Anti - Sicilian - 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4
In his first opening database for Modern Chess, the Indian GM Sundar Shyam suggests a very interesting antidote to the Sicilian. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4, he goes for 4.Qxd4!?
Of course, at first sight, this move seems a little bit strange. White starts playing with the queen as early as move 4. It turns out, however, that Black doesn't have an efficient way to make use of this concession. Moreover, with his last move, White creates the positional threat of c2-c4, obtaining the so-called Maroczy Bind or the Hedgehog (if Black plays e7-e6 instead of g7-g6). Black has many moves in this position but the main one is 4...Nc6. The author also covers the moves 4...e5, 4...Bd7, 4...a6, and 4...Nf6.
After 4...Nc6, his main suggestion is 5.Qe3.
This move introduces a fresh concept and there is no need to memorise long forced sequences. Moreover, this variation will be even more helpful in shorter time controls due to the simplicity of the arising positions. White's setup remains more or less the same in all the lines. The next few moves will be c2-c4, Be2, 0-0, Nc3 and so on.
It's more important for White to understand the middlegame plans and nuances than the opening theory since not many games have been played in this line.
Also, at the end of the database, GM Shyam provides a backup repertoire based on 5.Bb5. It is important to mention that even in this line White will follow with c2-c4, thus going for the Maroczy Bind or the Hedgehog. This detail makes the repertoire extremely practical - you have two different weapons based on the same pawn structures.
The database includes 3 sections - Pawn Structures, Theoretical Section, Model Games and Test Section.
As we have already mentioned, this repertoire is based exclusively on two pawn structures - Maroczy Bind and Hedgehog. That's the reason why the Pawn Structures section is dedicated to these two structures.
Each pawn structure is covered in the following way:
- Explanation of the general ideas
- Practical examples
The Maroczy Bind
This is the structure we would face often in the 4.Qd4 Sicilian. The only difference compared to the classical Maroczy Bind is that our queen will be mostly situated on e3 instead of d1 or d2. In fact, this difference helps us as we can play b2-b3 with the idea of developing the bishop to b2 at one go.
Explanation of the general ideas
Typical ideas in this structure are:
1. White should play Rb1 followed by b2-b3 and Bb2 to challenge the Black's g7-bishop
2. White should play Nd5 allowing Black's knight on f6 to take on d5. In this case, we recapture with the e-pawn if Black's pawn stands on b7 and we recapture with the c-pawn if Black's b-pawn is on b6 or b5 so that weak c6-square can be easily exploited.
3. Black generally plays ...Nf6-d7-c5 in order to pressurize the e4-pawn and also to play ...f7-f5 at the appropriate moment. Black also plays ...a7-a5 in order to stop White from kicking the c5-knight back by means of b2-b4. By doing so, he invariably weakens the b5-square.
4. Black's main counterplay is mainly based on the breaks ...f7-f5 and ...b7-b5. The latter is particularly dangerous and White should prevent it.
In this section, you will find 6 practical examples related to this structure. Here is one of them.
Explanation of the general ideas
This is another set up that could possibly arise from this variation. Black's main idea is to create counterplay by opening up the position by playing either ...b7-b5 or ...d7-d5.
On the other hand, White is generally happy to trade a few minor pieces so that Black's pawn breaks will be ineffective. White generally doubles the rooks on the d-file to exert more pressure on the d6 pawn. White should play a2-a4 to stop Black from playing ...b7-b5 only when it is absolutely necessary as otherwise, White's b3 pawn would become a target.
White should improve his position to the maximum to gradually outplay Black.
GM Sundar illustrates these ideas with 3 practical examples. Below, you can find one of them.
Chapter 1 - 4...Nc6 5.Qe3 Nf6 6.Be2 Bg4
With his last move, Black is planning to take control of the squares d4 and e5, after exchanging the f3-knight. This idea is getting even more effective after White's prior c2-c4. Of course, Black has alternatives to 6...Bg4 which transpose to variations that are dealt with in the other chapters.
In this position, we should follow with the natural 7.0-0 when Black faces an important choice - he should decide between setups with ...e7-e6 and ...g7-g6. In both cases, White's play follows with natural moves like Rd1, c2-c4, and Nc3. It turns out that the ideas with ...Bxf3 are not very challenging since Black couldn't effectively use the dark squares in the centre.
