What's the best response for white in the Sicilian Defense?


I constantly have trouble with this opening, and though I have my ways of responding to it, it normally throws me off track (as white) and I normally lose the game. Suggestions?


In Starting Out: The Sicilian, GM John Emms introduces a lot of possibilities.

Suggestions can be found in:

Chris Baker's A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire

John Emms's Attacking with 1.e4

Kaufman's original repertoire book, The Chess Advantage in Black and White

Sam Collins's An Attacking Repertoire for White

Neil McDonald's Starting Out 1.e4

Chess Openings for White, Explained by Alburt, Dzindzichashvili & Perelshteyn (2006)

The King's Indian attack - Move by Move by GM Neil McDonald (2014)

Starting Out: King's Indian Attack by John Emms (2005)

The Complete c3 Sicilian by Evgeny Sveshnikov (2010)

How to Beat the Sicilian Defence by Gawain Jones (2011)

Starting Out: Closed Sicilian by Richard Palliser (2006)

The Grand Prix Attack by Evgeny Sveshnikov (2013)

Mayhem in the Morra by Marc Esserman (2012)

Rossolimo and Friends by Alexei Kornev (2015)

The Modern Anti-Sicilian: 1.e4 c5 2.a3 by Sergei Soloviov (2014)

Taming the Sicilian by Nigel Davies (2002)

Experts vs. the Sicilian edited by Jacob Aagaard & John Shaw (2006)

Seven Ways to Smash the Sicilian by Yuri Lapshun & Nick Conticello (2009)

Dismantling the Sicilian by Jesus de la Villa (2009)

Sicilian Attacks by Yuri Yakovich (2010)

Slay the Sicilian by Timothy Taylor (2012)

Steamrolling the Sicilian by Sergey Kasparov (2013)

MODERNIZED: The Open Sicilian written by IM Zhanibek Amanov and FM Kostya Kavutskiy (2015)


Always define "best" when you use that word.





As white there are a few ways to face the Sicilian. The Rosslimo (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 and 3.Bb5 doesn't work if black plays 2...e6!) so an ALL INCLUSIVE system to smash the Sicilian (where you don't have to study massive amounts of theory is 1.e4 c5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3! This is the Smith Morra gambit. Now, you may not like gambits however the resulting positions involve a whirlwind of tactics that you will all learn a bunch from these positions.

What's really nice about the Smith Morra is if black declines it, there are only a few lines to study. The main two are 2...Nf6 & 2...d5. If black plays anything else, white plays 3.cxd4 and he gets a big center with pawns in e4&d4 AND the c pawn gone. So the knight can come to c3 while the Queen has free access to the d1-a4 diagonal. It's a GREAT way to smash the Sicilian. It's been my main weapon for years.


open sicilian, or smith morra


according to my teacher, beginner to intermediate players as White should always play/learn the Open Sicilian variations (Dragon & Najdorf Defenses, Yugoslav & English Attacks, etc)  until they understand the positional nuances and then progress to learning the c3 Sicilian lines as well as the Rossolimo Sicilian.  The Sicilian is such a deep opening that it requires a lot of study and preparation to play correctly.  Fortunately, there are tons of resources for you on the internet.


i like the c3 sicillian


These "best response" questions depend so much on who you are, how developed you are, what your chess goals are, and how much time you have for study.

Two guys I knew who made USCF Master preferred to avoid main lines. They didn't have much time for opening study, but they liked controlling the opening. They played the Wing Gambit against the Sicilian or went with some closed stuff. They did good.

Maybe they would have done better had they bit the bullet and learned openings the "right way." Hard to say.

Not many people make Master. They did and to go much farther would have taken a lot more time than they wanted to devote to the game.

I'm not much impressed with most of the opening advice I read at


Unless you've got a chess coach who has a five-year plan for your opening study, play whatever keeps you playing, i.e. lines that fit your style, keep you interested, and bring you decent results.

If you lose interest in chess because you felt you had to learn it the "right way" but it bored you stiff or didn't feel right, you'll likely quit chess and then where are you?

As Henry Miller once said about his watercolors, "Paint what you like and die happy!"

Going by stats in 365chess combined with comments from our last long thread on this topic, here's what I came up with for a chart for making a decision on which Sicilian is "best" for a given individual. I will have to rely on players experienced in a given variation to give their opinion on the subjective values: I'll update this chart as people fill in the "?" marks. I'll also update it if someone thinks a new attribute should be added for making a decision. Maybe I'll put this into a spreadsheet next time.

Or you could take a gander at Sqod's great little chart.

I'd fill in Closed Sicilian with TD as "medium" and "MR" as "low."

Fiveofswords wrote:

there is no best response

True 100%.


Thanks, ipcress12. I updated the posted chart above with your suggestions. One of your comments made me wonder if I should also add an attribute to the effect of "White control over opening." For an opening like the Reti that would be an important factor in my own decision.


Against the sicilian, I like to play the grand prix attack. The problem with the sicilian is, since it is one of the most popular defences (and for good reason), every time I play any other way (not including smith-mora gambit which I may try!) I always feel my opponent has more knowledge on this than I and they wind up with a better position. In tournament play, that is all I see (since I am a 1.e4 player).

I feel like the grand prix can catch some sicilian players off guard with a good counter attack on the kings side. With the grand prix, I don't have to remember tons of variations and am more likely to play the player sooner than playing against their preparation.


If I am going to play 1. e4 c4 2. d4 is a great way to play against black in a 10 ro 15 min game. I love tactics.

adam314159 wrote:

I constantly have trouble with this opening, and though I have my ways of responding to it, it normally throws me off track (as white) and I normally lose the game. Suggestions?

The fact that youre asking thie question should tell you you shouldnt be playing it.  And if you inisist on playing it, then study up on it.


If you don't want to get into a lot of specialized theory, I would suggest something solid yet fairly aggressive. Closed Sicilian and the related Grand Prix attack are good choices. They may be theoretically equal but at the amateur level it should be interesting.

A lot of kids I've seen like to blitz out 15 moves of some normal complicated open Sicilian in a minute in tournament games to start, which I've never understood. Personally I don't touch the stuff :P


i agree with blitzcopter.

I was about to propose u closed sicilian.

Several reasons for that.

U play a safe system, which can be played reversed against english.

Black players usually are not so well prepared than on open sicilians, and closed sicilian is flexible...

U can chose plans with f4, or with Be3-Qd2, u can chose 3 squares to develop your g1 knight (all are possibles, not always but often), u can chose king side attack or queen side (more rare but Spassky used to play some nice ones).

Its more tricky than it looks and instead of learning theory which leads nowhere, u will learn a structure, more useful, and u will improve your positionnal skill...


The fact that youre asking thie question should tell you you shouldnt be playing it.  And if you inisist on playing it, then study up on it.

So OP should not play 1.e4?


I too think the Closed Sicilian is a good choice for White players who don't want to get involved in the huge amount of Open Sicilian theory.

It's not the sharpest knife in the drawer at the 2400+ level but it's perfectly sound. Even GMs play the Closed and it's fine for class players.

John Emms' repertoire book, "Attacking With 1.e4," recommends the Closed Sicilian and has a decent write-up.