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looking for sicilian...
I want to start playing the sicilian as black. I am looking for a variation that is flexible. I like to play openings where I don't have to commit to a plan too early in the opening. I prefer not to play something where there is too much theory. I prefer to play openings where creativity is possible. Is there such a system in the sicilian?
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I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but if you are looking for an opening devoid of too much theory, you've picked the wrong opening!;) In all seriousness, if you wanted to learn Sicilian basic themes without having to spend too much time on lots of theory, then I would recommend the classical sicilian, with a nice book "Easy guide to the Classical Sicilian". However, having said that, my favorite sicilian opening is the accelerated dragon, and honestly I don't think this is too hard to learn as black, though there is a good bit of theory to learn because you have to be ready for many different responses from white. However, this is common for any opening. Sicilian is a difficult opening to master and it will require a great deal of hard work regardless of which variation you choose to learn. If you are looking to avoid an opening such as this, then perhaps the Scandinavian defense might be more to your liking? If you are still dead set on learning Sicilian, then I would recommend going to chessgames.com and playing through the various variations and looking at each structure and choosing one that appeals to your particular tastes. The dragon is sharp and exciting, full of tactical opportunities and a great deal of fun to play. However, I will also say that with the dragon I either win with fireworks, or I go down in explosions, but the games are never boring!
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1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 (Kan variation)?
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A NO theory Sicilian?
Wow.. what a topic! Like groove mentioned, the Sicilian is full of tactical and developmental theory. Personally, I love the Sicilian as many players don't completely understand it, thereby giving my an immediate advantage. However, for the opponents who do understand the Sicilian, I think the simpliest is the Najdorf. It is also statistically the better defense for black.
I disagree with the comments on the Dragon with the exception that it is very explosive and not boring. The Dragon can be lethal if your opponent doesn't under that system, however, it he does then the Yugoslav is the preferred attack against the Dragon. This combination of Dragon vs. Yugoslav can be very difficult to learn if you are not savvy on all of it's theory. I still cringe when I need to play against the Dragon. VERY LETHAL..
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"Wow.. what a topic! Like groove mentioned, the Sicilian is full of tactical and developmental theory. Personally, I love the Sicilian as many players don't completely understand it, thereby giving my an immediate advantage. However, for the opponents who do understand the Sicilian, I think the simpliest is the Najdorf. It is also statistically the better defense for black."
First of all when it comes to main line Sicilians - Najdorf, Scheveningen, Sveshnikov, Kan, statistics are completely meaningless. They have absolutely no relevance whatsoever at our level, and little (if any) relevance at GM level. Not even Garry Kasparov chooses openings based on statistics. Same applies to all GMs, actually. And IMs. And FMs. The truth is we have no clue whatsoever why one main line defense is better/worse than another. They are all unclear and equally good for us. The rest depends on our style and preferences.
Unless you want to give us your analysis where you show WHY Najdorf is stronger than Kan or other Sicilian variations?
Simplest? As far as I know we are talking about most complex and theory-heavy variation of Sicilian defense. The LAST variation anyone below master level ought to play. I know it is popular because so many GMs play it. But I cannot understand how you can recommend it to someone for someone _unwilling_ to study lots of theory. We all know at our level studying lots of theory is waste of time, tactics and endings are way more important. I guess you are correct most opponents dont really understand Sicilian. But I claim most Sicilian players dont really understand it either :-) If you understand Sicilian Najdorf well, congrats. Then you must be very strong player. I confess I saw one article on Sicilian Najdorf (written by Finnish IM) few months ago and I skipped it after few first sentences cause it was too complex for me to understand :-)
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More on Kan variation
I am far from Sicilian expert but based on my nonexistent knowledge and few games where I have played it, Kan variation sounds pretty good for you!
