Monday, June 02, 2014

Bibliography on 2.b3 vs the Sicilian and the French

An early b3 for White is gaining legitimacy, as witnessed by the recent high-level appearance of the Nimzo-Larsen Attack with 1.b3 (consider, for instance, the games of Baadur Jobava and Elisabeth Paehtz).  So it should hardly surprise us that an early b3 is being used with greater frequency against the Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.b3) and French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.b3), and analysis and experience show that it represents a fully legitimate system.  Those seeking an unusual way of meeting these two most common Black defenses to 1.e4 would do well to study 2.b3 against both lines due to the possible transpositions between them, as shown by the repertoire of IM/WGM Eva Repkova.  Dr. Richard Lewis of the Kenilworth Chess Club has been using this repertoire for over 40 years, and theory is just catching up with him...

The Sicilian with 2.b3 (Snyder Sicilian, Czerniak Attack, b3 Sicilian)
Most 1.e4 players these days accept that the Sicilian is a tough nut to crack, so they are happy just to reach an interesting position where they might feel more comfortable than their opponents.  The line 1.e4 c5 2.b3 (or 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3, sometimes called the Westerinen Variation) definitely serves that purpose and has been used occasionally by some very strong GMs, including Nigel Short, Boris Spassky, and Alexander Morozevich, and has been the main anti-Sicilian weapon of such strong players as GM Tamaz Gelashvili , IM Moshe Czerniak, and IM/WGM Eva Repkova.  It was first used in Cochrane - Staunton, London Match 2 1842 and tried out recently by current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.  I suggest that the name Czerniak Attack should take the place of Snyder Sicilian, especially given the reputation problems of the latter (see below).

Game collections can be found at 365chess, ChessTempo, Chess.comthe Snyder variation at Chessgames, and B20 Sicilian Snyder White at Chessgames.  What follows is a bibliography of sources I have in my possession or could find easily.  As always, I welcome reader additions and corrections.

An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4 by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 5, 2014).  A just-released 87-minute DVD available from, featuring games with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3.  You can also gain access to these videos by joining for at least a month, which is the better deal.

"An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4, Part 1" by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 5, 2013).  A 32 minute video featuring Carlsen - Svidler, World Blitz Championship (Moscow) 2009.  For subscribers only.

"An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4, Part 2" by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 12, 2013).  A 25 minute video featuring Kavalek - Hracek, Ceska Trebova 1998.  For subscribers only.

Experts on the Anti-Sicilian by Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw, Quality Chess (2011): 432-441.  Download PDF contents.  The last chapter features Peter Heine Nielsen's cheeky recommendation for Black of 2.b3 g6, with continuations like 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Qf3 Bg7 5.e5 Ng8 6.e6 Nf6, or 4…Nc6 5.e5 Nh5, or 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e5 Nh5.

 "Sicilian: The Czerniak Attack" by Arthur Kogan, Secrets of Opening Surprises #9 (2008): 123-136.  Makes an excellent case for calling the opening the "Czerniak Attack" after its most highly regarded early adopter.  Sample games include Czerniak - Cebalo, Zagreb 1969; Mamedyarov - van Wely, Wijk aan Zee 2008; Gelashvili - Gagunashvili, Batumi 2001; Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004; Gelashvili - Reddmann, Hamburg 1999; and Short - Thorfinnsson, Reykjavik 2000.

Fighting the Anti-Sicilians by Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess (2007): 189-200.  Explores 2...d6 and 2...Nc6, though I think 2...e6 would have fit better with his overall repertoire.  Sample games in the notes include Buchnicek - Plachetka, Czech League 2005; Jiangchuan - Xu Jun, Shenzhen 1992; Rogers - Ostermeyer, Biel 1984; Dos Santos - Pedersen, Matinhos 1994; and Minasian - Aronian, Omsk 1996.

Estudio Casero Defensa Siciliana con 1.e4 c5 2.b3!? by Job Sepúlveda, Proletario (2007).

Anti-Sicilians by Jonathan Rowson, ChessPublishing (May 2006).  By subscription.  

Gold Medals, Opening Lanes #71 by Gary Lane, ChessCafe (2004).  Lane analyzes the game Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004, which a reader sent suggesting the b3 Sicilian be renamed "the Short variation."  Personally, I think this is a great game, but there are enough Short Variations already.

"The Sicilian, Snyder Variation, Part One" and "Part Two" by Andrew Martin at Chessville (March 2004) -- via the Internet Archive.  Part One's "Nosher on the Ocher" discusses Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004, while Part Two discusses Pessi - Miron, Romania 2003.  From the web archive.

