I'm a Closed Sicilian player and I like the setup with Nc3/g3/Bg2/d3 a lot for White, since it cuts out having to learn tons of theory I'd have to know otherwise against the Open Sicilian. However, I noticed that it's kind of hard to avoid playing into the Taimanov Sicilian without accepting a worse position. Consider:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6

In this position, if I go for my usual setup with 3.g3, then Black can already play 3...d5. After 4.dxe5 dxe5 White can choose between 5.d4 and 5.Bg2, but neither of these lines look appealing to me:

  • Even though 5.d4 results in an IQP position, Black gets a lot of activity and White's queen gets chased around.
  • After 5.Bg2, Black gets to grab a lot of space sooner or later by pushing d4.

So instead of 3.g3, I tried looking into 3.Nge2, which is the highest-scoring move in this position. Now if Black tries 3...d5, after 4.exd5 exd5 5.d4 it looks like a very comfortable IQP position for White. So you'd think we'd be able to go for 4.g3 on the next move without having to worry about 4...d5, right? However, after

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nge2 Nc6

I found out that 4.g3 can lead to a nasty-looking position for White if we try the aforementioned plan in response to d5. Here's the line given by Stockfish:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nge2 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.exd5 exd5 6.d4 Bg4! 7.Bg2 Nxd4 8.h3 Bf3 9.Kf1

Somehow the engine says this is +0.2 for White, even though I'm down a pawn and deprived of castling rights...?

So should I be playing 4.g3 and potentially get into the above wacky line, or play 4.d4 and learn a bunch of Taimanov Sicilian theory?

  • It seems to me like white should be able to regain the pawn somehow, and the deprivation of castling rights would only be a problem if the king is left in the center. In this case white's king seems to be able to find refuge on g2, so that shouldn't be much of an issue. While the dust hasn't settled in the final line you gvie, it seems like black is behind in development. So I'm not shocked that the computer slightly likes white.
    – Scounged
    Jul 14, 2021 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


I managed to find a line that seems playable for White, although Black is definitely somewhat better here:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nge2 Nc6 4.g3!? d5! 5.exd5 exd5 6.d4 Bg4! 7.Be3 Bf3 8.Rg1 c4 9.a3

Black plays 8...c4 because we are in fact threatening to capture on c5 (note that 9.dxc5 d4? would not win a piece), and we play 9.a3 to prevent Black's bishop from coming to b4 where it would be super annoying. After this we can slowly start to unravel with moves like Qd2, Bg2 etc. (However, note that we do not want to castle queenside since Black can come at us super fast with his pawns, so unfortunately our king will have to stay in the center.)


This variation is fine for White (It is not the Taimanov Variation!) The position may look scary at first glance but after the brilliant 9.Kf1 it's actually better for White. Black naturally wants to pressure with Qf6 but White has a surprise in store: Qd3! The idea for White is to castle in manual mode by eventually moving King to g2, whereas Black has one flank underdeveloped and the other one opened up for future invasions. Even 0-0-0 is no longer that attractive for Black, nor are other options:

[Fen ""]

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nge2 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.exd5 exd5 6.d4 Bg4!? 7.Bg2! Nxd4 8.h3 Bf3 9.Kf1!! Qf6 10.Qd3! Bxg2+ 11.Kxg2 Nxe2 12.Qxe2+ Ne7 13.Nb5⩲  

Black can of course play 10... Bxe2+ but after 11.Nxe2 O-O-O 12.Nxd4 (the best play for Black is to simplify: 12... Qxd4 13. Qxd4 cxd4 14. Bf3 Ne7 15. Kg2=) 12...cxd4 13.Bf3 Bd6 14.Kg2. White has again castled manually, and again Black's king is less safe with his position open for future attacks. Plus, Black's other flank again lags in development. We are back to square one.

So, perhaps, Black can pressure even more with c4 and it looks at first glance very scary for White but after 10... c4 11.Qxd4 Bxe2+ 12.Nxe2 and Black is losing due to a simple three move tactic!

Maybe Black can wait with 10...0-0-0 and see what White is going to do about it? Then White achieves advantage by simple 11.Nxd4 Bxg2+ 12.Kxg2 cxd4 13.Nb5 a6 14.Nxd4. White is obviously better here, and His king is again manually castled.

Therefore, Black must be very careful. The position for Him is a minefield fraught with danger despite only a slight advantage for White that the engine shows. That's because Black lags in development and White can castle manually, obtaining a position that is easier to play from the human perspective. So, White should be happy with the position. It's not an inferior position as it may look on the surface.

As to the OP's own answer to his question with 7.Be3 Bf3 8.Rg1, this is a very bad play for White which achieves a terrible position from the human perspective. It's a step towards tanking the game!

  • 2
    After 10...c4 White could just play 11.Qxd4 and not need a four-move tactic.
    – D M
    Jul 15, 2022 at 0:10
  • 1
    Yes, thanks. I've updated the answer.
    – user32756
    Jul 15, 2022 at 0:27

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