The Sveshnikov Sicilian


This opening paper focuses on the main 10 Bxf6 Bxf6. It places a bias on the systems which involve black playing an eventual g6 followed by f5. It tries to determine the appropriate timing for the implementation of this plan.

Starting Position

This variation of the Sicilian starts with the diagram in the following position which can be reached by the following move order:

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5

Black commits himself to a weakness on d5. Play can revolve completely around this weakness now.

This white paper shall focus on the variation after:

Ndb5 d6 Bg5 a6 Na3 b5.  The main line from the above position runs:

Nd5 Be7 Bxf6. This reaches the following "starting position":

White’s usual plan based on the d5 square, is try and get knight on a3 to the central square e3 via the manoever c3 Nac2-e3. c3 is a logical move therefore to start this plan off. Black then has to find an effective plan. Let us examine two key systems for black. The first system is 11 c3 0-0 12 Nc2 Bg5. White now has the move a4, which can lead to bxa4 Rxa4 as shown in the following position:


The question is now, what are blacks effective plans?

Black has an isolated pawn on the a file, and a weak d5 square. Black needs to generate sufficient counterplay to balance out these weaknesses. An example of  play which leads to the main "starting position" of this whole line is: a5 Bc4 15..Rb8 16 b3 Kh8 17 0-0 f5 18 exf5 Bxf5 Nce3 Be6


Now according to Mikhail Krasenkov in his book on the Sicilian sveshnikov, this is okay for black because black has a pair of bishops and counterplay against the white b3 and f2 pawns which compensate for the weakness of the a5 and d6 pawns and the d5 square..

I do not personally like this position for black compared with the variations which involve black playing g6 followed by f5. This is my kings indian bias. In the kings Indian, you would not normally allow an exf4 because white would gain the e4 square for a knight.

In my games in practice, with the g6 f5 plan, sometimes the g file can be used with effect.

Krasenkov does mention 17..g6 as the main alternative to f5. The line he gives where Black maintains sufficient counterplay is 18 Qe2 Bd7 Rfa1 Bh6 g3?! (20 b4) f5 exf5 gxf5 b4 e4! (Lutz-Kramnik, Germany 1995) - see example game below

Example Game (Taken from the Sveshnikov Sicilian but annotations by Fritz with the aim of testing for the appropriate timing of the g6 f5 plan)

Lutz-Kramnik Germany 1995

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 00 12.Nc2 Bg5


A) 13.Bd3 Bg7 (13...Be6 14.00 Rc8 15.Qf3 Bg7 16.Rad1 Bxd5 17.exd5=) 14.00 (14.Qd2 Bb7 15.000 Qa5 16.Kb1 Rac8=) 14...f5 (14...Be6; 14...Ne7 15.Nxe7+ Qxe7 16.Ne3 Bb7 17.f4 exf4 18.Rxf4=) 15.Nce3 Ne7 16.Nxe7+ Qxe7 17.exf5 gxf5 Fritz seems to be satisfied with the black position here. Has the timing of g6 followed by f5 been improved, by not using the system with 12 ... Bg5, and instead going for an immediate g6, and in an analogous way to the kings indian, putting the bishop to g7 ?;

B) 13.Nxf6+ 13...Qxf6 14.Qd2 Bb7 15.000 b4=]

13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.b3 Kh8 17.00 g6 18.Qe2 [18.Nce3 Bb7 19.f3 f5 20.exf5 Bxe3+; 18.Re1 f5 (18...Be6 19.Qd3 f5 20.Nce3 Bxe3 21.Nxe3 Bxc4 22.Qxc4) 19.exf5 A) 19...gxf5 20.Qf3 (20.Qd3 Bb7 21.Raa1 e4 22.Qh3 Ne5) ; B) 19...Bxf5 20.Ra1 Be6 21.Qe2=] 18...Bd7

[18...f5 19.exf5

A) 19...gxf5 A1) 20.Rd1 Bh6 Fritz thinks white is slightly better here(20...Rg8 21.Ra3 Be6 22.Nde3 Qe7 23.Bxe6 Qxe6 24.Nd5) ; A2) 20.Rfa1

B) 19...Bxf;

C) 19...Rxf5 20.Rfa1 Bh4 (20...Bb7 21.Bd3 Rf8 22.Be4) 21.f3 Fritz seems to think white is better; 18...f6 19.Rfa1 (19.Nce3 Bb7 20.Rfa1 Bxe3 21.Nxe3 Qc7 22.f3) 19...f5 20.exf5 Bxf5 21.Re1]

19.Rfa1 [19.Rd1 Ne7 20.Raa1 f5 21.exf5 Bxf5 22.Nxe7 Bxe7] 19...Bh6 [19...f5 20.Bb5 h6 21.f3 Nb4] 20.g3 [20.Nce3 Qh4 21.Qf3 f6 22.g3 Qh3; 20.Nde3 f5 21.exf5 Bxf5 (21...gxf5 22.Rd1 f4 23.Ng4 Bg7 24.Rxd6 Bxg4 25.Rxd8 Bxe2 26.Rxf8+) 22.Nxf5 Rxf5 23.Be6 Rf8 24.Ne3] 20...f5 21.exf5 gxf5 22.b4 e4 23.bxa5 Ne5 24.Rb4 Rxb4 25.cxb4 f4 26.Nd4 e3 27.fxe3 [27.Rf1 Nxc4 28.Qxc4 Qg5 29.Kg2 Qg4 30.Qc3 Qh3+ 31.Kg1 fxg3] 27...f3 [27...fxg3 28.hxg3 Qg5 29.Kg2 Rg8] 28.Qa2 f2+ 29.Kg2 Qe8 [29...Qa8 30.e4 (30.b5 Ng4 31.Nc6 Be6 32.e4 Bxd5 33.exd5 Ne3+ 34.Kh1 f1Q+) 30...Qe8 31.Bb3 Qh5 32.h4+-] 30.Be2 Ng4 31.Bf3 Nxe3+ [31...Bxe3 32.Nxe3] 32.Nxe3 Qxe3 33.Qxf2 Bh3+ 34.Kg1 Qc3 35.Re1 Bd2



Given that g6 and f5 is an effective plan, the author questions, whether 12 .. Bg5 is as good as the immediate g6 followed by Bg7 and f5.

Further Reading

The Sveshnikov Sicilian (Cadogan Chess Books)
    Mikhail Krasenkov / Paperback / Published 1996
Sicilian : Sveshnikov Variation
    A. Adorjan, T. Horvath / Hardcover / Published 1987
New Ideas in the Sveshnikov Sicilian (Batsford Chess Library)
    Valery Neverov, et al


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