Consider this variation of the Four Knight Sicilian:

 [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 1 0"]
 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4+ 11. Ke2 f5 12. Nf2 Ba6 13. Kf3 Ne7 14. Qa4! c5 15. h4 O-O 16. Be3

I analyzed this position with Stockfish 14.1 NNUE for four iterations of 30 minute each. In the end, it appears winning for White. Does black have counterplay to avoid this line when playing the Four Knight Sicilian?

  • Black can also play 10...Ne3, with more normal play, and I don't think white has much more than a normal white edge.
    – Akavall
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 22:45

2 Answers 2


It isn't a main line, as Black struggles to equalize in the opening. But the Sicilian 4 knights isn't refuted/winning for White. In the variation you give, 15. .. O-O by Black is a blunder. Black should play Qc6+ according to my local Stockfish 15, depth 33, with an evaluation of 0.43. White is still better, but far from winning. So yes, Black can and should avoid your variation.

Furthermore, Black can play 8. ..Bb7, which Stockfish 15 likes better for Black at depth 41. (Full variation given by SF15, move 8 on depth 41: 8...Bb7 9.Be2 c5 10.O-O Qc7 11.Nd6+ Bxd6 12.exd6 Qc6 13.f3 c4 14.Qd4 O-O 15.Bxc4 Rfc8 16.b3 Qxd6 17.Bd2 a5 18.Rfd1 Qb6 19.Qf2 Qxf2+ 20.Kxf2 Ne7 21.Bd3 Ba6 22.c4 d5 23.Rac1 a4 24.Bb4 Nc6 25.Bd6 axb3 26.axb3 dxc4 )


Is the Four Knight Sicilian winning for white?

Probably not, but white can get something. Not with 14. Qa4?, which allows 14...g5!. Better is 14.Be3, but black will later play ...c5 and ...Bb7 and then he prepares ...e5 or ...g5. He can equalize.

My favorite is 12.exf6! Nxf6 13.Be3. After 13...Qd8 White can grab the bishop pair with 14.Nd6+, later play Rg1 and g4. If 13...Qc7 or 13...Qb8 (protecting d6), then 14.Nxf6 gxf6 15.Kf2 and the white king is placed better than the black. White has a lasting slight advantage, and he risks less than in the 12.Nf2 lines, where black has a bunch of tricks.

The 8...Bb7 line has been discussed in a few Top GM games. In the main line white gets the bishop pair, and in my opinion black has not yet shown how to fully equalize against it.

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