There is no reason not to play for the win with black. The Grunfeld Defense and Sicilian Dragon are two excellent, dynamic chess openings as black that give you every chance to win.
There are enough standard features and strategies to make learning both openings easier. For example, both openings feature a kingside fianchetto and have the …d5 advance in common.
These two positionally sound openings offer plenty of tactics for attacking players to enjoy. You will find yourself playing many exciting chess games once you include these chess openings as black into your repertoire.
Take a look at how Peter Svidler, a lifelong Grunfeld Defense player, chose to counterattack rather than defend against many dangerous threats.
The Similarities Between these Strong Chess Openings
When you choose these two chess openings as black in your repertoire, you have more than just 1.d4 and 1.e4 covered. You can use the Grunfeld setup against the Reti, English Opening, and other queen pawn openings like the Jobava London and Veresov Attack.
Look at the similarities between these two openings in these standard middlegame positions.
The first is a typical middlegame position you find in the Sicilian Dragon.
Here is a typical Grunfeld Defense middlegame position.
In the mainline variations of both openings, you develop with …Nf6, …g6, …Bg7, …0-0, and creative play in the center with …d5. In the Sicilian Dragon, the …d5 advance occurs later than in the Grunfeld Defense.
Playing both of these chess openings as black ensures that:
- You develop your pieces quickly.
- Get your king to safety early by castling.
- Follow the classical chess guideline of meeting flank attacks against your king by counterattacking in the center.
You can play dynamically in many variations of these openings by sacrificing material! These sacrifices are sometimes pawn sacrifices or exchange sacrifices.
No matter which of the thematic sacrifices you play in these two chess openings as black, you get full compensation for the sacrificed material! This compensation can be in the form of greater activity, or it could include dangerous attacks against your opponent’s king.
Get More From The Exciting Grunfeld Defense
The Grunfeld Defense is a fighting defense against the Queen’s Gambit and usually starts with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5
Black surrenders a central pawn for a flank pawn and allows White to build a broad center with 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4. In return, Black opens the long diagonal for the bishop on g7 and attacks the center with …c5 and …Nc6.
The aggressive nature of the Grunfeld Defense made it one of the favorite chess openings as black of two chess legends – Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer.
However, to avoid lots of opening theory, players with White have turned to the English Opening (1.c4) and Reti Opening (1.Nf3). The good news is that if you choose the Grunfeld Defense as one of your chess openings as black, you can use a Grunfeld Defense setup against both these openings.
The fewer openings you need to face White’s main opening moves, the more time you will save.
Between the Grunfeld Defense and the Sicilian Dragon, you can cover all four of the most-played opening moves by White.
Facing the English Opening With the Grunfeld Defense
The English Opening (1.c4) is a dangerous opening choice for White. The opening was a favorite of the fifth world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik and, more recently, the well-known GingerGM (GM Simon Williams).
1.c4 g6 2.e4 e5 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6
Many of the world’s best chess players have used this approach against the English Opening, including Anish Giri, Wesley So, and We Yi.
The white pawns on c4 and e4 form a Maroczy Bind, but Black has play along the semi-open e-file. Although slightly cramped, there are no weaknesses in Black’s position
6.Nc3 0-0 7.Be3 c6 8.Be2 Re8 9.Bf3 d6 10.0-0 Nbd7
There is little White can do to interfere with Black’s development system, and there are two perfect squares for the black knights – e5 and c5.
Kolbus, D. – Jones, G., 2019.10.12, 0-1, FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss Round 3.70, Douglas ENG
Meet the Reti Opening With Confidence
1.Nf3 can prove tricky to meet because of all the transpositions available to White. The Reti Opening can transpose to the Queen’s Gambit with 2.c4 and 3.d4.
White often uses the Reti Opening to wait and see what defense Black adopts.
When you choose an opening as strong as the Grunfeld, as one of your chess openings as black, there is no need to disguise your approach.
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.e4 e5 5.Nxe5 0-0
The loss of the pawn on e5 is only temporary because Black has …Re8, and occupying an open central file is a positional plus in the middlegame.
