Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense ranks as one of the richest openings in the world of chess in terms of variations. So many chess scholars have written on the subject and thousands of books were published.

The defense is characterized by the opening moves 1. e4, c5. Black's move is the most popular and best-scoring response to White's 1. e4.

Grandmaster John Nunn notes that the reason for the Sicilian Defence’s popularity "is its combative nature; in many lines Black is playing not just for equality, but for the advantage. The drawback is that White often obtains an early initiative, so Black has to take care not to fall victim to a quick attack."

By advancing the c-pawn two squares, Black asserts control over the d4-square and begins the fight for the centre of the board. The move resembles 1…e5, the next most common response to 1.e4, in that respect. Unlike 1...e5, however, 1...c5 breaks the symmetry of the position, which strongly influences both players' future actions. White, having pushed a kingside pawn, tends to hold the initiative on that side of the board.

Amsterdam, 1954

1. e4, c5
2. Nf3, d6
3. d4, cxd4
4. Nxd4, Nf6
5. Nc3, a6
6. Bg5, N8d7
7. Bc4, e6
8. 0-0, Qc7

Black seems blissfully unaware of the explosive potentialities of the position.

9. Bxe6, fxe6
10. Nxe6, Qc4
11. Nd5! .....

A hidden point is that after 11. ..... Nxd5, 12. exd5 Ne5 Black's Queen can be driven off: 13. b3 Qc3, 14. Bd2 Qb2, 15. Nc7+ winning the a8 Rook.

11. ..... Kf7
12. Bxf6 .....

A difficult move to answer, for if 12. ..... gxf6, 13. Qh5+ Kxe6, 14. Qe8+ with a mating attack. Or 12. .....Nxf6, 13. b3 Qb5, 14. N6c7 and wins.

12. ..... Kxe6
13. Bc3! .....

And now the powerful threat of Qf3-f5 mate wins more material.

13. ..... Nf6
14. Bxf6, gxf6
15. Nb6, Qc6
16. Nxa8 .....

The Knight has a charmed life. If 16. .....b6, 17. Nxb6 Qxb6, 18. Qg4+, followed by 19. Qxc8.

16. .....Be7
17. a4! .....

Threatening a5, assuring the Knight's escape.

17. ..... b6
18. Qd5+!, Kd7
19. Ra3! .....

And now if 19. .....Bb7, 20. Rc3 Qxd5, 21. Nxb6+ wins for White.

19. ..... Bd8
20. Nxb6+! Resigns

White has the last laugh. If 20. ..... Qxb6, 21. Qf5+ Kc7, 22. Rc3+ wins; or if 20. ..... Bxb6, 21. Qf7 Kd8, 22. Qxf6 winning the Rook. An enchanting finale.

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