Ideas in the Sicilian Rossolimo: Part I 4.Bxc6

For anyone who plays the Sveshnikov Sicilian, or other Sicilians with 2…Nc6, a knowledge of the Rossolimo variation is crucial. The 3.Bb5(+) anti-Sicilians are extremely popular, and it’s impossible to play 1…c5 without encountering them. In this 3 part series, I’m going to look at some games and try to find some themes and ideas for both sides in this variation. The three posts will revolve around positions where white plays (1) Bxc6 (2) c3 and/or (3) 0-0. Naturally, many of these lines transpose, and so I will look for games that reflect ideas unique to these positions.

The great thing about the Rossolimo from white’s perspective is that the variations tend not to be as forcing as some other lines of the Sicilian, and so white can play a maneuvering game and decide upon piece placement and long term positional plans. The following game illustrates an idea for white that I rather like. It’s a stylish knight maneuver that clamps down on the center, played by our hometown hero Yudasin. I’m not sure whether he was the first to play this idea or not, but this was the first game I found with this knight maneuver when searching for ideas for white. While Kramnik is able to draw here, I think that Yudasin’s idea of Nd2-c4-e3 is worth its weight in gold, particularly in a blitz game where black might not have the time to reckon with the activity of this wonderfully placed knight.

This next game features a couple of ideas for black. The first is the pawn structure on the king-side: the phalanx h7,g6,f6,e5 is a common setup in the Rossolimo with 4.Bxc6, but here Kramnik reaches it very quickly by playing 5…e5, inviting Nxe5 (though Shirov doesn’t take the pawn since 6…Qd4 would suck the life out of the position). Also, black generally places his remaining knight on e6, via Nd7-f8, but in this game, Kramnik races the knight to f7 via h6! He also manages to grab a solid space advantage by move 13, which is no small feat with the black pieces.

Rogozenko gives the following game as the mainline of this variation, though as seen above there are many other forks in the road along the way that are not objectively worse. In this short draw we see the main themes of this variation in their simplest forms: Black’s king-side pawn formation, the knight maneuver to e6, and delayed castling (in order to wait and see which way white goes and follow suit on the same side), while white plays an early h3 to prevent the bishop pin, exchanges off black’s dark squared bishop, and prepares to attack on the king-side of the board, likely applying pressure down the f-file.

here is a collection of games in this variaiton, all of which end in draws, and in this video our blitz hero Kingscrusher plays the surprise weapon 3…Na5!?, which is an idea for black that looks fantastic for blitz. Also, this video (part 1) also covers a lot of ideas quickly, though the commentary is a bit hyperbolic and biased towards the black pieces, the actual variations he covers are worth looking at. Here is part II.