How to baffle Sicilian players

by Nathaniel Fernandes
3/4/2020 – “'I need a surprise weapon against the Sicilian, the most popular Black opening,' I schemed one day." So begins guest reviewer NATHANIAL FERNANDES in his look at the irreverent IM Lawrence Trent's FritzTrainer on 2.b3!? in the Sicilian. Find out what drew this 1.e4 devotee — an A-level club player — to this particular opening sideline.

The Baffling 2.b3 Sicilian The Baffling 2.b3 Sicilian

Make life difficult for the Sicilian! 2.b3 is a thoroughly venomous but still solid kind of "Anti-Sicilian". No matter what setup black chooses, the bishop on b2 will always be unpleasant for him.

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Reviewing Trent's b3 Sicilian

“I need a surprise weapon against the Sicilian, the most popular Black opening,” I schemed one day.

b3 SicilianIf you are reading this, you are probably like me: a 1.e4! fanatic who hates 1…c5. Facing the Sicilian in half my games, it seemed as if all my opponents had thoroughly prepped their own “special line.” With so much theory to wade through, I knew I needed an off-beat approach.

After searching online opening databases, I discovered the “novelty” 2.b3, a little-known anti-sicilian called the “Snyder Variation” or the “Czerniak Attack.” Immediately, I knew I struck gold! Practically zero Sicilian players know about 2.b3 and by fianchettoing the Bishop, White can potentially gain huge attacks against the castled black king.

I immediately began looking for more resources and came across “The Baffling 2.b3 Sicilian” by IM Lawrence Trent, the (only?) comprehensive opening course on this variation. After studying this course, I highly recommend it to any e4-player wishing to test opponents’ playing technique without their engine-prepared opening book.

To any doubting the soundness of 2.b3, Trent indubitably proves the "baffling Sicilian" is extremely solid, even at the grandmaster level. GM’s Gelashvili and Morozevich specialized in the Czerniak Attack. This underrated opening has even been played by World Champions Anand, Kramnik, and Carlsen!

IM Trent’s presentation style makes the b3 Sicilian extremely easy to learn. By combining detailed, “home-cooked” analysis with loads of thematic discussion about White’s plans and best piece placement, his video series feels more like an in-person class instead of a textbook you must memorize cover-to-cover.

Even if your opponent deviates early on, you can play the baffling Sicilian pretty easily because Trent selects lines with very similar (and intuitive) set-ups for White’s pieces. For example, in several positions the e5-pawn is used as a wedge to cramp Black’s position and ♗f1-d3-e4 is a thematic manoeuvre (so the bishop scopes both the king and queenside).

opening tabiya

My favourite part of his lecture series are the various novelties IM Trent finds to build upon the groundwork laid by previous “Mr. b3 Sicilians” like GM’s Gelashvili or Morozevich. These hard-to-find novelties infinitely strengthen the repertoire and represent the hours of work Trent did to craft a coherent opening system. Without revealing too many secrets, I will briefly show one such novelty Trent finds to secure a crushing edge for White. Make sure to buy “The Baffling 2.b3 Sicilian” to access all the novelties!

 

I am drawn to IM Trent’s analysis of 2.b3 because the positions achieved are simultaneously positional and extremely dynamic! In most lines, White can secure comfortable advantages in space and development pretty easily. Even though Trent emphasizes Black can achieve relatively-balanced positions, with best play, your surprised, non-computer-prepped opponent will be unlikely to find the best plans over the board. Even a few inaccuracies can land Black in hot water, with White building a swift attack as demonstrated by the following example games.

 

After using Trent’s Baffling Sicilian, I am thrilled by the results and included a few of my games here. While I strongly discourage you from studying my games (study the 94 GM games included with “The Baffling 2. b3 Sicilian”!), I included them for two reasons. First, my play and the quality of competition I face are probably more relatable than “perfect” GM play. But more importantly, these games demonstrate how quickly White can attain crushing positions against even unprepared 2000+ competition. (Note: opponent’s names are modified for privacy concerns.)

Closing Thoughts

“The Baffling 2. b3 Sicilian” by IM Lawrence Trent is an exceptional lecture series. The series comes with nearly 6 hours of video presentation and 14 quizzes to test your memory. Armed with IM Trent’s home-cooked analysis, you will make your opponent think on their feet from move 2! While not a refutation of the Sicilian, the seemingly benign positions you will reach are simultaneously positional, dynamic, and dangerous if Black plays imprecisely.


The Baffling 2.b3 Sicilian

Make life difficult for the Sicilian! 2.b3 is a thoroughly venomous but still solid kind of "Anti-Sicilian". No matter what setup black chooses, the bishop on b2 will always be unpleasant for him.


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Nathaniel is an avid chess enthusiast from the United States, currently pursuing an engineering degree in college. He enjoys teaching chess to others and even created an after-school chess program for middle-schoolers in his community. A fan of aggressive attacking play, Nathaniel’s all-time favourite players are Paul Morphy and Simon Williams. His motivation to always improve his game comes from an ancient Chinese proverb: “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”
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jimijr jimijr 3/5/2020 03:15
When I face the Sicilian, I just centralize. I know black will undertake some aggressive plan eventually, that's why they play the Sicilian. When they do, I am ready.
Aighearach Aighearach 3/4/2020 07:34
If you found it in a game, it isn't a novelty.

I thought people played e4 because they wanted to face the Sicilian? If they're trying to avoid it, maybe they should consider their options even on move 1 instead of waiting for move 2.
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