Five Sicilians from club play

by Bob Martin

Bob sent me these games with his own notes to illustrate both some nice amateur games with the Sicilian Defence, but also to illustrate what sorts of thinking and assessment goes on at club level. Bob is about an {A} player, so if that's where you want to be, this is the level of judgement you should be capable of. Thanks, Bob!
(28) Martin,R [B78]

  1997

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6

  (1) This initiates a dark-square game.

  Black will try to keep White's center dark squares clear of pawns and pieces.

5.Nc3 Bg7

  (2) With my king bishop on g7, I will do everything I can to open the long diagonal h8-a1, and avoid exchanging the bishop unless I can secure an overwhelming advantage with its loss.

  This bishop will be my second most powerful piece in this type of opening.

6.Be3 Nf6 7.f3

  (3) This is a key move in the Yugoslav attack against the Sicilian Dragon.

  I does three things for him: a) reinforces e4, b) keeps the black knight off of g4 where it could challenge the Be3, c) prepares g2-g4-g5 with a kingside pawn storm attack.

7...Qa5

  (4) An early queen move, but it does three things for me: a) shifts the queen to the queenside where my attack will come later, b) helps watch the kingside and center, c) to chase the queen White will have to put the knight on b3 where it will be subject to harassment by a later Black a7-a5-a4.

8.Bc4 0-0 9.Qd2 d6 10.0-0-0 Bd7

 

 

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11.h4

  (5) Too soon.

  White is not prepared for this early attack.

  He should get his king off the half-open "c" file with Kb1 instead.

  Believe it or not my next move is a direct attack on his king

  (an x-ray attack).

11...Rac8 12.h5

  (6) Better is Kb1 now.

12...Ne5

  (7) If instead Nxh5 White will play RxN and have an open "h" file for a ready made attack; thus sayeth Fischer.

  Amen! Believe me, if you do it, it will come.

  Ne5 begins my queenside attack since I already have an open file.

13.Bb3 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.g4

 

 

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  (8) The last chance to get the king to b1 and off the hot "c" file.

  My pieces now become too active.

15...Rxc3 16.Nb3

  (9) This move gives him more problems than it gives me, better was QxR.

  But even then I'll clean up on all his pawns: QxQ, Nxg4, Bxg4, Bxc3, Bxh5.

  In the Sicilian, Black usually has the better endgame pawn structure.

16...Rxc2+ 17.Qxc2 Qxa2 18.Kd2 Rc8

  (10) After this White will have no protection for his king.

  Count the number of Black pieces that can attack the white king: queen, rook, bishop

  (g7), knight, and bishop

  (d7) = five pieces, but I must be prepared for the coming Ra1.

19.Ra1 Nxe4+

  (11) Opens the diagonal and brings down the curtain on the White king.

  There are too many open lines into the White position.

20.fxe4 Rxc2+ 21.Kxc2 Qxb2+ 0-1

 

 


(29) Martin,R [B73]

  1997

1.e4 c5

  (1) Black's strategy will be to fight for the dark squares, especially d4.

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6

  (2) I will put the bishop on g7 and work to control the a1-h8 diagonal.

  I won't exchange this bishop without some sort of advantage in return.

  In most cases, the bishop on g7 will be almost as powerful as the queen.

5.Nc3

  (3) If White exchanges knights on c6 I will capture with bxN and have more central influence with my pawns.

5...Bg7 6.Be3 d6

  (4) Getting control of e5 and vacating d7 for the bishop.

  Also, if Nf6 instead of d6, then White can play NxN bxN, e5 and my knight must return to g8.

  I don't like the looks of that.

7.Be2 Nf6 8.0-0 0-0

 

 

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  (5) The plans for both sides are fairly simple: Black will use the half-open "c" file for possible queenside expansion, and White will use the "d" file and center for his attack.

  White must prepare his attack carefully so that his pawns don't become weak, and Black must watch that White doesn't lock the queenside.

9.a3

  (6) A waiting move and making preparations to stop Black queenside tricks.

  This move is not as good as f4.

