The Sicilian Defence

1.e2-e4 c7-c5

The basic position of the Sicilian Defence. From the start Black is seeking an open struggle with this asymmetrical pawn structure in the centre. The Sicilian is  the most frequently played opening both at grandmaster and at amateur levels. It gives Black very good chances of counterplay. One important idea for Black is the opening of the c-file which he would like to use for his counterplay.

Sizilianisch selbst spielen

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Main Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3

1. e2-e4 c7-c5 2. Ng1-f3 This is the start of the “Open Sicilian”. White develops the knight and prepares to play d2-d4 opening the centre. Black has three main replies which once again lead to different systems/ 2...d7-d6 This is the most common move with which Black creates space and prepares the development of the knight to f6. 3. d2-d4 White continues with his plan. 3...cxd4 Black takes the central pawn and opens the c-file which he would like to use later for his counterplay, 4. Nxd4 White captures with his knight and places it actively on a central square. 4...Ng8-f6 Black develops the knight and attacks the e4-pawn 5. Nb1-c3 White develops the knight and protects the e4-pawn. From here on play branches out into various systems.

Systems with 2...d6

Najdorf Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

The basic position of the Najdorf Variation, one of the most frequently played variations in chess. The 13th world champion in the history of chess, Garri Kasparov, was its greatest exponent. Black is planning an expansion on the queenside with b7-b5, in order to quickly obtain counterplay on that flank. White has a series of continuations with which to react. Popular continuations are 6. Bc1-e3 or 6. Bc1-g5 intending to castle long or 6. Be2 with the intention of castling short.

Classical Sicilian: 1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6

Black develops his second knight and attacks the knight on d4. This is a more solid setup than, e.g. the. Najdorf Variation. The most popular continuation for White now is by far the move 6. Bg5 intending to castle queenside.

Dragon Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6

With this move Black prepares the fianchetto of his dark-squared bishop to g7 and kingside castling. White now most frequently sets up according to the pattern Bc1-e3, f2-f3, Qd1-d2 and long castling in order to attack on the kingside. Black, on the other hand, attacks on the queenside so that an interesting tactical struggle is on the cards.

Scheveningen Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6

This is a flexible setup for Black who leaves open the question as to whether he will become active on the queenside or in the centre. At the same time he is aiming for the rapid development of the dark-squared bishop and kingside castling. White can now continue aggressively with 6. g2-g4, the so-called Keres Attack, or push forward with his development with 6. Bf1-e2 followed by kingside castling.

Richter-Rauser Attack: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5

The hardest challenge for the classical setup with 5... Nc6: White wants to quickly castle queenside, to attack on the kingside or exert pressure down the semi-open d-file. White also often captures with Bg5xf6, so as to inflict weakening doubled pawns on Black after g7xf6.

Systems with 2...e6

Taimanov Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7

1. e2-e4 c7-c5 2. Ng1-f3 e7-e6 The principal difference from 2...d7-d6 is that here the diagonal for the bishop on f8 is opened, which in many variations allows Black the option of pinning a knight placed on c3. 3. d2-d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nb8-c6 5. Nb1-c3 Qd8-c7 This is a flexible setup which was developed by Mark Taimanov, a former world class Russian player. Black frequently continues with an expansion on the queenside or he exchanges knights on d4 and follows up by bringing the other knight to c6. The most common setup for White now is, as in many other opening systems, 6. Bc1-e3, Qd1-d2 and then queenside castling.

Paulsen Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6

The basic position of the Paulsen Variation. It is a wait-and-see setup which allows White a free hand. He can push forward with development of his king's bishop with 5.Nf1-d3 or seize space in the centre with c2-c4.

Sicilian Four Knights: 1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6

With this setup Black chooses to develop his two knights and play the pawn move … e7-e6. If white allows this, he will continue with ...Bb4 and the pin on the c3-knight. White can try to exploit the weakness of the d6-square with 6.Ndb5 or react aggressively with the exchange of knights on c6 followed by 7.e4-e5.

Systems with 2...Nc6

Sveshnikov Variation: 1.e3 c5 2.Nfc Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5

The basic position of the Sveshnikov Variation. Black attacks the knight on d4, but allows a weakening of the d5-square which White can later exploit to post a knight there. In principle the following moves are forced and things continue as follows: 6. Nd4-b5 White would like to exploit the weakness on d6 and above all give a check. 6...d7-d6 Black prevents the check on d6 7. Bc1-g5 White develops his dark-squared bishop and pins the knight on f6. 7...a7-a6 Blck drives the knight away from b5. 8. Nb5-a3 The knight retreats. 8...b7-b5 Without this move the variation is not especially attractive for Black. It is this pawn move which secures counterplay for Black. The threat is b5-b4 with a pawn fork on the white knights. White now has the choice. Either he first exchanges on f6 and moves the knight to d5 or he immediately puts the knight on d5. He later frequently follows up with c2-c3, intending to transfer the badly placed knight on a3 back into the centre. Black tries sooner or later to obtain counterplay in the centre through the advance of an f-pawn.

Accelerated Dragon Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6

With his last move Black prepares to fianchetto his bishop to g7 and to attack the white knight on d4. White can now seize space in the centre with c2-c4 or continue his development with Nb1-c3.

Rossolimo Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5

Instead of 3. d2-d4 with the opening of the centre, White can also aim for a closed structure. In this case the development of the light-squared bishop to b5 is very popular, especially if Black has already developed his knight to c6. In the strictest sense of the terms, the Rossolimo Variation is not part of the “Open Sicilian”. One idea for White is to exchange the bishop for the knjght on c6 and thus damage Black’s pawn structure. Black has a series of options open to him. He can continue with ...g7-g6 and the fianchetto of his dark-squared bishop, he can play ...e7-e6 with the intention of playing ...Ng8-e7 or even ...d7-d6 intending Bc8-d7. White can always castle or exchange on c6. It is a matter of taste. .

Closed Sicilian: 1. e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6

1. e2-e4 c7-c5 2. Nb1-c3 If White does not want to open the position at the start of the game, he can turn to the development of his knight to c3 to see how Black will react before he reveals his plans. 2...Nb8-c6 The main move. Black also develops a piece. 3. g2-g3 This leads to the “Closed Sicilian”. White aims to fianchetto his light-squared bishop and then develop the other knight and castle kingside. 3...g7-g6 Black “mirrors” White’s strategy. That is by far the most common plan. Both sides will now continue with the development of their kingside and castle short.

Alapin Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.c3

White breaks radically from the tried and trusted Sicilian pawn structures. The pawn move 2.c3 is a little weak but a sustainable plan: after a future d2-d4 White wishes to recapture with this c-pawn and retain a full centre. For Black adepts of the Sicilian these are unfamiliar waters so it is a clever and popular side variation.