Review: Andrew Martin, The Surprising Sicilian!

by CHESS Magazine
5/2/2018 – CHESS Magazine reviewer SEAN MARSH finds Andrew Martin's "surprising Sicilian" quite persuasive, and "rife with dangers for both sides". Find out why, along with a sample game and video from Martin's latest DVD video series.

The surprising Sicilian - Shock your opponent with an early ...Qb6 The surprising Sicilian - Shock your opponent with an early ...Qb6

The Kveinys Variation : 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6! is surprisingly little-played, yet gives Black excellent chances and on this new ChessBase DVD, Andrew Martin explains how the system works.


Shock Your Opponent With an Early...Qb6

Review by Sean Marsh

Andrew Martin, a man who could sell snow to Eskimos and the Elephant Gambit to club players, continues his industrious output with an examination of a rare Sicilian featuring an early ...Qb6, designed to “Shock the opposition.” After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6 Black is trying to take an early initiative by forcing White into unfamiliar territory, although this is rife with dangers for both sides.

In the words of the presenter: “4...Qb6 – to a degree – menaces the knight on d4 and tries to persuade White to play 5 Ìb3, after which the knight takes up a less influential position. This is a gain, but Black will have to lose time soon when his queen is attacked, as she inevitably will be. White can play other ideas in place of 5 Nb3, as we will see, and a sharp struggle is assured.”

Martin always presents his material with style. He sets up the DVD nicely with a typical no-nonsense introduction, followed by an instructive game and then a discussion on what he will cover and when. This enables the viewer to head straight for any particular areas of interest. Alternatives to the main lines are covered too, namely 5 Nb5, 5 Be3, 5 Na3 and 5 c3.

As usual, Martin advocates the sharpest possibilities, such as 5 Be3 Qxb2 when “Black has got to be very careful he doesn’t get murdered in his bed.” After White’s natural 6 Nd2, Black must remember to play 6...a6 to prevent White building up an automatically strong attack with a quick Nb5. 5 Nc3 is the main move and both 5...Bc5 and 5...a6 are covered, with the former offering the murkier positions.

Although some of the lines enjoy the occasional crossover with those given in The Lazy Man’s Sicilian (Bronznik and Giddins, New in Chess, 2015), which features 4...Nc5, 4...Qb6 is by no means a simple way to dodge the theoretical bullets. Black needs to tread very carefully along often narrow paths to safety. However, it is along these paths that unsuspecting white players can easily take a tumble. There is no reason to suspect that the first player will know more about the theory of 4...Qb6 than Black, making it an ideal weapon (albeit best used sparingly as a surprise).

[Event "CHESS Magazine 5/2018"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Andrew Martin"] [Black "The Surprising Sicilian"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B40"] [PlyCount "28"] [SourceDate "2018.04.25"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.04.25"] {A case in point arises after} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 5. Nc3 Bc5 ({Black can eschew the complications created by 5...Bc5 in favour of} 5... a6 {but there are murky lines here too, none more than after} 6. Be3 Qxb2 7. Na4 {when some of Martin’s computer-assisted analysis needs to be seen to be believed.}) 6. Na4 Qa5+ 7. c3 Bxd4 8. Qxd4 Nf6 9. Nc5 Nc6 10. Qd6 b6 {[#]} { The unwary might play} 11. b4 {here, which looks a very logical way to try to punish Black’s early queen excursion, but this is exactly the sort of thing that plays directly into Black’s hands:} Nxb4 $1 12. Nb3 Nc2+ 13. Kd1 Nxe4 14. Qf4 ({Creative attempts to improve the line for White can backfire with even greater ferocity. For instance,} 14. Qd3 $2 Nxa1 $1 15. Nxa5 Nxf2+ { is a catastrophe for White.}) 14... Qxc3 {and Black is clearly better.*

Andrew Martin continues to produce inspirational DVDs. It must be tempting for Sicilian players to add 4...Qb6 to their repertoire, perhaps as an occasional surprise weapon in place of the Najdorf, Dragon or whatever else they might already play. It is unlikely players with white will be better prepared than well-versed black players and I imagine the material on this DVD, if studied very carefully, will definitely enable 4...Qb6 practitioners to reel in quite a few points over the board. 

Andrew Martin, The Surprising Sicilian!
PC-DVD, running time: 5 Hours and 19 minutes
RRP £26.95 SUBSCRIBERS £24.25

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About CHESS Magazine

CHESS Magazine March 2018

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

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UK’s most popular CHESS Magazine — established 1935! All the regular features of the UK’s best-selling CHESS magazine plus more! In this issue:

  • 60 Seconds with…Robert Ris – The Dutch IM likes to escape to Cuba and has two new works out
  • Dropping in on the Candidates – Daniel Fernandez went to Georgia via Berlin and annotates two games
  • Fabulous Fabi – Fabiano Caruana proved a cut above in the Candidates in Berlin
  • A Road to the World Cup – Gawain Jones and Luke McShane ventured to Batumi to qualify
  • Tough Battles – David Howell and Matthew Sadler had to fight hard in the 4NCL
  • The Greatest Chess Game Ever Played? – Or so wonders Correspondence Senior IM Mike Read
  • The Anatoly Lein Chamber of Horrors – John Henderson remembers the late American GM Anatoly Lein
  • Lein Brilliance – Malcolm Pein presents two highly instructive Lein wins
  • When Capa came to Margate – The world’s best were once drawn to Kent, as Robert Page explains
  • The Chess Talents of Emily and Michael Green – Or, the downside of not resigning before you start, by James Essinger

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read.


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