Modern ways of playing the Sicilian

by ChessBase
7/30/2004 – Why do chess players choose certain lines for their openings repertoire? Logic, pragmatism and brute statistics have a minor role in their choice. We usually opt for a line because it reflects our personality. Aryan Argandewal shows us how a ChessBase Openings CD could reach him...

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Amador Rodriguez:
Modern Ways of Playing the Sicilian

A review by Aryan Argandewal

"Most prudent generals have chosen to receive the enemy rather than to attack him, because the fury of the first shock is easily withstood by men standing resolute, ready and prepared in their ranks; when that shock is over, their fury commonly subsides into languor and despair...a General, therefore, must never engage unless he has an advantage over the enemy".
The art of War
Niccolo Machiavelli 1521

I never stop wondering as to why does a player choose a particular line of play, a specific variation of an opening. From personal experience I know that logic and pragmatism have no place in one’s consideration as to what specific variation gives better winning chances.

The truth is, we opt for a particular line simply because it reflects our personality. Ironically, opening theory itself is somewhat reminiscent of its original birthplace. Think about the English Opening for example: gray, slow, boring and yet strategically solid! Does it remind you of any place?! And when you think about the Sicilian? Three F words: fast, furious, fascinating – and yet full of pitfalls. Does it remind you of anything? Perhaps, a Lamborghini on the 250 mph Monza circuit, the fastest and deadliest in Formula One calendar!

We choose a particular line even though it may not be the most popular or pragmatic way of going about getting better results.

The featured work is one of those peculiar lines of play that may or may not suit you as a Sicilian player. At first sight it looks a little more than a 'new' variation of the Paulson (e6) Sicilian. A closer look, however, will reveal that things are far more complicated. The CD-manual contains six main variations ranging from the positional d6 to the super sharp "pin variation" or the "Qb6-variation” where the second player grabs the initiative immediately.

As opposed to many other sharp lines of the Sicilian – the Poisoned Pawn variation for example where you have 28-book-move lines at your disposal – here lines are far less complicated and somewhat natural. It doesn't take more than a few hours of study to pretty much familiarize yourself with all the main variations, which can be deployed as a powerful weapon in your very next game. Ideally it will suit a player with a fighting spirit who goes on to kill or die in the process! Whether you win or lose, your opponent has to be ready for a tough fight and there’s every chance that he will be crushed to death. Positions arising are not quite as tactically sharp as say in the "Poisoned Pawn" variation but they are every bit as deadly.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6!?

At this point White has two major alternatives with 5.Nc3 and 5.Nb3. If White plays 5.Nc3 he's got another unpleasent surprize coming to him 5...Bc5!, increasing the pressure on the knight on d4. After 6.Be3 Black is prompted to impress once more with 6...Nc6! increasing the pressure even further. After 7.Na4! (double attack on black queen and the bishop on c5) 7...Qa5+ 8.c3 Bxd4 9.Bxd4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 e5!

With this early 'display of teeth' Black forces White to decide between 11.Qd1 or 11.Qb4, but with the miserable knight still on a4, the ending is favourable for Black.

Take a look at the following game played back in 1997 by Mr. 'Ballistic Missile' Vasilin Topolov against Brut Brit Nigel Short (where the former played Na4 on move six). It ended 0-1 and is a good example of this early exchange of heavy artillery fire. The game is also indicative of the kind of players who choose to play this line.

Topalov,V (2725) - Short,N (2690) [B40]
Novgorod Novgorod (9), 22.06.1997
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.Na4 Qa5+ 7.c3 Bxd4 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.Nc5 Nc6 10.Qe3 0-0 11.Nb3 Qa4 12.Bd3 b6 13.0-0 Ba6 14.Bxa6 Qxa6 15.Re1 d5 16.e5 Nd7 17.Qg3 Kh8 18.Nd4 Rac8 19.Nxc6 Rxc6 20.Bg5 Rfc8 21.Qf3 Kg8 22.a3 Qb5 23.Re2 h6 24.Bf4 Rc4 25.Rd2 Re4 26.Qg3 Qc4 27.Be3 Rg4 28.Qh3 Nxe5 29.f4 Rxf4 30.Bxf4 Qxf4 31.Rf2 Qg5 32.Raf1 Rc4 33.Re2 a5 34.Qe3 Qxe3+ 35.Rxe3 Ng4 36.Rd3 Rc7 37.a4 f5 38.b3 Kf7 39.c4 dxc4 40.Rc3 Ne5 41.Rfc1 Rc6 42.h4 g5 43.hxg5 hxg5 44.bxc4 Nd7 45.Kf2 Nc5 46.Ra3 g4 47.Ke2 Kf6 48.Rd1 Ne4 49.Rc1 f4 50.Rb3 Nc5 51.Ra3 e5 52.Rh1 Kf5 53.Rh5+ Ke4 54.Rh4 Rg6 55.Rh1 g3 56.Rh5 Kd4 57.Ra2 Re6 58.Rh1 Nd3 59.Rc2 e4 60.Rh8 f3+ 0-1. [Click here to replay the game]

