Offbeat (amateur) Sicilian from white?

stephen2801

As black I often get this opening from white when I play c5 after e4: 2. Nf3, d6; then 3. Bc4, ?

1.  Is this a common opening for white?  What's the best reply here?

2.  I often end up playing e6 and then a slower, positional opening?  What's better?

2.  Can I transpose into the Dragon after 3. Bc4?

 

Thanks! 

ThrillerFan

Someone else will need to give you a more exact answer as I don't play the Sicilian all that frequently and when I do, it's either a Taimanov or Najdorf.  I avoid the Dragon like the plague!

 

That said, I can easily tell you a few things that might at least start you in the right direction with your questions:

 

1) It is very common at the amateur level, and very rarely, though not never, played at the GM level.  The reason you see it a lot at the Amateur level is that many players will learn the Italian Game as their first ever opening, and not truly understand that the fact that the e-pawn was pushed 2 squares by Black actually weakens the a2-g8 diagonal, like like how 1...d5 weakens the a3-f8 diagonal (from the perspective of just pawns - obviously the Bishop on f8 plays a roll on that diagonal).  However, many 1200 players that try to learn openings too quickly have no clue what they are doing and figure to play 2.Nf3 against anything, and then if 3.Bc4 is possible, they do it.  So like 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 they are in what they have barely studied.  1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 (or 2...d6 or 2...e6), they play 3.Bc4 because they have no clue what they are doing.  1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5, they often exchange because they can't play 3.Bc4 and when you take with the pawn rather than the Queen (taking with the pawn is better anyway), they are completely lost and have no idea what to do and get destroyed quickly.

 

Then you get players around 1600 that have learned all opening "concepts", and so when they play 1.e4, if Black plays something that doesn't control d4, they know to play 2.d4.  So 1.e4 e6 2.d4 or 1.e4 c6 2.d4 or 1.e4 g6 2.d4 or 1.e4 d6 2.d4.  That's all fine and good.  They study the Italian Game, but then when it comes to the Sicilian, 1...c5 controls d4, and so they resort to their "Italian Game" setup thinking that's the next best thing in all lines where White doesn't allow 2.d4, and so you get it often times at the amateur level.

 

When you reach expert (like me) or above (i.e. Master, FIDE Master, IM, GM, etc), you are going to get that line far more rarely.  Not never, but extremely rarely.

 

As for best reply - you might want to get that answer from more of a Sicilian "Guru", which I don't claim to be, my expertise is in the French Defense, but the move 3...e6 (assuming 2...d6 or 2...Nc6) seems to make a lot of sense as it blunts the Bishop on c4, questioning it's usefulness on c4.  That said, don't be quick to play ...d5.  Get your pieces developed and King castled first before blasting open the position.

 

2. Not sure there is anything better.  Just because you enjoy the raging attacks that you get in the Dragon doesn't mean you can try to blast White in all lines.  3.Bb5+ is another prime example of a line that leads to a far slower and more positional game.  White gets virtually no advantage in that line, but if Black over-extends and tries to get the same raging attack that he gets in the dragon, he will almost certainly lose!  So yes, again, ask a Sicilian Guru, but I personally would play ...e6 as well.  Maybe not "immediately", as 3...Nf6 puts question to the pawn, but ...e6 is coming shortly.

 

3. I can say that I'm about 95% sure that the answer to this is no.  Trying to keep the dragon structure with the pawns (d6-e7-f7-g6-h7) leaves Black too exposed on the a2-g8 diagonal.  In the normal Dragon, by the time White plays 9.Bc4, Black's ready to castle or has already done it.  Here, after 3.Bc4, Black's nowhere near ready, and f7 could be a potential problem.

 

 

Again, hopefully a Sicilian guru can add on to what I've put here as I'm sure he can go deeper into it than I can, but this should get you started on the right track.

 

Good luck with the Dragon.

ThrillerFan
theinsectofkafka wrote:

I am not a sicilian guru, I only ever play the sicilian OTB against people who I consider to be french-Killers (basically very very good with lines like the advance or the tarrasch) but I can think your best bet against 3.-Bc4 if 3.-...Nf6.