9...Bd7 10.Qd2 Rc8

  (7) Black has the classic Sicilian Dragon attacking position.

  I need to decide how to start my attack.

  I should consider d5.

11.Rad1

  (8) If White had castled queenside

  (as in the last game) this rook would already be here and he would be a move ahead.

  But with kingside castling he takes a more cautious approach to the game since his king will not be worried about the bishop on g7 and rook on c8.

11...Ne5 12.f4

  (9) Black must now play aggressively before the White pawns get too far into his position.

  But this move brings with it a weakness: the e4 pawn is only defended by the knight on c3, and the f4 pawn blocks the bishop on e3.

12...Nc4

  (10) Forces an exchange of pieces

  (always good for the defender).

  I would now consider Ng4 instead of Nc4.

13.Bxc4 Rxc4

  (11) Black should have decided the rook's ultimate fate before the recapture on c4 since it will be subject to attack here and to move it again will only help White's coming attack.

14.f5

 

 

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14...Rxc3

  (12) This exchange sacrifice forces White to make a long range decision: a) ruin his queenside pawns and subject them to attack by Black's queen on a5, and rook on c8 or b) recapture with queen and wait for Black to attack with the bishop on g7, queen on a5 and rook on c8.

  Either way he must be careful.

15.bxc3 Nxe4

  (13) The point of the rook sacrifice on c3.

  White's pawns are an endgame nightmare.

  He must go for a middlegame win.

16.Qd3 d5

  (14) Look at the bishop on g7 and its potential on the open long diagonal.

17.fxg6 hxg6 18.c4

  (15) This allows Black to establish two connected passed pawns on open diagonals.

  Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

18...Nc5 19.Qe2 e5 20.Nb3

  (16) This repairs the doubled pawns, but Black's center pawns will become monsters.

20...Nxb3 21.cxb3 d4

 

 

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  (17) It's been a dark-square game from the beginning; where does he put the bishop: on f2 or d2 a rook gets blocked.

22.Bc1 Qb6 23.b4

  (18) This solves one problem, but doesn't do anything about the center.

23...d3+

 

 

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24.Qe3

  (19) The only move.

  Be3 doesn't work.

24...Qxe3+ 25.Bxe3 e4

  (20) The real purpose behind Qb6.

  White thinks the bishop will blockade the pawns.

26.h3

  (21) Wastes time.

  White is worried about Bg4 and a future f5.

26...Ba4

  (22) The bishops have more freedom of movement than do the two White rooks.

  Notice how White doesn't have time to pick off the pawn on a7.

27.Rd2 Bc3 28.Rdf2

  (23) He thinks he can tie the remaining Black rook to the defense of f7, but the bishops show their stuff.

28...Bb3 29.c5

  (24) Now the bishop holds f7 and frees the rook for pile driving duty.

29...Rd8 30.b5 d2

  (25) White loses material.

0-1

 

 


(30) Martin,R [B20]

  1997

1.e4 c5

  (1) Begins the fight for the dark squares, especially d4 2.Bc4

  (2) The only problem with this move is it allows Black to play an early d5

  (knights before bishops).

  If I had played 1.

  e5 it would be okay.

2...e6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3

  (3) Nc3 would strengthen his grip on d5 and prevent my next move.

4...d5

 

 

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  (4) Frees Black's game and forces White to move the bishop again.

5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nc3 Nf6 9.d3

  (5) Maybe d4 would be better.

9...0-0 10.Bxc6

  (6) Three moves invested in the bishop and now he has nothing to show for it.

10...Bxc6 11.Ne5 Rc8 12.b3

  (7) In view of a possible d4 this move is a waste of time.

  The bishop should go to d2 not b2.

  The e3 square will become an outpost

  (a la Nimzowitsch) for four pieces! 12...Re8 13.Bb2 d4 14.Nxc6

  (8) Pretty much forced.

  White can't leave the bishop on the open diagonal since he has no way to oppose it.

14...Rxc6

 

 

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  (9) The rook replaces the bishop and can swing to the kingside if necessary.

  What replaced white's knight and bishop? Nothing.

