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1.d4 is a statistically more successful opening for white due to the high success rate of the Sicilian defence against 1.e4

I understand it's fun to play different openings, but at the highest level, why risk playing a statistically weaker move?

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    Because individual players aren't statistics? (Even some top players are not "up" on the latest anti-Sicilian theory. If you are, you're White, and your opponent is known to be not a Sicilian expert...) Also, complications. You may have found a new complication in the Sicilian and your opponent is known to dislike complications. – Jeff Y Mar 29 '16 at 20:26
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    Statistics is using all players. As @JeffY pointed out, you might find your particular opponent weak in defending e4. Also, if you yourself plays one opening exclusively, then your opponent will have an easy preparation against your. There is some game theory going on. – jf328 Mar 29 '16 at 21:21
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    @Jeff Y why do you use comments to answer the question? – Sejanus Apr 4 '16 at 9:00
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    Being statistically more successful doesn't mean it is better. – hoacin Apr 17 '18 at 12:31
  • At the highest level it is rather the Berlin that white players fear (not because they lose, but because of the high drawing chances). – user1583209 Apr 18 '18 at 8:13
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How much statistical difference is there? Is it really statistically significant?

Do these statistics take account of only GM games, so are they biased or not?

And do you know that not every player is a Sicilian expert? Actually, it's quite tough to be a Sicilian expert.

Had I not played the Sicilian with Black I could have saved myself the trouble of studying for more than 20 years all the more popular lines of this opening, which comprise probably more than 25 percent of all published opening theory! - Bent Larsen

After e4, there are a lot of responses you can get; it's not automatically Sicilian. As far as I remember after e4 there is approx. %25 chance you get into the Sicilian.

Even if you get into the Sicilian, there are Anti-Sicilian variations and gambits where White is very comfortable. My favourite is the Smith-Morra gambit.

And even if you get into standard Sicilian variations, White is absolutely OK.

Also if you only care raw statistics, there are some awkward moves which have more than %60 win rates.

Conclusion: the Sicilian Defense is not a ticket to win.

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The type of game that the Sicilian gives is precisely the type of play that typical 1.e4 players are looking for.

The Open Sicilian gives open positions where white has more space and a development advantage, there is often opposite castling with competing pawn storms, and there are many thematic sacrifices. The game is sharp and exciting. The draw percentage is low.

The drawback? Black has no weaknesses, a slightly better structure and his fair share of the chances. The best player will win. White still has slightly better chances though.

In the statistics, which are close to 50%, you have to remember that the Sicilian is often chosen by players trying to win as black at all costs; so on average black will more often be the stronger player. That makes the statistics misleading.

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  • Nice answer, upvoted. – ferit Apr 18 '18 at 13:05

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