In part 3 I presented a list of 25 winning ideas for Black in the Deep Sicilian structure. I sub-divided them into four main categories, of which two where static and two dynamic in nature.
Long-term versus short-term advantage
A quick glimpse on these 25 winning ideas reveals that the majority of Black’s advantages is located in the long-term area. Conversely, White’s advantages in space and development result in an initial initiative and attacking chances. Even though White’s assets also contains long-term elements, they are much more dynamic and short-term. In other words: Often, White has the right to strike first. That might sound a bit scary, as this first assault could already end the game before Black has the opportunity to put his own assets to good use. Well, that’s exactly the deal. Sometimes Black has to suffer a bit and defend before he can reap the rewards. He who cannot bear that pressure, should rather choose another opening. The Sicilian Defense is not for the faint of heart.
The trend is your friend
Every seasoned Sicilian knows, that defending pays. First of all, it is not always rocket science. You have to study some theory, learn the typical patterns and get some practice, maybe by playing online games. Then, defending is much easier with the knowledge and conviction that you already have something substantial in your hands, which might later have a tangible impact on the position. The list of the 25 winning ideas is full of examples. It could be the bishop pair (“Who owns the bishops owns the future.”), the central majority, less pawn weaknesses or the better pawn shield in front of your king.
With such static assets on your side you always have a constructive plan. It is simply about unfolding your potential. When one player has more potential (long-term assets), the other player is on a downward slope. While that player might just be able to shift his pieces around, the other is able to slowly improve his position. With every move he gets stronger, while the other gets weaker. The only defense against such a down trend is to do something drastic and throw a hammer into the works, such as a speculative sacrifice. Of course, this often doesn’t change the objective evaluation, but still has the benefit of posing a practical problem.
The white player between Scylla and Charybdis
White’s dilemma in the Deep Sicilian
Let’s consider positions with both king’s on the kingside. In many of such lines, White is forced to play actively, as passive play would allow Black to simply unroll his automatic queenside attack. This automatic attack is the single most important concept in the Sicilian. It involves the pawn moves a6 and b5, and maybe also b4 (prepared by a5), in order to grab more space. Often, black doubles heavy pieces on the c-file, exerting pressure on c3 and c2. Typically, he will also try to send his knight to c4 with motifs such as Nxb2 or Nxa3 involved. All this expansion can be done without risk, as Black’s king is on the other side of the board. Against passive play by White, Black will thus seize the advantage most of the time.
Active play by White can be dangerous for Black, but also involves some risk for the white player. He might be forced to weaken his pawn structure (or more specifically his king’s shelter) or to sacrifice material. Generally, it is not recommended to falter half way, as the structural damage will present Black with favorable endings or opportunities to attack the weakened white king. But this recommendation is easier given than executed. Not everybody has the courage and attacking skills of players such as Alexei Shirov or Judith Polgar. Let’s not forget that even a player like Anatoli Karpov was not able to defeat Kasparov in a single game with 1.e4 in their mammoth match in Moscow 1984/85. His interpretation of the Open Sicilian was simply too soft. Consequently, he abandoned 1.e4 in their subsequent encounters.
Targeting the stranded ones
We can conclude that a well-prepared Sicilian warrior is putting his opponent to the ultimate test. If the white player is not prepared enough, either in terms of theoretical knowledge or with regard to taking courageous decisions, he might end up suffering from Black’s long-term assets. Often, such a player knows that he is not made for the Open Sicilians and consequently opts for one of the many sidelines. By doing this however, he often forfeits all realistic chances for an opening advantage right from the start. This is a severe handicap, given that in his next game (with the black pieces) he might face an opponent who does make full use of his first move advantage.
As I pointed out in post 33 “Good reasons to abandon 1.e4”, such a player would be better off playing more positional openings such as 1.d4, 1.c4 or 1.Nf3. Often, he started out with 1.e4 as a result of chance or through the influence of his first 1.e4-playing coach. Now, he is misplaced and feels like 1.d4-player caught in the body of an 1.e4 player. The appropriate measure could be to abandon 1.e4, but such a drastic change requires a lot of work and thus constitutes too big of a barrier for many. Hence we see a lot of unhappy players being hopelessly stranded on rough 1.e4 territory. The Sicilian Defense, like no other opening, is “taking care of” exactly these poor individuals.