This is what I would play myself so feel free to investigate, I do disagree with ThrillerFan in that I think one could reach a dragon-ish setup without ending in a horrible position, I do challenge him to prove me wrong however.

 

 

I'm not working off of theory here (see, even us experts put "opening concepts" into play often times - hence why they are so critical), but my argument against the Dragon after 3.Bc4 comes from the line 3...Nf6 4.Qe2 (and if I didn't play 4.Qe2, it would be 4.Nc3, not 4.d3) and now I think the move 4...g6 is very weak as you will have problems on the light squares, forcing you to make additional moves that will cause the dark squares to be very weak.  5.e5!  Now 5...dxe5 6.Nxe5 will virtually force 6...e6 making the dark squares extremely weak.  If instead 5...Nh5, then simply 6.O-O and give me White all day.

 

Keep in mind, a line doesn't have to be "refuted" to be "bad".  If I have a choice of moves, like after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Qe2, I have the choice of 4...Nc6, 4...e6, and 4...g6, it's not black and white that it is either "GOOD" or "REFUTED".  A move can very easily be "BAD" and not be "REFUTED" because it leads to significantly worse position than other options on the board.  If 4...Nc6 and 4...e6 lead to a tiny advantage for White simply because he goes first and 4...g6 leads to more weaknesses for Black and a far better position for White, though not 100% refuted, that doesn't make 4...g6 good, or in my book, even playable!  4...e6 and 4...Nc6 are equally "playable" even if one of them is 5 one-hundreths of a point better according to artificial intelligence (Computers stink at openings - you need to use the brain for this part of the game).

 

 

So instead of your 4.d3 or 4.Nc3, my belief is that White's best move here is 4.Qe2 (one of the advantages of bringing the Bishop out early), and now 4...g6, as described above, is simply put, a bad move!  Black should answer 4...Nc6 or 4...e6, and because ...e6 will have to be played eventually, Fianchettoing the Bishop is not the right idea here!

stephen2801

Great comments from the both of you: wow, thanks!  I'll need to take some time and work through these ideas, since I cannot just visualize them as quickly as you write them (ugh!).  At least it seems like the e6 move has not been wrong headed, even if I don't really know what to do after that.  White's move order is not typical at upper levels, so there are no lessons or videos that address it.

 

And I'm not good enough to know if a line is bad or refuted so early.  I know if pieces are hanging or if pieces are undeveloped, but I cannot yet look at the board and see what long term weaknesses one side will have down the road.

 

Tell me, wth c5 being so popular, why aren't either of you Sicilian players?  Aren't there many strong Sicilian lines for black?  ThrillerFan, why do you avoid the Dragon like the plague?  I watched the 10 part series on the Dragon and found it interesting.

ThrillerFan
stephen2801 wrote:

Great comments from the both of you: wow, thanks!  I'll need to take some time and work through these ideas, since I cannot just visualize them as quickly as you write them (ugh!).  At least it seems like the e6 move has not been wrong headed, even if I don't really know what to do after that.  White's move order is not typical at upper levels, so there are no lessons or videos that address it.

 

And I'm not good enough to know if a line is bad or refuted so early.  I know if pieces are hanging or if pieces are undeveloped, but I cannot yet look at the board and see what long term weaknesses one side will have down the road.

 

Tell me, wth c5 being so popular, why aren't either of you Sicilian players?  Aren't there many strong Sicilian lines for black?  ThrillerFan, why do you avoid the Dragon like the plague?  I watched the 10 part series on the Dragon and found it interesting.

 

Call it a stylistic thing, call it what you want.  I don't go for lines that are wild with wide open Kings.  Do I have games like that?  Of course!  But not with any high amount of regularity.  No opening is always wild or always entails a high amount of king safety.  Nothing is absolute.

 

But I am not going to walk right into lines that are wild and require knowing 25 moves of theory with virtually no flexibility.  If you take a look at what I play, sure there are tactics, and sure there is plenty of sacrificing involved, but there is still a major difference between what I play below and say, the Dragon, Grunfeld, Modern Benoni, Alekhine, and Benko Gambit, all of which I absolutely refuse to play as Black with the exception of one or two lines of the Modern Benoni that come via transposition from the King's Indian Defense, especially the Four Pawns Attack.

