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 Post subject: Beginner's Sicilian Defense Analysis
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:19 pm 
Here's my analysis of the Sicilian Defense (particularly the Najdorf Variation). All feedback is welcome:

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The Sicilian Defense starts with (1. e4)


Black responds with (1. … c5). This prevents white from playing d5 without losing a center pawn. However, it does not open up space for a bishop to develop, which will ultimately lead to slower development. In general, pushing either the e or d pawn will open up space for a bishop; pushing the c or f pawns does not open up any space for the bishops.


White plays (2. Nf3) trying to develop as quickly as possible taking advantage of black’s weakness.


Now black most frequently plays (2. … d6). This move opens up room for the bishop to develop, gains some center control, and creates good pawn structure. The move also prevents white from further pushing the e pawn. (2. …Nc6) is another viable option, but it usually ends up in the exact same position as the classical variation which starts with d6.


White’s move (3. d4) immediately establishes center control. White is willing to give up a valuable center pawn for a lead in development.


Black is willing to exchange a flank pawn for a center pawn with (3. … cxd4). If black does not exchange pawns, white can capture the c pawn and open up black’s queen for exchange which is not a good position for black.


White recaptures the pawn with (4. Nxd4). The knight was able to develop to an even better square without losing tempo.


Black develops a piece and attacks white’s e pawn with (4. … Nf6). The pawn cannot advance and attack the knight because black’s d pawn controls the e5 square.


White develops a piece and defends the e pawn with (5. Nc3). In this position, black has the option to play one of three common variations: the Najdorf Variation, the Classical Variation, and the Dragon Variation.


Najdorf Variation
The most common variation in this position is the Najdorf Variation. This is defined by the move (5. … a6). This move looks passive considering that it is one of the most popular variations in all of chess, but it happens to be a very strong move since it prevents all three of white’s minor pieces from developing to b5. It also prepares to pawn storm white’s queenside, which is useful because white often wants to castle queenside in the Sicilian Defense. White is faced with three different popular responses to the Najdorf.


Be3
The first is (6. Be3), developing a bishop to a strong, central square without blocking in any pieces.


The move (6. … e6) is solid move to defend from white's substantial lead in development. e5 is another option to chase away the white knight in the center, but this move leaves black with a backward pawn on the d file. However, if black does choose to play e5, black can also squeeze in the move Be6 without losing tempo. Both e4 and e5 are strong options, and the choice is mostly a matter of whether you would prefer better pawn structure or an extra tempo.


Now white will often play (7. f3) to prevent black’s knight from moving to the g4 square, and create good pawn structure and center control. This move opens up white’s kingside, so it also indicates that white will most likely want to castle queenside for more protection.


Now that black can see where white wants to castle, black usually plays (7. … b5), already starting a pawn storm on the queenside. Castling on different sides, this position turns out to be very aggressive and imbalanced. Both sides are focused more on offense than defending their king.


Bg5 – Poisoned Pawn Variation
An even more aggressive option at move 6 is to move the bishop all the way to g5 in order to attack the knight and eventually create a pin on the queen.


(6. … e6) prevents white from doubling black’s pawns and opening up the kingside if white chooses to capture on c6. It also opens up space for the bishop to develop and establishes center control.


(7. f4) is an aggressive move, but it attacks black’s kingside and gives the bishop an outpost. This move seems to lock the bishop in, but it turns out that black will be unable to chase the bishop away. (7. … a6) pushes the bishop back one square but is not able to stop the pin. For this reason, black most likely has stronger moves available.


Playing (7. … Be7) seems a natural move, but Black will usually play (7. … Qb6) which immediately attacks white’s undefended b pawn. As in previous variations, white would love to castle queenside now that white has opened its f file, but black’s attack prevents this.


Here, white will usually choose to concede a pawn for a substantial lead in development. The move (8. Qd2) develops the queen and defends the knight on c3 which will be important after black captures the b pawn.


(8. Qxb2) Black will usually accept the material advantage and hope to maintain it until the endgame. White will make use of its attacking position in the middlegame, hoping to gain a more significant advantage.


Be2
If white does not like to play such an aggressive, imbalanced game, they can also choose to play the move (6. Be2) which turns out to be more conservative.


Again, black is given the choice of e5 or e6. In this position black tends to prefer (6. … e5), but e6 is a strong choice as well.


The most natural square for the knight to retreat is b3, so white usually plays (7. Nb3).


(7. … Be7) develops a piece and opens up space for the king to castle.


(8. 0-0) Here white has a good opportunity to castle kingside, creating a more balanced position.


(8. … 0-0) Black also has the opportunity to castle, and the position here looks very even.


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