fun enough when black accepts, but when black declines with 3...Nf6, I'd rather have his side of the chessboard.  However, I'm now taking a fresh look at the Wing Gambit, which offers a similar openness and some new ideas which may make it a candidate.

In particular, I have my eye on the line 1. e4 c5 2. b4 cb 3. Bb2.  Aaah...a nice open position with both some freshness and sting.  Let's go a little deeper.

As with the main-line Wing Gambit, one can anticipate black to proceed with 3...d5 4. ed Qxd5 (on 4...Nxd5, 5. c4 bc 6. Nxc3 Nxd5 7. Nf3 e6 8. Bc4 Nb6 9. Bb3 leaves white with a pleasant enough position for the pawn) where we arrive at this position (D):

White kicks things off by harassing the black queen with 5. c4 !? bc (5...Qe4+ 6. Be2 Qxg2 7. Bf3 Qg6 8. Ne2 e5?! 9. Rg1 [9.Bxe5? Qf5! wins a piece] and white has, again, nice compensation for the material deficit) 6. Nxc3 Qd8 (6...Qa5 is met with the cute 7. Bb5+ Bd7 8. Qh5!? Nc6 9. Nd5 where white threatens 10. Bxc6 followed by Nf6+ winning the queen) 7. d4 Nf6 8. d5!? a6 9. Qa4+ Bd7 10. Qb3 Ra7 11. Nf3 g6 12. Bd3 Bg7 13. Ne4 O-O 14. O-O Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Bxb2 16. Qxb2 (Villing - Schuh, Eberbach Baden ch 1980), reaching a position that Fritz analyzes as slightly favoring white.

 From the diagrammed position, what I really like is:

  1. White has retained his typical a3 Wing-Gambit idea, particularly if black does not play 3...d5, since playing a3 at that point can transpose into regular Wing Gambit lines known to favor white
  2. Taking control of the nice a1-h8 diagonal has a bit of an Orangutan (1. b4) feel to it.  For black, developing his dark-squared bishop is a bit of a challenge, since white hasn't given him the standard Wing Gambit option of ...Bxb4 (after white's usual a3 and axb4 treatment)
  3. White is in no way obliged to play 5. c4.  He can play 5. Nf3 and look for favorable transposition opportunities back to a3 lines (such as 5...Bg4 6. Be2 e6 7. a3! Nf6? 8. ab Bxb4 9. Bxf6 gf 10. c3 winning a piece because of Qa4+ or 5...e6 6. a3 Nf6 7. Bd3 Nc6 8 . O-O Be7 9. Re1 O-O 10. Ne5 and white has plenty of ideas, including 10...Nxe5 11. Rxe5 Qd8 12. Qf3 threatening Qh3 and Bh7+ or 10...Bd7 11. ab Nxb4 12. Nc3 Qd4 13. Be4 Qb6 14. Nxd7 Nxd7 15. Bh7+! Kxh7 16. Qh5+ Kg8 17. Bxg7! 

From this we can see the variation can be interpreted a number of different ways.

I would submit that a fresh approach to the Wing Gambit may very well be superior against lesser opponents than the Smith-Morra, which has long since lost its element of surprise, given 3...Nf6 provides black an economical defense against both it and c3 Sicilians (1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6).

Wing Gambit, anyone?