1) I am looking for a variation that is flexible. CHECK 2) I like to play openings where I don't have to commit to a plan too early in the opening. CHECK 3) I prefer not to play something where there is too much theory. CHECK 4) I prefer to play openings where creativity is possible. CHECK
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najdorf too much theory? heh, don't tell me ECO B90 to B99 is too much theory ;)
heh ok just kidding, I agree with you peppe_! (once again), najdorf is probably the leasest line I would recommend to somebody who is not willing to spend some time to learn theory. And yeah it's probably one of the most complex variations (guess that's one of the reasons why it's so popular among GMs). But I think there's a lot of theory to learn for (nearly) all the sicillian lines. I don't agree with your point about the article you saw some time ago, since not every good chessplayer is a gifted writer as well, some of the guys can write and explain certain things and some can't. Maybe if you find another article about the najdorf written by some other guy you'll understand it without too many problems, if (s)he has another way to explain it. So I don't think, that one article proofs anything. ;)
btw. where did you find the article, I've to confess I'm a bit curious about it. ;)
but back to the topic low-theory-sicilian, I don't think you can really avoid learning a certain quantity of theory, since there are also the lines of the closed sicilian, and if whites wants to play a closed sicilian there's afaik no way to prevent from doing so. And the sicilian is (compared to other openings like french) generally speaking an opening with a low tollerance concerning mistakes. I think if one really wants to avoid learning too much theory one's better out with caro-kann.
Another interesting opening which doesn't have too much lines afaik is the scandinavian.
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Dragon and Najdorf
Thank you for all the replies. I realize the Dragon and Nadjorf are quite popular, but they are too complicated for me to play without memorising lines. I prefer to play an opening where understanding strategical and tactical ideas is all that is necessary. I have begun to look at the taimanov and it seems very logical. From what Groove said it seems classical sicilian may also be a good opening for me(basic themes without too much theory). And maybe the Kan is like this too?
I often play the sicilian when I know my opponent does not spend much time studying opening theory. And against these opponents I do well...even against higher rated opposition. But, when it is against someone who spends a lot of time with opening theory, I don't do so well. I suspect it is not always because they understand the position better, but becuase they have more lines memorized. Of course one thing to do is to study more opening theory myself, but I really need to be spending more time on middlegame topics and endgame. I feel 1..c5 fits my style well but I need a system where I can get away with moves that make sense.
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I tell you something about the Sicillian, I fear it, and so do many.
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"btw. where did you find the article, I've to confess I'm a bit curious about it. ;)"
I found it from Suomen Shakki ("Finnish Chess") magazine...
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Another reason I prefer to play sicilian is I have already done quite a bit of work on alternatives to the open sicilian. I am completely comfortable playing against closed sicilian as that is what I play with the white pieces against 1..c5. I have done some work the smith morra gambit. As far as I know that just leaves The pin variation(Bb5) and c3 sicilian. Of course I realize I will have to put some time into opening theory. I just want to keep it to a mininum. I need to concentrate more on middlegame tactics, strategy and endings.
As for karo kann and scandinavian. I have tried these openings before and I don't like them. In the scandinavian I don't like the idea of having to move my queen in the center. I don't like the gambits either...I am not prepared to prove it but they seem unsound to me. The cann is sound, but it is the kind of position I am trying to get away from. I currently play the french and the cann is too similar. I want to use more counterattacking systems. I already play leningrad dutch and kings Indian as black. I have played the french for a long time and I would like to try something different. There is nothing wrong with my results, I am just getting bored of the same positions.
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too bad :/
since I'm only capable of speaking English and German, but thank you anyhow.
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Here is one example
This is from a game between two Finnish IMs. Original comments by IM Sammalvuo, I hope he can forgive my poor translation...
