Watson on van Wely: An Anti-Sicilian Repertoire in 60 Minutes

12/3/2012 – "Dutch GM Loek van Wely shows White how to bypass the Open Sicilian. The main ideas of the 60-minute series is to arm the listener with something to play which will to some extent avoid surprises (at least fatal ones) and yet keep enough content in the position to make for interesting play. Ideally you should have a long-term weapon without needing to track recent developments." Review.

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Loek van Wely: An Anti-Sicilian Repertoire in 60-minutes

Review by John Watson

An Anti-Sicilian Repertoire in 60-minutes is Loek van Wely's attempt to show White how to bypass the Open Sicilian. First, I'm going to quote the ChessBase copy on their own product:

"Tired of spending hours and hours on the boring theory of your favourite opening? Then here is your solution, play an Anti-Sicilian with 3.Bb5 against 2...d6 or 2...Nc6, and 3.d3 against 2...e6. In 60 minutes you will get a crash course in how to avoid mainstream theory and in understanding the ideas of this Anti-Sicilian setup. After these 60 minutes you should be able to survive the Sicilian for a long time, without being bothered by new developments found by engine x supported by an x-core machine. Now that it finally comes down to understanding, let's play chess!"

As you might guess, there's some overstatement here. You're not going to fool people these days with 3 Bb5+ or 3 d3, and unfortunately there's quite a bit of theory attached to these lines. What's more, a minority of chess devotees enjoy 'spending hours and hours on the boring theory of [their] favourite opening'.

Nevertheless, I think this description captures one of the main ideas of the 60-minute series, which is to arm the listener with something to play which will to some extent avoid surprises (at least fatal ones) and yet keep enough content in the position to make for interesting play. Ideally, as the advertising spiel indicates, you should have a long-term weapon without needing to track recent developments.

Okay, the idea that 'you should be able to survive the Sicilian' is a pretty sad goal; a player of the white pieces shouldn't have to merely 'survive' after Black makes his first move! But an advertising blurb isn't definitive, of course, and it's interesting to hear what Van Wely himself says in his introduction, roughly (approximate quote:) "Chess has changed. In the good old days you had to study on your own, you had to study the games..... Today [because of lengthy computer analysis chess] understanding has become less important than it used to be." He says that the featured systems are more strategical and can produce "Interesting games not based upon computer analysis and memory." Van Wely discusses the many strong GMs who have used Bb5(+) versus 2...Nc6 and 2...d6. About 3 d3 versus 2...e6, he says (apologetically?) that it's a little slow, but that "If you're going to win the marathon, you don't have to win the hundred metre dash first"! After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3, there are three main moves. Here's a very superficial overview of what's presented:

In the second clip (after the Introduction), van Wely analyses, in limited detail, the line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ Nc6 4 Bxc6+

4 d4 cxd4 5 Qxd4 is an aggressive way that some grandmasters have used, but it has never caught on as a main line; ceding two bishops is a risk. 4...bxc6 5 0-0. Black plays either 5...Bg4, running into 6 h3 Bh5 7 e5!, or 5 ..e5, when White can be satisfied with 6 c3 Nf6 7 Re1 Bg4 8 h3 Bxf3 9 Qxf3 Be7 10 d3 and a small edge.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.11.03"] [Round "?"] [White "Moscow 2...d6 3 Bb5+"] [Black "with 3...Nc6 and 3...Nd7"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B51"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "35"] [SourceDate "2012.08.10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nc6 (3... Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7 7. Bg5 ({instead of} 7. Nc3 e5 8. Qd3 h6 {, which van Wely considers okay for Black}) {. For example,} 7... Rc8 8. Nc3 h6 9. Bh4 e5 10. Qd3 (10. Bxd8 exd4) 10... g5 11. Bg3 {with the ideas of h4 and Nd2-f1-e3, hitting f5 and d5.}) 4. Bxc6+ (4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 {is an aggressive approach that some grandmasters have used, but it has never caught on as a main line; ceding two bishops is a risk.}) 4... bxc6 5. O-O Bg4 (5... e5 6. c3 Nf6 7. Re1 Bg4 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Be7 10. d3 {a small edge, e.g.,} O-O 11. Nd2 Ne8 12. Nc4 $14) 6. h3 Bh5 7. e5 $1 dxe5 8. g4 e4 (8... Bg6 9. Nxe5) 9. gxh5 exf3 10. Nc3 $1 (10. Qxf3 $6 Qd5 { is at least equal.}) 10... Rc8 11. Qxf3 e6 12. d3 Qf6 13. Qg3 Qf5 14. Re1 $1 Qxh5 15. Re5 Qg6 16. Rg5 Qf6 17. Ne4 Qd8 18. Bf4 {and White has great pressure, with ideas of Re1, Nd6+ and even Rxg7 in some cases. Black's pieces are all on the first rank.} *

The third clip deals with 3...Nd7 and 3...Bd7.

