4

Many chess players nowadays recommend the Rossolimo against c5-Nc6 Sicilian:

[fen ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5

However, I find the open sicilian to be easier to play:

[fen ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c4 b4 12. Nc2 a5 13. g3 O-O 14. Bg2

One of the reasons of my preference is that I have control over the d5 square and black has a backward pawn on d6. Moreover, I can play moves like Qd3,a3, and play on the queenside with my rooks too.

My issue with the Rossolimo is that it gives up the bishop pair for no obvious outpost for the knight like the second position in the open sicilian that I shared above.

I would really appreciate it if you can tell me why the Rossolimo might offer better winning chances with White, and why top players are attracted to it, and why Black players try to avoid it in their repertoire. Also, if you can refer me to good thematic games with Rossolimo.

5
  • The Sveshnikov variation is very exhaustively analyzed, and all the top players know these main lines by heart up to move ~30 so that they can get a simple draw as black simply by repeating well-established theory.
    – Scounged
    Jun 11, 2020 at 12:01
  • The line that I provided up is the Pelikan line (not Sveshnikov), and Magnus plays it with Black a lot.
    – Guess601
    Jun 11, 2020 at 15:15
  • 3
    The Sveshnikov variation was known as the Lasker-Pelikan variation before, but that changed in the 70s' (see the wiki article on the sicilian defence for more info). I'm aware that Magnus has played it with great success lately, although that only seems to suggest that it's difficult for white to gain anything against a well-prepared black player in the line.
    – Scounged
    Jun 11, 2020 at 16:44
  • @Scounged If the Pelikan variation is the Sveshnikov, then by your previous statements you're claiming that the Sveshnikov is more analyzed by Rossolimo? really? and why? I didn't know that. Can you refer me to thematic games or players who play the Rossolimo well? Or a book or anything please?! thanks
    – Guess601
    Jun 11, 2020 at 17:06
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    Rossolimo generally leads to more positional play and as a consequence requires less preparation, which is I suspect the reason it is being recommended. But if you are happy open Sicilian, then play it!
    – Akavall
    Jun 11, 2020 at 21:26

4 Answers 4

1

I have been exploring these nowadays. I will give two reasons for why Bb5 is recommended for white and is beginning to overtake d4 as the main line.

First, unlike 2...d6 Sicilians, with 2...Nc6 Sicilians, Black can dictate variations if White enters an open Sicilian. To see this, we must start at Black's second move. After e4 c5; Nf3 d6; d4 cxd4; Nxd4 Nf6; Nf3, Black's a6 (the Najdorff) is not forcing anything on White who now has a million decent options to choose from: h3, g4, f3, a4, Rg1, Bg5, Be3, Bc4, etc. With Black playing 2...Nc6 though, there are far fewer options. Because this is a more active and developing move, unlike 2...d6, after random moves by White balck easily equalizes. After e4 c5; Nf3 Nc6, if White enters an open Sicilian (i.e. d4) then Black can force a Sveshnikov or White deviates early on from theory, which is a concession then and Black is fine in most sidelines. So, white should be prepared to enter a long sequence of theory lines as soon as he/she puts a pawn on d4 on move three. In mainline Sveshnikov, although Black's position looks scary it is proven time and again to be playable with a good fighting chance for a win.

As an e4 player you already spend half your life on all types of responses to e4 (take Najdorff itself for example). So, you begin to wonder why to enter such forced line against an opponent who is probably better equipped with theory and experience.

Once you decide to ditch a third move d4, then there are basically two objectively good moves for white: Bb5 and c3, with former being much stronger.

So, my second reason is Bb5 is indeed positionally a very logical and strong move. It is easy to see why. 1) Black's Nc6 is a great piece putting pressure on center, specially e5 and d4. So, it is good to make it uncomfortable. 2) Bishop develops to an active square and we are ready to castle, while Black has not touched their kingside, so we will be ahead in development. 3) The threat to double Black's pawns is serious and often Qc7 or Qb6 are too slow to avoid this.

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Please note that the ...e5 push Black does on your line is not forced and there are plenty of other variations Black can opt for (like 4...e6, or 4...g6, or 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 d6, or even 4...e5)

Each of this alternatives requires White to be prepared as Black will probably know a lot of theory about those (and have a good understanding of the resulting middlegame positions, for instance, no d5 weak square in many of those) With the Rossolimo, White can opt for a quieter game where knowledge of precise lines is less relevant

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  • If Black plays 4...e6 then it will transpose to a Taimanov. So, Black can trick you from the beginning to play Taimanov with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6. If Black plays 4...g6, then Black transposes to Accelerated Dragon. If Black plays 4...Nf6 5. Nc3 d6, then it will transpose to Classical sicilian. If Black plays an early 4...e5, then it transposes to Kalashnikov which has similar ideas to the line that I mentioned above (Pelikan).
    – Guess601
    Jun 11, 2020 at 15:13
  • I don't think that the reason you provided is enough because Black can force you to go into any of these lines and avoid the Rossolimo. So, the Rossolimo doesn't save you from learning the other variations that I mentioned except Kalashnikov.
    – Guess601
    Jun 11, 2020 at 15:13
  • So the choice is between Pelikan/Kalashnikov and Rossolimo.
    – Guess601
    Jun 11, 2020 at 15:19
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    But if you choose a Rossolimo against 2...Nc6, your opponent cannot force you into a Taimanov by playing 2...e6, you can just play 3.c3 or any other line secondary line there. The fact that 3.d4 will make you learn a lot of mainline theory while a different repertoire may not still holds true
    – David
    Jun 12, 2020 at 7:37
  • @Guess601 You dont have to play into the Taimanov, there are other options like g3. 4.g6 is the normal Accelerated dragon, the hyper accelerated (2.g6 can be avoided by Qxd4), Jun 27, 2022 at 10:38
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The Rossolimo scores really, really well. According to the chess 365 database, white scores 56.8% with the Rossolimo and only 51% with the open. Also, stockfish gives a very slight edge to the Rossolimo.

Normally, I would say play the lines you like but I would never want to go into heavily theoretical lines against people better than me in their pet lines. The Rossolimo gives you an alternative that is probably as good but with less theory.

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Obviously the Rossolimo is a less ambitious option than the Open Sicilian. It is, however, easier to learn for white, less risky and less sharp and so likely to be less the cup of tea of ardent Sicilian players. Those are probably the main reasons for its popularity.

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