Chess Opening: Sicilian Defense O’Kelly Variation

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Today we are going to learn about the chess opening variation called the O’Kelly Variation in the Sicilian Defense, which IM Asaf Givon calls the ‘Lazy Siclian’, followed by the moves: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6. This variation is suitable for those players who don’t really wish to study too many opening theories in the Sicilian Defense, but still want to play some sharp opening lines in this opening and to enjoy the sharpness and adventurous possibilities it offers.

At first glance, it may seem that Black can play much more useful moves (like the main lines 2…Nc6 or 2…d6 or 2…e6) than moving a pawn on the flank on just the second move. But this move has a hidden venom in it – mainly, it controls the b5-square, because of which White can’t bring his bishop or knight there like in the main lines. For instance, White’s 3.d4 is followed by 3…cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 when 6.Nb5 is prevented, and Black will equalize by playing 6…Bb4 and possibly …d5.

Also, it helps Black by offering the possibility of playing b5 and developing his light-squared bishop onto the b7-square, which is usually the common idea in the Sicilian Defense for Black; only here he can do it much easier and faster.

White has four main continuations here: 3.d4, 3.Nc3, 3.c4, and 3.c3, the last being considered better for White according to opening theories. Our guest coach IM Asaf Givon has prepared an instructive video lesson on these variations, explaining how to play this opening as Black. Watch the video and enjoy:


What is your take on the Sicilian O’Kelly variation? Have you ever played it as Black or played against it as White? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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