Dismantling The Sicilian

Jesus de la Villa

Reviewer: John Donaldson
New In Chess
336 pages

Players who want to open 1.e4 and do so in a principled way choose to meet 1…c5 with the lines of the Open Sicilian. The large amount of theoretical knowledge this requires is considerable and has been a problem for serious amateurs for some time. John Nunn and Joe Gallagher were the first to address this difficulty with their well received single volume Beating The Sicilian that went through several editions the last of which was published in 1995, making it too old to recommend today. More recent entries into the category of guides to fight the Sicilian include: Experts Versus The Sicilian (Quality Chess 2004 with a revised edition in 2006), Taming The Sicilian (Everyman Chess 2003) by Nigel Davies, White According To Anand by Chess Stars and very recently Dismantling The Sicilian by Jesus de la Villa. All have their strong points, but the excellent White According To Anand is definitely geared to the high end (2200 players on up) as well as the well heeled – six of the volumes in the series cover the Sicilian and, at close to $30 a pop, would cost the would be buyer close to $200! Davies aims his work at the club player.

That leaves only Experts Versus The Sicilian as a good comparison for de la Villa’s new book. There are definite similarities both in the easy to read format where background information is followed by model games, and in the length of each book (Dismantling The Sicilian is slightly longer). The big difference, as the title of the Quality Chess book states, is that Experts Versus The Sicilian has multiple authors while de la Villa is solely responsible for Dismantling The Sicilian.

This is the second work by de la Villa for New in Chess, and as in 100 Endgames You Must Know, he shows himself to be a skillful author who offers clear explanations and organizes his material well. The repertoire he offers is internally consistent and well thought out. He shows a strong preference for the practical over the theoretical when forced to make a choice. One example is after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 where he offers Black the chance to transpose back into regular Sicilian lines while Jacob Agaard in Experts Versus The Sicilian covers both the practical 3.Nc3 and the more ambitious 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nc3. The latter is quite theoretical after 4…e6 5.Nxd5 exd5 6.d4 Nc6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Qxd5 and now either 8…d6 or 8…Qb6. De la Villa’s philosophy is clear – don’t spend a lot of time studying lines that you will rarely ever see just for the chance for a possible knockout victory when quieter play will suffice for a small advantage.

Few players that consider buying Dismantling The Sicilian or Experts Versus The Sicilian will be completely new to the Open Sicilian and chances are that they will all ready have an existing repertoire against 1…c5. How closely it meshes with those offered in the two books may likely be the determining factor in which is purchased, so a comparison of their recommendations against major Sicilian lines is in order.

Dismantling The Sicilian:

Najdorf (6.Be3)
Dragon (9.Bc4)
Sveshnikov (9.Bxf6)
Classical Sicilian (6.Bg5)
Kan and Taimanov (Be3 and Bd3)
Accelerated Dragon (5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4)
Scheveningen (6.Be3)

Experts Versus The Sicilian:

Najdorf (6.Bg5)
Dragon (9.0-0-0)
Sveshnikov (9.Bxf6)
Classical Sicilian (6.Bg5)
Kan and Taimanov (Be3 and Bd3)
Accelerated Dragon (5.c4)
Scheveningen (6.g4)

The two books differ in their treatment of the Najdorf (6.Be3 and 6.Bg5), the Dragon (9.Bc4 and 9.0-0-0), the Accelerated Dragon (5.Nc3 and 5.c4), and the Scheveningen (6.Be3 and 6.g4), overlapping only in their adoption of 6.Bg5 versus the Classical, Be3 + Bd3 versus the Kan and Taimanov and 9.Bxf6 versus the Sveshnikov. There isn’t much overlap.

Those aiming for the maximum out of the opening may prefer the recommended repertoire of Experts Versus The Sicilian with its sharper 6.Bg5 versus the Najdorf and more principled 5.c4 versus the Maroczy Bind, but the more practically minded (and those starting from scratch) may find Dismantling The Sicilian more to their liking as the interrelated English attack setup with Be3, Qd2, f3 and 0-0-0 – featured in part against the Najdorf, Scheveningen and Kan/Taimanov – cuts down on study as does 5.Nc3 against the Accelerated Dragon.