Castling or not in the Sicilian

cccdad

bp.png  I'm fairly new to focusing on chess and I'm trying to learn how to play black, particularly the Sicilian Defense.  Often, however, once I castle on the king side, a host of pawns, knights, bishops and queen come scudding down the left side of the board, like skiers on fresh white snow, easily crushing my king's supposed warm, safe lodging.  It almost appears as if one must defer castling early, to see how things develop. 

What is the defense against this onslaught?  It seems that conservative/closed defenses like the Sicilian are--short-term at least--liabilities, and that perhaps a better approach is to just open up and attack--as in the best defense is a good offense.  I.e. Answer e4 with e5. bp.png

cccdad

I read it was the preferred defense against e4.  Nowhere I read that it was so deep that most can't handle it.  So are you saying I should just answer with e5?  Do you have an alternative suggestion? Much appreciated. 

autobunny

The Sicilian isn't conservative nor necessarily closed and it has a wide range of variations and sub variations.  In some variations black never castles. 

Typically castling on the same side as the opponent reduces the chance of a pawn storm on your king.   This may mean delaying castling till your opponent does. 

However for normal humans,  general tactical and strategic patterns need to be studied first over which opening nuances can be applied, otherwise none of it will make sense.  And the Sicilian is one that breaks many general principles which may confuse the beginner. 

DeirdreSkye
cccdad wrote:

You know, I posted another post about a month ago, which had nothing to do with chess theory. and you answered with exactly the same patronizing reply. 

https://www.chess.com/forum/view/suggestions/can-you-make-the-computer-use-a-particular-opening-line

If it's all the same to you, please don't bother anymore. Peddle your stuff somewhere else. Thanks. 

My question is still open if anyone else would care to comment with something actually helpful or relevant. 

Wow.... 

His "patronising reply" is actually the best help you can get.

But it's not your fault , it's his. He shouldn't bother at all. 

AlisonHart

The Sicilian is a lot to get your head around. Before we get to the specific question of castling, let's go through some simple stuff:

 

1...c5 is a dangerous move for one main reason: Black begins a tempo down and moving the c pawn does not open any paths for any pieces (except the queen). You're taking a powerful positional stance on the center- demanding more central pawns than white. In exchange, your position develops slowly, and white is justified in trying to blow you off the board before your pieces find squares. 

 

DO NOT PLAY THE DRAGON, DO NOT PLAY THE NAJDORF, DO NOT PLAY THE DRAGODORF

 

People will tell you it's because there's a lot of theory (and there is), but the real reason is that you need to be a monstrous calculator to survive those positions. You have to be able to see all the tactical sequences and calculate them all the way to the end.......and plenty of GMs have failed that test. Once you hit a B class rating, if you want to be the guy that spends all of his time memorizing dragon theory and solving mate in 17 puzzles, more power to you. But learning the Sicilian from the Najdorf is like learning to drive on an Italian sports car.

 

Learn your sidelines and anti-Sicilians! The closed Sicilian, grand Prix, c3 Sicilian, and Smith Morra need to be looked at. They're different than the open Sicilian and should be approached slightly differently.

 

Don't study lines, study games! The Sicilian has quite a bit of theory, but it's really an opening that needs to be experienced. The Kan starting position is reached from some really obtuse-looking moves, and you'll never understand why this opening has such a rich variety unless you see the results of each position played out. Learn IDEAS, not MOVES.

 

Finally to your actual question: Castling in the Sicilian is a deeply strategic question that depends on a lot of things....in most openings, you just castle (usually just kingside), and your opponent does the same. But the Sicilian (as usual) is an exception.

 

Rules of thumb:

Let your opponent castle first. They usually do anyway because black is slow in developing, but - pretending you do have the option - allow your opponent to tell you where the white king will be, THEN:

 

If white goes kingside, castle kingside as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can get you checkmated

 

If your opponent goes queenside, look at the position VERY carefully before deciding. The center tends to be safer than the kingside as white usually has a lead in development and can just run f4, g4, f5 and slaughter you. But sometimes they attack through the center - doubled on the d file or by playing e5. In those cases, the king is safer castled. When you do leave the king in the center, be sure to move him so that you h8 rook can get out!

 

Castling queenside with black is rarely advised. The missing c pawn puts your king on a semi open file. Plus, you almost always want to play b5 if you can - expanding on the queenside and disrupting white's activity. Pushing pawns in front of your king can go south pretty fast, so do not castle queenside unless you can give yourself at least three good reasons.

cccdad

Thank you for the replies AlisonHart and autobunny.  Very interesting and helpful.  

