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Just discovered the chess section of this website. This is my first question here. I am a beginner chess player(rated about 1300 on the chess websites) and play mainly for recreation. For a long time, my opening repertoire was restricted to 1) e4 .. e5 .

However, while playing black I get tired with the fact that white is always calling the shots, and also bored of playing the same lines. I've tried the french but find it a bit predictable for the white player and with less variety.

I would like to try the sicilian. I know that this is often preferred by grandmasters. However, the grandmasters typically gain the advantage only in the end game. However, the style of grandmaster play is quite different from the style of beginner/amateur play. Grandmasters would often go into the end game with no advantages of material. By contrast, in beginner/amateur play often the better player gains advantage in the middle game itself and by the time he reaches the end game he is already ahead in material by a rook or a bishop. Keeping in mind this difference is the sicilian a good opening for a beginner? Or is it more for the more advanced players and end game specialists? Also, how to play it correctly? I've tried playing it a few times but am yet to understand the underlying principle. Which is the better second move - 2) .. e6 or 2) .. d6 ? Why is the rook pawn sometimes advanced prematurely ( 4) .. a6 or 3) .. a6) ? ... etc., etc.

  • Of course you should play the sicillian! It is a great opening against all players and if played correctly is very hard to beat. – user8262 Sep 14 '15 at 23:40
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The Sicilian is playable at all levels. 1.e4 e5 openings are easier to understand, so you will often see 1...e5 recommended for beginning and intermediate players (and I second that recommendation), but there's nothing wrong with 1...c5, and you should feel free to try it out and see if you like it.

To say how to play it correctly would take hundreds of pages. To answer your two specific questions:

  1. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3, 2...e6 and 2...d6 are both perfectly good moves played at the highest levels.
  2. The move ...a6 in the Sicilian has a few points, but the most important are that 1) it can keep a White knight away from b5, and 2) it can support ...b5 and start a queenside attack.
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1...e5 is most "principled" response to 1.e4, and thus most often recommended for beginners.

At the beginner level, the opening you choose doesn't really make a difference. Quite frankly, the player who makes the ugliest blunders will be the one who loses the game.

As you gain more experience, then the choice between 1...e5 or 1...c5 becomes more significant.

1...e5 is a more "technical" opening. It can lead to a wide variety of scattered/random looking positions where development becomes paramount. Or conversely it can lead to stale "grinding" positions where maneuvering becomes focus. This opening isn't really based on themes, it's based more on logic and precision. I feel like a robot when I play this opening.

1...c5 is more "thematic". You'll come across familiar structures more often, and development is more systematic and natural to find (you won't have to find the PRECISE move to save your position as often, compared to the 1..e5 opening). This Sicilian is based more on knowing the ideas and themes of the opening.

Nevertheless the Sicilian gets a " highly theoretical" reputation, but in my opinion only because so many players play this opening that they have analyzed it into great depths and created all this theory. The reality is any opening can become highly theoretical if analysed enough. The Sicilian is definitely more thematic/consistent. The 1...e5 is more logical/variety.

  • you're right about the logical aspect. but it appears even 1)..c5 leaves white with an edge if he ends up playing the closed sicilian and after exchange of d and e pawns black gets a pawn majority on the king (castled) side and if white also castles on the king side he can push his queens side pawns forward and his queens side pawn majority would give him an advantage?? – guru Oct 29 '13 at 18:19
  • White inevitably has the advantage in most openings if played correctly. But a queenside majority doesn't automatically equal an advantage, black can advance his extra center pawn so chances are equal. – Sunny Oct 29 '13 at 20:18
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No, you should learn simpler games like the Open Games first. Kasparov has said the Sicilian should only be played by GMs. You will learn a lot more about chess playing the Open Games or the French Defense to start with.

The thing is White usually gets to call the shots in all openings. This can be got round by learning more theory eg in the Sicilian but it will count against you if you improve because your results will be based on theory in specific openings rather than overall understanding. I would recommend the Scandinavian 1. e4 d5 where White can put you on the back foot but only by learning theory and Black retains a solid setup.

  • Actually come to think of it, the dragon Sicilian is the best one to learn if you really want to play the Sicilian against 1.e4. Very thematic, queenside play, exchange sacrifices and white's weakish kingside pawns vs a Kingside attack which might checkmate. You should get at least one good source on the dragon though. – magd Feb 15 '15 at 19:08
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    "...the Sicilian should only be played by GMs": next someone is going to say the same thing about chess. – rolando2 Feb 24 '15 at 4:50
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    As with a lot of quotes by Kasparov about chess, this one requires some interpretation. – magd Mar 3 '15 at 10:34
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Sicilian will make you a tough player and will save you from early losses, as e pawn is responsible for saving the f7 pawn, and e pawn advance is delayed most often in sicilian, so there is no immediate threat from white's light colored bishop attacking f7. All openings are playable at all levels. Stick to one opening and you will slowly learn all pitfalls.

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