Choose plan in Sicilian


This isn't a game per se. I was doing some analysis in the Sicilian, and I came across a position in which white has two choose between two plans in order to take advantage of an inaccuracy by black.

A bit of context. Black usually plays f5 on either move 11 or 12. Playing 11...Bg7 isn't a mistake, but castling on move 12 is. The purpose of white's 12. c3 is to reroute the a3 knight to e3, so that if black forces a knight exchange by Ne7, white can fill the d5 square with another knight.

So, after black's inaccurate 12...O-O, it seems to me that white has two ways to capitalize. The first is simply to play 13. Nc2, a natural move that effectively stops Ne7 and in fact allows white to undermine black with a4. 

The other move is 13. Qf3. This move stops f5, since white would win the pawn. Even after Ne7, the move my chess engine recommends, white can win the pawn, since the black knight blocks its own queen from defending.

These two plans seem to go in different directions. It's not just a variation on move order. I should add that in the master game database, white played 13. Nc2 21 times, with a 71% WIN percentage. 13. Qf3 has been played only once, also with white winning. Yet, my engine tends to favor Qf3. So, does anyone with a powerful analysis rig or a lot of chess wisdom want to help find the best continuation?


13.g4 followed by Nc2-e3-f5 looks tempting at first glance, too, to disable Black from playing ...f5 forever. This means their dark bishop will remain a 'tall pawn' for the rest of the game. Then your c2 knight can go to f5, where Black will have to capture the knight sooner or later due to it's potential danger for Black's king and also because of its pressure on d6. Then White can recapture gxf5 and will get dangerous attacking chances due to the open g-file. White's king can maybe stay even in the center or castle queenside, because the center is somewhat closed and can't be opened easily by Black. All in all, it seems that White will have good chances to play for a win after 13.g4!?. In case Black somehow manages to defend against White's attack and make it to an endgame, White is supposed to have the better chances there, too, because of Black's backward pawn (d6) and due to Black's very passive bishop. Haven't tested this idea with an engine yet, so this is only a spontanous ad-hoc plan which 'looks' tempting.


After going through both moves (and also looking at Qh5 to improve white's bishop mobility) I believe Nc2 is the better move.  The reason is not simply that it helps the queenside, but black must now immediately play f5 or it will be lost to him after Nce3.  So now the game looks like 1. Nc2 f5 2. exf5 Bxf5 3. Nce3 Bg6.  Black is defended, but white enjoys the center and has some easy and effective ways to continue development.

Just my 2¢


g4 does look interesting, although white's king is a little breezy if black decides to play something like Kh8/Rg8 and use the file to attack.  Not a problem in the current position, but it could be down the road.  I like it, though...bold, daring, lol.


Lots of fun ideas here. If we do choose 13. Nc2, then after ...f5, I think 14. a4 is better. 14. a4 b4 15.Ncxb4 Nxb4 16. cxb4 fxe4 17. Bc4 with castling coming, and black is impeded by his own central pawn monstrosity. 

Zirtoc, in the line you suggest, black has Be6 instead of Bg6, and I think the game is pretty equal, since black has the two bishops and two central pawns to white's zero. 

The 13. Qf3 variant is still interesting to me, but difficult to play. After 13. Qf3 Re8 14. Rd1 f5 15. exf5 e4, white seems to have some attacking chances, but also can get trapped if not careful. And I'm not sure black has to play Re8, so the variation is hardly forcing.


Hmm, actually the 13.g4 is a straight-forward way for White to achieve a closed structure where Black's 'Two bishops' will be a disadvantage.

As I see it Black can only get an equal (in the longterm maybe even better) game due to his bishops if he manages to ruin White's dominance in the center, e.g. ...f5!. So White's top priority should be to stop Black from realizing this ...f5-dream, and keep the center closed by doing so.

Only then should White be able to demonstrate that his knights are stronger than Black's bishops: In the closed position.

And with a closed center 13.g4 doesn't weaken White's position, because Black has no means to expoit this. Actually for Black it would be a suicidal idea to play on the wing where White is stronger (h5??).

Well, what I love about this strucure is that it somehow reminds me of the Winawer French, there it is the White player who has the dis-connected wings in a closed position (thanks to a doubled pawn on c2+c3, here it is the same problem for Black: f7+f6), and in both openings this is reason enough why their 'advantage of the two bishops' is pretty much useless, if not to say a disadvantage.



I still think 13. Nc2 or Qf3 is stronger than g4. G4 doesn't do anything to stop the knight trade. 13... Ne7  14. Nxe7 (nothing better) Qxe7  15. Nc2 Be6  16.  Ne3 Qb7  and black has kept the white knight out of d5 and can put his other bishop on h6. All the important diagonals are covered and white will have a hard time making progress.

I think I'm leaning toward 13. Nc2 f5 14. a4  as giving white the easiest way to an edge.