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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Play the Sicilian by Yermolinsky

In his excellent book The Road to Chess Improvement GM Alex Yermolinsky gives some general advice on how to play the Sicilian. In the first place Yermo advocates that players should avoid inferior openings and play what the GMs play, things like the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez, Queen’s Gambit, Nimzo-Indian etc. That way you start off with a sound opening and don’t have to struggle from the very beginning trying to overcome a material deficit and what, more often than not, lands you in an inferior position where you are struggling for equality. That goes against the reasoning of a lot of players, but that’s another story.
     Yermo points out that when you are mastering the Sicilian you’ll have to be prepared to meet every side line known, the Alapin, the Closed, the Smith-Mora, the Rossolimo, etc, but none of them should be feared because statistically Black scores better against them than against the open variation.
     In this post we will take a look at Yermo’s analysis on the P-structure where White has a P on e4 vs. P’s on d6 and e6.

a) Fluid P-formation which may take a more stable shape later. Like when white answers …d5 with e5 or black trades his f-Pawn for the e-Pawn. White has a space advantage.
b) Black is making a lot of Pawn moves while white is developing his pieces. Suspicious strategy from the old school point of view
c) White has complete freedom to operate on the K-side. As a result white has reasons to be optimistic about his chances.

There are several ways he can attack.
a) Play e4-e5 opening the f-file and diagonals for his B’s and driving away black’s only defender, the f6N, in the process
b) Play f4-f5 pressuring the e6P and making d5 available for his N if black plays …e5. This plan gains in strength when white’s B is on the a2-g8 diagonal.
c) When the time is right white has several possibilities of sacrificing on critical squares.
d) Pushing the g-Pawn chasing away the f6N, black’s only defender, and then either playing f4-f5-f6 or bringing up the heavy pieces on h-file to conduct a mating attack.

     Yermo also mentioned some general observations like white wins the short games and loses the long ones and when white has to play a3 to stop …b5, black has seized the initiative. Of course these are general observations and not hard and fast rules.
     In the book Yermolinsky concentrated on method ‘d’ and observed that black’s proper response is to counterattack which is often initiated by a sacrifice to eliminate an attacker. Yermo is big on teaching by example, so the following game was one of several he gave.
     Make sure you play over the following game!! Yermolinsky’s comments are very instructive! Also, I HIGHLY recommend buying the book if you are serious about improvement. I think its careful STUDY would add at least 200 points to your rating.
     Back to the game: Below is a position that gave me fits analyzing with Houdini 2 and Stockfish 5. 

Lanka’s Q was on h7 and he actually played 26.Re1 and lost. But had he played 26.Qd3 arriving at the diagrammed position, he might have been able to save the game. At first the move looks impossible because it loses the a1R and that’s probably what Lanka and Yermolinsky thought. It’s also what the engines thought, too, but when I started analyzing the position draws started popping up! If you want a project to work on, you can set up the position and do a thorough analysis and see if that’s true or not. Good luck!

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