AlisonHart

I will also say: Bacon may give the same advice to everyone, but it is the right advice. 

 

I know it's a lot more fun to study opening theory than tactics (at first) - because tactics feel like kids' stuff and theory feels like real, solid chess knowledge. But you need to learn the kids' stuff....one of the reasons chess puzzles probably aren't fun for you is that you haven't seen enough of them to develop an internal database of patterns.

 

Once you develop that database, solving tactics will feel 10x better than learning opening theory - because it's a free shot of dopamine every time you get the answer. You can fall asleep at the board trying to figure out the move order nuance between Bd7 and Be6.

DeirdreSkye
cccdad wrote:

I don't mind that he gave the advice.  And I understand the principles and do my best to follow them.  Thank you. 

What I mind is the way he posted this boilerplate response, the very same one that he posted on another of my threads, which by the way had nothing to do with the question on that thread.  In that one as well he never even addressed my actual question.  Is he Johnny Appleseed or something, scattering the seed of his advice, oblivious to all things? 

No matter how you slice it, that's a little weird.  Or is it normal for good chess players to be so condescending?  



 

    In  school you didn't start with algebra and Heminway before you learn the numbers and the letters.

    What's the basic knowledge in chess?

1)Opening principles:They will allow you to develop your pieces correctly.

2)Elementary checkmates: They will allow you to win when you are up in material

3)Fundamental endgames: They will help you develop important skills like calculation and planning

4)Opening traps and Tactics: They will allow you to win material and protect your pieces.

 

Sicilian defense for your level is an absolute nonsense. When one doesn't know how to drive you don't put him in a Ferrari to teach him , do we agree with that?

Sicilian is Ferrari , you want a Volkswagen.

Play 1...e5 and try to understand the battle for the centre.

1...e5 has everything you need to build your knowledge. You will play open and closed , classical and hypermodern positions and most importantly you will play positiona with high instructive value. Not that Sicilian is not instructive , but you can't understand Sicilian's complicated pawn structures when you don't understand the basic ones.   

And there are 2 more problems. First, you don't think , second you don't learn , you just repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Stop playing blitz , analyse your games and learn from your mistakes. That's the secret to improvement for you.Learning to play the Sicilian is a nonsense that will help you in nothing.

I don't know if it sounds condenscending but it happens to be the truth. You will choose how you will use it.

DeirdreSkye
cccdad wrote:
DeirdreSkye wrote:
cccdad wrote:
 

And there are 2 more problems. First, you don't think , second you don't learn , you just repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Stop playing blitz , analyse your games and learn from your mistakes. That's the secret to improvement for you.Learning to play the Sicilian is a nonsense that will help you in nothing.

I don't know if it sounds condenscending but it happens to be the truth. You will choose how you will use it.

 

Well, yes, it does sound very condescending, since you ask.  But at least this time there is some substance and reasoning to your reply. So that's a start for you in becoming a nicer, or at least more pertinent, person, I guess. 

As for not thinking or not learning, you are quite mistaken.  Thinking and learning are my life. I've begun to study the game.  I do the computer analysis on just about every game I play, unless I made an obvious early blunder or played someone who had absolutely no clue.  I've gone through quite few of the online lessons, and other videos and instruction.  It's a personal project.  I've gone from 680 to mid-900s give +-50 depending on the time of day, in about a month, 

The question I asked may have been naive, but it was sincere and you and Mr. Bacon's dismissals of it and me were completely uncalled for, hence rude. Maybe you think because you are good player you are above the inconveniences of at least feigning humility. 

BTW, I see that Mr. Bacon rushed over to that other post of mine, the one which was a question about site usage, and deleted his boilerplate advice post, removing the evidence.  Perhaps he thinks he is doing good work by scattering that document everywhere. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that. But perhaps also he's gotten a little carried away and thoughtless about it as well. 

I've spent quite a bit of time on Internet forums.  You don't want to get in a debate with me.  I'm a 2700 with words and language.  Trust me on that one. 

Thanks for the advice. 

    Seems that you are doing many things wrong Analysing with engine is wrong for your level. You have to analyse on your own first.

The point in analysis is not finidng the mistakes but finding the reason.That you blundered a piece is many times irrelevant. Why you blundered? Why the piece was there unprotected? Often blunders reveal a wrong thinking process which , if unrevealed , makes your whole engine anlysis a total waste of time.The engine shows you the mistakes but not the reasons.Without understanding the reasons of the mistakes you actually do nothing.