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bc1 Nf6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bc1 Nf6 10.f3 Qb6 11.Nb3 e6 12.Qe2
In my opinion a small inaccuracy. Usually Black is planning to play Qc7, b5 and if possible, b4. However there is no rush to develop Nf8 and after Black has played b4 and White has responded Na4, Queen having an access to c6 can completely change the course of the game. The problem Black has is if he plays Qc7 before White has played Qe2, White can develop his pieces more harmoniously Be3, Qd2. If White has already played g4, Black has to keep d7-square free for Nf6 and on the other hand Be7 is usually too slow and quick Nfd7 allows Bg5(!?). Therefore after 12.g4! Black is in sort of "mini-zugzwang" and is forced to play Nc6 because there are no other useful development moves left. Grischuk is propably one of the first players to understand this little finesse.
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hum, his style isn't my taste at all, but...
...what he's telling makes sense (even if the game given is a draw after the 9th move since it's 3 times excactly the same position), g4 would indeed force Black in a way to play Nc6, because he needs the square d7 for his other N to regroup his pieces (if black was forced to move his Nf6, there would be no other squares left that would make sense (would not weaken his position), and (P)b5-Qc7-Bb7 is afaik some kind of standard arrangement for the black pieces (at least in some lines of the najdorf, (I'm aware of the fact there are other lines with Be6)). I think his point about an early Qc7 and its disadvantages needs some further explanation and clarification, since I'm not fully convinced by now, that the harmonious development Be3 and Qd2 is in other lines a lesser problem for Black in other lines.
But that may be one of the reasons why the commentator is an IM and I'm not.
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Hi James,seems a few may "fit"!?
from MCO-12. After 1.e4 c5 , 2.Nf3 ...
2....The Sicilian 4 knights ...e6 3.d4 cd 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 May have more lines than you want, but I play it without any study beyond this point in blitz and just seems pretty straight forward ideas. And it seems to "discomfort" very many people, as they stop moving after 5 ... Bb4, wanting to find a way to avoid allowing Bxc3 doubling the c-pawns so early (though they would have the 2-B's advantage for it.)
2 ... Nf6 Nimzovich Sicilian doesn't seem well regarded there after 3.e5 or 3.Nc3
A one column opening var.
2....g6 the Ultra or Hyper Acc. Dragon; has only 2 columns
2. ... a6 The Tartakower-O'Kelly (aka O'Kelly) Var. is the 2nd one I've played of these. 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6(!)-per MCO) 5.Nd2 or Nc3 given, etc. The point of the a6 being BL is thereby preventing Nb5 because he intends ....e5 this early. If WT tried for a Maroczy with 5.f3? then ....e5 6.Nb3 d5 embarasses him. Tho earlier at move 3.c4 & 4.d4 he gets it if wanted, but BL need not opt for Bg7 lf not wanted..
What I really like tho, to fit your description: The Boleslavski Var.
2....Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 (5...e5 is Pelikan/Schveshnikov that everyone seems to play/know these days. Is why I'd now prefer the Boleslavski instead. And has only 2 columns of lines) 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 or ....h6 equalizer line it says. Alt on 7.Nf3 Be7 or ....a6 equalizer line it says. Or there's 7.NxN also being suggested as only = for WT either. If the GM's are leaving the Var alone ... could be especially nice to surprise opp with I'd think. And believe I may have talked myself into trying it out soon (too?!)! I recall also, a NM Waldowski played it much in otb during the 1980's and stood behind the Var. completely, it seemed. As his main 1.e4 defense, I believe. Regards, Craig
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You said, "First of all when it comes to main line Sicilians - Najdorf, Scheveningen, Sveshnikov, Kan, statistics are completely meaningless."
And that is okay that you feel that way. Personally, I feel that learning lines that seem to have more success IS relevant. For the hundreds of openings that are out there, some are mocked for their ineffectiveness and others are hailed for their historical success. So, you have to admit to some degree that some openings ARE better than others. How each of us goes about deciding on which to use is strictly personal.
You also said, "Simplest? As far as I know we are talking about most complex and theory-heavy variation of Sicilian defense. The LAST variation anyone below master level ought to play."
