What’s The Best Way To Attack The Sicilian Defense as White?


Defeating the Sicilian dragon

The best way to attack against the Sicilian Defense with the White pieces is the open variation starting with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 (or 2…Nc6, or 2…e6) 3.d4.

The Sicilian Defense is a dangerous attacking weapon with the Black pieces. But at the same time, White has many different options to choose from to counter this variation.

Closed Sicilians and Grand Prix attack are more calmer in nature. 

In this article, you will see how White uses the open variation to attack against Najdorf and Dragon lines. The point is most of White’s important attacking ideas in the Sicilian can be found by studying these two variations. Once you acquaint with them, you could apply these in other variations as well.

Before we proceed, we must tell you that these variations can get super sharp, where Black also retains excellent counterchances. So if you are planning to employ them in a real game, be fully prepared to concentrate and calculate!

The Best Way To Attack With The White Pieces Against Sicilian Najdorf

The Najdorf is undoubtedly one of the sharpest Sicilian’s(link to previous article), along with the Dragon variation. The best way for White to attack is by employing 6.Bg5 variation, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5!

In most cases, Black plays 6…e6, to which White replies with 7.f4. Black has two main options – to either go 7…Qb6 or 7…Be7.

On 7…Be7, White reacts by playing f4, Qf3 0-0-0. If Black is even a little slow in this line, they get crushed very quickly. White’s plan includes to blast open the centre if Black doesn’t castle short or to crush Black on the kingside if Black short castles

Black could also spice things up with the Poisoned Pawn variation with 7…Qb6, threatening to grab the b2 pawn. 

Read  What Is The Most Aggressive Sicilian Variation? (Najdorf and Dragon)

In the Candidates 2021, Maxime Vachier Lagrave played this line against Fabiano Caruana. Fabiano, playing with the White pieces, showed us the best way to attack in this line, thanks to his excellent preparation. 

Here’s how the game went:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 

The most aggressive line for White!

e6 7.f4 Qb6 (The poisoned Pawn variation)

8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3

All of this is standard theory. 

10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nfd7 13.Ne4 Qxa2 (White sacrifices another pawn, but can now centralize their pieces to create a crushing attack against Black’s king stuck in the centre.)

14.Rd1 Qd5 15.Qe3 Qxe5 16.c3 Bc5 17.Bg3 Qd5 18.Bc4!! 

The start of fireworks. This was a brutal computer-prepared move, completely throwing Maxime off guard. Fabiano now has a crushing attack and the only hope for Maxime is to somehow find a computer-like defense.

18…Qxc4 19.Bd6! 

This is the point of White’s bishop sacrifice. They stop Black’s castling and if 19…Bxd6, Black loses a queen after 20.Nxd6+ and 21.Nxc4.

Nf6 20.Nxc5 Nd5 21.Qe5 Rg8 22.Ndxe6!

Another thunderous blow! Sacrificing pieces and opening lines is often the best way to attack in the Sicilian.

22… fxe6 23. Nxe6 Qxc3+!

Black’s only hope lies in trading the queens.

24.Qxc3 Nxc3 25. Nc7+

White now gains a piece for which Black doesn’t have enough compensation.

 Kf7 26. Rd3 Ne4 27. O-O+ Kg6 28. Nxa8

White had an advantage here and later went on to win the game.

You might think that after attacking so much, White didn’t win quickly. Why so? First you have to understand that the game was played between two potential World Championship challengers. At that level, all the players are exceptional defenders. Second, the Black player, Maxime Vachier Lagrave is the biggest known Najdorf expert of the modern era. Getting such a crushing position against the best player of this line is an achievement in itself. 

Read  What Should Every Chess Player Know About The Sicilian Dragon?

The Bg5 method of attacking can be used in many different systems, including the Sicilian Rauzer, Sveshnikov among others. But how should you attack against the Dragon?

The Best Way To Attack With The White Pieces Against Sicilian Dragon

Now let’s see a model game in the Dragon variation which shows how White can develop attacking chances. In this line, both sides castle on the opposite flank. White’s plan is slightly different but the end objective remains the same – to crush the opponent with a devastating attack. 

This game was played by the author of these lines with the White pieces in a local tournament.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 

This is an important move, instead of going 6.Bg5. White defends their knight and will plan to launch an attack with f3,g4 and h4-h5. At the same time, White also threatens a long term exchange of the dark-squared bishop with Qd2-Bh6.

6…Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Bd7 9. Bc4 Nc6 10.O-O-O 

White’s king is secured and they are ready to go all out on the kingside.

10…Rb8 11.h4 

The attack begins…

11…h5 12.Bh6 Kh7?

One bad move by Black and White now develops a crushing attack. Better was to launch their own attack with b5, sacrificing a pawn on the queenside to open lines for their pieces. White now gets the chance to demonstrate the ideal plan in the Dragon.

13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.g4 hxg4? 

Now Black is just losing. They cannot afford to ignores their counterattack..

15.h5!(White steamrolls) Nxh5? 16.Rxh5!

A typical sacrifice after which Black is lost.

Read  How Can a Beginner Use The Sicilian Defense In Chess?

16…Nxd4

If instead 16…gxh5, White plays 17.Qg5 + Kh8 18.Qxh5+ Kg7 19.Qg5+ Kh8 20.Rh1 checkmate.

17.Qh6+ Kg8 

17…Kf6 allows a beautiful checkmate after 18.e5+ dxe5 19.Ne4#. After the game move, White mates with the simple 

18. Qh7#

If you’re ever confused on how to attack against the Dragon, remember Bobby Fishcer’s words –

“Pry open the h-file, sac, sac… mate” (Commentary from his famous book “My 60 Memorable Games)

To sum up, here are the most important strategies for White to attack against the Sicilian –

  • Go Bg5 – This way you develop your bishop to an active square, threatening to capture Black’s Nf6, which is often an important defensive piece.
  • Launch Pawn storms – When the Black king is in the centre, open up the position with f4 followed by e5, or f4-f5. Whereas, if the Black king is on the kingside, pawn storms like h4-h5, g4-g5 and an eventual h6 or g6 become devastating. Only in rare lines does Black castle queenside. There the play becomes a lot more quiet.
  • Use your development advantage – In most Sicilian lines, White’s pieces develop faster than Black’s. This allows White to take active measures and launch a quick attack.
  • Go for the sacrifices, but calculate and focus – As you saw from the games, White sacrificed material. Often such sacrifices can unsettle the Black players and provoke them to make mistakes. But you must calculate the variations well. Playing aggressive in the Sicilian isn’t for the faint-hearted.

We hope this article has helped you grasp the best attacking plans and ideas in the Sicilian lines. These ideas can often be used in other sub variations of this opening too. Good luck in crushing the Sicilian as White.

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