5.f3 against the Sicilian

Some posts on this blog have drawn attention to the fact that the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3 is not mentioned in Grandmaster Repertoire 6A – Beating the Anti-Sicilians by Vassilios Kotronias.

However, the line was featured in Experts on the Anti-Sicilian, where the recommended response was 5…e5 with coverage of the variations:

A) 6.Bb5† Nbd7 7.Nf5 d5 8.exd5 a6
A1) 9.Ba4
A2) 9.Bxd7†
B) 6.Nb3

We have decided to make this chapter freely available as a pdf here.

42 thoughts on “5.f3 against the Sicilian”

  1. Top quality aftercare from the QC team!
    Listening to your customers always pays dividends… looking forward to spending much too much on some further books I don’t really need….

  2. Johnnyboy :
    Top quality aftercare from the QC team!
    Listening to your customers always pays dividends… looking forward to spending much too much on some further books I don’t really need….

    Experts on the Anti-Sicilian is quite dated now, I haven’t checked but there must have been important developments since that publication.

  3. @Topnotch: Not only dated on the calendar, but there has also been a book advocating the variation since the EotAS chapter. Hopefully Kotronias will publish his own update soon!

  4. This was a freebie so can’t be too critical. If you want to be comprehensive it’s sometimes called the Prins variation and kasparov did a couple of articles in new in chess yearbook to complement his book. As far as being dated Carlsen karjakin pretty much followed colins lines

  5. all this f3 discussion…. is an other point to avoid 2..d6 and switch to 2..e6 ! This coming book on Taimanov/kan is highly awaited

  6. @RYV
    I would hope ‘Playing the Kan’ would feature Ant-Sicilian lines for 2…e6 players as there are a few lines in GM Rep BTAS that wouldn’t suit Kan players such as 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6. A Kan player would play 2…a6 or 2…e6

  7. @The Doctor
    after 1.e4 c5 2.Cf3 e6 there are not much anti-sicilian lines not covered in previous books
    3.c3 Cf6!
    3.b4 cb or b6 !?
    3.Cc3 a6!
    What else? if you play the Kan you are ready to play some hedgehog type position .. Then you can turn to Shipov 2 volumes.
    anyway i agree that anti-sicilian lines are much more common than main line sicilian if you play below master level ( as i am !) .
    My last 10 games were : 1.e4 c5 2.c3 ( 4/10) 1.e4 c5 2.Cc3 ( 2/10) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b4 (1/10) 1.e4 c5 2.d4 (1/10) 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3.d3 ( 1/10) and finally 1;e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cd 4.Qd4

    so maybe i dont really need a GM Rep on main line Kan !?

  8. Is there any real disadvantage by playing 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6, when 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 avoids the Prins-Variation altogether? The only notable deviations seem to be 5.Qxd4 and earlier 4.dxc5 but both do not look critical to me.

  9. @RYV
    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4

    Here the Taimanov is 4…Nc6 and 5…Qc7

    The Kan/Paulsen is 4…a6, which offers both players more flexibility. I generally consider it a bit inferior, but it is taste I presume.

    There is 4…Nc6 5.Nc3 a6, which I am honestly not clear what is called. It is probably a Kan, rather than a Taimanov. I see the three as separate systems…

  10. @Jacob Aagaard

    Yes, there are many transpositions from Kan to Taimanov. And i think it is an important point to discuss in a book as playing ..Nc6 ..Dc7 and ..a6 or ..a6 ..Qc7 and ..Nc6 might lead to the same position but each move order is designed to avoid some specific variation. Even if it is not a Kan book I hope the book will cover those lines where Kan & Paulsen move order lead to Taimanov positions. It will be too restrictive to analyse only 4..Nc6 ( unless there is an other book with 4..a6….coming later)

  11. These …a5 lines are certainly quite decent, but I personally dislike the somewhat rigid structures that occur from them; a matter of taste, obviously, as many GMs have employed them with success. Against the particular move-order Csaba mentions, I think 7.a4 is the most appropriate reply; and then I would dislike the lack of breaks on the queenside, though of course dark-square play compensates for this. A matter of taste, like I said.
    However, the really significant development in this line since Experts was published has been the resurgence of 5…e5 6.Nb3 d5, followed by 7.Bg5 d4!. It has been played extensively in the last couple of years, most notably by Cheparinov, with excellent results. I have done some analysis on this line, out of curiosity, and I am personally of the opinion that it is quite good and offers Black very active and fluid play. The positive feedback from GM games recently seems to support this opinion.

  12. I’m just wondering, what is the advantage of starting 6 .. Be7 instead of a5? The LOL line seems to be gone, what is gained? (not rhetorical question, in fact I fully expect an obvious answer here, but I don’t know it.)

