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I was wondering why e4-e5 openings have different names depending on the next move, but Sicilian Defence continuations are all just variations of the Sicilian Defence. Is that because they are frequently transposed into one another, or is there another reason?

For me personally they do differ a lot. The Accelerated Dragon variation and the Najdorf have different piece coordination and have a lot of theory for a simple "variation."

2 Answers 2

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Back in the day where most openings got their names, 1...e5 was much more popular than the Sicilian, so it made sense to distinguish between the King's Gambit, the Italian and so on as those were the openings everyone was playing.

The Sicilian however, was much more obscure until the 20th century, so people felt no need to be more specific about it.

It's a bit similar to the distribution of ECO codes, where openings that were popular at the time they were established get a wider range of entries.

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  • Are you sure this is the right answer? My first thought was that it's because most Sicilian variations have similar themes with Black playing on the queenside, preparing ...d5, etc.
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 0:01
  • @Allure But isn't that sort of true with 1.e4 e5 openings as well? At least it seems the two most popular lines, the Italian and Spanish, lead to similar-feeling positions too. Not saying you're wrong, just a thought...
    – YiFan
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 5:36
  • @YiFan surely not. The Two Knights is a possible line in the Italian, and it's completely different from the Spanish.
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 5:43
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    @Allure Sure, but there are also some lines in the Sicilian that feel very distinct from the others, like the Alapin vs most of the open Sicilian games; I was more so thinking of those slow maneuvering main lines in the Giuoco Pianissimo that feel similar to Spanish games. I guess it's ultimately subjective.
    – YiFan
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 11:07
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Your premise is wrong, in my opinion.

1.e4 e5 does have its own name that the rest are variations of -- it's the Open Game (although most people just refer to it as "1...e5", but that's still refering to the opening as a whole). And lines within the Sicilian do have their own names, you mention the Najdorf and the Accelerated Dragon, comparable to say the Ruy Lopez and the Italian.

So I don't see a real difference.

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  • Then why simply don't call them by these names without adding sicilian defence at the beginning?
    – naneri
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 5:52
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    But "Ruy Lopez", "Italian Opening/Game", "Scotch Opening/Game", "Centre Gambit/Game" are not spoken of as subcategories of the Open Game.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 6:40
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    @RosieF: sounds like fashion to me. Bronstein's 200 Open Games book definitely contains games from all those openings, as does Karpov's The Open Game in Action. And equally people talk about the Najdorf and the Sveshnikov without feeling the need to specify "...variation of the Sicilian Defense" all the time. Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 7:36
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    While 1. e4 e5 has its own name, the Ruy Lopez, Italian, etc., are not considered mere "variations", but instead have variations of their own, e.g. the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. So the question still makes sense: why is the Sicilian only one level up from a "variation", while the open game is two levels up? Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 12:15
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    So does the Najdorf -- e.g. the Poisoned Pawn, the Goteborg, the English Attack, the Polugaevsky and so on. There is no real difference between an "opening" and a "variation", it's all arbitrary. There's also the Morra Gambit, Grand Prix Attack etc that are not called "variation" even though they're "inside the Sicilian". And we're only talking about English, in other languages it may be different still. Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 12:57

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