- The Closed Sicilian arises after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3.
- The opening is less played than the Open Sicilian and tends to be slightly more positional in nature.
- White will usually go for a kingside attack, whereas Black will first try to strike in the center or expand on the queenside.
If you’ve read our Sicilian Defense – Choosing the Right Variation for You, post you may have decided that the Closed Sicilian is the variation you would like to play.
The Closed Sicilian arises from the move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3. It differs from the Open Sicilian, which arises after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3. The Open Sicilian is considered the main line of the Sicilian Defense for White and is much more popular than the Closed.
That said, it is no less valid of an opening against the Sicilian Defense, and it could be a great weapon as Sicilian players will likely have studied more theory on the Open variation, as it is far more popular.
How to play the Closed Sicilian- Ideas for White
The Patient Closed Sicilian
2.Nc3 is of course not committal, and White can transpose to the open if they so wish by playing d4 later. It is fairly common in the Sicilian Defense to place the knight on c3 anyway.
But for the purposes of this article, we will look at typical Closed Sicilian lines.
2…Nc6 is the most common move. Black is not sure yet whether White will push d4, so this move prepares against it.
3.g3 This is a thematic move in the Closed Sicilian and prepares to place the bishop on g2. With the queenside knight on c3 and the bishop on g2, White aims to control the light squares in the center of the board and has made it difficult for Black to push d5.
3…g6 The most common move for Black, doing the opposite White is doing, controlling the dark squares and fianchettoing the bishop to g7. Playing a Closed Sicilian dragon-type formation.
4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6
This is a very common position in the Closed Sicilian. What ideas does White have going forward.
White will generally look for a kingside attack, playing 6.Be3 and 7.Qd2, creating a queen and bishop battery, with the bishop possibly going to h6 to challenge Black’s dark square dominance.
White may also wish to push either the f- or h-pawn to create pressure on the kingside and break things open.
Here is an example game where White successfully opened Black’s kingside with a push kingside pawns, thematic in the Closed Sicilian:
How to counter the Closed Sicilian- Ideas for Black
If you are a Sicilian player as Black, you should be prepared against the Closed Sicilian, even though you will see it less often than the Open Sicilian.
In the Closed Sicilian, White has more kingside space, while Black has more queenside space. We know that White will try to ambush Black’s kingside, so what can Black do to stop this?
Generally, Black will want to expand on the queenside. Alternatively, Black will strike in the center before White has a chance to execute their kingside attack.
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 4.g6 Again, Black fianchettoes their bishop. It is a good defender of the king after castling, and it provides pressure down the queenside.
Continuing with the line we saw earlier, 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Be3 e6 7.Qb2 Rb8
The point of 8.Rb8 is to prepare a b7-b5 pawn push and expand on the queenside.
In the following game, White did go for their kingside pawn push, but Black went for one on the queenside. Black’s queenside space advantage was enough to pressure White from long range and White’s kingside was exposed. It was too much for White to handle.
While more positional than the tactics-laden Open Sicilian, the Closed Sicilian, like most Sicilians, is an attacker’s weapon. Exciting and fun games arise from this opening, so it might be worth trying out to see if it suits your style.
Is the Closed Sicilian good for beginners?
The Closed Sicilian can be an excellent option for beginners who are looking for a more positional approach to combatting the Sicilian Defense. The best way to find out is to play some games with it and see if it suits your style.
Is the Open or Closed Sicilian better?
Modern theory and engines say that the Open Sicilian gives White a slight edge, but from a practical standpoint, the difference is minimal.
How do you open a Closed Sicilian?
After playing 2.Nc3, which sets up a Closed Sicilian, White can transpose into an open Sicilian by playing Nf3 and d4.
What is the difference between Open and Closed Sicilian?
The Open Sicilian arises after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 and results in a more tactical and “open” game, whereas the Closed arises after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 and is characteristically more positional or “closed”.