The Sicilian Defense has been a favorite of many chess champions, including Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen.
The purpose of Sicilian Defense is to control the center and grip on the d5 square. White will try to occupy the D4 square but Black has many counter plays especially the target on e4 pawn and the minority attack on Queenside.
The Sicilian Defense is named after the tournament played in the 16th century in Sicily which is the Italian island.
The Sicilian defense in chess is called when white plays 1.e4 and black replies with a c5 move, the c5 move is called Sicilian defense.
Here is the picture of starting position of Sicilian Defense:
In this guide, I will explore the different variations of the Sicilian Defense, and I will write a short introduction and their strategies, strengths, and weaknesses with a picture of starting position in all variations of Sicilian Defense.
- 1 Najdorf Variation
- 2 Dragon Variation
- 3 Scheveningen Variation
- 4 Classical Variation
- 5 Taimanov Variation
- 6 Paulsen Variation
- 7 Kan Variation
- 8 Accelerated Dragon
- 9 Moscow Variation
- 10 Richter-Rauzer Variation
- 11 Sveshnikov Variation
- 12 Kalashnikov Variation
- 13 Pelikan Variation
- 14 Nimzowitsch Variation
- 15 Four Knights Variation
- 16 Wing Gambit Variation
- 17 Smith-Morra Gambit
- 18 Grand Prix Attack
- 19 Closed Sicilian
- 20 Alapin Variation
- 21 Rossolimo Variation
- 22 The Keres Attack
- 23 O’Kelly Variation
The Najdrof variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 and black plays Najdrof’s move a6. For those who don’t know the chess notation, here is the picture of Najdrof Variation.
The 6th move a6 indicates Najdrof variation. The plans in the Nadjrof variation depend on white’s play if white plays the Bg5 variation then black’s best move is e6, and if white plays Be3 then black’s main plan is to strike back in the center with e5 move.
There are many plans and variations which you should understand and memorize very well if you want to play Najdrof variation.
The Najdrof variation is not recommended for beginners and amateur chess players because it requires a lot of studies and it has rich theories and complications.
Dragon variation is one of the famous variations in Sicilian defense, it starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.g6. Here is the picture of the dragon variation.
The dragon variation is a very sharp variation in Sicilian Defense, you have to play accurate moves in the opening, its theoretical, and tactical openings.
Usually white castle long side and black castle kingside, with kings in opposite directions, you will face a tough battle, and the one who attacks first usually wins, but make sure your attack must be accurate and concrete.
The Scheveningen Variation is one of the papular chess openings in the Sicilian defense. Scheveningen is a strong and flexible chess opening that builds a small center with the pawn on e6 and d6. The Scheveningen starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6.
Here is a picture of the Scheveningen Variation:
The Classical variation is one of the oldest and most popular chess openings. Black develops minor pieces and he kept the option for his queenside bishop which is hard to develop in Sicilian defense. The classical variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6.
Here is the picture of Classical variation:
The Taimanov Variation is named after Russian chess player Mark Taimanov.
The point of the Taimanov variation is to delay Nf6 and counter white’s developed knight on d4 with a knight on c6, the plan for black is to push d5 in one go.
The Taimanov variations start with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6.
Here is the picture of the Taimanov variation:
Paulsen variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7. The Paulsen variation in Sicilian defense is named after Louis Paulsen in the 19th century. Here is the picture of the Paulsen variation.
The Sicilian Kan variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6. The difference between the Paulsen variation and the Kan variation is the move order. Both variations start with a6 but in Kan, variation black develops his queenside bishop early b7.
Here is the picture of Kan variation in Sicilian Defense.
The Sicilian Kan variation is a solid variation for black but it’s passive you may get a hard time developing your pieces, but once the development is complete, you will get the fruits. Here is a detailed article on Sicilian kan variation: https://thechessforum.com/sicilian-kan/
The Sicilian Accelerated Dragon is one of the sharpest chess openings in Sicilian Defense. It starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6, the fianchettoed bishop on g7 put very strong pressure in the center and queenside which is sometimes stronger than a rook.
Here is a picture of Accelerated Dragon.
Moscow Variation in Sicilian Defense is considered one of the antidot to Sicilian d6 move.
It starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ and black’s king is threatened, of course, it’s not the end of the game black has 3 legal ways to defend his king but the purpose of white’s last move has achieved which is to disrupt the black’s development.
Here is the picture of Moscow Variation in Sicilian Defense.