I disagree. First of all, theory is relative. Anyone can theorize all they want on any given system. This doesn't mean it is any more or less difficult. If you'll notice only the most popular systems have become heavy-laiden with worthless theory. The less popular and less effective systems don't warrant much talk or theory. The Najdorf IS a very effective system, thus has attracted lots of discussion. I do agree, however, that theory for the most part is a waste of time. Most systems are NOT that complicated if you understand their initiative. Perhaps I should have recommended a system that compliments his style or that has an initiative he understands. You are right in that the Kan Variation has less theory surrounding it, but my feeling is that its not played as much. If it were more popular it would have more written about it. Ironic that Paulsen, one of the great theoreticians of the 19th century, loved the Kan Variation. I personally don't like it as much as it is more passive. I like a little sharper play.
Secondly, unless you're going to abandon completely opening with 1.e4, then you'd better become familiar with the Sicilian and all the ways it can be played against white. Since black is the one who initiates the Sicilian, white has little say over how black will play his defense. After 1.e4c5 2.Nf3d6 3.d4cxd4 4.Nxd4 black has alot of options and white needs to understand how to respond to each.. theory or no theory. So, my recommendation stands: Najdorf! It's effective.. and it's NOT difficult if you understand it's initiative and like sharp play.
Please understand that this is merely a mortals opinion;-)) I also am not so egotistical to think that I have the only right answer. I invite others comments and opinions on this matter.
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"And that is okay that you feel that way. Personally, I feel that learning lines that seem to have more success IS relevant. For the hundreds of openings that are out there, some are mocked for their ineffectiveness and others are hailed for their historical success. So, you have to admit to some degree that some openings ARE better than others. How each of us goes about deciding on which to use is strictly personal."
First, you have to understand we are talking about almost nonexistent differences here. If one variations has scored 53% and another variations has scored 52% - in your opinion, are we talking about relevant difference here? Especially since most stats ignore rating differences. If certain variation is favoured by strong players, of course it will score well, because stronger players win more games, regardless of openings. Sure, I agree some openings are more effective than others, but I was talking about main line Sicilians, not 1.f3 vs 1.e4 :-)
"The less popular and less effective systems don't warrant much talk or theory."
You have to understand more popular DOES NOT automatically mean "more effective" - often strong players choose unbalanced openings (like 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6) instead of equally good but more balanced openings.
"I personally don't like it as much as it is more passive. I like a little sharper play."
There. Like we have agreed choice of opening is a question of style and preferences.
When it comes to understanding, please read my previous post and tell me were you aware of everything I wrote there (comments by IM Sammalvuo)? At least to me it was pretty complex stuff :-)
Here is a little challenge for you - Sicilian is much more popular than my favourite defense vs 1.e4, so it must be better (actually, I believe 1...e5 is even more popular, so it must be absolutely best move vs 1.e4?). If Black can equalize after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6, can you show me a way get guaranteed ADVANTAGE if Black plays less effective move, 1...c6? You can use opening books if you want.
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"First, you have to understand we are talking about almost nonexistent differences here. If one variations has scored 53% and another variations has scored 52% - in your opinion, are we talking about relevant difference here?"
You're absolutely right! I am a statistics man and I prefer statistical advantages. We may never agree on this.
"Sure, I agree some openings are more effective than others, but I was talking about main line Sicilians, not 1.f3 vs 1.e4 :-)"
I was talking about main line Sicilians as well. Some Sicilian lines ARE more effective than others. I think most players would agree that the Najdorf is a very solid and flexible defense.
"You have to understand more popular DOES NOT automatically mean "more effective"
I never said that more popular meant more effective.. I said, more popular systems tend to be more theoretical, which doesn't necessarily mean more or less difficult (or in this case, more or less effective). My feeling is that just because it has more theory means absolutely nothing except it is more popular.
"Sicilian is much more popular than my favourite defense vs 1.e4, so it must be better"
I believe you misunderstood me here as well. I only related popularity to theory, not effectiveness. Although, I do recommend learning any popular systems (popular meaning: systems popularly played against you).
