How To Play Sicilian Defense

044-Sicilian Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense is one of the most important chess openings in theory which begins with the moves 1. e4 c5. You may wander why...

... this system is so popular. The answer will not surprise you. Sicilian is the best-scoring response to White's first move 1.e4. This is obvious because even from the first move Black is hoping for asymmetrical and tactical positions.

By asymmetrical positions I mean that pawns are not “looking” at each other. For example they are not like 1.e4-e5; not like a mirror. In Sicilian we can see different formations or pawns which give the background for chess tactics, attacks, and counterattacks.

In the light of that, in many lines, or almost to all of the lines, Black is playing not just for equality, but for the advantage. He would like to bring the full point home; 0-1. In many cases Black manage to achive it, so this system was and remain so popular.

TALPA – Kasparov

Historical Details

The Sicilian Defence was analysed by Giulio Polerio in his 1594 manuscript on chess. He didn't mentioned any name thus many top players of that period analyzed it, as Salvio (1604), Pietro Carrera (c. 1617), Greco (1623), and Cozio (1740).

The French and theoritical Philidor discribed Sicilian as a defensive way to play and definatly not the best. Of course back in the day they didn't discover the Sicilian's full potential, hence, their aproach was completely wrong.

The Main Danger For Black

Every system has its pros and cons. Black starts the game by moving a flank pawn, 1...c5, which is not helping the development of the pieces. The main goal is to exchnage it with a central pawn in order to acomplish better center control. With this good control over the center he tries to leave the king there as long as posible, without casteling.

Τhat's all very well, and White exchnaged one of thir central pawns, but in return he has an extremely active knight on d4. This particular knight helps White's attacking activities and there are not few the times that White managed to launch harshe attacks even at the first moves of the game.

Maybe White's d4 is missing, however that square is a strategic base which White can use in order to place the majority of their pieces alternatively. He can use it as bastion of the future acting.

Black tryies to hide behind their central pawns “e” and “d”, using different formation with them, however White have a lot of creative ways to destroy them; before Black manages to finilize the development of their pieces. White can sacrifice their pieces or pawns on d5, e5, f5, d6, e6, and even f7 with the ultimate goal of exposing Black's king position.

Kasparov vs Wojtkiewicz

Name And Popularity

It owes its name to Jacob Henry Saratt, who was one of the leading English chess players nicknamed as chess profesor. In 1813 he translated the old Italian manuscript which referred to the Sicilian defense.

La Bourdonnais was born in 1795 was born on the island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. He learned chess in 1814 and began to take the game seriously in 1818, regularly playing at the Café de la Régence. He took lessons from Jacques François Mouret, his first teacher, and within two years he became one of the best players of the Café. He was forced to make a living as a professional chess player, as he had squandered his fortune on reckless sheep deals.

He died penniless in London in 1840, after being forced to sell all his belongings, including his clothes, to satisfy his creditors. George Walker buried him in the Kensal Green Cemetery in London right next to his old rival Alexander MacDonnell.

In 1824 he visited London and defeated all the English metr. However, 10 years later they found a worthy opponent for him, MacDonnell. George Walker, the founder of the Westminster Club, organized six consecutive matches between these two top players. These matches were a forerunner of the World Chess Championship.

In the match of 1834 Alexander McDonnell - Louis Charles Mahe De Labourdonnais, the latter used the Sicilian defense quite often and managed to win the entire match with 45 wins, 27 losses and 13 draws.

We can say that the biggest first victory of the Sicilian took place in the 16th game of the 4th match where Labourdonnais sacrificed his queen to promote one of his 3 mighty pawns and checkmate his opponent.

McDonnell vs De Labourdonnais

Also in 1843 the match De Saint Amant - Howard Stanton, which took place in Paris, Sicilian was played many times by both players. But Stanton crushed his opponent with both white and black.

These early successes gave a boost to system's popularity. So in 1851 at the London tournament Sicilian was used by many players with good results. Hence, its reputation was established. From the 19th century onwards all the top players of the era began to use it systematically in their games.

The crisis of the 20th century

But towards the end of the nineteenth century the love for Sicilian defense weakened. Players with white pieces discovered new ways to deal with this system and began beating this system.

