Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beginner introduction to the Sicilian?

I've started playing around with the Sicilian. I know nothing about it, but I decided to give it a go. Why? Well, it is apparently really good. My personal reason is that it seems I always want to play ...c5 anyway, why not put it in right away and make white decide how to handle it and reveal his intentions early?

So, given that I know nothing about this opening, I'm looking for a beginner-level introduction to the main lines, something that is heavy on plans and general ideas, not too heavy on variation trees, nothing too specific (e.g., not a book on the hyper-accelerated dragon).

Any recommendations?


Blogger chessx said...

When i tried the sicilian i got the Everymans book starting with the Sicilian by J. Emms.
I found this a good introduction book into the main lines of the opening.
Nothing to heavy just enough to get you going.
Good luck,it seems everyone and his dog knows the sicilian and its secrets.
Thats why i gave it up.

2/16/2010 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessx one advantage of totally sucking is that I don't have to worry much about people at my level knowing what the hell is going on.

2/16/2010 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

I've heard that J.Emms book is good-- it's in a 2nd edition now.

I saw this Youtube vid by a 2200 fide Australian player, which seems quite well-done .

BTW, i'm almost finished devouring Art of Attack-- page by page, line by line. Definitely i got the better end of that deal. :)

2/16/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar yes I don't even remember what we traded. Perhaps some CDs from you on the center counter?

2/16/2010 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Two votes for Emms' book that's cool. I loved his book play the open games as black.

2/16/2010 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

At the risk of being a typecast as a contrarian I am 0-3 with books by Emms!

I read through his Discovering Chess Openings and was underwhelmed. I tried his Attacking with 1. e4 and found that a lot of his lines are losers for White by percentage! And then I didn't like the format of his Open Games as Black, especially compared to the Marin book Beating the Open Games. But maybe the Sicilian book is better.

But I am a BONAFIDE patzer so what do I know??

2/16/2010 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

Oh and since I don't want to be the guy who doesn't offer an alternative, what about Winning With the Sicilian by Taimanov? He loves the Sicilian, and if I remember correctly you were big on the "Winning with..." series, correct? I have it and would be willing to give it away since I don't plan on playing the Sicilian anytime in the foreseeable future.

I don't know if it is mainlines that he covers but he obviously covers his own system, the Paulsen, the Rauzer and the Boleslavsky. He also devotes a small chapter to basic principles (sort of) of the Sicilian. I did play through a few of the games and I remember really digging his explanations. So much so that I instantly purchased his own self-annotated "best games" collection!

2/16/2010 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Stig said...

Kopec: Mastering the Sicilian is a great basic level introduction to all the main (open) Sicilians and the typical plans for each. Instructive games with summaries of the plans in-between. Taimanov's book is good too, but it's really a collection of his best games and limited to the Sicilians he has played.

The Sicilian is such a tactical opening that something on the typical sacrifices is useful. Levy: Sacrifices in the Sicilian (probably out of print) and LeMoir: Essential Chess Sacrifices come to mind. I think New in Chess have a Sicilian book in their "Tactics in the xyz" series too.

2/16/2010 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I also vote for the Emms Starting Out book. It's good for, well, starting out.

2/16/2010 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tommyg and stig great suggestions thanks I'm writing all this down. indeed I typically find the 'winning with the...' books really helpful and plan-focused.

2/17/2010 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger BrigadierSlog said...

I'll always reply 2.c3 to 1...c5. As White I dont like letting someone make all their own opening choices.

And as Black I always reply 1.e4 e5 2.nc3 with 2...nc6 again for the same reason.

2/17/2010 12:58:00 AM  
Blogger CMoB said...

You should definitely get a copy of the Emms book Starting Out: The Sicilian. Preferably the 2nd edition. It is also available as an ebook to read with a chessbase program. Makes going through the games a lot easier. I am a huge fan of the format.

Check for more reviews of the book here. All positive! You can't go wrong.

2/17/2010 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Phaedrus said...


I would recommend this one:

2/17/2010 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

First you have to decide on which variation you want tp play. Taimanov, Svesnikov, Kalashnikov, Kan, Pin, Hedgehog, Najdorf, O'Kelly, Scheveningen, Dragon or?