"The Verdict, Part One" and Part Two by Andrew Martin at Jeremy Silman's website (March 2004) -- via the Internet Archive.
A Little different from the article Martin published at Chessville, but Part One features Arp - Zomer, NED 2004 and Part Two features Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004.  From the web archive.

The Chess Advantage in Black and White by Larry Kaufman, Random House (2004): 115-117, 128-133.  Demonstrates a surprising interest in b3 lines, via a Rossolimo move order or via 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3.  Games include Akopian - Fominyh, Ubeda 2001; C. Horvath - Fogarasi, Budapest 2002; Anand - Leko, Bastia 2001; and Berzins - Meijers, Latvia 2002.

Schachtraining: Geheimwaffen in der Eroffnung by Stefan Kindermann (circa 2002-2003)
Features some excellent PGN downloads with analysis covering all major lines following 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3!? which is practically a cross-over variation. From the internet archive.

Anti-Sicilians, A Guide for Black by Dorian Rogozenko, Gambit (2003).  Recommends 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3 b6!? and 2.b3 b6!?

Black Repertoire, Sicilian, 2.b3 and Games by Eric Tangborn, Geocities (circa 1998)
Black's perspective from IM Tangborn.

Foxy Chess Openings, 149 (Vol. 2): White Repertoire Against the Sicilian, Center Counter & Pirc by Andrew Martin (no date).  "Volume Two continues Martin’s new 'Winning Repertoire Series for White – 1.e4', which outlines a complete repertoire system for the first player, built around the King’s Pawn opening. Here IM Martin covers how to answer the Sicilian, the Center Counter and the Pirc. After 1.e4 c5 White will continue 2.b3! and enter prepared territory; if 1.e4 d5 we follow with 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Rb1!, and the Pirc meets with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be2 Bg7 5.g4! and attack as shown."

Sicilian Unusual [B20] Survey, by Tamas Horvath, ChesssBase Encyclopedia (1993).  Covers 2...d6 (e.g.: Spassky - Huebner, Bueonos Aires 1978; Tschichowani-Lapenis, Belzy 1979) and 2...e6 (e.g.; Spassky-Hernandez, Buenos Aires 1978; Kanzler-Ionov, Daugavpils 1979).

Sicilian 2.b3, Snyder Sicilian: A Complete Opening System against the Sicilian with 2.b3 by Robert M. Snyder, Players Press (1984).  
A 125 page pamphlet by the notorious chess teacher and child molester, featured on "America's Most Wanted."  I have not seen this item.

De schaakopening. Siciliaans-flanksystemen: het 2. f2-f4 complex, het vleugelgambiet 2. b2-b4, de 2. b2-b3 variant by Paul Boersma, Andriessen (1983).  Thanks MNb.

The French with 2.b3 (Reti Gambit, Papa Gambit)
The line 1.e4 e6 2.b3, which can lead to the gambit 2...d5 3.Bb2 dxe4, is often attributed to Richard Reti, who played it in Reti - Maroczy, Gotheburg 1920.  Later, the opening was adopted by Rudolf Spielmann with some success, as in Spielmann - Mueller, Vienna 1928 and Spielmann - Grau, San Remo 1930, so his name is sometimes associated with the opening as well.  Mike Papa published a pamphlet on the line that generated interest, so his name has also gained some followers.  But the most thorough treatment of the variation has been by Thomas Johansson, who calls it "The Fascinating Reti Gambit" -- so that name seems best.  I will add some items from French repertoire books here in the coming week, and I welcome additions from readers.

Play the French 4th edition by John Watson, Everyman Chess (2012): 414-415.
Watson argues that "b3 and e4 do not mix well."  Sample games include Bury - Watson, Leominster 1977 (the main focus of earlier editions, with 2...b6 sidestepping White's main preparation); Arvola - Westerinen, Tromso 2008; Karasev - Farago, Polanica Zdroj 1974; and Rzayev - Tran Tuan Minh, Budapest 2011.