  Well done for going from 680 to 900 ,  but you should never be so low in the first place and you wouldn't be if you didn't listen to nonsense.

      So learning and thinking is your life yet you are doing one mistake after the other and when one gives helpful advices, you call him condenscending and you threaten him not to debate with you!You should actually beg for debate if learning and thinking were indeed your life!

cccdad
AlisonHart wrote:

 

I know it's a lot more fun to study opening theory than tactics (at first) - because tactics feel like kids' stuff and theory feels like real, solid chess knowledge. But you need to learn the kids' stuff....one of the reasons chess puzzles probably aren't fun for you is that you haven't seen enough of them to develop an internal database of patterns.

 

I appreciate the advice, but I never said I did not like studying tactics and puzzles.  I do.  So I'm not sure where that idea came from.   As for Mr. Bacon's cut-and-paste job. I read it and agree with it, and I've tried to apply it.   But it wasn't anything new to me.  Like I said, he threw that on my porch a month ago.  Upon reflection he may have meant well in his own way, but his manner was off-putting.  

Actually I think opening theory is more tedious than tactics and strategy.   I agree with Fischer that chess would be a better game without the need for much opening theory. But Chess960 is not the solution.  It just means that opening theory will be 960 times more voluminous. But I figured I do, or eventually will, need some options other that e4-e5 when playing Black.  If that's all I need to stick to, however, so much the better.  I'll start immediately.  

All I said was I tried the Sicilian and had some trouble with it.  I'm astounded that raised so much indignation amongst the anointed. But I guess some egos need a lot of feeding. 

Present company excepted, of course.  Thanks, Alison. 

autobunny

if you can get past the condescending tone and unnecessary insults, deidre does have good advice & i think she(?) means well.  she's not going to win any elections though.

AlisonHart

True....but I can sympathize with the OP as I really disliked the positions I got from 1...e5 when I first started, and I was always told the same thing "Just play e4 e5". I still hate that insufferable symmetrical Italian setup that everyone is taught to play in the beginning; it's a lousy position that's either way too sharp or way too boring and nothing in between.

 

Still, as someone who's been around the forums for a minute, both Dierdre and Bacon aren't trolls, and they've both been helpful to me in the past. Any time someone below 1300 asks about openings, there's always a little chorus of experienced players saying "e4 e5 and don't worry about it", and it just happens they're the chorus on this thread.

cccdad
autobunny wrote:

if you can get past the condescending tone and unnecessary insults, deidre does have good advice & i think she(?) means well.  she's not going to win any elections though.

 

Yeah, I've learned it's a waste of time to argue with a person like that online.  I'm sure if we were face-to-face we could worth things out in ten minutes. But something about the Internet makes that practically impossible.  Best to just cut it off and spare the onlookers. 

 

OldPatzerMike
AlisonHart wrote:

Still, as someone who's been around the forums for a minute, both Dierdre and Bacon aren't trolls, and they've both been helpful to me in the past.

Ditto. I sincerely wish I had started off answering 1. e4 with 1...e5. The positional richness of the resulting opening positions really helps to learn how to play chess. Instead, I fell into the Sicilian trap: it was such a cool opening. The time I spent learning variations could have been so much better spent really learning how to play the game. Now, at age 67, I am desperately trying to make up for lost time, knowing full well that I've let my best opportunity pass me by.

@cccdad, I truly hope you don't let that happen to you. Good advice is good advice, even if the manner in which it is delivered is not especially palatable. Best of luck in your chess endeavors. happy.png

cccdad
OldPatzerMike wrote:
 

Ditto. I sincerely wish I had started off answering 1. e4 with 1...e5. The positional richness of the resulting opening positions really helps to learn how to play chess. Instead, I fell into the Sicilian trap: it was such a cool opening. The time I spent learning variations could have been so much better spent really learning how to play the game. Now, at age 67, I am desperately trying to make up for lost time, knowing full well that I've let my best opportunity pass me by.

@cccdad, I truly hope you don't let that happen to you. Good advice is good advice, even if the manner in which it is delivered is not especially palatable. Best of luck in your chess endeavors.

 

I get it.  I don't regret trying the other defenses.  It was good experience.  They produced a game of different character.  Gnarly and claustrophobic is how I would describe the Sicilian. Very interesting and a fun change from e4-e5.  But I could not figure out why it was considered "good."  Which was really the nature of my original question.  What's the advantage?  I didn't see it, other that a few opponents didn't know what to do with it.  Anyway, I'm an "old" patzer, too.  But it's better than playing online poker, right?