  White has nothing to show for the six moves invested in those pieces.

15.Ne2

  (10) If instead Ne4 then Black still plays Nd5.

15...Nd5

  (11) Heading for e3 ever since 13 d4.

16.Bc1

  (12) Somehow White must try to hold e3.

  The early 3.

  f4 looks a bit silly now.

16...Bf6

  (13) To give e3 additional support from the Re8

  (overprotect) and prevent a possible c3 pawn break.

17.g3

  (14) Supports f4 but creates another open diagonal into the king position.

  It's difficult to find good moves for White now.

17...Ne3 18.Bxe3 Rxe3

  (15) Black replaces each piece traded with another.

  White on the other hand develops a piece then trades it off.

19.Rb1

  (16) With the bishop of f6, White is afraid to leave the rook on a1.

  White has no plan, he is simply reacting move by move to Black's threats.

  Black has been centering his play around the e3 square.

19...Rce6

  (17) Threatening the knight on e2, but actually reinforcing his grip on e3.

  White's position is rather sewn shut.

  Black must now focus on the weak kingside.

20.Rf2 Qe8 21.Kf1 Qc6

  (18) The real reason for Qe8.

  Black wants the h1-a8 diagonal that his bishop used to own.

22.Kg1

  (19) White has given Black two free moves: Qe8 and Qc6.

  The position is the same as on White's 20.

  Rf2, except now Black's queen has gone from d8 to c6! 22...h5

 

 

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  (20) This pawn will probe the kingside.

23.Qd2 Rf3

  (21) To make e3 available to the other rook.

  If 24.

  RxR, then QxR with the rook going to e3 anyway.

24.f5 Ree3 25.Nf4 h4

  (22) White must prevent hxg.

  If 26.

  gxh, then Bxh4 with other problems, while h3 sets up mating threats on g2 with the Black queen.

26.g4 Bg5

  (23) White must be extremely careful, the bishop attacks the knight and threatens the White queen.

27.Ng2 h3 28.Ne1

  (24) If NxR, then dxe gets a free piece or the queen.

28...Rxe1+ 29.Qxe1 Be3

  (25) The fourth piece to use the e3 square.

30.Qxe3 dxe3 31.Re2 Rf2 0-1

 

 


(31) Martin,R [B20]

  1997

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4

  (1) Knights before bishops! At this point in the game where is the best square for the bishop? It's too early for the bishop move here.

2...e6 3.Nf3 d5

  (2) Center pawn break, creates a pawn duo and forces the bishop to move again.

4.exd5

  (2a) This gives Black the only center pawns.

4...exd5 5.Bb5+

  (3) What does check do for White? For Black it get another piece in the game.

5...Bd7 6.a4

  (4) What does this do for his piece development? 6...Nf6 7.d3 Be7

 

 

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8.Bxd7+

  (5) White invested three moves in the bishop and now removes it from the board and gets another Black piece in the game.

8...Nbxd7

  (6) This also helps hold the White knight off e5.

9.h3

  (7) What does this move and a4 have in common? h3 weakens the kingside pawn cover.

9...0-0 10.d4

  (8) White now has four pawn moves that do nothing to further his development; d4 gives Black the e4 "outpost".

10...Re8 11.0-0 Qc7 12.Qd3 Ne4 13.g3

  (9) After this, what protects h3? White's kingside pawns are very weak.

13...Ndf6 14.Bf4

  (10) e3 would have been a better squar at this point; what is the bishop going to do here? 14...Bd6 15.Bxd6

  (11) Just like the king's bishop, the queen's bishop suffers the same fate: two moves invested in the piece are now gone.

15...Qxd6 16.Ne5 cxd4 17.f4

 

 

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  (12) Now what is the fate of the knight? It was either this or move the knight again.

17...Nh5

  (13) The Black knights begin to overwhelm the kingside pawns.

18.Nd2 Nexg3

  (14) Black is basically finished.

19.Ndf3 Nxf4

  (15) The winning combinations begin to appear.