A strong blow to it's reputation was received by the former World Champion, Capablanca, who said that this opening leave black with holes and weaknesses.

The Rise

In 1940 and 50 new strong players as Boleslavsky, Kotov, Taimanov, Tal, and Naidorf, began to use the Sicilian defense a lot; discovering many new ideas and counterplay possibilities.

Finally, Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov used this defense extensively in their games Sicilian defense has the popularity that we know today. It is one of the best systems where blacks can play for a win.

Ideas for Blacks

With the very first move, black gives the game an asymmetrical character and seeks for a sharp confrontation. Black's main plans are:

  1. Attack on e4 square. Usually the bishop develops in the diagonal h1-a8. (Paulsen, Seveninken)
  2. Pressure on the diagonal a1-h8 in combination with pressure on the queen side. (Dragon System)
  3. Early e5 promotion in order to take space in the center and counterattack with the pieces. The d6 pawn will be backward for a long time. (Boleslavsky, Sveshnikov, Najdorf)

Many chess players understand the power of the above systems so they try to avoid the long theoretical preparation by choosing anti-Sicilian systems; knowned as Closed Sicilian, Alapin, Rosolimo, etc.)

The Sicilian Defense Systems

Basic Systems

These are the anti Sicilians, systems which aiming either to avoid the theoretical lines or get a very aggressive set up early on.


These are sublines which rarely or never used on the top level, as Black can at least equalize the position. On the contrary this doesn't means that these lines are not dangerous and if black player don't know what to do, how to handle the position presiszly, then he can lose the game quicly.

  • Sicilian 4 Knights // Nc3, Nf3
  • Polugaevsky variation // Nf6
  • O'Kelly variation// a6
  • Loewenthal variation // Nc6, a6 (without d6)

Main Systems

The main systems are the most important. They will not only help to to learn the Sicilian but improve your chess understanding in general. They theory had developed a lot of adressed to advance chess players.

  • Dragon // g6
  • Taimanov // Nc6
  • Can // a6
  • Kalashnikov // Neo-Sveshnikov // Nc6, e5
  • Richter-Rauzer // Nc6, Nf6, d6, e6
  • Pelikan/ Lasker / Sveshnikov // Nc6, Nf6, e5
  • Scheveningen // Nf6, e6, d6
  • Najdorf // Nf6, d6, a6

How To Study Sicilian Defense?

Please let me share with you my personal story. I didn't grow up in a big city so I didn't had a personal coach. Lessons via internet wasn't an option so I start read books. I read Bobby Fischer's exhellent book “ My 60 Memorable Games”. This is one of best books in the world and I do recoment you to study it. Inside that book he analyzed their best games and he used to play King's Indian Defense and Najdorf Variation... Guessed correctly it effects me and I started playing those openings with Black pieces.

Of course playing sound openings is not bad at all, but in the other hand you should use openings according to your chess understanding. Back in the day, I didn't had the good understanding to use them.

As everything I'd like to start studing from the easier thing to more difficult. For that reason I suggest you not to start from the most complicated line with Black pieces; it could comfuze you and you need very stable knowledge backround to play it with success into the tournaments.

A similar aproach you should have with the White pieces. I do recoment you use the basic systems first. Only later, after understand and play those system, you could play the open Sicilian and main lines.

Read More Details Articles For Sicilian Systems

Sicilian Defense it's not only the most frequently seen test opening but the most scoring one I mean black players got a lot of wins.

In this lesson you can find some important tips on how to play the position with white pieces. You can understand everything even if you are a beginner chess player.

Opening Traps | How To Play Sicilian Defense

Chess Openings | Sicilian | Smith and Morra | Siberian Trap

Sicilian | Alapin Variation | Checkmate

How To Play Against Sicilian Taimanov

An Aggressive Setup Against Sicilian Najdorf

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Example 6

Example 7

Example 8

Example 9

Example 10

Example 11

Example 12

Example 13

Example 14

Example 15

Example 16

How to Destroy Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian Defense

Sicilian | Smith and Morra | Siberian Trap

Sicilian traps

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