I was black in this game, and white went ahead and played 3.d4 even though I clearly had it guarded, however once played, white now has the queen as an additional defender, and the queen was able to rest on d4 with no threat from black. In response I played

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nxd4 5.Qxd4 Qa5+ 6.Nc3 e5

I went on to lose this game, but I feel like this was the deciding factor. I really don't feel like 5...Qa5+ was the best reply, even if white was to reply with 6.Bd2 I could still reply with 6..e5 and propose a queen sac, which after black wouldn't be in as bad a position.

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nxd4 5.Qxd4 Qa5+ 6.Bd2 e5 7.Bxa5 exd4

So, my question is: Is black's best response to 3.d4 after playing the Sicilian 3...cxd4? Also, if so, was there a blunder somewhere by black, or could a better move have been played elsewhere?

  • 6
    Note that White can win a pawn in your second line with 7.Qxd7+ Bxd7 8.Bxa5.
    – dfan
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 13:08
  • After 4.Nxd4, 4...Nxd4 should be avoided. Instead, 4...Nf6 is better. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 0:16

3 Answers 3


3...cxd4 is indeed basically forced. Perhaps the single biggest idea of the Sicilian is to exchange your c-pawn for White's d-pawn, leaving you with more pawns in the center. So go ahead and do it!

However, 4...Nxd4 is a mistake, leaving White with much better development after the trade.

Some common 4th moves for Black after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 are 4...Nf6 (attacking the e4 pawn), 4...e6 (preparing to develop the dark-squared bishop and/or play ...d5), and 4...g6 (planning to develop the dark-squared bishop to g7).

  • I forgot about taking white's d pawn with a flank pawn
    – MDMoore313
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 13:14

As dfan said, 4. ... Nxd4 is definitely an error. I would suggest you abandon this approach entirely.

Move 4 is a key branching point for black in the Sicilian defense. However, almost any line you choose will require extensive book preparation in order to be successful. The Sicilian is perhaps the most deeply explored opening with the most published theory; any serious 1. e4 player will have studied it extensively, and so if your book preparation is not on par you may find yourself falling into more pitfalls down the line.

Personally I enjoy the Taimanov variation, 4. ... e6. But there are several good options.

However, if you are just starting out I would suggest playing something else entirely on move 2. As a new player you do not want an opening that requires you to focus too much on book preparation when you should be learning basics of middlegame and endgame play. Kings pawn openings like the Ruy Lopez tend to be a better way to learn 'foundations' since intuitive moves are less likely to be terrible and book preparation is not so critical.

  • I will look into 4...e6, thanks. I've been playing for about 20 years or so, just started to get serious again w/in the last year, so I'm definitely ready for some book study (again) and different variations. You also made an interesting point, I'm an e4 player, but haven't studied the sicilian from white's perspective. Recently I've been getting lucky and the black draws into the Ruy Lopez for me, but it doesn't happen every time.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 19:29

In addition to the moves that dfan mentioned, 4. ...e5 is also a move that you can play, which can transpose into the mainline Sveshnikovs). It leads to very interesting positions after 5. Nb5 (If 5. NxN, black is generally happy) 5...d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 b5 8.Nd5. Here, black can play Nf6 or Ne7, and white will usually follow up with c3 or Bg5.

Good old Kramnik is an expert in this variation.

Here's a famous win and a famous loss for black in this system.

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