The Sicilian Defense is the most popular defense and best-scoring response against white’s opening 1.e4.
It begins with the following moves:
- e4 c5
It is a very aggressive defense and immediately stakes claim at the center, denying white the double pawns on e4 and d4. Many chess GrandMasters then prefer to start with 1.d4 because of how well the Sicilian Defense plays against 1.e4.
Why Play The Sicilian Defense
The Sicilian Defense is the most common response to 1. e4. The move 1… c5 controls the important d4-square.
By advancing the c-pawn at the first move, Black creates an asymmetry in the pawn structure. Often, Black’s c5-pawn is traded for White’s d4-pawn in the early stages of the game, granting Black a central pawn majority.
The pawn trade also opens the c-file for Black, who can place a rook or queen on that file to support the queenside counterplay.
About 80% of Master level games beginning with 1.e4 c5 continue with 2.Nf3. After which there are three main options for Black: 2…d6, 2…Nc6, and 2…e6.
Lines where White then plays 3.d4 are collectively known as the Open Sicilian, and result in extremely complex positions
The Open Sicilian Defense is divided into four major variations based on Black’s response, although there are many other less-played options to be explored.
[+] The Najdorf variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
This is the most popular line of the Sicilian defense.
The main idea behind this line is to prepare the move e7-e5, which offers Black a majority in the centre and lots of ambitious attacking ideas
[+] The Dragon variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6
n the Dragon variation, Black places his dark-squared Bishop on g7 to aim at the centre and the Queenside. This variation often leads to opposite castles and sharp attacking games.
[+] The Classical variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 or 5.Nc3 d6
Unlike in the other Sicilian main lines, Black chooses to develop the b8-Knight before the f8-Bishop.
By doing so, Black puts lots of pressure in the centre and the d4-knight.
[+] The Scheveningen variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6
The Scheveningen variation provides Black with a very flexible pawn formation. The positions that arise from this opening are very interesting and full of ideas for both sides.
For those chess players that play against the 1.e4 opening quite often, the Sicilian Defense is an opening that you should spend quite a bit of time studying. There are many variations and they each are designed for specific types of players.
Watch the video below to watch more detailed explanations of the opening, multiple variations, and extended lines.