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The Openings Explained

Abby Marshall


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The Kalashnikov Sicilian [B32]

This month I am covering the white side of the Kalashnikov Sicilian.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5

This is the seemingly anti-positional move that starts it all.

4...Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 is the more standard Sveshnikov, an enterprising line.


This is the most challenging move, targeting the d6-square.


5...a6 is the Lowenthal variation, which I covered in one of my very first columns in May 2010. 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 White gets a small advantage.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "r1bqkbnr/pp3ppp/2np4/1N2p3/
2P1P3/8/PP3PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 6"]

This is the choice that White does not have in the Sveshnikov. It restricts the d-pawn.

6.N1c3 is the cutting edge line. I opted for 6.c4 since there is less to learn for a line that does not come up very often. 6...a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nce7 9.c4 (9.Bg5 This is even more cutting edge. 9...h6 10.Nxb5 axb5 11.Bxb5+ White gets a strong initiative for the piece.) 9...Nxd5 10.exd5 bxc4 11.Nxc4 Now that there is a white pawn on d5, the play is very different. White is going to try to establish an outpost on b6 for the knight.


Black develops and gets ready to castle.

6...Be6 Black can play this prior to ...Be7. The lines will transpose. Here, Black does not play ...f5 unlike in the main line. 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 The knight is going to come around to c2 and e3. The timing on this maneuver varies, since on a3 the knight protects the c4-pawn, and on c2 the knight guards the d4-square from the black knight. 8...Rc8 9.Be3 Nf6 10.Be2 Be7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Rc1 h6 The idea behind this move is to support ...Bg5 to get rid of the bad bishop. (12...Nd7 We will take a look at this plan in the first illustrative game.) 13.Qd2 Ne8 14.Nc2 Bg5 15.Rfd1 Bxe3 16.Qxe3 Qg5 17.Qg3! White slowly improves the position. This move says that if Black wants to trade queens, it will be on White's terms. White does not want to trade queens on g5, since that would let Black get more control over f4, and does not want Black to capture on e3, because the black knight could get to d4 when White recaptures with the c2-knight. White won in 1-0, Popovic,P (2550)-Ivanovic,B (2545)/Vrsac 1989 (44).


White does not worry about the b5-knight being pushed to a3, as in the previous variation, the knight does a lot of good on a3, c2, and e3.

7.Be2 I recommend a different move order, but as usual we have a transposition. In this variation, Black plays ...Nd4 and ...Nxe2. 7...Be6 8.0-0 Nf6 9.N1c3 a6 10.Na3 Nd4 11.Be3 Nxe2+ Black gets the bishop-pair, something we do not see very often, but since this bishop is not White's best I doubt this helps Black. 12.Qxe2 0-0 13.f3 Rc8 14.Rac1 Nh5 15.Qd2 f5 16.Rfd1 Nf6 17.exf5 Bxf5 18.Nd5 White still gets control of d5 and is happy with having a knight against Black's bishop. 18...Rc6 19.b3 White won this game many moves later 1-0, Ivanchuk,V (2680)-Short,N (2610) Tilburg 1990.


Playing ...b5 may be a part of Black's plan later, so this move makes sense.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "r1bqk1nr/1p2bppp/p1np4/4p3/2P1P3/
N1N5/PP3PPP/R1BQKB1R b KQkq - 0 8"]

The knight will be re-routed.


This is what I would be most worried about, but it does create more light-squared holes for White to exploit.

8...Be6 is the older move. 9.Be2 Bg5 Black can do this instead of playing ...Nd4. 10.0-0 Bxc1 11.Rxc1 Black has succeeded in getting rid of the bad bishop, but there is one less defender of d6 and Black was used a lot of time. 11...Nf6 12.Nc2 The idea is to bring the queen to d3, the other rook to d1, and play Nd5. White has an easy space advantage.

8...h6 White has not even played Be3, so this move seems unnecessary. 9.Nc2 Be6 10.Be2 Bg5 11.0-0 Nge7 12.b3 Bxc1 13.Rxc1 0-0 14.Qd2 This leads to similar play as in the previous line. 14...Qd7 15.Nd5 Rad8 16.b4 Black does not even get the chance to play ...f5 early. The extra space advantage helped White win later in Polgar,J (2630)-Shirov,A (2740), Buenos Aires 1994.


After 8...f5, I like moving this knight right away. Black is not going to be able to play Be6 and Rc8 quickly and the knight can move to e3 to attack the light squares fast.


Black keeps developing.