 

 

Compare what I play below with the Dragon and you'll clearly see why I don't play it.  You may find it interesting.  I don't!

 

White: 

Primary - 1.d4. 

Secondary - 1.Nf3. 

Played extremely occasionally - 1.e4 or 1.b4

 

With 1.d4, against the QGD or Nimzo-Indian, I'll go straight into a Catalan.  Against the Slav, 4.Qc2, which all Semi-Slav lines typically transpose to the Closed Catalan, so only really need to deal with 4...dxc4 and 4...g6.  Against the Grunfeld I'll play the Exchange or Fianchetto usually.  Against the King's Indian, I've played the Four Pawns, Gligoric, Exchange, or Fianchetto.

 

With 1.Nf3, transpositions loom (KID, Catalan, Slav, etc).  Main difference is instead of playing the Anti-Benoni (3.Nf3) or the Four Pawns Attack or Fianchetto Variation of the Benko Gambit, I end up in a Symmetrical English if an early ...c5.  Most other things are identical.

 

 

Black:

Primary against 1.e4:  French Defense

Secondary against 1.e4:  Petroff Defense

Played on Extreme Rare Occasion:  Caro-Kann, Sicilian (Taimanov or Najdorf)

 

Primary against 1.d4:  1...e6 or King's Indian (Depending on mood).  If 1...e6 2.c4, then 2...f5.

Played occasionally:  Nimzo-Indian, Queen's Gambit Declined

 

 

Another thing you might recognize in my games is the pawn structure.  If you go to the International Chess School (www.chessmasterschool.com) and go through the Core Course, in Month 2, they talk about 5 different types of pawn centers.

 

The Closed Center - What the French and King's Indian tend to lead to.  Notice how the center is completely blocked, and the only breaks are from the sides of the board, like in the French, f5 for White, f6 and c5 for Black.  Unlike say, the Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange Variation, while the d-file is blocked, each side has a neighboring semi-open file to work down.  Like White often creates the battery on the c-file and executes a Minority attack to weaken and attack c6 from the front, but in say, the King's Indain, even after White trades on d6 (cxd6 and Black answers with ...cxd6), while the d-pawn is backwards and weak, it is still shielded by the White pawn on d5.  So most play is on the wings here, not in the center.

The Mobile Center - What usually comes from an Alekhine or Grunfeld.  This is the type of center I really despise, and especially being on the side without the big center.  This is where one side has central domination, not in the form of say, a passed pawn on d5 and otherwise closed or blocked center, but rather, pawns on say, c4, d4, and e4, or d4, e4, and f4, where any move, the advancement of any of the 3 pawns must be considered, and often times, they continute to barrell-roll down the center, creating even more space for his pieces and Squeezing Black for space.  I have no interest in playing Black in these positions!

The Open Center - What usually comes from the Semi-Slav, Nimzo-Indian and other lines where d4 and c4 are played by White and d5 and c5 by Black, etc.  The Open Center usually involves one or two open files with heavy piece play and otherwise mobile pawns, different from the static center.

The Static Center - Typically pawns are blocked but with one open file or a semi-open file for each player, like in the QGD Exchange Variation or the Exchange French.  The open or semi-open file is what differs this from the Blocked Center (i.e. French, King's Indian)

The Dynamic Center - The pawns are not completely free to move like the Mobile Center, but there are also not fixed and every pawn advancement has to be considered to change the position of the game.  This is where most your Sicilians fall along with lines of the Grunfeld where White doesn't Exchange and take the completely mobile center.

 

 

Of course, this is just a brief synopsis.  To get full details of this you would need to sign up for the course!

 

 

There are other pawn structures that are subsets of one of these and are often considered special cases, like the IQP positions are a version of the Open center.

 

Well, you will notice that with the openings I play versus those that I don't, I tend to favor those that lead to either a Blocked, Open, or Static center, and for the most part look to steer clear of the Dynamic center and ESPECIALLY the Mobile Center, which is why I completely avoid the Grunfeld or Alekhine as Black!