2/17/2010 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

or Classical, Pelikan, Four knights, Bird or Gaw Paw variation?

2/17/2010 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo the point is I want an overview that will give basic ideas, and cover all those variations a little to give a flavor so I can decide what I like.

So far, with zero knowledge, I have typically been aiming for:
e6 followed by d5

It seems suboptimal.

2/17/2010 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

BDK, usually that opening is called the French and is played in a different order: e6, d5, c5, Nc6.


2/17/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Pearson said...

A clarification--the Taimanov book is excellent but it's not part of the "Winning With..." series. It's not really quite what you're looking for as you describe it but it is a wonderful book. I don't have the Emms Starting Out book everyone is referencing but since you like the e6 variations (as do I) then Burgess The Taimanov Sicilian is a good start and has lots of variations and explanation, but of course it only covers 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 (and transpositions, which are endemic to these lines). We at below master level probably see at least 50% 2. c3, d4, Nc3 or other.

Nobody said it was only going to be semi-tough.

2/17/2010 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...


NOOOO. I must immediately give up that plan then. Or take to the dark side.

Note also I'm not at all wedded to that variation I was just throwin' it out there.

2/17/2010 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger tanch said...

Hi all,

I have Emms' Starting Out Sicilian as well. It's a very good intro book and gives you an idea (move order!) of the different flavours of the Sicilian.

I recommend it.

If you play 1.e4 as White like me, you're also likely to encounter the Sicilian and typical sacrifices in the Sicilian. LeMoir's book is nice but there's a better one IMHO. 7 ways to smash the Sicilian - all about the thematic sacrifices one sees in the Sicilian as White.

It's a good book that if you're Black of what to watch out for.

The Sicilian Defence is a very dynamic defence where depending on your chosen variation can lead to wild complications (like the Poulagevsky variation of the Najdorf) or more positional waters like the Kan.

One thing the Sicilian has as an advantage is that endgames tend to favour it. Gameplay tends to be more complex with ample opportunities for both sides.

I've been playing the Classical Sicilian for a while now.

2/17/2010 05:00:00 PM  
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2/17/2010 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...


The Taimanov book I am discussing is titled "Winning With the Sicilian", and is in definitely a part of the "Winning With..." series.

Whether it is expansive enough remains to be seen but it is in that series and had great explanations of planning.

And BDK I am still willing to part with it for free as I don't plan on playing the Sicilian anytime soon...

And I kind of miss playing the French! :(

2/17/2010 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Pearson said...

Tommyg--Sorry for any confusion, I thought the "Winning With" books in question were a lot newer, the one I have is maybe 20 years old...but the description you gave sounds like the same book. "Winning With" is a favorite title for chess books, there are very few in the "Losing With" series. :)

2/17/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

Hey Wahrheit!

No worries! It IS hard to keep up with all the 'Winning with..", "Play the..." types of titles!

I am going to write a few books of my own opening adventures and call them "Sucking with..." as in:

"Sucking with the Bishop's Opening" a failed repertoire as played by Tommyg! :)

2/17/2010 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

I can't believe you gave up on the Caro-Kann tha easily. PLay c6! Make white really show you his hand!

2/17/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

BP: nothing against the Caro, it is solid to be sure. :)

2/17/2010 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger ChargingKing said...

If I could make a suggestion, Richard Palliser's "Fighting the anti-sicilians" is a great book for someone new to the sicilian. Especially if you are playing players below master you will get lots of games that aren't open sicilians.This book has interesting and new lines to look at.

2/18/2010 01:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Liquid Egg Product said...

The only thing I know about Sicilians is to watch out for these guys: http://www.bestofsicily.com/mafia.htm

2/19/2010 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Emms book as so many others have endorsed. However, one caveat: I recommend sticking with one kind of Sicilian until you really get a feel for it. Personally I recommend the Accelerated Dragon b/c it's got a nice flexible balance between tactical and positional play, and you won't have to put up with white's vicious kingside pawnstorms as you might in the Dragon proper, the Najdorf and other variations. If you do in fact give the Accelerated a try and you find you like it, get Greet's "Starting Out" book on it. You'll learn all kinds of ways to punish white early in the opening if they try to play against the Accelerated as if it were the regular Dragon.