"When it comes to understanding, please read my previous post and tell me were you aware of everything I wrote there (comments by IM Sammalvuo)? At least to me it was pretty complex stuff :-)"
Way too complex for me too. In my opinion, these high-level players understand way more than we ever will. To read their theory just confuses everything to me. Again, any system a GM is playing will have scores of theory. If a GM started playing 1.h4, 2.g4 we would have volumes of theory on that as well;-))
"can you show me a way get guaranteed ADVANTAGE if Black plays less effective move"
I never said anything about "guaranteed advantage" either. I said, statistical advantage. Of course, if you understand statistics you know that they are just statistics.. with no guarantee. If one airline has statistically more crashes than another, it is still no guarantee that I will die flying with the airline of lower odds. Its just a statistic. I tend to look at statistics and will lean that direction first. Eventually I would love to know each system, but I have to start somewhere. I choose to start with the systems that tend to fair better. I'm starting to get the notion that you are NOT a statistics person. Am I right?
I will still always look to historically/statistically sound systems and then from there ultimately choose the ones I understand and like. I understand and like the Najdorf and feel it is relatively simple and flexible. Perhaps "relatively simple" and "flexible" are relative terms. I do agree that the Kan Variation is also relatively simple and flexible.. I just don't like it.
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"I was talking about main line Sicilians as well. Some Sicilian lines ARE more effective than others. I think most players would agree that the Najdorf is a very solid and flexible defense."
I agree. But so are many other main line Sicilians :-)
"I'm starting to get the notion that you are NOT a statistics person. Am I right?"
Not sure how to define "statistics person" I guess. IMO you have to know and understand WHY statistics give certain "answers" - for example, you can bet Mercedes owners have more money (in average) compared to Lada owners, but does it say buying Mercedes is a good way to earn lots of money? Or does it say buying Mercedes is good if you _have_ earned lots of money? :-)
"If one airline has statistically more crashes than another, it is still no guarantee that I will die flying with the airline of lower odds. Its just a statistic."
Yep. Of course if airline A) has 5 crashes out of 2000 flights and airline B) has 50 crashes out of 2000 flights, I am pretty sure we _both_ will check out airline A) first. But if airline A) has 49 crashes out of 2000 flights and airline B) has 50 crashes out of 2000 flights, I guess we both agree the difference is nonexistent and most likely statistically irrelevant (or opening A) scoring 49% and opening B) scoring 50%). But of course speaking of chess, good pilot rarely crashes, even if airoplane is bad :-)
Otherwise, very good post IMO.
This has been very interesting discussion so far, and I thank you for your responses.
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Thanks for the ideas craig. I don't think the four knights is for me; I prefer to be the side with the bishop pair. But the O'kelly variation and the Boleslavski Variation seem worth investigating. The kan and classical sicilian may suite me too. Do you know any GM games that would be good to study for the O'kelly and Boleslavski variations?
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jstack/ Additional Info: GM's...
Hi James, Turning back to my MCO-12 as source for some more GM's that play those 2 variations, besides their namesakes, I got these.
Tartakover-O'Kelly: Ken Smith, Pribyl, & Taimanov.
Boleslavski: Euwe, Bronstein, Hort, & Smyslov.
So there have been some impressive adhearants. Perhaps someone with an MCO-14
or other newer source could suggest some more recent players. As far as any key games played, specifically, I don't know that info.
I feel like you do about the Bishop pair! That's mainly why I only play the 4 Knights Sicilian in blitz & quick games.
Sometimes I'm not happy with the French except vs high(er) rated players or those who will not be wanting to Draw with the WT pieces, because I feel like there is a variation that gives WT good drawing chances if he is willing to play for one with the WT pieces. But it's not the Exchange Variation; I still like BLACK there for winning chances!
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Thats all the info I really need...besides how can I go wrong studying Euwe, Bronstein, Hort, & Smyslov? :)