First a bit of background:

I really like playing the Sicilian Defense as Black and it is my preferred choice of action against 1. e4. I prefer the Open Sicilian with Dragon and Najdorf being my favourite variations.

Now to the question itself:

At my skill level my opponents often play the following variation:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bc4!?

Here I find 3. Bc4 to be a sub-optimal move and I usually continue with my plan and go for the Dragon variation, since I don't think a6 achieves much, at this point.

On the other hand he is clearly aiming at f7 and moves like Nf6 and g6 do nothing to counter his threat.

What is your evaluation on this opening position? Can you give me some pointers at what is the best way to exploit White's last move?


  • If you're going for the Dragon, 3.Bc4 can't be "suboptimal". White can transpose to the mainline on the next move!
    – David
    May 13, 2021 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


This variation is uncommon, but it's certainly not unheard of. I don't know of a particular name for it, and rather than get bogged down in the endlessly-analyzed lines, let's just take a quick, objective look at what this move accomplishes, and what it gives up.


  • 3.Bc4 aims, as you said, at the f7 pawn. If allowed to remain on the diagonal, this Bishop could provide pressure against the Black kingside in the midgame.
  • It develops the Bishop quickly, allowing White to castle kingside immediately if he so chooses.
  • It may avoid trading away the Bishop for Black's QN or QB like we see in the Canal-Sokolsky Attack (3.Bb5+) or other variations where White's KB lands on b5.
  • It grants White some additional influence over the light central squares weakened by Black's first two moves (c5 and e6).


  • By developing to c4 so early, this move appears to invite Black to play ...e6, immediately limiting the Bishop's scope and possibly requiring a future relocation.
  • On c4, the Bishop is vulnerable to space-gaining queenside maneuvers via ...a6 and ...b5, or ...Nc6-a5.
  • This move does not provide any immediate threats, so Black is free to continue to choose a system as he pleases.


Looking at these two lists, a picture begins to form of the themes for both sides.

White will likely try to hold onto this Bishop, to assist in his kingside operations. He will likely play 4.d3 to keep the position closed, and to cement his hold on the light central squares.

Meanwhile, Black may use the Bishop's placement as a convenient way to make his thematic land grabs on the queenside. Black is not compelled to respond in any particular way, though my database suggests that a Dragon-like setup with ...Nf6, ...Nc6, ...g6, ...Bg7 is slightly more popular in this line than the ...e6 variants.

[FEN "r1bq1rk1/pp2ppbp/2np1np1/2p5/4P3/1BPP1N2/PP3PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w - -"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Nc6 5. c3 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. Bb3 O-O


This third move choice from White, while unusual, does not seem to be downright inferior. It suggests a tense, positional midgame, with each side operating on his better flank. Good luck!

  • Thanks a lot for this detailed explanation! I like 3. ...Nf6 myself and that's the move I usually make. What if White plays 4. Ng5 once again aiming at f7? I think 4. ...e6 looks like the logical continuation, am I missing something? Mar 20, 2014 at 19:53
  • 2
    @Tomislav 4.Ng5 seems very weak to me, since as you said, 4...e6 blocks the White Bishop's access to f7 and makes White look pretty silly--especially since the Knight's placement could then become a target for a time-gaining pawn spike later on! Mar 20, 2014 at 19:59
  • Thanks again, Henry! Ng5 seems week indeed, but e6 hinders the development of the light squared bishop, should I look for a fianchetto there? Mar 20, 2014 at 20:03
  • 2
    @Tomislav You may well "fall into" a queenside fianchetto after ...e6, since you're likely to have a good shot at playing ...b5 one way or another, perhaps with tempo against the exposed White Bishop. However, given that the queenside is usually Black's stronger side in this opening, ...Bd7 (supporting b5 and a4) is often just as good, or perhaps even better. The specifics, of course, come down to your own playstyle and the actual position on the board :-) Mar 20, 2014 at 20:09

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