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  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. New Player & The Sicillian: Theory Overload

Ah sorry I see you mean 3.Bb5+ yes that's right.

Carlsen has played some 3 Bb5+, but not with that much success

@tpr The poison pawn variation opens the queen side attack. Which is something I'm quite comfortable with so it feels at home. Hence my gravitation towards the Najdorf Poison Pawn. I'm relatively new to the entire chess thing and have hit the books extremely hard (currently reading GM Calculations by Jacob Aagard to better understand the algorithms of chess. ) and I also have a strange fascination with one Alexey Sokolsky. I'm quite fond of flank attacks and defenses and so gravitated towards the Sicilian. Honestly though I just felt like I was drowning whenever I played any of the variations. The French is intriguing due to it's Queen side castle followed by launching an attack on the king side (the not so quiet variations), and Alexey has a few games where he plays the Winawer variation.

But I wanted a strong answer to e4 specifically and I wanted to try to get a grasp of some main idea theorys. I am more interested in middle game than long opening theory, I prefer ideas (gambits?) over 'dial a move' openings (london system, colle). That sort of sums it up I guess. This is kind of my attempt to try some more 'main stream' openings which really isn't working out too well for me.

As it stands I'm trying to put together a basic opening 'ideas list' not to memorize the openings specifically but to gain the understanding of what the ideas behind them are and find what I feel comfortable with.

@Convenient I recommend the book "Fundamental Chess Opeings" for you. It provides the ideas behind each opening and also provides the basic variations for each opening. If you like the Sicillian then don't allow the vast amount of theory to stop you from playing it. First of all, there are side lines you can play besides the Najdorf and the other super theoretical lines. As with @Sarg0n, I like the Kan (AKA Paulsen) variation. Second of all, you don't need to know ALL the theory at your level. Besides, often your opponents will play lines like the Alapin, Closed Sicillian, etc. to avoid the main lines.

@Convenient #13

Have you considered the Pirc/Modern 1.e4 d6 or 1.e4 g6? Neither is incredibly strong at the ~2800 level, but to borrow a quote from GM Seirawan, since Fischer used it in game 17 of his match against Spassky "I always figured, if it was good enough for Bobby, well..."

That opening plays heavily into the kingside-castled fianchetto position, similar to (but not really the same for obvious reasons) 1.c4 e5 for White, though there's a lot of delay in opening the center, whereas the Sicilian Dragon relies on at least a semi-open center.

Edit: That said, I agree with the above commentators. The Sicilian Kan (with an eventual ...Nd7; according to a book I once read, ...Nc6 tends more towards the Taimanov, which is really close either way) is pretty easy to understand the basic ideas, without running into a ton of theory for Black.

I know this sounds weird, but if you're looking to get into Caro-Kann positions, play the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5) You can almost always get the Caro-Kann pawn structure in the Scandinavian with pawns on e6 and c6, whereas if you play the Caro-Kann, you'll run into a lot of Panov-Botvinnik (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4) and Anti Caro-Kanns (1.e4 c6 2.c4) where getting that same setup is impossible. If you do opt for playing the Caro-Kann, be prepared to play a wide variety of positions.

@imakitty thank you for your recommendation; I will investigate the book and see how it all pans out. I've also on recommendation had a look at the Kan variation. It's interesting to say the least, I will have a play around with it and see how things unfold.

@Linsolv I have not considered the Pirc/Modern. I am in my 30's now, I have no illusion that I will ever reach 2000 let alone 2800. Currently my goal is to spend the next few years trying to reach 1800, and get a strong grasp of the fundamentals of chess. I have not considered the Pirc. I will add that to my list to investigate in more detail. Greatly appreciated.

@ace1886 that is good information to know; I haven't even attempted to understand the Caro yet, so this is a reasonably useful insight.

@Convenient There's tons of material out there, but I enjoyed Seirawan's lecture at

It was the thing that turned me on to the very idea. Before that, I'd never really seriously considered it. Even immediately afterward. But after having some success with 1.c4 I thought I'd give it a shot recently. I can't say it went all that well, but it could have gone a lot worse, and I can hardly say that it was the OPENING that put me into my bad positions.

I don't think your opponent will often know that much more theory than you, if any, and even if he does it is not really important because in almost any games both players go out of what they know at some point. So if you're out of prep before your opponent (and you usually don't know if you are by the way), at some point, you're going to play a move that he doesn't know. So what matters is that for that window of time, you don't want to play bad moves that he could know the refutation of. Then when he's out of theory as well, it will be a matter of who understand the position better (and more importantly who calculates better but if your understanding is better, it should be easier).

Knowing an opening is not just knowing lines. Even in an opening as sharp and concrete as the Najdorf I think it is relevant, and maybe even at the highest level. Look at the games of MVL for instance. In the Sinquefield cup last month, Caruana played a novelty early in the Najdorf (sacrificing the b2 pawn by the way). MVL didn't take the pawn and was much worse according to the engine, maybe losing even, but he drew. Caruana outprepared him but it didn't matter because MVL understood the position better. Also last year in Norway chess I think, the same thing happened against Giri and MVL won a beautiful game. What matters is not when the players are in their prep but when they're out of it. And, sure you're not MVL, but your opponent is not Giri. Personally as white I suck against the Sicilian, not because I don't know the lines but because I always get hit by the same moves that I forget to calculate and I never learn my lesson. That's the kind of opponents you'll face.

In my opinion if you have to be put off the Sicilian for some reason, I don't think it should be because of the amount of theory per se but because of the fact that white have possibilities that lead to very different positions and it is difficult to be at ease with all of them. You need to understands the IQP positions that could result from the Alapin and the king side fianchettos in the closed Sicilian, and the Maroczy bind if white goes for 5.f3, and the lines with Bb5 (which incidentally can transpose into the Ruy Lopez), and the grand prix, and the wing gambit... So you will not that often get to play the Najdorf and even when you do, white still have very different setups at is disposal. I look in the batabase. The poison pawn variation is 1.18% of all the Sicilian in the masters database and in Lichess database (exluding bullet) it is 0.1% ! And those who will play it probably have looked at the ways to trap your queen (how to get your queen out, that you have to know).
I think facing different positions may help you understand chess better, but it will take time to gain experience, knowledge and understanding of all the types of positions you wil get.

@Convenient If you are going to examine Sicilian Kan, here is an interesting sideline/move order: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6!?