9...f4 is bad. This is played in the Sveshnikov, when there was an additional pawn on the f-file on reserve to play ...f5. 10.g3 fxg3 11.hxg3 Nf6 12.Be2 0-0 13.Be3 Rb8 14.g4! This starts a very strong attack. The game is so beautiful that it is worth showing in full. 14...Be6 15.g5 Ne8 16.Bg4 Bf7 17.Nd5 b5 18.Qd2 bxc4 19.0-0-0 c3 20.Qxc3 Nd4 21.Nxd4 exd4 22.Qxd4 Bxg5 23.f4 Bf6 24.e5 dxe5 25.fxe5 Bg5 26.Bf5 h6 27.e6 Qc8+ 28.Kb1 Bxe6 29.Bxg5 Bxf5+ 30.Ka1 Qb7 31.Ne7+ Kh7 32.Rdg1 Qe4 33.Nxf5 Qxf5 34.Bxh6 gxh6 35.Qa7+ Nc7 36.Qxc7+ Qf7 37.Rxh6+ Kxh6 38.Qc6+ 1-0, Andreikin,D (2451)-Edouard,R (2212)/Heraklio 2004. After 38...Kh7, White plays 39.Qh1+!.


There is nothing to fear from the open f-file and the bishop on f5 becomes a target.


Black gets two pawns in the center against White's zero pawns. White wants to hold these pawns back.


The natural spot for the knight. The white bishop will get out via b3 and Bb2.


The bishop helps control the d5-square.


I like putting the bishop on the long diagonal. It keeps the central files open for the white pieces and the bishop controls both e4 and d5.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "r3k2r/1p1qb1pp/p1npbn2/4p3/2P5/
2N1N1P1/PP3P1P/R1BQKB1R w KQkq - 0 13"]

Black decides to re-route the bad bishop.

12...Nd4 13.Bg2 We will pick this up in the second illustrative game.

12...Rc8 Black tries a blitz on the c-pawn. 13.Bg2

A) 13...b5 This is ambitious. 14.cxb5 axb5 15.0-0 (15.Nxb5 d5!) 15...Nd4 16.Ned5 Nxd5 17.Nxd5 0-0 18.Be3 White has a small advantage with the queenside majority and strong bishops attacking the center.

B) 13...Na5 14.0-0 0-0 0 15.Ned5 Nxc4 16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Bxb7 Rc7 18.Bg2

The Openings Explained
[FEN "3q1rk1/2r3pp/p2pbb2/4p3/2n5/2N3P1/
PP3PBP/R1BQ1RK1 b - - 0 18"]

This happened recently in a top-level game. White has a clear advantage and won: 18...Kh8 19.Nd5 Rc8 20.Nxf6 gxf6 21.b3 Na5 22.Ba3 Nc6 23.Qxd6 Qxd6 24.Bxd6 Rfd8 25.Rad1 Kg7 26.f4 exf4 27.Bxf4 Nd4 28.Rd2 Bg4 29.Kf2 Nb5 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Rc1 Bf5 32.Rc6 Rd1 33.Rxa6 Rb1 34.Bd2 Rb2 35.Ke3 Bb1 36.Bf1 Nd4 37.Bd3 1-0, Leko,P (2722)-Shirov,A (2736)/Monte Carlo 2004.


White finishes development and gets ready to castle. If Black develops normally, then White can either play Ned5 and Be3, or play b3 to fianchetto the bishop.

13...Bd8 14.0-0 Bb6 15.Ned5 Bd4 16.Be3

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r3k2r/1p1q2pp/p1npbn2/3Np3/
2Pb4/2N1B1P1/PP3PBP/R2Q1RK1 b kq - 0 16"]

This happened in Topalov,V (2743)-Shirov,A (2723), Monte Carlo 2003. Topalov won an exciting game. White is already better here since Black is behind in development and White already threatens 17.Bxd4 and 18.Nb6.

Lutz, Christopher (2600) – Kalinitschew, Sergey (2505)
Bayern-chI Bank Hofmann 2nd Bad Wiessee (8), 05.12.1998

White capitalizes on Black's multiple missteps to establish a near dream position. After forcing the displacement of Black's pieces, White wins with a kingside attack, achieved through positional play in the center and queenside.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Be7 7.Bd3

This is not what I am recommending, but it transposes to what we want.

