Game #71 – Falling to a Closed Sicilian

Closed Sicilian

Washington Open 2022 – Round 5

Winning all your games in a chess tournament is a tall order. In round five, I faced a Closed Sicilian, a popular way of meeting Black’s Sicilian Defense. Having won my last four games, including a win against a 2200, I expected to win this game. My opponent was Richard Lavoice, a USCF 1875 ELO who had lost to Viktors Pupols in an earlier round. Apparently, Richard made an ill-advised exchange sacrifice that cost him the game. Given that that I had beaten Pupols last round, I felt that I would have good chances against Richard .

He started the game playing what I thought was a side line of the Closed Sicilian. After some research, I realized this was actually mainline theory!

Game #71 - Falling to a Closed Sicilian

Post-game analysis

Work on your endings. This has been a theme of mine in many of my previous blog posts, and it’s something to mention yet again. The main reason I lost this game was my inability to properly assess the ending. I traded down when I shouldn’t have which led to a hopelessly lost position.

Play the position, not the opening. Amateur players spend too much time looking at opening theory. They tend to memorize a lot of move orders without understanding the reasons behind them. My quick decision to play 11. d5 was an example of reacting to the Closed Sicilian that I thought I understood but did not. Normally, d5 is a liberating move that fights for control of the center while forcing some favorable exchanges, but not in this case. The simple d6 was perfectly reasonable and would have led to a more balanced game.

Underestimating the bishop pair. It’s one thing when your opponent has the two bishops, but quite another when they have them on an open board. This should have set off an alarm bell for me, but it did not. I should have avoided trading at all costs and continued defensive play for the remainder of the game.

Conclusion

A tough game where I was outplayed early in the opening. Sometimes, one move in chess is all it takes to be worse, or even lost. After the eleventh move, my opponent got an edge and never let up. My play worsened from there. I made some very superficial moves and misevaluated several key positions. Needless to say, I have made myself familiar with the Bd3 variation of the Closed Sicilian! A score of 4 out of 5 is not a bad performance, but there is still one more round to go – let’s see if I can make it 5 out of 6.

Have you ever played Black against the Closed Sicilian? If so, please share below. We at Better Chess would like to hear from you!