When Garry Kasparov was fighting his way up the ranking ladder to become the greatest chess player in the world, he did so with a trusted weapon against 1.e4: the Scheveningen Sicilian. A favorite opening of his youth, Kasparov scored point after point with the Scheveningen, and even an early book he wrote on the Sicilian was chockful of Scheveningen games.
But his relationship with the Scheveningen hit a rough patch in his 1984 World Championship match against Anatoly Karpov. The Keres Attack (6.g4) proved to be an extremely strong threat against it, so much so that he dropped the opening in favor of the Najdorf.
Top players followed suit, and the Scheveningen as the world knew it fell out of fashion in top level play. Sure, the Scheveningen structure could be reached through a Najdorf move order (this is known as the Classical Scheveningen – …a6 before …e6), but this diluted the opening somewhat by slowing down its characteristically swift kingside development. And it posed another annoying problem: White’s Bg5.
If only there were a way to keep the rapid kingside development and flexible pawn structure of the Modern Scheveningen (…e6 first) while fending off the Keres Attack and other threats…
Well as it turns out, there is. And it’s the subject of Grandmaster Alex Colovic’s new Chessable course, The Modern Scheveningen Sicilian.
The Scheveningen Remastered
Leave it GM Colovic to craft a Modern Scheveningen suitable for tournament success in the 2020s. Perhaps it should be no surprise – this Sicilian expert’s courses, such as The Najdorf: Simplified and Break Down the Anti-Sicilians are some of the most popular courses on Chessable for a reason.
So how does he address the Keres Attack? Let’s take a look at one of the lines from his course.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6
The two key features of the Modern Scheveningen are rapid development and flexible pawn structure. At any time, Black can go for a counterstrike in the center with either …e6 or …d6, with a knight on c6 adding support. This generates the counterplay necessary to combat the Keres Attack, as we’ll see.
6.g4 h6 7.h4 Nc6 8. Rg1 d5!
By playing this move, Black is threatening to win the pawn on e4. If White pushes the pawn to e5, then …Nxc6 wins the pawn. If exd5, Black’s …Nxd5 opens up a pathway for the queen to strike on the kingside, not only ruining White’s attack, but also threatening his own fearsome attack on White’s kingside – as we’ll see shortly.
So, it is quite logical for White to pin the c6 knight with 9.Bb5. Black breaks the pin with 9…Bd7, then:
10.exd5 Ndx5 11.Nxd5 exd5 12.Qe2+ Be7 13.Nf5
This is where the beauty of the Scheveningen really shines through. White has thrown everything at Black in a kingside attack; nevertheless, Black is castled, his pieces are developed and there is no kingside danger no matter how scary it looks.
In fact, White is the one who should be concerned. White is underdeveloped, and if he’s not careful, he might be the victim of some awful discoveries on the e-file (ideas with …Re8 attacking the pinned queen – White should have castled!) White’s kingside pawns are also overextended and the subject of a possible attack (with an eventual Bxh4 or Qxh4 at Black’s disposal).
But what about 14.Bxc6 – isn’t that a big gain for White? Not so. Black has a fun reply: 14…Re8! threatening …Bb4+ and winning the queen. Therefore White is forced to simplify with 15.Nxe7+ Rxe7 16.Be3 Bxc6.
Though objectively equal, this is very comfortable for Black. …d4 is of course a threat, and as for the Keres Attack, the win has been taken out of White’s sails. The ‘most deadly’ attack against the Scheveningen has been disarmed. And with this course, GM Colovic shows you how to stop it in line after line, no matter what White tries.
Plenty of Sicilian Spice
And if this looks much tamer than the Sicilians you’re used to, don’t worry – there are plenty of dazzling tactics for you to feast on in other lines (it is a Sicilian, after all). Try finding this hidden exchange sacrifice which puts immense pressure on White’s position (highlight the blank area below the diagram for the answer)
Answer: 1… Nxe4 2.Nxe4 Bxf5! Black puts crushing pressure on c2, and can recoup material later with d6-d5.
GM Colovic does a great job at explaining the logic behind such positional sacrifices as well. In fact, in addition to his very descriptive annotations in the main text, he includes an entire chapter entitled “Strategy and Tactics” where you will apply and solidify these ideas with practical exercises as a focus.
It speaks to a larger benefit of the course in general: GM Colovic is an accomplished Chessable author, and he really knows how to break down the theory so that it is accessible to students at all levels. The Modern Scheveningen is now his 14th course on Chessable, and at this point, he’s a master of not only the Sicilian, but how to use Chessable to benefit his students in the biggest way possible. If you’ve never taken his courses before, try some of the free ones, such as Short & Sweet: The Najdorf Sicilian and Short & Sweet: Anti-Sicilians.
Return of the Scheveningen
Sure enough, the Modern Scheveningen is coming back to tournament play. Garry Kasparov himself was reportedly preparing a “Scheveningen Secret Weapon” just before his retirement. Sadly, the world did not get to see it, but the young contenders of today’s chess elite are certainly carrying the torch.
In fact, WGM Inna Gaponenko scored a win with it in the recent Women’s Chess World Cup 2021 (see the game here), and Jan-Krzysztof Duda successfully fended off a Keres Attack from Sergey Karjakin in the 2021 New In Chess Classic (see the game here).
As this new Modern Scheveningen course shows, the opening exhibits great potential, and it could easily be used by club and tournament players alike to get fast, impressive results. GM Colovic always delivers – and this time is no different. Be sure to check out The Modern Scheveningen Sicilian and add this sleek new Sicilian weapon to your arsenal.