WilliamShookspear
cccdad wrote:
OldPatzerMike wrote:
 

Ditto. I sincerely wish I had started off answering 1. e4 with 1...e5. The positional richness of the resulting opening positions really helps to learn how to play chess. Instead, I fell into the Sicilian trap: it was such a cool opening. The time I spent learning variations could have been so much better spent really learning how to play the game. Now, at age 67, I am desperately trying to make up for lost time, knowing full well that I've let my best opportunity pass me by.

@cccdad, I truly hope you don't let that happen to you. Good advice is good advice, even if the manner in which it is delivered is not especially palatable. Best of luck in your chess endeavors.

 

I get it.  I don't regret trying the other defenses.  It was good experience.  They produced a game of different character.  Gnarly and claustrophobic is how I would describe the Sicilian. Very interesting and a fun change from e4-e5.  But I could not figure out why it was considered "good."  Which was really the nature of my original question.  What's the advantage?  I didn't see it, other that a few opponents didn't know what to do with it.  Anyway, I'm an "old" patzer, too.  But it's better than playing online poker, right?

The advantage to the Sicilian is quite obscure.

Two basic ideas are:
#1. To trade a White central pawn for a Black flank pawn if White plays d4, thus giving Black the theoretical idea of a superior central presence. (In reality this only comes into play in the endgame. So if Black can reach an endgame, he is generally okay if not better.

#2. In some lines, piece control of d4 and e5 are quite common themes. 

I gave up playing the Sicilian a while ago. Too theoretical and complex. The "boring" positions from 1... e5 can actually be quite interesting, if subtle, when you start to unlock their secrets. 

I'll also try to give you some advice that has a little more tact than a sledgehammer...! wink.png I think at the 900 level (good job on the quick acceleration, by the way, quite impressive)  the main focus should probably be on tactics. If you like looking at openings, that's great, I encourage it, but don't get too lost in them before building your tactical and positional toolkit. Studying openings will be a lot more rewarding after that toolkit is complete.

FWIW, I hope you don't mind, but I went through some of your games and while you have a pretty good grasp of most things it looks to me like identifying your opponent's threats and their plans is a weakness of yours. Try to keep in mind that the game of chess is a two-player affair. wink.png (Not meant to insult; this is something that actually did help me a great deal when I was lower rated.)

https://www.chess.com/live/game/3326233266?username=cccdad Also in this game you mysteriously resigned as your opponent was about to pick his piece back up, which would have led to a position that was probably roughly equal. 

TL;DR:
#1: Be careful of the next move your opponent will/should make. This is probably the area you could use most improvement.
#2: Keep doing whatever you're doing; it seems to be working.
#3: Yes, please do castle in most openings. (Though the pawn storms in the Sicilian can be hard to weather as Black for anyone.)
#4: Have fun! This is the most important part for every player, even the professionals. wink.png 

Hope I answered your question, and that you find my advice useful. 

Cheers,

~William

AlisonHart

I've tried the French, Alekhine's defense, classical e5, and the Sicilian, and - no matter what else I look at -  the Sicilian is always what I return to. So let me extol the virtues of one of my absolute favorite positions in chess:

 

(1) Robot Army

 

Everyone is trained to play 1.e4, and - playing beginners - most of my opponents didn't check to see what black's up to. On the second move 33%  robotically swing out the queen, 40% robotically play Bc4, and the other 27% actually respond by playing some "book" Sicilian system.

 

Basically, because both the early queen moves AND 2.Bc4 are bad against the Sicilian, it was almost like cheating....my rating shot up 50 points just from learning how to get an advantage out of kicking white's pieces around

 

 

(2) The Sharp Ones

 

Sharp Sicilians are a cobra versus a mongoose: White tries to strike fast, spit venom, and force black to defend herself into a corner where she'll be easy prey. Black dodges around white's attacks, waits for him to overextend himself, and pounces. White's victories make him look like the ultimate predator....black's make her look like an ingenious daredevil.

 

My heart rate actually goes up in that moment between "defending" and "stable"........and there's nothing like checkmating someone who thinks they're attacking you.

 

Watch Efim Geller take the so-called "poisoned pawn", walk his king across the whole board, and win the game......you're not supposed to be allowed to do this!!

 

 

(3) The Strategic Ones

 

There are also the quieter positions like the Maroczy Bind, Alapin, and closed Sicilian. These play to some of my strengths in that I have a reasonable intuition about where my pieces belong. In these games, you can improve slowly, and - as long as you don't blunder - get an equal or better endgame. It's a very rich, imbalanced strategic struggle where the player with better ideas can triumph. 