3...Nd7 4 d4 has long been thought to be more comfortable for White, one key line going 4...cxd4 5 Qxd4 a6 6 Bxd7+ Bxd7 7 Bg5 (instead of 7 Nc3 e5 8 Qd3 h6, which van Wely considers okay for Black), e.g., 7...Rc8 8 Nc3 h6 9 Bh4 e5 10 Qd3! g5 11 Bg3. 3...Bd7 is considered Black's safest move, when a traditional main line is 4 Bxd7 Qxd7 5 c4 Nc6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nf6 8 Nc3 g6 9 0-0 Bg7 10 Nde2 0-0 11 f3. Here van Wely likes White's control of the position, even if it's theoretically balanced.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.11.03"] [Round "?"] [White "Moscow 3 Bb5+ Bd7"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B52"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "21"] [SourceDate "2012.08.10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 (4... Nxd7 5. c3 Ngf6 6. Qe2) 5. c4 ({Van Wely isn't thrilled with White's position following} 5. c3 Nf6 6. Qe2 Nc6 7. d4 cxd4 8. cxd4 d5 9. e5 Ne4) 5... Nc6 (5... Qg4 {can famously be met by } 6. O-O Qxe4 7. d4 cxd4 8. Re1 {with a powerful attack.}) (5... Nf6 6. Nc3 g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7 9. f3 Qc7 10. b3 Qa5 11. Bb2 Nc6 12. O-O O-O 13. Nce2 { was the course of the recent game Carlsen-Anand, Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2012. Anand also lost to Fabiano Caruana in this variation.}) 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nf6 8. Nc3 g6 ({White keeps a small but meaningful initiative after} 8... Qg4 9. Qxg4 Nxg4 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bf4 {, e.g.,} Rb8 12. h3 Nf6 13. O-O-O Nd7 14. Rhe1 g6 15. e5 dxe5 16. Rxe5 Nxe5 17. Bxe5) 9. O-O Bg7 10. Nde2 O-O 11. f3 {Here Van Wely likes White's control of the position, even if it's theoretically balanced.} *

In the fourth clip about 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5,

we see how 3...e6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 can get Black into early trouble. In the 5th clip, he analyses the complex lines with 3...g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 0-0 Bg7 6 Re1 followed by c3 and d4. In the 6th clip, we arrive at 4...dxc6 (instead of 4...bxc6), when van Wely shows a loss of his as Black to Leko following 4 ..dxc6 5 d3 Bg7 6 h3 Nf6 7 Nc3 Nd7 8 Be3 e5 9 Qd2 h6!? (van Wely seems to prefer 9 ..Qe7, when 10 Bh6 is nothing special) 10 0-0 Qe7 11 Nh2 Nf8 12 f4 exf4 13 Bxf4 Ne6 14 Bg3, and now van Wely was surprised to find that the simple plan of e5 and Ne4 was strong, e.g., 14...Nd4 15 e5 Bf5 16 Rae1 0-0-0 17 Ne4 Bxe4 18 Rxe4 with the idea Ng4. White has played this way in may subsequent games with an excellent record.

[Event "Dortmund SuperGM"] [Site "Dortmund"] [Date "2005.07.08"] [Round "1"] [White "Leko, Peter"] [Black "Van Wely, Loek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B31"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2655"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2005.07.07"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "19"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2005.09.26"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. h3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Nd7 8. Be3 e5 9. Qd2 h6 $5 ({Van Wely seems to prefer} 9... Qe7 {, when} 10. Bh6 Bxh6 11. Qxh6 f6 {is nothing special.}) 10. O-O Qe7 11. Nh2 Nf8 12. f4 exf4 13. Bxf4 Ne6 14. Bg3 {This plan was successfully used in numerous subsequent games.} Qg5 $5 ({Here van Wely was surprised to find that the simple plan of e5 and Ne4 was strong, e.g.,} 14... Nd4 15. e5 Bf5 16. Rae1 O-O-O 17. Ne4 Bxe4 18. Rxe4 { , with the idea of Ng4. White stands better.}) 15. Qe1 Nd4 16. Qf2 O-O 17. Bd6 {Here Black is struggling and eventually lost.} 1-0

Unless I missed something, I don't think van Wely actually goes over the 2 Nf3 e6 3 d3 lines, although there is some very brief analysis in the game files. Even with that omission, this video is a very useful introduction to a method for White to bypass main-line Open Sicilians.

Sampler: Loek van Wely – An Anti-Sicilian Repertoire in 60 Minutes


Loek van Wely: born in 1972, learned chess at the age of 4 and was soon recognized as one of the greatest talents in the Netherlands ever. After becoming Grandmaster in 1993, he steadily climbed up the Elo ladder to reach a peak of 2714 and a place among the top ten in the world in 2001.

From the years 2000 to 2005, 'King Loek' won the Dutch national championship six time in a row. His reputation as an uncompromising fighter with a merciless will to win make him a most welcome guest in tournaments all over the world.

Among van Wely's greatest successes are his triumphs at the Berlin Open in 1991, the World Open in Philadelphia in 1992 and the New York Open in 1995. Van Wely, who has represented his country at 10 Olympiads, was the top board of the victorious Dutch team at the European team championship in 2001 (Leon) and 2005 (Gothenburg).

You can find more of Loek's training DVDs and
60 Minutes downloads here in the ChessBase Shop.

   


John Watson is an International Master from the United States. He has written over 25 books, including


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