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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Combating Anti-Sicilians with ..e5: Anti-Bc4 (Line A)

In this post, I'll begin to look at answering either 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 or 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 with …e5. This is part of a larger series on meeting anti-Sicilian lines with …e5. In a previous post, I covered how this move can successfully be employed against the Rossolimo Siclian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e5).

Where the move ..e5 against the Rossolimo drew parallels with the Ruy Lopez, the reply …e5 against the Bc4 attack will appear similar in some lines to the Guicco Piano (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5). However, the presence of a pawn on c5 instead of the Bishop, together with the weakness of the d5 square, makes for some important differences.

In the introduction to this series on ..e5 against the anti-sicilians, I point out that Black needs to take care of d5, anticipating moves from White such as Nc3-d5, Na3-c4, and c3 followed quickly by d4. The move Bc4 also introduces pressure against f7. Black should be on guard for moves like Ng5 (which in the initial position is not possible due to Qxg5).

Unlike the line with Bb5, the Bishop on c4 may prove to be a target for Black, and White needs to watch out for a6-b5, which may threaten to capture the Bishop. Furthermore, the Bc4 move does less to put pressure on the Black e-pawn, and gives the second player more flexibility in their response.

In this post, I will only cover line A. In subsequent posts, I will consider several other variations. Lines A through E concern with the immediate 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5, while Line F considers a delayed version 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 e5.

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5

A) 3.Qh5

B) 3.c3
C) 3.Nc3
D) 3.f4
E) 3.b4
F) 3.Nf3 (Followed by c3, O-O, d3, or b4)

It is worth noting that, if Black can successfully meet 2.Bc4 with ..e5, then he has a defense not only against a rare anti-sicilian, but to the Bishop's Opening as well (Replying to 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 with …c5). Even if White can secure a space advantage or some initiative, it makes a good surprise weapon against a weaker opponent, if you are prepared to suffer a bit!

Out of 29 games that open with 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5, White is winning 70% (W19 D3 L7). Download the full opening report. Remember, with these small samples sizes, the numbers may not have much significance! As always, they can be skewed by some games in which Black lost for reasons unconnected with their opening play.

Also, remember to check back to this post occasionally; I will continue to do analysis and update the post if necessary (I wasn't able to complete the survey at the time of the posting). If you spot an error in my analysis, or think you have a better idea then what I came up with, please post your moves and lines in the comment section!

This post has been updated and is still under construction!; for an explanation, see my post describing the blogs renovation. If you would like the original, truncated analysis on all of these variations, please email/contact me.  The full analysis of remaining lines will be posted eventually.

A) 3.Qh5

This move threatens mate on f7, and forces Black's hand. The Black Queen must commit to the defense of f7, and the akward placement of the Queen on either e7 or f6 will hinder Black's development. On the other hand, if White cannot achieve anything with the Queen at that location, he too will lose time and find his development delayed. An interesting, original, and roughly balanced position is likely to result.

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 3.Qh5 Qe7 

3…Qf6 4.Nc3 Black has blocked the f6 Knight and exposed the Queen to Nc3-d5. Therefore, 3..Qe7 should be preferable.

Note that 3…g6 is not possible due to a common trick: 4.Qxe5+ Qe7 5.Qxh8 Qxe4+ 6.Be2 and Black is lost.

4.Nf3 d6 5.Ng5 

Black has two ways to defend against the threats to f7: 5...Nh6 (Line A1) and 5...g6 (Line A2)

A1) 5…Nh6 is possible, but probably not as good as the immediate …g6. White might continue with 6.d3 (A1.1) or 6.Nc3 (A1.2), among other moves. Nc3 is especially thematic, since it takes advantage of the position of Black's Queen and the hole on d5.

A1.1) 6.d3 g6 7.Qf3 f6 

White might have a slight pull, but it is nothing for Black to really fear. In fact, Black can attempt some risky play to take over the center. For example, 8.Nh3 Bg4 9.Qg3 f5 10.Bg5 Qd7 11.f4 b5 12.Bd5 Nc6 13.O-O Bg7, preparing ..O-O, while also permitting ..Nf7, ..h6 and O-O-O.

A1.2) 6.Nc3 Nc6

Black can also play 6…Bg4 straight away, when White is likely to response 7.Qh4 

Another way to kick the Queen around is 6…g6 7.Qh4 

7.Nd5 Qd8 8.O-O Bg4 9.Qh4 a6 10.h3 Bd7

A2) 5...g6 6.Qf3 Nh6

The advantage of 5...g6, namely that the Kings Knight does not get misplaced, might be negated by White's last move, which maintains the pressure on f7. Here Black only has two ways to deal with the pressure. 6...Nh6, the text move, is one; the other is 6...Be6

6...Be6 7.Nxe6 fxe6 8.Qh3 Nc6

White can also try 9.Qxe6 Qxe6 10.Bxe6 Nd4, threatening a nasty fork on c2. 11.Bb3 c4! 

This tactical shot allows Black to maintain material balance, although White retains the a superior pawn structure. 12.c3 cxb3 13.cxd4 bxa2 14.Rxa2 exd4 and I'd prefer White, but it's still a game.


This line is probably White's most direct attempt to refute 3…e5 (or 3…c5, depending on the move order). There are some tricky lines, but in accordance with general chess principles, White gains little from the early Queen sortie if Black plays correctly. The pressure White has against d5, and the development advantage he might obtain, are hard to translate into an advantage due to closed nature of the position and Black's strong central control.

Did I miss anything? Please post your analysis by leaving a comment!

1 comment:

  1. I think the 3.Nc3 line would be my own preference, when White's eventual O-O and f4 make for a superior version of the Grand Prix Attack.