 

Hope this explains!

BobbyTalparov
stephen2801 wrote:

As black I often get this opening from white when I play c5 after e4: 2. Nf3, d6; then 3. Bc4, ?

1.  Is this a common opening for white?  What's the best reply here?

2.  I often end up playing e6 and then a slower, positional opening?  What's better?

2.  Can I transpose into the Dragon after 3. Bc4?

 

Thanks! 

You will mostly see this in the lower club levels because the bishop is not well placed on c4 at the moment.  Many times, this will result in something resembling a Closed Sicilian:

 

Playing 3. .. e6 is fine, but perhaps a bit slow since white has 2 pieces developed and black will have none.  Nf6 is the most common move in the position.

 

Transposing into a Dragon after this is tricky, since you do not really get to make that call.  You can go into a Dragon-like structure, but the Dragon is played in the Open Sicilian, and with white playing d3 instead of d4, you do not get the same type of game.

 

It is not as sharp as a normal Dragon, but you may find some familiarity with the pawn structure gives you some better practical chances.

stephen2801

Wow--more awesome and thorough responses, thanks.  I'm going to have to pull out my board and work through these lines.

 

BobbyT, I haven't studied much of the closed Sicilians, so thanks for pointing that out.  I've got plenty to study here.

 

The Insectorfkafka asked about opening strategies for black, and ThrillerFan gave a tremendous response, which I will study.

 

My reply is perhaps not quite as glamorous.  I've been playing seriously for a year, so I've got a long way to go.  I tend to play those openings that have good video series on chess.com that I can watch and study.  So, there is a great series on the London System, which I play for white.

 

For black, I play the Najdorf (which has a series) and the Caro-Kann (also a series).  I've been watching the series on the Dragon, hence my question.

 

I haven't played the French much for two reasons: (1) I struggle against the advance variations with a white pawn on e5 (also in the Caro Kann!), and (2) I don't like trapping the light squared bishop in the French.  I know there are ways around these drawbacks, but these aren't issues in the Sicilian, or Dragon, or Caro Kann.

ThrillerFan
stephen2801 wrote:

Wow--more awesome and thorough responses, thanks.  I'm going to have to pull out my board and work through these lines.

 

BobbyT, I haven't studied much of the closed Sicilians, so thanks for pointing that out.  I've got plenty to study here.

 

The Insectorfkafka asked about opening strategies for black, and ThrillerFan gave a tremendous response, which I will study.

 

My reply is perhaps not quite as glamorous.  I've been playing seriously for a year, so I've got a long way to go.  I tend to play those openings that have good video series on chess.com that I can watch and study.  So, there is a great series on the London System, which I play for white.

 

For black, I play the Najdorf (which has a series) and the Caro-Kann (also a series).  I've been watching the series on the Dragon, hence my question.

 

I haven't played the French much for two reasons: (1) I struggle against the advance variations with a white pawn on e5 (also in the Caro Kann!), and (2) I don't like trapping the light squared bishop in the French.  I know there are ways around these drawbacks, but these aren't issues in the Sicilian, or Dragon, or Caro Kann.

 

You would hate my repertoire then.  My entire life is about bad bishops!

 

(Black) French Defense - The light-squared Bishop

(Black) King's Indian Defense - The dark-squared Bishop

(Black) Dutch (Classical and Stonewall) - The light-squared Bishop

(White) Catalan - The dark-squared Bishop - Not a "bad Bishop", but one that is hard to develop and gets in the way of everything else.

(White) French (via 1.d4 e6 2.e4) - The dark-squared Bishop in the Advance Variation and Nc3-Variations with a subsequent e5.

 

Korchnoi once said "Chess is my Life".  Well, for me, "Bad Bishops are my life!"

BobbyTalparov
ThrillerFan wrote: 

You would hate my repertoire then.  My entire life is about bad bishops!