White's fifth most popular move remains 5.Nb3. The first player refuses to give in to pressure and remains faithful to classical attacking ideas with Bd3, 0-0, Kh1 followed by f4. Black can't do anything about it but he shouldn't be afraid of it either. As they say a picture's worth a thousend words, take a look at this game and see it for yourself:

Socko,B (2485) - Kveinys,A (2535) [B40]
Cappelle op Cappelle la Grande (3), 1998
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nb3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.Nc3 a6 8.0-0 b5 9.Qe2 Nc6 10.f4 d6 11.Be3 Be7 12.Kh1 Bb7 13.Rae1 0-0 14.Rf3 Rfe8 15.Rh3 Bf8 16.e5 dxe5 17.fxe5 Qxe5 18.Qf2 Nb4 19.Qxf6 Nxd3 20.Qh4 Bxg2+ 21.Kxg2 Nxe1+ 22.Qxe1 Rac8 23.a3 Rc4 24.Nd2 Rg4+ 25.Rg3 Rxg3+ 26.Qxg3 Qf5 27.Nce4 e5 28.b4 Re6 29.Qf3 Rg6+ 30.Kf1 Qd7 31.Ke2 f5 32.Nc5 Qf7 33.Qa8 e4 34.Bf4 h6 35.Qc8 Kh7 36.Nd7 Be7 37.Ne5 Qe6 38.Qe8 Rg2+ 39.Kf1 Rf2+ 0-1. [Click here to replay the game]

White has his own ideas of course. He proceeds to his 'normal' kingside attack with Bd3, 0-0, Rf3, Rh3, central offensive e5! (to chase away the knight on f6 and open up the b1-h7 diagonal) followed by a deadly attack on h7. Another line of attack for white is e5! , dxe5, fxe5 Qxe5 followed by a super-sharp sacrifice Rfxf6!! Finally white can castle away queenside and launch a devastating pawn storm.

Guns are blazing on both sides!

So if you are a Sicilian-c3, English or a French player you may wish to click away right now. The Rodriguez CD comprises 17 chapters in the English section, with a further 17 chapters in the Spanish section – a novelty that Chess Base has pioneered with this work. This is the first manual in bilingual format. I hope this fine 'tradition' will be followed up in future Russian CD's as well. It crossed my mind while reading through Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. You see, it is always nice to read an author in his native language. So good luck to all you 'amigos' out there!

I deliberately used the term 'manual' rather than 'training CD'. GM Amador Rodriguez's "Modern Ways of Playing the Sicilian" is quite simply an e-book, a manual. The wealth of material is mind blowing. Every line of the main six variations is preceded by a well-written, exhaustive introduction. The variation is then explained in detail and by 'in detail' I mean exactly that: every white threat, strategic idea and its antidote from Black perspective and what should be paid attention to while facing a kingside attack, a central offensive or a pawn storm.

Conventional wisdom prefers printed manuals to their electronic counterparts. Well, here for a change, we see an e-book to match if not surpass printed manuals. Not only you can learn all the main variations in-depth, as a bonus you get a huge database with several thousand relevant games, a detailed opening key, an opening tree database and a training database. The author has made the effort to actually write a whole chapter (under Recommendations from your author) explaining how to use the CD, which doesn't come as a surprise given the sheer size of the material.

If you are graded between 1700-2000 Elo and consider yourself as someone who’s not afraid of fighting for the full point playing with black pieces, and want to learn a new sharp Sicilian variation without having to learn complicated theory look no further: this is your chance to reach for the stars!

Rated: 9+ out of 10

Aryan Argandewal is of Afghan origin, with hiy family based in North America and Australia. Aryan studies Law at University of Surrey, England. He speaks fluently English, Russian and Persian, and is able to read and write Japanese, Arabic and Pashto. Member of Guildford Chess Club, Surrey, UK.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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