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Chess Tactics: All You Need to Know About the Sicilian Defence

Most beginner chess players are unfamiliar with openings and defences unless they have proper guidance. If the starting of the game is played with a strong opening, it limits the movement of your opponent and allows you to come up with new chess strategies and tactics. A player only learns the importance of knowing these openings when he gets the first-hand experience. The value of having a good opening game cannot be emphasized in words, a player learns it after a few wins and loses.

Some common chess openings that a chess enthusiast must know about are Ruy Lopez, Italian game, Sicilian Defense, French Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, Pirc Defense and even the Queen’s gambit. As of now, we shall only focus on the Sicilian Defence. It is one of the most commonly played openings from black’s side. There are also many interesting variations in this opening. The origins of this opening have been credited to Giulio Cesare Polerio and Italian chess theoretician and player who used this in 1594. As the name suggests, it comes from the city of Sicily, Italy. Statistics say that 17% of games played by Grandmaster and 25% of games from chess databases begin with the Sicilian defence. Which means, almost a quarter of chess games actively use this opening.

What is Sicilian Defense?

This form of defence can be best described as a huge collection of variations  that start with 1.e4 c5. If you’ve played enough chess, you know that the most popular opening for white is e4, it attacks the centre and stops light-squared bishop and queen from developing. In that regard, c5 doesn’t develop any pieces and only gives control of one centre square which is odd. Now keep in mind that black’s strategy is not centre control. Since the Sicilian is an asymmetrical opening, it opens and develops aggressively at the queen’s side to counterplay white’s kingside gameplay. Even though it is called a ‘defence’, it is an aggressive and intimidating opening with many variations. Precisely why you should learn about common openings and their variations, you can test these out when you play chess online.

After the opening of Sicilian is played, black has four options and they are:

1) The Najdorf

This variation was used by legendary players like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. It is commonly referred to as the “Rolls-Royce of opening”, and currently stands as one of the most popularly used variations in Sicilian Defense. It creates the best chess strategy by placing a pawn on a6. This diffuses many cold moves on white’s end but also prepares an attack on the queen’s side while pinning other pieces on the board.

2) The Dragon

The pieces align in a formation that resembles the constellation Draco, which is a Dragon. It is considered as a sharp opening, where the main idea is to move the g-pawn to g6. This lets the Bishop develop and it exerts pressure on the queenside of the board. Magnus Carlsen plays a more deadly form of this move known as Accelerated Dragon, with pressure on e4. You can mimic the current world champion’s chess techniques by observing his gameplay online. 

3) The Classical

In this variation, black focuses on developing their kingside bishop to support the Knights. This is unlike the other variation and it often leads to more meandering and dragged fights for positional play than other types of defences.

4) The Scheveningen

Although Garry Kasparov mostly played Najdorf, he was known to play the Scheveningen defence occasionally. This is a lesser-known variation of Sicilian Defense, where e6 and d6 create defend black as a pawn duo. White can counterplay by using Keres Attack or English Attack, these are both sharp forms of game played on the kingside.

5) Anti Sicilian

If you’re playing as white, you can play variations like Closed Sicilian, The Rossolimo Variation, The Alpin Variation, The smith-Morra Gambit in response to black’s aggressive opening.

Final thoughts

The Sicilian defence is used by players of all calibres, from club players to grandmasters and world champions. It is a strong response to the king’s pawn game. If you use this, you lay a strong foundation for your game. If you weren’t aware of this technique or still don’t know how to use it, practice by playing a chess game on the MPL app to learn it.

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