2/19/2010 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently put up a map of the Sicilian Labyrinth on my blog at http://soapstonesstudio.blogspot.com/2010/02/labyrinth.html. The Sicilian is hellaciously complicated. I second the suggestion of the Accelerated Dragon as the best Sicilian since you have to know the formation anyway for Closed and Grand Prix Sicilians. I gave it up the Sicilian when the little kids kept slaying my dragon. My own take on it is that you should give up the Sicilian and play the 2...Nf6 Scandinavian which first came to me from IM Bill Paschall on chesslecture.com. I've used it with nice games at the Expert level. Hardly any one knows it. If you're seriously interested, I could even send you my preparation.

2/22/2010 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger wang said...

Funny I thought I reviewed this on my blog but apparently I haven't. I would say that Starting Out: The Sicilian is the best bet if you're...well starting out in the Sicilian. The second edition is fantastic.

Guess I should take a few minutes and put up a proper review on my blog...

2/22/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

As someone that has barely played the Sicilian as black,but meets it as white:

1. I have Kopec and it's good for the "basic ideas". In particular, his examples of the "queenside-kinside sweep" stick in my mind.

2. Briefly explore the mainest of main lines and consider the pawn structures: what feels good? For me, Scheveningen structures via the Najdorf move order feel good, which suggests a book like "Play the Najdorf: Scheveningen Style" by Emms

3. Try the "what move do I like" approach: go through the main white responses and at each juncture decide what move you like the best.

I know as White I like to play against "Boleslavsky hole" type structures: Black pawns on d6 and e5 vs. a d4 pawn, with the d6 backwards on a half-open file. Not my cup of tea to defend as Black.

2/23/2010 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered video lectures, such as chesslecture.com (pay site), DVDs from chessbase,
or chess.com, youtube, etc.


2/23/2010 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Grandpatzer: Great suggestions, number two especially is key that's essentially what I'm doing. For instance, I know I don't like the accelerated dragon because of The Bind. So far from reading Emms I like most of the main lines, am just playing around with them to see how they feel.

I'm also doing number three, basically playing moves that feel natural, but then when they start to feel "wrong" then I look up the theory to see how they can help, and if they look natural, given the problems I encountered in practice. For instance, ..c5 followed by ...d6 is just a nice natural start, but I would never consider playing ...d6 before realizing it's a nice way to stop e5 so my Knight can go to f6.

Bill: Good idea. I think I have all those videos, which I may watch at some point. I tend to prefer books so I can set up the positions and read without a computer.

Soapstone: Great post you link to thanks for sharing it.

I don't like the marozcy bind type positions, so the accelerated dragon is not for me. I like the labyrinthine metropolis that is the Sicilian. Something cool that there is something for everyone. I can be boring and positional, or crazy and tactical.

I played the Nf6 scandy for a while, it was fun, but not my cup of tea. I prefer a bit more variety in my games.

People have strong opinions on the opening: a thread asking for intro to the Sicilian and someone says to play the Scandy! :) lol

But folks should check out soapstone's post, it is really good.

2/24/2010 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is definitely not beginner stuff, but you should look for it.

Grandmaster Repertoire 6 - The Sicilian Defense by GM Lubomir Ftacnik. From Quality Chess, tentative publish date April 2010.



3/02/2010 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Bill: yes, I am already tempted to play the Najdorf anyway (based on the beginner stuff I have).

3/02/2010 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Roman said...

I would recommend Dynamics of Chess Strategy - it has several sections that focus on ideas for White against different variations of the Sicilian - Sveshnikov and Scheveningen in particular: http://www.amazon.com/Dynamics-Chess-Strategy-Vlastimil-Jansa/dp/0713486082 . I am sure it is helpful for understanding Black's ideas too.

3/07/2010 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Hein said...

To learn the sicilian without be blown away I suggest the O'Kelly and the Kan.

3/11/2010 05:56:00 AM  

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