Chapter 2 - 4...Nc6 5.Qe3 Nf6 6.Be2 e6
By playing 6...e6, Black indicates his intention to play the Hedgehog. The play follows with 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 0-0 9.Rd1
It is important to point out that White usually plays Rd1 before proceeding with the development of his queenside. In this way, he creates opposition along the d-file and fights against the ...d6-d5 break. Later on, White can is very flexible in terms of queenside development. For sure, his next moves will be Nc3 followed by b2-b3. Depending on Black's reaction, the c1-bishop is being developed via b2 or a3. In some cases, the bishop remains on c1 in order to make possible the manoeuvre Rb1-b2-d2. The arising positions are complex but White's play remains somewhat easier.
Chapter 3 - 4...Nc6 5.Qe3 g6 - Introduction
With his last move, Black invites the Maroczy Bind structure. Of course, White's next move is 6.c4. The main position of the chapter arises after 6...Bg7 7.Nc3.
We have a typical Maroczy Bind structure with a queen on e3. The ideas of both sides have been explained in the Pawn Structures section. At this point, Black's main move is by far 7...Nf6. This move is dealt with in the next chapter. In this chapter, the author examines the alternatives - 7...Qb6 and 7...Nh6!N. The latter option is particularly challenging. Even in this case, however, White's play remains easier.
Chapter 4 - 4...Nc6 5.Qe3 g6 6.c4 Bg7 7.Nc3 Nf6
This is Black's normal continuation. Now we have a typical Maroczy Bind. The important position arises after 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0
At this point, Black faces a choice. GM Shyam deals with 4 different continuations - 9...Be6, 9...Bd7, 9...Ng4, and 9...Bg4. Even though the author cannot promise an advantage for White, he shows how to create practical problems for Black. White enjoys a risk-free position without having to learn concrete lines.
Chapter 5 - 4.Qxd4 - Black's Alternatives on Move 4
In this Chapter, GM Shyam examines all the alternatives to 4...Nc6.
By far the most popular one of them is 4...a6 preventing Bb5. Nevertheless, in our setup with c4, Be2, and Be3, very often ...a7-a6 is just a waste of time.
Other options for Black are 4...Nd7, 4...Nf6, 4...e5 and 4...Bd7.
All those moves are sensible but objectively weaker than the main lines (4...Nc6 and 4...a6) and White achieves a comfortable edge against each one of them.
Chapter 6 - 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.dxc5!?
The purpose of Black's move order is to avoid 4.Qxd4 variation which is no longer possible if White continues with the "normal" 4.Nc3. The other line that Black avoids is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.f3.
The only drawback of the chosen move order is that White can play 4.dxc5 and reach an unbalanced and not so well explored position. The main line follows 4...Nxe4 5.cxd6 Nc6 and here GM Shyam suggests the ambitious 6.Be3!?
This developing move has several purposes. Besides being useful on e3 and defending the f2 pawn, White keeps his option of castling queenside.
The arising positions are almost unexplored with just several games in the database. GM Shyam suggests many new interesting ideas and concepts for White.
Chapter 7 - 4...Nc6 5.Bb5 - Sidelines for Black
As pointed out in the introduction, GM Shyam provides a backup repertoire based on 5.Bb5. Playing it will not be particularly challenging since we are going to obtain the same pawn structures.
Black's main reply 5...Bd7 is analyzed in the next chapter. In this one, you will find all alternatives for Black on move 5 as 5...a6, 5...Qd7, 5...Qa5, 5...Bg4, 5...Nf6. All those moves are playable but the tournament practice and the author's analysis prove that Black can't equalize.
Chapter 8 - 4...Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7
In this position, White has two different concepts.
The one is to play for quick development starting with 6.Bxc6 followed by Nc3, Bg5, 0-0-0, Rhe1 trying to put pressure in the centre. In practice, Black fights successfully against this plan.
GM Shyam chooses a different way of handling this position. The main line continues 6.Qd3 Nf6 7.c4 g6 8.Nc3 Bg7 9.0-0 0-0 10.h3
This is the main tabiya in this variation. The Indian GM analyzes in depth this position but also explains very well the main ideas. In Marozcy Bind White's light-squared bishop is sometimes his worst piece, so we don't mind to exchange it in an appropriate moment. Armed with the knowledge from the previous part of the database the reader should feel very comfortable in this line.
In this section, the author provides 4 model games which are designed to illustrate the thematic theoretical and positional ideas. Below, you can find one of them.
The database ends with 10 interactive test positions.