6.Be2 Re8 7.Nf3 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 Rxe4 9.d3 Re6 10.0-0 d5
Black has already achieved equality and can push on for the win!
Djuric, S. – Cumming, R., 2020.10.30, 0-1, 14th Figueira da Foz Open Round 8.3, Figueira da Foz POR
Playing for a Win Against 1.e4
The Sicilian Dragon is seen by many as one of the most double-edged defenses to 1.e4. Nonetheless, it is positionally sound and gives you many opportunities to play for a win, making it a great choice as one of your chess openings as black.
The drawback to playing the Sicilian Defense below master level is that many chess players meet the Sicilian Defense with one of the Anti-Sicilian variations.
Hoping to sidestep one of your chosen chess openings as black will prove White’s undoing.
Although it is accepted that the Open Sicilian is White’s best chance of an advantage against the Sicilian Defense, this does not stop many from playing an Anti-Sicilian.
Fortunately, you can stay within the Sicilian Dragon setup against many Anti-Sicilian variations and play positions familiar to you. One of the many reasons the Sicilian Dragon is one of the best chess openings as black.
Challenging the Closed Sicilian With Success
One of the most popular Anti-Sicilians is the Closed Sicilian variation – 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3. You will find players who enjoy positional chess choose this variation.
Fortunately, this is one variation where you can immediately fianchetto your bishop on g7.
In the Closed Sicilian, the black knight usually gets developed on e7. Unlike in the Open Sicilian, where the knight gets developed on f6.
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.d3 d6
One of the advantages of developing with …Nge7 is that you make f5 more difficult for White to play. Another vital move is …Rb8 which gets the rook off the h1-a8 diagonal, where it can get attacked by the bishop on g2.
6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Rb8 10.Qd2 b5
The knights defend each other from attack and control vital squares in the center. Black intends to drive the knight from c3 with …b4. If White stops this advance with a3, Black continues with …a5 and …b4.
Notice that Black keeps the h8-a1 diagonal open for the bishop on g7. The bishop is an excellent piece that supports the advance of the black queenside pawns.
Olga Stjazhkina – Irina Bulmaga, 2014.07.10, 0-1, European Individual Women’s Championship Round 5.27, Plovdiv BUL
Attacking the Alapin (2.c3) With the Dragon Setup
Another popular Anti-Sicilian is the 2.c3 or Alapin Variation. In many variations, this leads to an isolated queen’s pawn and is favored by players who enjoy open positions.
There is no need to enter unfamiliar territory when you can meet the Alapin with a kingside fianchetto. Let your opponent open the position and make your g7 bishop even stronger!
1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7
6.dxc5 Qxc5 7.Be3 Qc7 8.Be2 Nf6 9.Na3 Nc6 10.Nb5 Qb8 11.0-0 0-0
Black will drive the white knight back with tempo and has a pawn majority in the center, thanks to the e-pawn. Once again, the Sicilian Dragon structure has no weaknesses, and Black can fianchetto his other bishop on b7 if he chooses.
The rooks will come into play along the open d-file and semi-open c-file. White must take care not to create a weak, backward pawn on the c-file by rushing to advance the other queenside pawns.
Not even an opposite-colored bishop endgame in the next game could save White from defeat.
Euler, Gerd – Zvjaginsev, Vadim, 2004.08.08, 0-1, Mainz Ordix op Round 11, Mainz GER
The Sicilian Dragon and the Grunfeld Defense are two dependable chess openings as black, you can play your entire chess career. You are sure to enjoy many exciting games with these two chess openings.
Do not let the many tactics and opportunities for sacrifices scare you from playing fighting chess. These chess openings are based on solid chess principles.
There is no reason to fear getting a worse position in either opening. In fact, you can enter endgames and exchange down in the Sicilian Dragon with every intention of winning the game.
Part of mastering an opening is having an excellent coach, and when it comes to attacking play, there is none better than GM Sam Shankland!
Learn how to play the Grunfeld Defense with 48 fantastic tactics you can use to power up your Grunfeld Defense.