Play the Sicilian Four Knights
In this database, IM Robert Ris builds a complete repertoire for Black based on the Sicilian Four Knights. The starting position of this variation arises after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6
In this line, Black immediately puts pressure on the central squares e4 and d4. Additionally, he is planning to increase the pressure by playing ...Bb4 on the next move. This line is considered to be a very practical choice. Since Black is going for an active play at the very beginning, White's choice is limited. As a rule of thumb, by playing solid and natural moves, White does not get anything in this line.
For a long period of time, the Sicilian Four Knights was considered to be slightly dubious. Nevertheless, the recent top-level and correspondence practice has proven otherwise. According to the analysis of IM Ris, currently, this variation is in a very good theoretical shape.
Furthermore, we can say that this is one of the easiest to learn variations in the Sicilian. In this line, usually, you do not get the pawn structures which are typical for almost all popular Sicilian lines (Najdorf, Scheveningen, Sveshnikov, Rauzer, Dragon, Paulsen, Kan, etc.) That's why you do not need prior experience in the Sicilian, in order to start playing successfully the Sicilian Four Knights.
The database consists of 10 theoretical chapters and 15 interactive test positions.
Now, let's take a brief look at the different chapters.
Chapter 1 - Rare 6th Moves for White
As we have already pointed out, on the diagram, we have the starting position of the variation. White's main moves are by far 6.Ndb5 and 6.Nxc6. These moves are dealt with in the next chapters. The current chapter deals with White's minor alternatives on move 6. IM Ris examines the moves 6.Bg5, 6.f3, 6.Bf4, and 6.g3. In his analysis, the author proves that none of these moves manages to create problems for Black.
Chapter 2 - 6.Be3
This move is typical for many Sicilian lines but does not work well here. Black can just increase the pressure on the centre by playing 6...Bb4. The critical position of the chapter is being reached after 7.Bd3 d5 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.e5
White is planning to create an activity on the kingside, mainly by means of Qg4. On the other hand, Black's strong centre gives him enough resources to maintain the balance and even to fight for the initiative. At this point, Ris analyzes two options - 9...d4 and 9...Nd7. According to the annotations to the current chapter, Black is doing rather well in both cases.
Chapter 3 - 6.Be2
With his last move, White invites Black to enter the Scheveningen by means of 6...d6. Black, however, has more active option at his disposal - 6...Bb4. The critical position arises after 7.0-0 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nxe4
The absence of Black's dark-squared bishop certainly gives White some compensation for the pawn, since the black king is still in the centre. White has a couple of interesting options, though objectively speaking Black should be able to neutralize the initiative with correct play.
Chapter 4 - 6.a3
White is ready to give up a tempo just to stop the annoying move ...Bb4 and accepts a possible transposition to a Scheveningen setup, where the move a2-a3 is often quite useful.
At this point, the author considers 6...Be7 to be the most flexible move. We are not touching the d-pawn too early as in various lines Black aims to play ...d7-d5 in one go. After 6...Be7, White has a wide choice of moves. The author deals with 7.Be3, 7.Be2, 7.f4, 7.Bf4, and 7.Nxc6. Even though some of the lines are quite tricky, with a precise play, Black has nothing to worry about.
Chapter 5 - 6.Ndb5
Together with 6.Nxc6, this is one of the two main lines in Sicilian Four Knights. White is trying to make use of the weak d6-square. Black faces a choice here. The line 6...d6 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5 transposes to the Sveshnikov Variation. Another very popular approach is 6...Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3 8.Nxc3 d5 9.exd5 exd5 10.Bd3 when White usually enjoys a slight but risk-free advantage.
The suggestion of Ris is 6...Bc5
This is only the third popular continuation, but it fits well with the dynamical character of other variations in this opening repertoire.
White has two main options in this position - 7.Nd6+ and 7.Bf4 (the dubious 7.Be3?! is also dealt with) The arising positions tend to be very concrete and both sides need to play precisely. In his annotations to the current chapter, IM Ris proves that Black solves his problems in all the lines.
Chapter 6 - 6.Nxc6 - Introduction
In this chapter, the author introduces the theoretically most challenging line. The first important crossroads arises after 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4
Black experiences obvious structural problems - weak d6-square, a backward pawn on d7 and temporarily passive light-squared bishop. On the other hand, the e5-pawn might become a weakness in some positions. Moreover, Black can quickly develop his pieces.
In this position, Black's main move is 8...Qc7, thus provoking f2-f4. As you will see, the weakness of the diagonal a7-g1 is Black's main source of counterplay. In Chapter 6, however, IM Ris explains what would happen if Black refrains from 8...Qc7. This chapter is important since you will learn what White wants to achieve in this line and what we should avoid.
Chapter 7 - 8...Qc7 9.f4 Qb6
The move 9...Qb6 is the point of Black's play as he intends to take advantage of the dark-squares. In this position, White's main move is by far 10.c4. In this chapter, the author deals with the continuations 10.a3 and 10.Bd3. These moves fail to create problems for Black. Black usually tries to prepare ...f7-f5 with the idea to provoke exf6, thus eliminating White's space advantage.
Chapter 8 - 10.c4 Bb4+ 11.Ke2 f5 12.Nf2
This knight retreat is statistically the most popular option (recently 12.exf6 is more popular at the top-level). White keeps his space advantage in the centre but gives Black an important tempo which can be used for the purposes of the development.
This position offers a wide range of opportunities for both sides. As the author shows in his analysis, both sides have different options on every move. The main line goes 12...Ba6 13.Kf3 Ne7 14.Be3 Bc5 15.Bxc5 Qxc5
We have reached a very important theoretical position. The position is balanced. White has a better pawn structure but his king is unsafe. At this point, Ris examines two options - 16.Rc1 and the critical 16.Qd6!. The author provides an in-depth analysis of this position and proves that Black can solve all the problems.
Chapter 9 - 12.exf6 - Introduction
As we have already pointed out, nowadays this is the most topical continuation. White gives his space advantage for the sake of the initiative. The most important position of the variation arises after 12...Nxf6 13.Be3 Qd8 14.Nd6+ Bxd6 15.Qxd6 Bb7
In this position, White has a very wide choice. He has two bishops and better pawn structure but the king's position is rather unsafe. Furthermore, White is underdeveloped. At the same time, Black is planning to create a powerful piece play. His typical ideas are ...c6-c5, ...Ne4, and ...Qh4.
White's main move in this position is 16.Rd1. This move is examined in the last chapter of the database. In this chapter, IM Ris deals with 5 other continuations - 16.Rg1, 16.g3?, 16.Kd3?!, 16.g4, and 16.Kd1.
The author analyzes this position in great detail. He provides original analysis and fresh ideas. Since the position is really important, in the annotations of Ris, you will find many correspondence and top-level games. The verdict is that Black is doing OK in all the lines.
Chapter 10 - 16.Rd1
This is the most critical continuation. White is putting strong pressure on the d-file. In this chapter, the author explains why the immediate 16...c5 is not the strongest move. Instead, he suggests 16...Rc8! Black is preparing the advance ...c6-c5 but White will no longer be able to take with the queen. White has many options in this position and Ris covers them all. He covers this line in great detail and proves equality for Black. After reading this final chapter, you will be ready to face any opposition in the Sicilian Four Knights.
In this section, you will find 15 interactive test positions. Below, you can take a look at five of them.