  13. @Csaba
    I believe the main difference is what you allow and what you avoid. More concretely:
    – 6…a5 makes 7.c4 unplayable, as you pointed out, but it does allow 7.Bb5+, which often leads by transposition to a line of the Classical Sicilian after 7…Nc6 8.Nc3 (stopping …a4 for good) Be7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2; this would be a Classical Sicilian with 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.Qd2 a5 (the most common choice) 10.Bb5. This is a fully respectable line, but one that is a little unusual (for example, Black often plays …Na7-c8-b6 to break the bind on b5 and get some play on the queenside) and therefore not one that comes very naturally.
    – 6…Be7 avoids that transposition (Bb5+ has no point before …a5 has been played), and after 7.Nc3 Black can continue simply with …0-0 and think later whether to transpose to a Najdorf with …a6 or whatever else; but of course it does allow White to play 7.c4, which would be the choice of most 5.f3 fans.
    I don’t really see any other difference. I would even venture to say that with 6…Be7 Black invites 7.c4, to enjoy dark-square play later!
    Regarding Jacob’s reply above: I made a typo, I wanted to say “7.Bb5+ is the most appropriate reply”, not 7.a4 (which would in fact invite …Nc6-b4 later). And my comment about queenside “breaks” was intended to mean that “Black has played …a5 but he can hardly do anything further with his pawns on the queenside” in the transpositional line given above…

  14. To call this a line is an exaggeration 🙂

    What about:

    1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nxc6 (6. Be3 d5=)
    6… bxc6 7. O-O e5 8. Nd2 (8. c4 Bc5=) 8… Be7 9. Nc4 d6 10. f4 d5!N
    11. exd5 Bc5+ 12. Be3 Bxe3+ 13. Nxe3 Qb6 14. Qd2 Nxd5 15. Rae1 exf4 16. Qf2!
    Nxe3! 17. Rxe3+ Be6 18. Qxf4 O-O 19. b3 Rad8=

  15. In response to Jacob’s September 23rd post, questioning what various lines are called. It’s not 3 different systems, it’s 2.

    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 is the Kan. The Knight is not developed to c6 early, and most of the time, it’s not developed there at all. It usually goes to d7.

    What distinguishes the Kan and Taimanov is specifically that Knight, similar to how the g8-Knight distinguishes the Pirc from the Modern.

    After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf6 e6 (2…Nc6 and 4…e6 is also possible) 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 is the Taimanov. After 5.Nc3 (5.Nb5 is White’s other option), both 5…a6 and 5…Qc7 are considered the Taimanov. The line with 5…a6, where the King’s Knight usually goes to e7, is the Old Main Line while the line with 5…Qc7, where the King’s Knight is typically developed to f6 instead of e7, is the Modern Main Line of the Taimanov.

    A number of openings have multiple main lines where one is considered the “Old” or “Classical” main line and the other is the Modern Main Line. The Taimanov is one of them. Others include:

    The Scheveningen (Classical features …a6, Modern does not)
    French Open Tarrasch (Classical features 5…Nc6, Modern features 5…Nf6)
    Benoni (Old features 1…c5, Modern features 1…Nf6/2…c5/3…e6)

    I’m sure there are others, but those come to mind at this time.

  16. Csaba,

    As one that has played my fair share of 5.f3, I can tell you that after 5.f3 e5 6.Nb3 (6.Bb5+ is another move Black must know, but it’s not very good for White), the move 6…Be7 is rarely played. Sure that move will be played eventually, but more common are 6…a5 and 6…Be6 (The “Main Line”). The reason for 6…Be6 instead of 6…Be7 is to get the queenside pieces out more rapidly. Knight going to d7, Rook to c8, etc.

    After 6…Be6 7.c4, White’s play resembles a Maroczy Bind with a misplaced Knight on b3.

    Also, I have seen a number of comments about 6…a5. It does make 7.c4 highly dubious, and 7.a4 is nothing but equal. White is better off playing either 7.Bb5+, or a move not mentioned is 7.Nc3, and there are some major differences between 7.Nc3 and the lines that come from the normal 5.Nc3.

    I’ve mostly been playing 1.d4 of late, but I would still play 5.f3 in the 2…d6 Sicilian. I avoid the Dragon from both sides at all cost! If you know the Accelerated Dragon, congrats! You can directly transpose to it, along with the 5…e5 option or the Hedgehog setup. All 3 cases give White his desired Maroczy Bind setup, which is what most 5.f3 players, like myself, are looking for.

  17. Manfredo :
    Anti-Sicilians versus 2… e6: Please don’t forget the very annoying line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Bd3.

    If you play 4.Nc6 ( taimanov system!) there is no point to Bd3

  18. @Steve
    Wouldn’t 3…Qc7 solve your problem? I have not checked it, but it seems that White has nothing better than transposing to normal Taimanov lines after 4.d4.

  19. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Bd3 no line? In Mega-Database 2017 there are 6010 games in this line – a lot of GMs are playing this in tournament games – including one Anand-game.
    For comparison: In the “very important Anti-Sicilian line” 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3 there are 6567 games in Mega-Database 2017. I don´t see why the 5.f3 line should be more important than the 5.Bd3 line.

  20. @RYV: The point is to avoid Sicilian-Hedgehog-positions and to play the Scheveningen, The Four-Knights or Sveshnikov-main lines after 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nb5 d6 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5. I never saw a book with a serious study of the 5.Bd3 Anti-Sicilian. The main theoretical recommendation is 5… Nc6 6.Nxc6 dxc6 with a very dry position (see e.g. Anand-Leko, Dortmund 2001). Several times i tried 5… Qb6 but i am not sure that this is the solution.

  21. @Manfredo
    there are anti-sicilian lines in all 3 systems ( 2..d6 2..e6 and 2..Cc6 ) as i said there is no perfect move order. If your opponent doesnt want to play main line, then go for the = position even if it doesnt offer wining chances( not loosing with black is already a ggod result)

  22. @Patrick
    5…a6 may be a Taimanov in some distinctions, but after the almost mandatory 6.Nxc6, we have an entirely different type of position, making in meaningless to group it with 5…Qc7.

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