Anti-Sicilian Repertoire - 2...e6 and Sidelines
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Welcome to the third part of my Anti-Sicilian database which will mostly cover what to play against the ever-sharp 2...e6 Sicilian and other important sidelines. In the majority of the chapters, I will be advocating the fianchetto of the white bishop to g2, combined with a thrust in the centre d2-d4. I can't always promise an advantage in the end but still, I found the variations to be fresh and in most cases - very entertaining. I hope you will enjoy reading this database as much as I did writing it!
I would like to mention that one of the most important lines of the database 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 doesn't bear an official name. I did hear from several sources that it could be called "King's Indian Attack", however, I think it's not a precise name as this particular setup refers to the d2-d3 and f2-f4 pawn structure, followed by an expansion on the kingside, while in most of the lines I will be advocating for d2-d4. Given the fact that this line is particularly popular among the top players in the Baltic countries and that it was frequently played with both colours by my friend, GM Aloyzas Kveinys (who sadly passed away last year - he was very anxious what I'm going to suggest in this database back then!), I decided to call it as "The Baltic Variation". I hope this database will contribute to its popularity and we will see if the name will stay.
As a final note - the purpose of this database is not to offer everything anti-Sicilian. The main reason why I started to write these databases is that in the main lines of the Najdorf, Sveshnikov or Taimanov/Kan Black is doing really well, with a great history of theoretical studies. My goal was to offer a fresh perspective on how to meet the Sicilian with easy, less explored gameplans which promise White a good game, thus I came up with the name "Anti-Sicilian". However, if I do see a dubious version of the Sicilian like 2...a6 or 2...b6, it's very difficult for me to suggest for White to go for the Anti-Sicilian with the fianchetto of the bishop on g2 if the open version in that particular moment is so much better. I did try to keep the database in the same spirit throughout the chapters, mostly choosing the same setup, but a smart player probably will mix the Anti-Sicilian and open Sicilian choices for greater success. Please judge yourself!
Chapter 1 - Rare Lines
This chapter deals with some very early deviations for Black. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3, I discuss the moves 2...Qa5, 2...Qc7, and 2...b6.
Obviously, such provocative moves fail to equalize. Nevertheless, White should know what he is doing in each case. Let's briefly discuss the drawbacks of these three moves.
2...Qa5 - This is a very rare move with an intention to slow down the standard d2-d4. Since there's no immediate way how White can "punish" Black for this strange move, I suggest to stick to the same strategy as analyzed in the later chapters - fianchetto the bishop on g2 and go for a later d2-d4. The black queen on a5 doesn't really contribute anything significant to Black's position.
2...Qc7 - The same principle as for 2...Qa5 can be applied also for this rare move - White can either continue with the fianchetto of the light-squared bishop on g2 or play an improved version of the Alapin. Many of the lines after the fianchetto will be transpositional or at least very similar to the ones covered in later chapters thus I won't analyze them in great depth. Instead, I will provide a few lines which might be critical for this particular setup.
2...b6 - This continuation has some modest popularity among people who avoid the main lines of the Sicilian but objectively it's dubious and too slow. Black is not challenging the centre or developing a piece thus he immediately lags behind in development.
Chapter 2 - 2...a6
This odd move has an interesting background - the potential follow-up 3.d4, leading to an open Sicilian, supposedly is not good. Obviously, that's not what I'm going to suggest to you! Sometimes we will switch to open Sicilian but only when we have really great prospects. In this case, I stick to 3.g3. This fianchetto of the bishop will be the main continuation in the majority of the chapters of this database. This will also help you to easier remember the lines which from time to time will be transpositional to other chapters.
Black's main continuation is 3...b5 (I also deal with 3...Nc6 and 3...d6). At this point, my suggestion is 4.d4!
This is a very rare move but according to my analysis, I think it's the strongest and the most accurate continuation. It seems that White keeps the advantage in all the lines.
Chapter 3 - 2...g6
Behold - the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon! Black intends to play some version of the Dragon but by delaying ...Nc6 and ...d6. If Black would play 2...Nc6, we can play the Rossolimo with 3.Bb5! If Black would play 2...d6, I advocate 3.Bb5+ and the Moscow Variation. Thus the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon is something we need to address. Generally, there are two very popular setups - either White treats this position as some sort of a great version of the Sicilian Alapin and goes for c2-c3 and d2-d4, or plays the Open Sicilian but setups the Maroczy Bind. Since I'm a big fan of the latter and mostly relied on it in the first part of my Anti-Najdorf approach, that's what I'm going to suggest to you.
