Efstratios Grivas – The Modernized Grivas Sicilian – ISBN 9789464201390 – 512 pages.
The Sicilian Defense is an opening that commences with the moves 1.e4 c5. The Sicilian Defense is the most popular and best-scoring response to White’s first move 1.e4. For example, 1.d4, is a statistically more successful opening for White because of the high success rate of the Sicilian Defense against 1.e4. New In Chess stated in its 2000 Yearbook that of the games in its database, White scored 56.1% in 296,200 games beginning 1.d4, but 54.1% in 349,855 games beginning 1.e4, mainly because the Sicilian Defense held White to a 52.3% score in 145,996 games. 17% of all games between GMs and 25% of the games in the Chess Informant Database, begin with the Sicilian Defense Almost one quarter of all games use the Sicilian Defense. Grandmaster John Nunn attributes the Sicilian Defenses’ popularity to its combative nature since in many lines Black is playing not just for equality, but for the advantage. The drawback is that White often obtains an early initiative thus Black has to take care not to fall victim to a quick attack. Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson considered why the Sicilian Defense is the most successful response to 1.e4, even though 1…c5, develops no pieces and the pawn on c5 controls only d4 and b4.
J.Rowson writes: ‘To my mind there is quite a straightforward explanation. In order to profit from the initiative granted by the first move, White has to make use of his opportunity to do something before Black has an equal number of opportunities of his own.’ However, to do this he has to make ‘contact’ with the black position. The first point of contact usually comes in the form of a pawn exchange which leads to the opening of the position. The thought behind 1…c5 is this: ‘OK, I’ll let you open the position, and develop your pieces aggressively, but at a price – you have to give me one of your center pawns.’ (Jonathan Rowson, Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently About Black and White). By advancing the c-pawn two squares Black asserts control over the d4-square and begins the fight for the center of the board. The move resembles 1…e5, the next most common response to 1.e4, in that respect. Unlike 1…e5, 1…c5 breaks the symmetry of the position which strongly influences both players’ future actions.
Today, most leading GMs include the Sicilian Defense in their opening repertoire. In 1990, the authors of Modern Chess Openings (13th edition) noted that ‘in the twentieth century the Sicilian has become the most played and most analyzed opening at both the club and master levels.’ In 1965, in the 10th edition of that book, Grandmaster Larry Evans observed that: ‘The Sicilian is Black’s most dynamic, asymmetrical reply to 1.P-K4. It produces the psychological and tension factors which denote the best in modern play and gives notice of a fierce fight on the very first move.
Efstratios Grivas, Summer 2021.