 

Here's a great example of white pressing too hard and being punished....and who better to mete out punishment than Garry Kasparov!

 

 

To me, the Sicilian has everything one could hope for: It contains blistering attacks, titanic battles of ideas, amazing theoretical discoveries, a fascinating endgame complex. It tests you in every type of chess knowledge at every stage of the game....the Sicilian is chess.

Coffee_Player

I'll put in my two-penny worth into defence of Sicilian Defence for Black, from my own OTB experience as former beginner in chess. Started learning openings for Black from classic 1. ... e5 answer to White 1. e4. Faced mainly Italian Game or Spanish Game (Ruy Lopez) and still suffered the loss of many games against higher rated players. I simply didn't understand how to play "positional" chess, especially in defence on Black side. In desperation tried other openings for Black against White 1. ...e4 such us French Defence (1. ... e6) and Caro-Kann Defence (1. ... c6) without success as well. Finally, took Sicilian Defence (1. ... c5) as main weapon against higher rated players and Scandinavian Defence (1. ... d5) against lower rated. And everything has changed for better in all OTB tournaments I played since then - gained 800 rating points in 1 year and became an Expert class player in less than 2 years from the very beginning. Why? Because I loved active dynamic unbalanced positions and was skilled tactician once.

So, try to find your "chess gene". Do you like messy fight on chessboard like Mikhail Tal did or prefer slowly positional boa snake style like Anatoly Karpov? Find your chess personality first, may be those old articles on chess.com could help you: What's Your Chess Personality? , Opening Questions And A Dream Mate , Finding my chess style . May Caissa be with You gold.png

RonPaulsSteelBalls
AlisonHart wrote:

the Sicilian is chess.

 

 

cccdad
WilliamShookspear wrote:

FWIW, I hope you don't mind, but I went through some of your games and while you have a pretty good grasp of most things it looks to me like identifying your opponent's threats and their plans is a weakness of yours. Try to keep in mind that the game of chess is a two-player affair.  (Not meant to insult; this is something that actually did help me a great deal when I was lower rated.)

https://www.chess.com/live/game/3326233266?username=cccdad Also in this game you mysteriously resigned as your opponent was about to pick his piece back up, which would have led to a position that was probably roughly equal. 

TL;DR:
#1: Be careful of the next move your opponent will/should make. This is probably the area you could use most improvement.
#2: Keep doing whatever you're doing; it seems to be working.
#3: Yes, please do castle in most openings. (Though the pawn storms in the Sicilian can be hard to weather as Black for anyone.)
#4: Have fun! This is the most important part for every player, even the professionals.  

Hope I answered your question, and that you find my advice useful. 

Cheers,

~William

 

Thanks for the advice, William. Very helpful.  

I did not know that a member's games were publicly available.  That's a little... embarrassing. But whatever.  Yeah, I've missed an opponent's mate-in-1 more than once.  I have a tendency to not look at the whole board.  I have to remind myself to lean back and take in everything.  I think that is a problem with players at my level in general.  We don't see the threats because we don't scan the whole board on every move.  Sort of like pulling out on the street and not looking both ways.  Pretty dumb basically, but it happens.  I've begun to see patterns, however, I take in the whole board and see a picture, like seeing a face in the clouds or on the speckled walls of my church while sitting through Mass as a kid. 

As for the games I've resigned, that's probably because something came up and I felt it was just better to resign.  I played when I was younger, but before the Internet it was a lot harder to learn and find a game.  There were basically books and chess clubs.  I liked chess but was not inclined to drive to a club to play.  So I was never very good. I now work exclusively from home and I have a lot of dead time while watching the stock market.  So to not become catatonic from boredom while waiting for something to happen, I need a little distraction.  Surfing the web is a prescription for filling oneself with garbage.  I tried online poker for a while, but it's boring and too random.  I tried chess again and it's a good fit  Very stimulating with seemingly little downside. But like I said, I sometimes have to drop a game, and rather than make my opponent wait, I'll just resign. 

I tend to run out of time, too.  I've lost many a game where I've had the advantage but not enough time.  I like the formats that add a little time on every move, because they allow you to finish the endgame when you have a winning position.   But 5/5 is too fast. I wish they had a 8/5 or something like that.   I generally play 10 minute, now, but again it doesn't add time so I can be winning and just run out of time, which is annoying.  But I'm getting faster.   


Bullet is silly. But some say don't even play Blitz.  What would you recommend?  Realize I sometimes play for 20-30 minutes of distraction and generally don't care for 1-2 hour affair. 

Thanks again for the advice. Very much appreciated! 

Gary