Carlsen – Nepomniachtchi: Will we see Carlsen’s Sveshnikov Sicilian?

The Carlsen versus Nepo World Chess Championship in 2021 promises to be an intriguing match-up. There could be no chess opening more deserving of such a stage than the Sveshnikov Sicilian.

The Sicilian Sveshnikov is an opening of unrestrained aggression by Black, one so intimidating it often drives White away from the Open Sicilian move order, which is regarded as his best chance for an advantage in the Sicilian.

The Sveshnikov Sicilian is not for the fainthearted!

On its first move, the Sicilian Defense seeks to create imbalances, but the Sveshnikov Sicilian strives to unbalance the entire opening.

When it comes to uncovering the secrets of the Sicilian Defense, there is nobody better than GM Judit Polgar. In this video, she goes into great depth about the d5-hole.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Sveshnikov Sicilian The Choice of World Champions

What Makes The Sveshnikov Sicilian So Dangerous?

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5

Sveshnikov Starting Position
Sveshnikov Starting Position

Apart from taking the asymmetry already inherent in the Sicilian Defense and increasing it, Black has many other benefits. The most obvious is Black’s claim to his fair share of central territory with the pawn advance …e5.

Black gets an incredible amount of piece activity in the Sveshnikov Sicilian!

What about the hole on d5? There are sixty-three others squares to play on, which provides Black’s active pieces with all the space they need to wreak mayhem in the White position.

There is a learning curve to playing such a dynamic opening with the Black pieces. You will need to work hard learning to play the Sveshnikov Sicilian to get the most out of this fighting opening.

When it comes to reaping great rewards in chess, as in life, the harder you work, the more you are rewarded.

As we mentioned, the Sveshnikov Sicilian often proves intimidating enough to drive White into playing the Anti-Sicilian 3.Nc3. This Anti-Sicilian makes a fitting starting place to see what the Sveshnikov offers you.

The Anti-Sicilian 3.Nc3

The excellent news for Sveshnikov Sicilian players is nothing is stopping you from getting equality against the move 3.Nc3. Also, keep in mind, there is no reason to assume a draw is a foregone conclusion.

Will we see this line again in the Carlsen versus Nepo World Chess Championship match 2021, or will Nepo decide to try another line against the Sveshnikov Sicilian?

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3

Sveshnikov 3.Nc3
Sveshnikov 3.Nc3

There are many moves Black can play in this position, but the most natural for Sveshnikov players is 3…e5. This is the choice of the current world chess champion Magnus Carlsen.

4.Bc4 Be7 5.d3 d6 6.Nd2 Nf6 7.Nf1 Bg4 8.f3 Be6 9.Ne3 0-0 10.0-0 Rb8

In a previous Carlsen versus Nepo  3.Nc3 was played
Sveshnikov 3.Nc3 10…Rb8

The threat of Black playing …b5 is enough to force White to weaken the b4 square, which Black immediately occupies with a knight. Notice how the knight on b4 supported the …d5 break for Black on the very next move.

In the next game, see how Moiseenko holds this position against a strong GM rated 2645.

Movsesian, Sergei – Moiseenko, Alexander, 1/2-1/2, ESP-chT Honor Gp2 49th, 2005

The Modern 7.Nd5

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Nd5

Sveshnikov The Modern approach with 7.Nd5
Sveshnikov 7.Nd5

White intends to create a pawn majority imbalance on either side of the board. White has a 4 to 3 majority on the queenside, and Black has the same on the kingside.

Both sides will try to restrain their opponent’s majority from advancing while pushing their own pawns forward. Although the d5-hole gets plugged after 7…Nxd5 8.exd5 Black has gained this plus at the cost of moving his knight.

After 8…Ne7 9.c4 Ng6 10.Qa4 Bd7, we reach the following position

Sveshnikov 10...Bd7
Sveshnikov 10…Bd7

Interestingly enough, with his World Chess Champion title on the line, Magnus Carlsen chose to play the Sveshnikov Sicilian in his 2018 tie-breaker against Fabiano Caruana. Will he do the same in this year’s Carlsen versus Nepo world championship match?

Caruana, F. – Carlsen, M., 0-1, WCh Rapid TB 2018

White Adopts A Strategic Approach with 9.Nd3 and 11.c3

This variation is the one you are most likely to meet at the club level. Many players choose this variation with White because it isn’t heavily dependent on theoretical knowledge.

Also, many White players will find satisfaction in taking control of the d5-square as early as move seven, even at the expense of giving up the bishop pair.

The main reason for its popularity is that White’s position is considered very safe.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5

Sveshnikov 9.Nd5
Sveshnikov 9.Nd5

9…Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3

Sveshnikov 11.c3
Sveshnikov 11.c3

The most immediate strategy for White is to play a4 and leave Black with an isolated a-pawn. Black really can’t avoid playing …bx4.

When you play the Sveshnikov, active piece play takes preference over pawn structure!

This chess opening is not a nice clean variation of the Sicilian Defense. Black is fighting, and every fight is a dirty one.

Besides, the isolated a-pawn is hardly fatal, as Garry Kasparov proved in his game against Veselin Topalov in 1998.

Topalov, Veselin – Kasparov, Garry, 0-1, Leon Man+Comp m playoff, 1998

Here is the game between Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen for you to enjoy at your leisure.

Nepomniachtchi, Ian – Carlsen, Magnus, GCT Croatia 2019, Zagreb CRO, rd 7, Jul-02, 0-1

In Conclusion

The Sicilian Defense Sveshnikov is a chess opening that will test your commitment. Almost anybody can show up at the board and play the Philidor Defense, and that’s perfectly fine, but you have to prove yourself worthy before playing the Sveshnikov at the board.

Learning this opening takes a lot of hard work, and there will be times when you doubt if it’s the right opening for you. Persevere because the rewards are great, and you have a great role model in the current world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. 

If you desire, you can learn how to play the Sveshnikov with no other resource but Magnus’ games. 

Give yourself plenty of time to master this opening, and remember you will start by playing it against opponents at your level. You only have to be better prepared than your next opponent.

No matter how it looks on the surface, the Sicilian Defense Sveshnikov variation is a sound chess opening.

When it comes to Carlsen versus Nepo in the World Chess Championship 2021 the Sveshnikov Sicilian will embody the spirit of these two great fighting chess players.

What openings do you think we’ll see in the Carlsen versus Nepo match? No matter what openings we see the World Chess Championship in November 2021 promises to be an exciting one.

Act Now! For a Limited Time get 50% Off! Judit Polgar’s Secrets of the Sicilian learn the Sicilian Defense through games played the strongest chess players to ever have played the game. Learn from Judit Polgar as she plays the Sicilian Defense and plays against it while battling world chess champions! This comprehensive 15-hour course can be yours today for Only $49.95!

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