I suggest starting with 3.c4. You can also opt for 3.d4 but in this case, you need to reckon with the Classical Dragon which arises after 3...cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6.
The first important crossroads is being reached after 3...Bg7 4.d4
In this position, Black usually enters the Maroczy Bind by playing 4...cxd4. I will provide detailed explanations as well as in-depth analysis related to this line. Nevertheless, Black has reasonable alternatives on move 4. In this chapter, I deal with 4...d6, 4...Qb6, 4...Nc6, and 4...Qa5!? Despite being relatively rare, all these continuations can be dangerous if White is not prepared. With a precise play, however, White obtains an advantage in all the lines.
Chapter 4 - 2...Nf6
This used to be quite a rare move but thanks to a game of Carlsen against Grandelius back in 2016 it sparked new interest. However, in high-level GM games, it is more frequently used in faster time controls and there are few GMs who dare to play it in a classical game. It's interesting but still a somewhat dubious continuation as White has a few good continuations to choose from.
At this point, my recommendation would be 3.e5 Nd5 4.g3
And again the same approach! The general idea is to challenge the position of the black knight on d5 with the bishop on g2 by executing the d2-d4 push. You can treat the white bishop on g2 as important as it is in the Catalan or in the Ruy Lopez - in most of the lines his colleague on c8 will be inferior so Black would be very happy to trade them. Many lines in this chapter are transpositional to other chapters.
Chapter 5 - Baltic Variation - Rare 3rd Moves
As pointed out in the introduction, the Baltic Variation arises after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3.
If Black doesn't want to pursue one of the main lines of this database, he has several less explored continuations at his disposal. None of them gives Black an equal game so this choice shouldn't be of great concern for White. In this chapter, I examine the rare moves 3...a6, 3...g6, and 3...b6. The other moves are not independent and will eventually transpose to the next chapters. Naturally enough, none of the rare moves manages to equalize. Of course, some precision is required from White.
Chapter 6 - Baltic Variation - 3...Nf6
Black plays in the spirit of the Alapin Variation, where 2.c3 or 3.c3 is met by Nf6. However, here White will find the inclusion of 3.g3 to be more useful. My line goes 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bg2
Comparing with the Alapin, White didn't even need to go c2-c3 and he can proceed with the immediate d2-d4, and the light-squared bishop is much better positioned on g2. Further analysis proves that Black cannot easily neutralize White's pressure.
Chapter 7 - Baltic Variation - 3...d5
This is a very direct way to counter White's approach and fight for the centre. Although very tempting, it is not necessarily the best move for Black. The first important position arises after 4.exd5 exd5 5.d4
Let us stop here for a moment. As far as I treat this position, for Black, it's going to be very difficult to avoid a game with an isolated pawn on d5. If he will try to release the tension in the centre by playing c5-c4, this will give White a very nice outpost on e5 for his knight and possibilities to break Black's pawn structure with a timely b2-b3, then axb3 and possibly c2-c4, winning the battle for the centre. Black would love to recapture the pawn on c5 in one go - Bf8xc5 - this is the reason why you should delay the capture on c5 until the moment when Black will move his bishop from f8, thus winning an important tempo. Comparing this position to a typical French defence structure (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5), White's king is going to feel more secure on the kingside as Black will lack the typical counterplay of Bg4, Bd6-c7, Qd6 and target h2. My further analysis shows that White has every chance to keep at least slight pressure in this line.
Chapters 8 - 9 - Baltic Variation - 3...Nc6 4.Bg2 Nf6
Finally, we've come to the most popular move order - Black develops both of his knights first and wants to see what exactly White has in his mind. I have decided to offer you a choice - there are two very good continuations you can choose from, both promise White a good game, although not always with an advantage. In this Chapter, I will cover everything related to 5.Nc3 - if you find it good enough, you can even skip Chapter 9 which will concentrate on 5.Qe2. My goal was to offer to you a few choices as rarely everyone has the same taste.
In these final two chapters, I will provide you with fresh and relatively untested ideas for White. Of course, in some positions, it will be difficult to claim an advantage. Nevertheless, White keeps good practical chances with almost no risk involved.
In this section, you will find 18 interactive test positions. I should point out that the tests are mainly focused on strategical ideas. In this way, the exercises will allow you to further improve your understanding of the theory.
Below, you can try to solve five of the tests.