Attacking Chess: The French by Simon Williams, Everyman Chess (2011): 301-304. Williams writes: "I am not entirely sure what the name of this variation should be, but it is an interesting little move.  White figures that now that Black has played 1...e6, he can no longer block the a1-h8 diagonal with ...e5.  For that reason White wants to place his bishop on b2 as then it will be a good piece.  There is some logic to this way of thinking, but Black has a number of ways to gain equality."  This is a great book on the French for Black, and Williams's recommendation of 1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 fits well with his overall repertoire and may be Black's best.  Sample games include Paehtz - Zhukova, European Women's Ch Gotheburg 2005 (White's 9.d4?! does not fit the system); Houska - Levitt, London 2004; and Repkova - Boric, Sibenik 2008

"Reti's Line against the French" by Alexander Finkel, Secrets of Opening Surprises #9 (2008): 102-108.  Argues that the Reti Gambit leads to very interesting positions where familiarity will help.  Sample games include Maze - Vaisser, Val d'lsere 2004; Repkova - Macak, Slovokia tt 2004-2005; Totsky - Zakharov, Perm 1997; and Repkova - Rajlich, Biel 2004.  A very useful overview.

The Fascinating Reti Gambit by Thomas Johansson, (2006).  Previews available at Google Books.  I am always surprised to find complete and thoroughly researched books on obscure lines -- such as this fascinating study.  Johansson has previously contributed some great books on the King's Gambit.  I especially recommend The Fascinating King's Gambit, focused on the Bishop's Gambit, which seems not to have gotten as much attention as The King's Gambit for the Creative Aggressor from 1998.  Johansson naturally starts off with The Reti Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Nc3) exploring first the greedy 4...f5?! when he focuses on the standard 5.f3 (which seems most promising) and the interesting alternative 5.d3!? which is definitely playable if not as clear.  He then devotes considerable attention to Reti's ow line 4...Nf6 5.Qe2 which can lead to fascinating positions involving an early g4-g5 thrust for White and opposite side castling.  He also examines Mike Papa's idea of 5.g4 immediately.  In the declined section, he covers a wide range of options for both players but devotes the most attention to "The Safe" 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nbd7 5.Qg4 c5 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nf3 -- which is likely the line you will see the most.  Transpositions to the Sicilian with 1.e4 e6 2.b3 c5 are also considered in detail.  Basically, if you are going to make this line part of your repertoire, this book is a must.  And, fortunately, it is not out of print nor likely to go out of print any time soon (since it is published "print on demand").

French: Advance and Other Lines by Steffen Pedersen, Gambit (2005): 135-136.  Merely mentions the main line with 2...d5 3.Bb2, giving the games Varga - Farago, Nagykanizsa 2003; Kapnisis - Berelovich, Kavala 2002; and Repkova - Cosma, Pula 2002.  The main focus is on the admittedly "non-theoretical" 2...b6 as seen in Bury - Watson, Leominster 1977; Gallinnis - Jackelen, Bundesliga 1998/1999; and Wisnewski - Meister, Hoeckendorf 2004.

"Terra Incognita" by Tim McGrew, The Gambit Cartel #14 at ChessCafe (2003)
Discusses the Reti Gambit with 1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2!? in three games: McGrew - Balan, Kalamazoo, MI, September 2003, Karasev - Akopian, USSR Cup 1970, and Borkowski - Matlak, Correspondence 1979.

The Papa gambit vs. The French Defense: 1.e4 e6 2.b3!! by Michael Joseph Papa, Jr., MICH Publications (July 3, 1991).


MNb said...

An oldie in Dutch is Siciliaans, Flanksystemen by IM Paul Boersma.

The other three books are about the Closed Sicilian, Three Open Sicilians and mainly Bb5-systems.

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks, MNb. I have added it to the bibliography.

Anonymous said...

The Complexity of Sidelines – The French 2.b3
by Fernando Braga
New in Chess Yearbook 112 (2014)


ejh said...

An older source for b3 in the Sicilian is Joe Gallagher's still-useful Beating The Anti-Sicilians (Batsford, 1994) which has a chapter entitled be systems. It proposed 2...Nc6 3. Bb2 e5 against 2. b3 (illustrative game Grosar-Kupreichik Ljubljana 1989) while against 3. Nf3 e6 3. b3 it suggested 3...b6 (Grosar-Sokolov, Portoroz 1987). 2...Nc6 3. b3 and 2...d6 3. b3 were combined in de la Riva-Cramling, Barcelona 1991.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, 2. b3 g6!? is covered in an SOS article by Jeroen Bosch in New In Chess 2015#3.

Anonymous said...

A new book on these lines and others is Sabotaging the Sicilian, French & Caro-Kann with 2.b3 by Jerzy Konikowski and Marek Soszynski.

Anonymous said...


I played 2. b3 three times.
I lost two of them and the third ended without continuation in an even position.

Tim (Germany)

Unknown said...

if 1. e4 c5 2. b3 e5 then 3. c3!