Sicilian Defense O’Kelly Variation – IM Robert Ris (iChess Club)

The Sicilian Defense O’Kelly variation is both a surprise weapon by Black and a way to transpose to other variations. Since Black will almost invariably play …a6 in the Sicilian Defense, he decides to play it on move 2 and hopes White will reveal his cards too soon.

ichessclub Sicilian Defense OKelly Variation blog image

2…a6 also sets a small trap for White because the standard 3.d4 is not the best move for White because after 3…cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5, the move Nb5 is no longer possible.

Starting Position of the Sicilian Defense O'Kelly Variation (2...a6)
Starting Position of the Sicilian Defense O’Kelly Variation (2…a6)

However, there is absolutely no need for White to rush into playing d4, and he has a good move available in 3.c4. The move c4 clamps down on the d5-square making the freeing advance of the d-pawn for Black much harder to get in under favorable circumstances.

White will soon play the move d4 when lots of possibilities open up for him whether or not Black captures on d4. A little preparation is all it takes for White to enjoy many positional pluses no matter what defensive plan Black chooses.

These plans can include an early queen exchange, but even after the exchange of queens, White still keeps excellent attacking chances.

Another option for Black involves …Bg4 and …Bxf3 when White need not be concerned about doubling pawns with gxf3. The two bishops combined with a lead in development make the weakness of the pawns a non-factor.

White will develop the bishop to g2, 0-0, and bring the dark-squared bishop to e3. The e-pawn and f-pawn will soon advance to free up the bishop on g2.

Final Thoughts on the Sicilian Defense O’Kelly Variation

IM Robert Ris has many excellent strategies for White involving a bishop sacrifice, advancing the h-pawn, and even sacrificing a rook for some pawns! In just a few minutes of study, White is surprising Black in the O’Kelly variation.

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