20.Nxf7 Re2

  (16) Does Black need his queen at this point? 0-1

 


(32) Martin,R [B21]

  1997

1.e4 c5 2.d4

  (1) White gambits a pawn.

  In exchange for material White will get open lines and a lead in development.

2...cxd4

  (2) Black accepts the offered pawn.

  His strategy should be: a) rapid development and quick castling, keep the extra pawn and go for an endgame advantage by trading pieces, or b) develop his pieces, castle as soon as possible and return the pawn to catch up in development.

3.c3

  (3) If Black declines this pawn White will have a center pawn duo.

  By taking the pawn he aids White's development.

3...dxc3 4.Nxc3 e6

 

 

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  (4) Opens a diagonal for the bishop, but seriously weakens d6.

  Better is d6.

5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bc4

  (5) The most aggressive square for this bishop.

  The gambiteer must be aggressive.

6...a6

  (6) Prepares a later b5 to chase the bishop on c4, but really prevents a knight excursion by: Nc3-Nb5-Nc7 along with a White rook on c1.

7.0-0

  (7) White has an ideal position; he hs all the open attacking lines.

  He needs to decide where to place the queen bishop and queen.

  If Black allows an e5 push by White then d6 is doomed.

7...Nge7

  (8) This does two things: allows the knight to go to g6 to hold back White's coming e5, and might allow Black to get in d5 especially if the other knight can get to b4.

8.Bg5

  (9) Prevents Ng6 and d5.

  In order to chase the bishop Black must weaken a pawn around the king.

  d6 is staring White is the face shouting "Use Me!!!" How many pieces does Black have in play? How many moves is he from castling? 8...b5

 

 

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9.Bxb5

  (10) Is this really a threat? Examine the consequences in your mind's eye.

  Write down variations on paper to keep track of the moves.

9...f6

  (11) Black saw the results of axBb5 and didn't like the knight on b5 after the recapture.

  Instead, he makes the weakening pawn move anticipated by eighth move.

  At this point Black is too cramped, and White has too many pieces in play for him to play timidly.

  White needs to open lines to the Black king even if he hs to sacrifice additional material.

10.Bxc6 Nxc6

  (12) Better than dxB If dxB, then White could play: 12.

  Qe2 fxB, 13.

  Rfd1 Qc7?, 14.

  Nxg5 with a later Qf3, e5 and Nce4.

11.Bh4 Bc5

  (13) The wrong square for the bishop.

  Black needs to bolster his king position to ward off any White attack.

  Better was Be7 which would prevent White's next move.

12.e5

  (14) Vacates e4 for the knight, attacks f6 and puts additional pressure on d6.

  White has several options: Ne4 with Rc1.

  A knight on e4 would also allow White to pressure f6.

  Notice that the e5 pawn is immune to capture because of the pin on f6.

  g5 by Black would allow White's queen in through the open h5-e8 diagonal.

12...Be7

  (15) Too late for this now.

  Examine Black's position if he had made this move instead of Bc5 and White had pushed e5 anyway.

  Black could have responded with f5, forced a piece trade and castled on his next move.

13.exf6

  (16) This forces the Black queen to a bad square and brings another White piece into the vicinity of Black's king.

13...Bxf6 14.Bxf6 Qxf6 15.Ne4

 

 

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  (17) The real point behind e5.

  With the Black king bishop gone, White can attack from d6.

15...Qxb2

  (18) The last thing he should do is waste moves on white pawns.

  Every pawn Black removes opens another possible attacking option.

16.Nd6+ Ke7 17.Rb1

  (19) Rb1 gives White new ideas: Nb7 BxN, and RxB together with the queen on d7.

17...Qa3 18.Nf5+

  (20) If Kf7, then Nd6+, NxB and Rb7; or Kd8, then Nxg7, Nxe6+; or Kf8, then Rb6, Rxc6, and Qd8.

18...exf5 19.Re1+ Kf6 20.Rb3

  (21) This rook can go to g3, or d3 then d6.

20...Qxa2 21.Qd6+ Kf7 22.Ng5+ 1-0

Chess Quotes

"Pawns are the skeleton of a chess position"