7...Nf6 8.0-0 a6 9.N5c3 Bg4 10.Be2 Be6 11.Be3 0-0 12.Na3 Rc8

We have transposed to the usual move order.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "2rq1rk1/1p2bppp/p1npbn2/4p3/
2P1P3/N1N1B3/PP2BPPP/2RQ1RK1 b - - 0 13"]

White's rooks usually go to c1 to help protect the white c-pawn and to d1 to attack the black d6-pawn.


This maneuver, getting the knight to c5, is seen often in the Sicilian. Here is it very slow and this allows White to get an advantage. Keeping the knight on f6 also allows it to pressure the e4-pawn.

13...Nb4 14.Qb3 The knight has to go back.

13...Re8 This interesting waiting move makes things awkward for White. 14.Nc2 Probably White should respond with 14.Bf3, since the normal moves run into problems. (14.Qd2 Na5 15.Nd5? Nxe4; 14.Bf3) 14...Na5 15.b3 b5.


It takes the knight another move to go back to attacking e4-again, so after 14...Na5 White could play 15.Nd5.


White is not even castled on the queenside, so I do not like the re-location of the knight for Black. White plays the moves he wants to make.

14...Na5 15.Nd5 Bh4 16.g3 White gets the bishop-pair.


The knight will try to go to e3.


This is risky for Black, but better than anything else.

15...Qa5? 16.b4 Nxb4 17.Nxb4 Qxb4 18.Nd5!.

15...h6 16.Rfd1.

The Openings Explained
[FEN "2rq1rk1/1p2bpp1/p1npb2p/2n1p3/
2P1P3/2N1B3/PPNQBPPP/2RR2K1 b - - 0 16"]


White does not want to let Black play ...f4.

16...Bxf5 17.Nd5

Getting this knight here is the goal of this system against the Kalashnikov.


Black saves this bishop. Although bad, it helps hold the weak pawns on dark squares.


White makes Black's pieces worse. There is no pressure on the c-pawn anymore.


Black's knight is quickly dislodged from this square. Better is 18...Ne6, where White will play 19.Bb6 and 20.Nce3.

19.Qd1 Qe8 20.Bg4

Relentlessly taking over the white squares.


This is where things go south for Black. There is no attack, so the queen is better at home.

20...Be6 21. Bxf5 Rxf5 22.Qg4 was the threat. 21.Bxe6+ Qxe6 22.Nb6 Rcd8 23.Qd5 This may be the easiest way to secure an advantage.

21.Bxf5 Rxf5 22.f3 Rcf8

22...Nf6 23.b5

The Openings Explained
[FEN "2r3k1/1p4pp/p1np1nq1/1P1Npr2/
2P4b/4BP2/P1N3PP/2RQ1RK1 b - - 0 23"]

The knight on f6 blocks the bishop on h4 from guarding the e7-square.


Now this knight is displaced.

23...Na5 24.Qe2 Nc5 25.Bxc5 dxc5 26.Nce3 Rh5

Tactically this fails, but Black was worse.


Once the pawn gets to f5, White has a very strong attack. Black cannot take the pawn, because 28.Nxf4 forks the queen and rook.

27...Re8 28.f5 Qf7 29.f6 gxf6 30.Ng4 f5

The Openings Explained
[FEN "4r1k1/1p3q1p/p7/nPpNpp1r/
2P3Nb/8/P3Q1PP/2R2RK1 w - - 0 31"]

31.Ngf6+ Bxf6 32.Qxh5 1-0

A nice tactic ends the game. A few inaccurate moves let White do exactly what he wanted with a knight on d5 and trading off the light-squared bishops.

Timofeev, Artyom (2622) – Fedorov, Alexei (2602)
RUS-chT Sochi (8), 26.04.2005

This game is a good example of two strong grandmasters battling it out.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Be7 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 f5 9.exf5 Bxf5 10.Nc2 Nf6 11.Ne3 Be6 12.g3 Nd4 13.Bg2

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r2qk2r/1p2b1pp/p2pbn2/4p3/2Pn4/
2N1N1P1/PP3PBP/R1BQK2R b KQkq - 0 13"]

Both sides have gotten what they want. White is laser-focused on the light squares, while Black has an open f-file and a strong knight on d4.


The best move.

13...0-0 Black may not want to push ...b5 right away. 14.0-0 (14.Bxb7 Bh3!) 14...Rb8 15.f4 Nd7 16.Ned5 Black's knight on d4 is strong, but relies on protection from the e-pawn. White can play b3, Bb2 next.


Taking will be forced after Black plays ...Rc8 piling on the c-pawn.

