Openings

Sicilian Defense: Closed

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3

The Closed Sicilian Defense is one of the most popular ways for White to play against the Sicilian Defense. This "anti-Sicilian" opening gives White fewer chances to fight for an advantage but is also less theoretically challenging. The Closed Sicilian is a good opening for players of all levels, and even former world champion GM Boris Spassky played it regularly.


Starting Position

The Closed Sicilian Defense starts after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3. White develops their queenside knight first, which helps them to control the d5-square. White can then transpose into a few lines of the Open Sicilian by pushing d2-d4 or play for a more strategic battle by remaining in the Closed Sicilian. If White opts for the latter, they usually go for a slower kingside expansion and a kingside fianchetto, or a more attacking setup with f2-f4 known as the Grand Prix Attack. Black, on the other hand, will seek counterplay on the queenside.

Closed Sicilian Chess Openings
The starting position of the Closed Sicilian.

The Closed Sicilian is a good way for White to avoid the heavy theory of the Open Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3). However, it is also harder for White to fight for an advantage. Black will comfortably develop their pieces and will have no trouble expanding on the queenside.

Pros

  • It avoids the heavy theory of other lines in the Sicilian Defense
  • It leads to a slower and more strategic type of game, which can be undesirable for many Sicilian players

Cons

  • It allows Black to develop their pieces comfortably
  • It gives Black a good plan of attack on the queenside with ...b5
  • It leaves Black with a good grip over the d4-square

Main Variations Closed Sicilian

The Closed Sicilian is a variation of the Sicilian Defense and one of the "anti-Sicilian" openings. There is much less theory behind this opening, which is one of the advantages of playing it as White. After playing 2.Nc3, White can either stay in the Closed Sicilian or transpose to other variations of the Open Sicilian by playing d2-d4.

Below you can see Black's main responses to the Closed Sicilian.

2...Nc6

The mainline of the Closed Sicilian starts after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6. Black develops their queenside knight and increases their control over the center, particularly the d4-square.

White will usually fianchetto their light-squared bishop on g2 and often expand on the queenside with Ne2 and f2-f4. Black also fianchettoes a bishop on g7, which acts on the long diagonal and aims at White's queenside. Black will usually prepare the b7-b5 push to start their queenside expansion.

2...e6

Another common variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6. Black plays a useful pawn move to help with the development of their dark-squared bishop and queen. The e6-pawn also supports a possible d7-d5 push to challenge White's center.

2...d6

Black can also opt for 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6, reinforcing the c-pawn and opening the diagonal for their light-squared bishop. Black's second move also "invites" White to transpose to the open Sicilian by not reinforcing the d4-square. If White refuses to transpose, they can respond by playing Nf3 or the Grand Prix attack with an early f2-f4 push

2...a6

Black can also play 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6, taking the b5-square away from White's light-squared bishop and preparing a quick queenside expansion. In this line, Black will usually fianchetto their light-squared bishop to challenge White's g2-bishop.

As usual, White generally plays on the kingside while Black plays on the queenside. Black pushes their b-pawn early and accelerates their queenside expansion.

History Of The Closed Sicilian Defense

The Closed Sicilian Defense is one of the variations of the Sicilian Defense, which is among the oldest openings in chess. With recorded games dating as early as the 18th century, the Closed variation has also been around for a long time.

Some of the 1800s' elite players such as Wilhelm Steinitz, Simon Winawer, and Mikhail Chigorin experimented with the Closed Sicilian. However, it wasn't until the mid-1900s that the opening became more prominent in professional games. It was around that time that former world champions Vasily Smyslov and Boris Spassky enjoyed great success with the opening.

Since then, the Closed Sicilian has remained one of the most popular ways for White to face Black's 1...c5.

Lesson
Learn the Closed Sicilian

Learn the Closed Sicilian

Watch a video to learn that strengths and weaknesses of the Closed Sicilian, a slow-building opening, with many tactical opportunities hiding under the surface.
19 min
10 Challenges
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