Taimanov sicilian chess
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Taimanov Sicilian Defense

The Taimanov Sicilian defense was an idea of the grandmaster Mark Taimanov many years ago. This is one of the variations that changed the Sicilian completely along with the Najdorf variation.

It’s one of the most popular Sicilian variations that exist and is known for being a solid alternative in Sicilian. However, chances are that we win an equal position very quickly, this kind of Sicilian could go in many directions.

There are many variations and transpositions on this opening, but is one of the most professional choices when it comes to the Sicilian. The good thing about the Taimanov defense is that you have a perfect balance in aggressiveness and solidness.

This perfect balance is a great option to get a good opening position with black, but it also depends on how your opponent plays. There are some annoying variations that you need to know how to play, and many traps to take into account.

Remember that this opening strives for a quick advance in the center with black, which is a double-edged weapon. But it gives really good chances of equalizing or even taking advantage right away.

If you want to learn how to crush your opponent with the Taimanov Sicilia keep reading this post.

Taimanov defense mainline

The Taimanov Sicilian defense appears on the board after the following moves:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6

On this position we encounter three main variations depending on what White plays:

  1. Nc3 The most natural and common idea
  2. Nb5 The aggressive line for white to get tactics going from the minute one
  3. Nxc6 Not recommendable for white, this gives a good advantage for black and many chances of equalizing already.

Let’s go for the first and most common move of all Nc3:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nf6 and we would achieve this position:

This is the classical setup you need to aim for, and is not so difficult to play. This can lead you into two different types of positions depending on how white plays, to an opposite castle, or a positional quiet position.

Instead of 6. Be3 which intends the classical aggressive approach to the Sicilian with Qd2 and long castle, white could play Be2 and castle short. Which is the more positional approach where white plays f4 quickly to win presence in the center.

While this happens, black should try to play d5 to counter-attack the center.

The second important move to know is 5. Nb5 more aggressive than normal, but black stands well this variation:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.N1c3 a6 9.Na3 b5 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 Ne7. This is the most normal position for this variation, and black will put pressure on d5 with Bb7, and will occupy the center with f5.

If you want to develop quickly, there are other ideas like going Nf5 molesting the e3 bishop and developing Be7.

Finally, move 5. Nxc6 I can assure you this is a movie that you don’t dislike at all, it gives you two comfortable choices:

  • You can retake with 5… bxc6, which will give you a really strong (and unavoidable) d5 pawn break. An example would be:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.exd5 cxd5 8.O-O Nf6 9.Bg5 Be7 10.Nc3 O-O 11.Re1 Bb7 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Qd2 Bxc3 14.Qxc3 Rc8 15.Qd2. With “equality” but you actually have numerical superiority in the center, which allows you to attack and push the pawns to play for a win.

  • Retake 5… dxc6 that simply trades the queens, which for black must be already a win in the opening.

Plans and ideas of the Taimanov Sicilian

Taimanov sicilian

As every Sicilian, they are a labyrinth, and one can lead to another in many different ways. But we can give you special ideas to play the Taimanov Sicilian that are kind of “universal” to play against anything.

It will go by two options:

If white plays with the classical approach (Be3, Qd2, O-O-O) you will have an opposite castle position, which will lead to a fierce fight.

However, if white plays quietly (Be2, O-O) white will rely on recovering central presence with f4, while black will try to play d5.

Let’s have a look at a more in-depth description of how to play with both sides:

The Taimanov Sicilian for white

Taimanov sicilian king

White should strive to get a good position countering black d5 rupture at some point with e5. Depending on the variation white plays, there are many options he has, there are three different ways to play. These are determined by the three options of move 5 mentioned above:

  1. Nc3
  2. Nb5
  3. Nxc6

Nc3 is the less complicated, which you can face with Be3 and Qd2 to play normally against the Sicilian. Or, you can also go for the Be2 and short castle, this variation usually requires you to maneuver carefully in the middle-game to gain an advantage.

The Taimanov Sicilian for black

Taimanov sicilian pieces

The Taimanov Sicilian for black has a rule that we should stick with if we don’t want to complicate ourselves. If you can advance d5 without getting punished in the opening, you will definitely be ok in the opening.

There are many variations in which we end up with an isolated pawn on d5, but that will also be advantageous. The thing is you must know how to play many kinds of positions to play the Taimanov, but again, nothing too complicated.

The d5 advance is the main protagonist of the Taimanov Sicilian and the one that will get you out of trouble quickly. If not, you will have a good lead-in development and coordination, as we see in the 5. Nb5 variation.

Playing the Taimanov Sicilian is easy, one of the most solid Sicilians that exists with many subtleties!

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