The Richter Rauzer variation is one of the sharp variations in Sicilian defense, it starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5. This variation gives sharp and tactical play for both sides. Here is a picture of the Richter-Rauzer Variation.
The Sveshnikov variation starts with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5, by playing e5 move black seizes the center but there is one problem that occurs which every white player sees immediately 🙂 the weakness on d6.
Don’t worry about its weakness because black has enough resources to defend his d6 pawn if he plays accurately.
Here is the picture of the Sveshnikov Variation.
The Kalashnikov variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5, by playing Kalashnikov variation black claims one pawn in the center but it has a weakness at d6, this weaknes will be fixed when black will push d5.
The Kalashnikov variation has been played by many top grandmasters like Avanchuk, Shirov, MVL, and Anand, so you are at good hands.
Here is the picture of the Kalashnikov Variation:
Pelikan variation in the Sicilian defense and Sveshnikov variation is the same, and it’s also called the Lasker-Pelikan Variation and it starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 and you reached the Pelikan variation.
Here is the picture of the Pelikan variation.
The Nimzowitsch variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6, this opening was developed by great chess mind Aron Nimzowitsch.
The idea behind this opening is to play the opening without theory because other defenses in Sicilian defense have a lot of theory like Najdrof and Dragon variation but if you want to take out white from its comfort zone then this is the perfect variation for you.
Please note that it’s not played at the highest level and you have to build your repertoire without much help.
Here is the picture of the Nimzowitsch Variation:
Four Knights Variation
The four-knight variation is called because 4 knights developed earlier before other pieces in the Sicilian defense. The right move order to reach Four Knight Variation is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6.
Here is a picture of Four Knights Variation:
Wing Gambit Variation
The Wing Gambit in Sicilian starts with 1.e4 c5 2.b4 the point of the wing gambit is to exchange white’s wing pawn for the central pawn, white sacrifices a pawn, and in return white gets a true pawn center which includes e4 and d4 pawn controlling 8 squares in the center.
Who can play the wing gambit? if you are above 2000 rated player then you can enjoy a space advantage and central pawn majority in the center.
Here is the picture of the Wing gambit in Sicilian Defense:
The Smith mora gambit starts with the move order 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3, in this gambit white sacrifices a pawn or pawns in order to develop white’s minor pieces quickly.
Here is the picture of the Smith Mora Gambit:
Grand Prix Attack
The Grand Prix Attack is one of the papular chess opening systems in which white plays against Sicilians and some players consider as an anti-Sicilian, the Grand Prix starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4.
White quickly develops his kingside and by playing f4 white opens up his rook for the attack, white will push his f4 pawn to f5 and White will launch a direct attack on Black’s king.
Here is the picture of Grand Prix Attack:
In Closed Sicilian white plays slow and positional chess, where he develops his pieces and White doesn’t open the center quickly. The closed Sicilian starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.g3, its solid and flexible chess opening for white.
Here is the picture of Closed Sicilian:
The Alapin variation is considered an alternative to open Sicilian, where white opens the center with d4.
Alapin variation which starts with 1.e4 c5 2.c3, the point of the Alapin Sicilian variation is to control the center, sometimes white will play d3, and sometimes white strikes into the center with d4.
Here is the picture of the Alapin variation:
The Rossolimo variation is a sound and positional chess opening, it starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 by playing Bb5 white puts pressure on Nc6 and it’s a positional threat of doubled pawns on c6. It’s very flexible and positional opening, white has many ideas in Rossolimo Variation.
Here is the picture of the Rossolimo Variation:
The Keres Attack
The Keres Attack is named after grandmaster Paul Keres. The Keres Attack starts with .e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 White pushes his g pawn to push back Black’s only developed piece in the opening and it’s a very dangerous idea developed by Paul Keres.
This variation is papular variation and if black plays Scheveningen you can play Keres attack.
Here is the picture of the Keres Attack:
The O’Kelly variation is a tricky variation in the Sicilian defense. The O’Kelly Variation starts with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6.
The point of a6 is to avoid early Bb5 or knight b5 in some cases. If you don’t know much about O’Kelly then you may get a worse position in the opening.
Here is the picture of the O’Kelly variation:
If you play against O’Kelly there is one antidote that will fix your problem, the move for white is to play the c3 move. after playing c3 black will regret his a6 move.
These variations in Sicilian defense are papular and played at all levels.
If you want to play the Sicilian defense then you must master all these variations because you don’t know what variation you will face in tournaments.
You may share your experience in the comments below with the Sicilian defense and you may share which variation in Sicilian Defense gives you more victories.
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