14.Bxa8 is clearly a disaster for White. 14...Qxa8 15.Ncd5 Nxd5 16.cxd5 Bxd5 17.Nxd5 Qxd5 White's king is in serious danger with 18...Nf3+ coming next.


Black gets a lot of space on the queenside and has two uncontested pawns in the center. White wants to turn these pawns into targets.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "r2qk2r/4b1pp/3pbn2/1p1Np3/3n4/
4N1P1/PP3PBP/R1BQK2R b KQkq - 0 15"]

White puts the knight where it wants to go and does not let Black push the pawn to d5.


The rook comes to an open file and gets out of the discovered attack from the g2-bishop, since taking the exchange would become an option if pieces start coming off the board.

15...Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 Black should keep this bishop and not be afraid of the knight on d5 for now. 17.Bxd5 Rc8 18.0-0 White has turned the knight vs. bad bishop situation into the advantage of the bishop-pair, which in this open position is very strong.

16.0-0 0-0

16...h5 is not what the position is asking. 17.b3 h4 18.Bb2, followed by 19.Rc1. Black has no attack.


This is the only way for the bishop to be active.


17...Rc5? 18.Nxe7+ Qxe7 19.Bb2 The knight has to retreat, which makes the b2-bishop strong after White plays f4.

17...Nxd5 18.Nxd5 Bg5 is more typical.


18.Nxe7 Qxe7 19.Bb2 Qa7 is a nice resource that Black did not have when the rook was on c5, blocking the path from a7 to d4. 20.Bxd4 Qxd4 This is good for Black.


The only good choice to defend the knight and challenge White's domination of d5.


I like that White keep the tension.

19.Nxe7 Qxe7 20.Qd3

The Openings Explained
[FEN "2r2r1k/4q1pp/3pbn2/1p2pn2/8/
1P1QN1P1/PB3PBP/R4RK1 b - - 0 20"]

Exchanging and then playing here is good too, but playing direct forcing moves makes it easier for the other side. It is better to make indirect threats or two-move threats.

19...Nxe3 This is best.

19...Nxd5 20.Nxd5 Bg5 21.h4 Bh6 22.a4 White takes over. None of Black's pieces are coordinated.


20.fxe3 The pawn just becomes a target. 20...Nxd5 21.Bxd5 Bxd5 22.Qxd5 Qb6


Black cannot play ...d5 because the e-pawn is hanging.

20...b4 I would be more worried about this move. Now Black can target the a-pawn. 21.f4!? This move is positional, not attacking. White can take on e5, creating an isolated pawn, or push to f5 gaining space.


21.f4 is a possibility here too and more ambitious.

21...Qa7 22.a3

22.Rd2 makes less weaknesses, since now the b-pawn is still defended by a pawn. 22...Ng4 23.Nxg4 Bxg4 24.Qxb5.


The Openings Explained
[FEN "2r2r1k/q3b1pp/3pb3/1p2p3/6n1/
PP1QN1P1/1B3PBP/3R1RK1 w - - 0 23"]

Now everything is equal.

23.Nxg4 Bxg4 24.Rc1 Be6 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.h4 Rf8 27.Bd5 Bh3 28.Bg2 Be6 29.Bd5 Bh3 ½-½

Both sides played it safe. There were a couple places where the play could become more imbalanced, such as 21.f4.

Lessons Learned

  • Given Black's fourth move, control over d5 and the surrounding light squares is crucial for White. At the same time, winning the bishop-pair is not bad and taking the bad bishop on e7 can be good, since that bishop holds Black's position together. Do not let Black push the d-pawn.
  • The white knights go to c3 and e3, the bishops to g2 and b2, and the queen and a rook to the d-file. White can think about defending the c-pawn with putting a rook on c1, or playing f4 to pick at Black's center.
  • Black's ideas involve getting a knight active on d4 and using the open queenside files. The endgame is good for White, so Black does not want to exchange all the pieces, just the bad bishop and maybe a pair of knights.


  • Dmitry Andreikin is a young Russian grandmaster. He was the 2010 World Junior Champion and will participate in the 2014 Candidates Tournament.
  • Christopher Lutz is a German chess grandmaster and is the author of Endgame Secrets, published by Batsford. He has had a number of good tournament results, including winning the German championship.
  • Artyom Timofeev is a top grandmaster from Russia. He had first-place finishes in the Moscow Open in 2008 and the European Youth U18 Championship in 2000. He is in the top hundred players in the world.

Further Reading

Order The Openings Explained #52 (Ebook)
by Abby Marshall

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