 

(Black) French Defense - The light-squared Bishop

(Black) King's Indian Defense - The dark-squared Bishop

(Black) Dutch (Classical and Stonewall) - The light-squared Bishop

(White) Catalan - The dark-squared Bishop - Not a "bad Bishop", but one that is hard to develop and gets in the way of everything else.

(White) French (via 1.d4 e6 2.e4) - The dark-squared Bishop in the Advance Variation and Nc3-Variations with a subsequent e5.

 

Korchnoi once said "Chess is my Life".  Well, for me, "Bad Bishops are my life!"

I'm not sure I would classify the DSB in the KID as "bad".  It is your most important defensive piece.  I get that with the closed center, it will have limited scope, so it technically meets the definition of a "bad bishop", but in that defense, it is not being used as an attacking piece.

BobbyTalparov
stephen2801 wrote:

For black, I play the Najdorf (which has a series) and the Caro-Kann (also a series).  I've been watching the series on the Dragon, hence my question.

 

I haven't played the French much for two reasons: (1) I struggle against the advance variations with a white pawn on e5 (also in the Caro Kann!), and (2) I don't like trapping the light squared bishop in the French.  I know there are ways around these drawbacks, but these aren't issues in the Sicilian, or Dragon, or Caro Kann.

As a Najdorf player myself, I would urge you to either stick with the Najdorf, or embrace the Dragon.  Unless you are a world class GM, you are unlikely to have the necessary time to learn both well (they are both very theory heavy!)

 

The Caro-Kann and Scandinavian can both be considered "better" French openings (in terms of your bishop placement).  That is, you are trading a tempo to make sure your bishop isn't stuck behind your pawn chain.  If you don't like the cramped position you get in the Advance or Closed French with the bad bishop, the Caro-Kann and Scandinavian are both solid choices that typically end up with a very similar pawn structure.  That said, all of these openings are e4 defenses.  If you like the Najdorf or Dragon, there is no need to play the French, Caro-Kann, or Scandi (unless you are simply trying to broaden your knowledge of the pawn structure).

 

The Sicilian has a reputation of being very sharp.  In many lines, there is 1 good move, with all others losing quickly (and sometimes those good moves are not obvious!).  It is a great opening choice for those who like to get into tactical situations quickly.  This is especially true of the Open Sicilian (when white trades his d-pawn for black's c-pawn).  The Closed Sicilian was a favorite of Boris Spassky - it does not try for an opening advantage (allowing black to equalize by move 5 in many lines), but allows the person who understands the pawn structure to outplay his opponent in the middle game.  I have played against several people who used it to avoid the Open Sicilian (thinking they could "find the correct path" in a less tactical variation) only to end up having no scope for any of their pieces because they misplayed it.  That is, you cannot go into such a line (for either side) without first understanding what you want to accomplish.  If an opponent is worried about going into the Open Sicilian and avoids it with a Closed Sicilian without understanding where their pieces should go and what pawn breaks they need to make, they often get swept off the board very quickly.

pfren

Grandmaster Cornette devoted some 42 pages on 3.Bc4 in "Experts on the Anti-Sicilian" which means that it cannot be bad.

stephen2801

IMpfren is that it?  Are you going to leave us in suspense? happy.png  42 pages?!  Can you please spend 42 words telling us what a good black reply and strategy is for Bc4?

stephen2801

What I appreciated about y'alls responses is that you are explaining the strategy behind your answers.  Y'all are hundreds of points ahead of me.  For example:

 

1.  I understand the difference between open and closed positions, and I understand the different types of pawn structures, but I don't think I know yet where my strengths and/or preferences lie.  I'm still trying to learn a handful of openings for each color.

 

2.  I've been talking about the Sicilian for black, but I know nothing about the anti-sicilian for white, as IMpfren mentioned.

 

3. Inspectorfkafka, I am intrigued by your suggestion to have strategically consistent openings for white and black.  I've got to think about that more.  Out of curiosity, can you continue with more pairs of structurally similar openings?

 

4.  BobbyT, it is interesting that I prefer the Caro-Kann and Scandinavian to the French, probably because I struggle with the e5 advance, but I also hate that for the CK and the  Scandi.

 

Thanks all!