Understanding before Moving 118: Play the Sicilian!

by ChessBase
3/26/2023 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 118th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman continues to explain why it is good to study and to play the Sicilian. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


In recent years Carlsen and Nakamura have been getting a lot of laughs by playing the so-called "Bong Cloud", which occurs after 1.e4 e5 2. Ke2.

Nigel Short once said that this is an insult to chess. But it was the first World Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, who played 5.Ke2!? after 1.e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ in a game against Gustav Neumann from 1867 (!).

I always think of this King's Defence when I analyse a line of the Sicilian Four Knights: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 (the starting position of this variation) 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 10.c4 Bb4 11.Ke2! The king must advance, because 11.Bd2? is not possible because of 11... Qe3+ 12.Qe2 Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 Qxe2+ 13.Bxe2 Nxf4. But things get even crazier after 11...Ba6 as modern theory now gives 12.Kf3! as the strongest move!

I think Steinitz would have watched all this with a smile at what modern grandmasters in our time have up their sleeves.

For my new book "Understanding before Moving, Part 3: Sicilian Structures - Dragon, Sveshnikov & Four Knights" I went from one surprise to another while analysing the line given above.

I collected so much interesting material that I decided to review at least one game in this video lesson (which, by the way, is not included in the book).

And when two notoriously aggressive players, Alexei Shirov and Michal Krasenkow, cross swords, fireworks are guaranteed.

However, when the king in that game moved to f3 Black eventually took refuge in an endgame. Is that a disappointment? I don't think so. An exciting double rook endgame ensued, which was so difficult that both players occasionally failed to find the strongest continuations.

However, Shirov - who is known for his technique - finally managed to win after a hard struggle. The diagram position is still from the middle game and we see White's king on e3. Black has just played ...Ne7-c6, which does not seem to be the best move. How can White get an advantage now?


Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep your opponent permanently under press

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