The Fabulous 00s: Chess.FM Sicilian Theory

First of All

First of all, can you guess where I was on August 14th, 2008?  No Googling, Froogling, or any other freakin’ cheating.  Just take your best shot and let fly with a guess.  Hint:  it’s a major city and it’s not in Europe.


To Our Glorious Dead:  My Mystery Location

Chess.FM Goodies

I am producing a series on ICC Chess.FM on Sicilian Theory from black’s perspective when white avoids the main lines with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 (d6, e6, Nc6) 3. d4.  The series is being sound edited and should be released soon.  So far, I’ve covered the always entertaining Smith-Morra Gambit, the quiet Alapin (2. c3) and also….

The Moscow Variation

One of the segments is on the Moscow Variation, 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+.

Position after 3. Bb5+: The Moscow Variation

I will devote some entries on the website to discussing the segments and presenting example games so that readers can contribute their own ideas and sample blitz and OTB Games for review.

In the broadcast, I went over the possible interpositions 3…Nc6, 3…Nd7, and the most popular 3…Bd7.  I stated that if black wants to try to win, 3…Bd7 isn’t such a good choice because white can easily achieve safe Marcozy-bind formations.   This implies that the first two tries merit closer study because they are rarer and lead to unusual positions.

Here’s an example game featuring 3..Nd7 and indeed it gives us a sharp battle.

Mark Ginsburg – Mark Paragua  San Francisco Dake Int’l 1999

Historically amusing:  when this game was played Paragua was a little kid rated 2300 something.  But so often little kids are “danger kids.”

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7!? 4. d4 Ngf6 5. Nc3 a6 As mentioned in the broadcast, black goes for the bishop pair at the cost of losing some time.

6. Bxd7+ Nxd7

Position after 6…Nxd7

7. Bg5 Playable here and perhaps more logical is 7. O-O!? cxd4 8. Qxd4 and white has hopes of a small edge.

7… h6 8. Bh4 Entirely different is 8 . Be3 cxd4 9. Qxd4.  Maybe white is a little better after 9…e5 10. Qa4!?

8… g5 9. Bg3 Bg7 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. Nd4?! Very sharp but dubious.   White could have tried 11. e5 g4 12. Nh4!? with compensation.

11… Qb6! Very strong! 12. Nd5 Qxb2 13. e5!? Maximum confusion but objectively this is just not working.

13…O-O White simply doesn’t have enough after the cold-blooded 13…Bxe5! 14. Bxe5 dxe5 15. Nc7+ Kf8 16. O-O Rb8.

14. Nxe7+ Kh7 15. O-O Bxe5?! The simple 15… dxe5 16. Ndf5 Bxf5! 17. Nxf5 Rad8 is somewhat better for black.

16. Bxe5 dxe5 17. Ndf5? The inaccuracies continue. 17. Nf3! is stronger.

17…Bxf5 18. Nxf5 Qb6 19. Qf3 Qf6 20. Rab1 Rac8 20…Rad8 is strong.

21. Rfd1 Rcd8 22. c4 e4 23. Qg4 Rd3! Black is still in command.

24. Ne3 Qf4 24…Rfd8! leaves white with very little chance of survival.

25. Qh5

Position after 25. Qh5.

25…Rxe3? Black had 25…Qd6! with a big edge or 25… Rxd1+ 26. Rxd1 Nd3 27. Qe2 f5 also with a strong initiative.  The text gives white a way out.

26. Rb6! 26. fxe3? Qxe3+ 27. Kh1?? Nd3 wins; but 27. Kf1 Nd3 28. Qe2 fights on (but black is still better).  The text is much better.  Black must have overlooked this zwischenzug.

26…Nd3? The final miscue.  26…Ne6! 27. Rxe6 Re1+ 28. Rxe1 fxe6 leaves black a small bit better.

27. Qxh6+ Kg8 28. Rg6+ And it ends in a perpetual.


Here’s a funny game in the more common 3…Bd7 line. I had to look on for this one, because didn’t have it.

Drake Wang – Mark Ginsburg US Open 2005, Phoenix AZ

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c3 Nf6 6. Qe2? A well-known opening inaccuracy.  Black is not slow with his reply.

6…Qg4! Hitting g2 and e4.  White has no good answer.  Curiously, this has been seen a few times previously OTB such as Letelier-Spassky, Buenos Aires 1960 and Emma-Reshevsky, 1966.  Naturally, the strong players playing black won those games having received such an opening ‘handicap’.

7. e5 dxe5 8. Qb5+ Nbd7 9. O-O e4 10. Ne5 Qe6 11. Nxd7 Relatively speaking, 11. d4 is best. The text awards black a huge bind.

