Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...c5

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Sicilian Defence
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8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
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Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation(FEN)

rnbqkbnr/pp1ppppp/8/2p5/4P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKBNR

Moves: 1.e4 c5
ECO code: B20-B99
Parent: King's Pawn Opening


Sicilian Defence[edit]

The moves 1.e4 c5 constitute the Sicilian Defence, a counter-attacking opening in which players typically attack on opposite sides of the board. The Sicilian was introduced to the chess world in 1594 by Polerio, and emerged into the mainstream in the early 20th century as a somewhat tame variation. With the discovery of new attacking ideas it became Black's most feared weapon by the 1950s and is, pound for pound, the most exhaustively analysed of all openings.

Black's move 1...c5 seeks to half-open the c-file for their own use, controls the important d4 square and allows their queen to venture out if desired, while the itinerant c-pawn itself is safe from attack, unlike the e-pawn after 1.e4 e5.

White's responses[edit]

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8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.c4   (Staunton–Cochrane variation)

1...c5 has the benefit of introducing an element of asymmetry into the position – White would not be advised to play 2.c4 (the English-like Staunton–Cochrane variation) imitating Black's move, since White could no longer control the d4 square with a pawn and thus will have trouble playing d4 later.

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.d4   (Smith–Morra Gambit)

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8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.d4 cxd4 3.c3   (Smith–Morra Gambit)

Faced with a pawn on c5, White may choose to play 2.d4 (Smith–Morra Gambit) anyway which typically leads to a pawn sacrifice for quick development. After 2...cxd4, White can play 3.c3, sacrificing another pawn in order to play 4.Nxc3 to gain an advance in development in the Morra Gambit.

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.Nf3   (Open Sicilian)

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.c3   (Alapin variation)

A more usual idea is for White to postpone d4 for a move while they increase their own control of the square. This can be achieved by either 2.Nf3 leading to the main lines of the (Open) Sicilian or by 2.c3 attempting to establish a strong pawn centre.

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
a b c d e f g h
2.b4   (Sicilian Wing Gambit)

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.a3   (Mengarini/Van Duijn variation)

Much less common is the attempt to undermine the c-pawn's control of d4 by playing 2.b4 (Wing Gambit) to tempt it off-centre. Since it is considered safe for Black to take the offered pawn and hold on to it, a recent idea has been to prepare the b4 move with 2.a3 (Mengarini variation).

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.e5

White can also push the e-pawn again with 2.e5 in an attempt to cramp Black.

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
a b c d e f g h
2.Nc3   (Closed Sicilian)

a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
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2.f4   (Grand Prix/McDonnell Attack)

White may postpone the fight for d4, typically with 2.Nc3 (Closed Sicilian) though 2.f4 (Grand Prix Attack) is also played. 2.f4 is a violent attacking move, 2.Nc3 typically leads to a closed position although f4 can appear later.

Statistics[edit]

Databases give White approximately 36% winning chances, drawing is at 30%, and Black wins 33%.

Theory table[edit]

For explanation of theory tables see theory table and for notation see algebraic notation

1.e4 c5
2 3 4 5
Open Sicilian Nf3
d6
d4
cxd4
Nxd4
Nf6
Nc3
a6
=
Closed Sicilian Nc3
Nc6
g3
g6
Bg2
Bg7
d3
d6
=
Alapin Variation c3
Nf6
e5
Nd5
d4
cxd4
Nf3
Nc6
=
Smith–Morra Gambit d4
cxd4
c3
dxc3
Nxc3
Nc6
Nf3
d6
=
Grand Prix Attack f4
d5
Nc3
d4
Nce2
Nc6
d3
c4
=
d3 (often Closed Sicilian) d3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Snyder Variation b3
Nc6
Bb2
 
 
 
 
 
 
Staunton–Cochrane Variation c4
Nc6
Nc3
g6
 
 
 
 
=
Keres Variation Ne2
Nc6
Nbc3
 
 
 
 
 
 
Steinitz Variation g3
d5
exd5
Qxd5
 
 
 
 
 

Less common White second moves:

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References[edit]

  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.
  • Batsford Chess Openings 2 (1989, 1994). Garry Kasparov, Raymond Keene. ISBN 0-8050-3409-9.