Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Two Knights Sicilian, Part One


diagram

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3

Not satisfied with my results playing the Grand Prix Attack against an early ...e6 by Black (e.g.: 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6! 3.f4 d5 =), I have lately begun playing 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 when 3...d5?! is something of a mistake (and transposes to lines I know from the Two Knights French). If Black plays 3...Nc6, then I might play 4.Bb5 or 4.g3 and if 3...a6 (which I see most often) then 4.g3 and 5.Bg2, delaying a decision on whether to play d3 or d4. I have been thinking of switching completely to this new line, which I like to call the Two Knights Sicilian, and so began doing some research.

The best thing I've found so far is Joel Benjamin's great set of articles on "Anti-Sicilians" at the Jeremy Silman website. I hadn't visited Silman's excellent site in a while since it is updated rather irregularly and so I had overlooked Benjamin's articles. Silman has an incredible collection of materials, especially on Opening Theory, but the site has no clear business model, so it is hard to imagine how it can be sustained long term (except by the generosity of IM Silman and his friends.) But the articles there by Benjamin and others are first rate. I was most interested in the last pieces of the Anti-Sicilian series, especially Part Six covering 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5; Part Five covering 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 a6 4.g3 (focusing on lines with d3 followed by the provocative Ng5!? to play f4); and Part Four covering 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 a6 4.g3 b5. Since I still like to play 2.Nc3 and still indulge in the Grand Prix against Black's 2...d6 and even 2...Nc6, I was less interested in the earlier articles on the Moscow (with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+).

Books have also been useful. A nearly identical repertoire to that offered by Benjamin is discussed by Chris Baker in his often useful A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (Everyman 1998). He even covers the 4.g3 lines (see pp. 114-124). I rather like the idea of playing 4.g3 and 5.Bg2 and keeping Black guessing about whether I'll play an open or closed system. For this reason, two other handy books have been Gary Lane's The Ultimate Closed Sicilian (Batsford 2001) where he discusses Nf3 lines blocking the f-pawn in the Closed with d3, and Nigel Davies's Taming the Sicilian (Everyman 2002) which covers early g3 and Bg2 systems in the Open lines with d4.

I am still at the experimental stage of learning this new system and so have been trying things out. One recent experiment in games on ICC has been 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.Nge2!? as an odd way of playing the Moscow variation. I could find only one game in the databases I have, which was quite interesting despite being by two unknown masters: Kamber-Bartolini, Zurich 1991.

What do you think? Any book, article, website, or game suggestions are welcome....

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