11…Qxd7 12. Qxc5 e6 13. Qe3 Qd5 Of course.  White’s pieces are paralyzed. His next is already desperation.

14. d4 exd3 15. Rd1 Rd8 16. Qxa7 Bc5 All of black’s pieces work very well.

17. Qa4+ Rd7 17…Ke7 was also very good.

18. Qa8+ Naturally white hopes for a repetition, but by sacrificing his h8-rook black develops a winning attack.

Position after 18. Qa8+.  Black to play and win.

18…Ke7! 19. Qxh8 Bxf2+! The black queen and knight duo are too strong.  There is no defense.

20. Kh1 The problem is that 20. Kxf2 is annihilated by 20…Qc5+ 21. Kg3 Ne4+ or 21. Be3 Ng4+.

20…Qh5 21. Rf1 Ne4 22. Bf4 Bg3! A very pleasing geometrical motif. It is this move that had to be seen on move 19, otherwise white might get a chance to develop the queenside.

23. h3 Nf2+ 24. Kg1 Bxf4 And it’s all over. 25. Rxf2 Qd1+ 26. Rf1 Be3+ wins.

25. Qxg7 Rd5! White’s slumbering pieces cannot match up to black’s active ones.

26. g4 Nxh3+ 27. Kg2 Rg5 28. Qxg5+ Qxg5 29. Kxh3 Qh6+ 0-1

I will say something in favor of 3…Bd7.  It’s easier to play when one is seeking clarity and simplicity of plans for black.  Here’s an ICC blitz game in which I, somewhat inebriated, came close to beating an IM without doing anything special.

ICC Blitz Test of 3…Bd7

RolMar(IM) – Aries2(IM)  5/0   8/11/08   3…Bd7 Line

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4 Nc6 6. O-O g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7 9. Be3 Ah-ha!  Remember white needs f2-f3 to support Be3 because the queen on d7 guards g4!  This I mentioned in the broadcast and even a little tipsy could recall it during the blitz.

9…Nf6 10. Nc3 Ng4! See prior comment.  White has gone off the rails already.

11. Nc2 Nxe3 12. Nxe3 O-O 13. Rc1 Rac8 14. b3 Rfd8 In most OTB games, black’s rooks are shown to be most effective here (in conjunction with e7-e6).  It’s a mistake in these formations to aim for a quick b7-b5.  Correct is to be patient and try to enact pawn breaks (d5, b5, or some combination) later when they are justified by circumstances.

15. Ncd5? Black always needs e7-e6 to guard against knight hops to d5, so this premature move hands black several tempi.

15…e6 16. Nf4 Qe7 17. Qf3 a6 18. Rfd1 b5 Black gets a pawn break under favorable conditions!

19. Rd2 Qf6 20. Ng4 White flails around with the knights aimlessly. The “dragon” bishop on g7 is controlling events!

20…Qg5 21. Rcd1 bxc4 22. bxc4 Ne5 23. Nxe5 Bxe5 24. Nd3 Rxc4 25. Nxe5 Qxe5 26. Qe2 Qxe4 27. Qxe4 Rxe4 28. f3 Ra4 and in this winning ending… black only drew.  🙂    1/2,  103 moves!

Serious students will examine some of Kasparov’s efforts battling against the Maroczy in OTB play.  It’s about equal if black is attentive.

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3 Responses to “The Fabulous 00s: Chess.FM Sicilian Theory”

  1. Granny O'Doul Says:

    I think “mainline” is one word only if it is a verb. You could use it if you write about openings for heroins.
    Duly corrected.

  2. Scourge Says:

    In Wang-Ginsburg, the real opening inaccuracy occurred on the fifth move. 5.c4 is much stronger than 5.c3. the positions are easier to play, and there are several opportunities to transpose into positions that resemble lines in the English opening.

    That’s the main line. Black battles against a Maroczy Bind formation. The theme of my broadcast is that the knight interpositions on move 3 are trickier.

    Having said this, 5.c3 Nf6 6.Qe2 Qg4 is playable if White is willing to sacrifice a pawn or maybe two to get his pieces out. For example 7.d3 Qxg2 8.Rg1 Qh3 9.Be3 and White has almost enough for his Pawn.

    Nope. 7. d3 has been tried and it is found wanting. I would rate Wang’s 7. e5?! as only somewhat weaker than 7. d3. Just avoid 5. c3? for white.

  3. Anthony Boron Says:

    Up in the “Big Smoke”, eh ?

    Question for you – Is it you or WordPress that joins your disparate postings into one commentable post ?

    It ain’t me

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