The Sicilian Defence is a Black defence where Black plays “1..c5” against White’s “1.e4”. It is one of the most popular and well-respected openings against e4. If you play e4 in modern tournament play (except in beginner-level tournaments), you can expect to play against the Sicilian more than half of the games!
Diagram: Sicilian Defence
White Second Move Alternatives
White’s Second Move: Even at White’s second move there are numerous options in the Sicilian:
- Nf3: This is the usual White line of the Sicilian and probably the strongest. The aim is to prepare d4 on the next move. But if you play this as White, there are numerous different variations that Black may play against you.
- c3 (Sveshnikov Sicilian or Alapin Sicilian): This is a strong and aggressive line against the Sicilian, usually leading to tactical play.
- Nc3 (Closed Sicilian including the Grand Prix Attack): a “slower” line against the Sicilian where White actually plays quite a strong attacking line with “f4”. White usually avoids or at least delays playing d4.
- f4 Sicilian: a more direct attacking line than Nc3 and f4, but probably not as good for White.
- d4 (Smith-Morra Gambit): a gambit line that is well-regarded, and Black will often choose to decline the gambit, but can also safely accept it.
- Wing Gambit (b4): White offers a free pawn on the wing. This opening is not regarded as fully sound and White rarely plays it.
- b3 Sicilian: White fianchettos the Queenside bishop.
Main Line Sicilians
Main Line Sicilian: The main line Sicilian is where White plays Nf3 and d4. The Black variations depend on whether Black plays 2..d6 or 2..Nc6.
Diagram: Sicilian Defence with Black’s 2..d6
Diagram: Sicilian Defence with Black’s 2..Nc6
There are numerous sub-variants of the Sicilian Defence that arise from these main Nf3 lines. Some of the main areas of theory in the Sicilian Defence depend on which of the two main lines Black chooses:
- d6 Sicilian variations
- Nc6 Sicilian variations
- e6 Sicilian variations
d6 Sicilian Variations
The d6 Sicilian lines include:
- Nadjorf Variation (…a6 variation, including the Poison Pawn Variation)
- Sicilian Dragon Defence (…g6 and …Bg7)
- Scheveningen Sicilian (…d6 and …e6)
- Classical Sicilian
- Richter-Rauzer Attack
- Sozin Sicilian
- Velimirovic Attack
Nc6 Sicilian Variations
The “2..Nc6” Sicilian Lines include:
- Pelikan Sicilian (…Nc6, …Nf6 and …e5)
- Lowenthal Sicilian (…Nc6, and …e5 without Nf6)
- Kalashnikov Sicilian
e6 Sicilian Variations
The 2..e6 Sicilian Lines include:
- e6 Sicilian Variations (popular tactical variation)
- Kan Sicilian (…e6 and ..a6) (Paulsen Sicilian)
- Taimanov Sicilian
- Four Knights Sicilian
Uncommon Sicilian Variations for Black
Variations for Black that have a reasonable amount of theory but are still less common, and may perhaps have some surprise value include:
- Accelerated Dragon (early g6 and d5, fairly well-known)
- Polugaevsky Variation of the Nadjorf (early b5, fairly well-known)
- Boleslavsky Variation (early e5 in Classical Sicilian)
- Lowenthal Qb6 Line
Unusual lines for Black with perhaps some surprise value may include:
- Nimzowich Sicilian (unusual odd line with early Nf6, playable, only a little inferior)
- Sicilian Counter-Attack (Bb4!?) (probably unsound)
- O’Kelley Sicilian (early a6)
- b6 Sicilian (more like Owen’s Defence)
- e6 and d5 against the c3 Sicilian (may transpose to Advance French)
White Anti-Sicilian Lines
Anti-Sicilian Openings played by White to avoid the bulk of the theory include:
- Bb5 Sicilian Variations (slower positional variation)
- c3 Sicilian (Alapin Sicilian)
- f4 Attack (2.f4)
- Grand Prix Attack (Nc3 and f4)
- b3 Sicilian
- Morra Gambit (d4!?) and Morra Gambit Deferred
- Wing Gambit (b4!?) and Wing Gambit Deferred
- Closed Sicilian (Nc3 and g3)
- d3 Sicilian (King’s Indian Attack)
- Qxd4 Sicilian (Chekhover Variation)
- Delayed c3 Sicilian
- g3 Sicilian (2.g3)
Unusual lines against the mainstream Sicilian defences include:
- Anti-Nadjorf h3 lines (very unusual, but was a Fischer favorite)
- Anti-Nadjorf g4 lines
- Maroczy Bind systems (various lines with early c4)
- Anti-Scheveningen g4 lines (Keres Attack)
Other somewhat dubious unusual lines in the Sicilian include:
Read more about: Anti-Sicilian Variations.