Among its many variations, the Chekhover Variation – also known as the Szily Variation or Hungarian Variation – stands out for its distinctive approach.
Named after Soviet chess player Vitaly Chekhover, it diverges from typical opening principles by developing the queen early.
This article looks into the details of this intriguing variation, examining its move order, strategy, purpose, variations, history, suitability for different player levels, and prevalence at the grandmaster level.
Move Order of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
In the Sicilian Defense, Chekhover Variation, the move order is defined as follows:
- e4 c5
- Nf3 d6
- d4 cxd4
The variation starts with the standard opening moves of the Sicilian Defense.
The key difference comes at the fourth move when the white player opts to capture the pawn on d4 with the queen, rather than the commonly seen knight recapture.
Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
The Chekhover Variation disregards the standard opening principle of not developing the queen too early.
The early queen development in this variation can create an unbalanced position that offers tactical opportunities for both players.
The white queen also exerts early pressure on the d6 pawn and the a7-g1 diagonal, potentially posing early threats for Black.
The main purpose of this variation for White is to disrupt Black’s typical plans in the Sicilian Defense.
By deploying the queen early, White challenges Black’s ability to maintain pawn structure and coordinate piece development.
Variations of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
The Chekhover Variation itself does not have many major subvariations.
The primary deviation from the standard Sicilian Defense is the fourth move, Qxd4, and subsequent play can vary widely based on the players’ choices.
As the game progresses, it could transition into other chess openings or maintain its unique character, depending on the strategies employed.
Let’s look at them more closely:
The main variations within the Sicilian Defense, Chekhover Variation stem from Black’s response to White’s fourth move, Qxd4.
The primary response, leading to the main line, is 4…Nc6, where Black immediately counterattacks White’s queen.
From here, there are several key continuations for White:
Main Line: 4…Nc6
The 4…Nc6 move is an immediate counter to the development of White’s queen, creating tension that prompts a response from White.
This main line branches into several variations based on White’s fifth move.
Variation: 5.Bb5 Pinning the Knight
In this variation, White chooses to pin the Black knight by moving the bishop to b5.
This move is often followed by 5…Bd7, to which White usually responds with 6.Bxc6 Bxc6.
This series of exchanges reduces some of the early tension and equalizes the material on the board.
Another variation is initiated by the move 5.Qa4, in which White sidesteps the threat by moving the queen to a safer square.
This move keeps the light-square bishop and preserves the possibility of bishop-to-knight pin on b5.
However, this move is somewhat unusual and may not offer the best chances for an advantage.
Variation: 5.Qe3 – The Harikrishna System
Named after super grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna who has used it in over-the-board games with positive results, the Harikrishna System starts with the move 5.Qe3.
This is a less ambitious reply, often followed by moves such as Be2, 0-0, Nc3 (with or without c4), and Bd2.
These moves work in harmony to develop the minor pieces, safeguard the king, and control key central and queenside squares.
The Harikrishna System offers a more strategic and less confrontational approach to the game, emphasizing piece coordination and flexibility.
Other Continuations in the Chekhover Variation of the Sicilian Defense
Apart from the main line, there are several other continuations that Black can opt for after White’s 4.Qxd4 move in the Chekhover Variation.
These moves typically aim to avoid immediate confrontation, focusing instead on development and strategic considerations.
In this continuation, Black plays 4…a6 to prevent a future pin by White’s bishop on b5.
This prophylactic move also prepares for potential pawn expansion on the queenside.
After 4…a6, one possible line is 5.c4, strengthening White’s control over the center and preparing for the development of the knight, and then 6.Qd1, retreating the queen to its original square to avoid any potential attacks.
Another intriguing response is 4…Bd7. With this move, Black prepares to develop the knight to c6 while simultaneously breaking any potential pin from White’s bishop.
This move allows Black to follow up with 5…Nc6, challenging White’s queen and initiating a series of exchanges that can potentially simplify the position.
The move 4…Nf6 offers another approach where Black avoids exchanges and continues with development.
This move aims to challenge White’s control over the center, particularly the e4 square.
By deploying the knight to its most natural square, Black can potentially eye opportunities to castle kingside swiftly and initiate a counterattack in the center, depending on how the game unfolds.
Evaluation of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
The Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation is generally evaluated at around +0.00 to +0.15 for white.
Theory & Continuation Lines of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation Variation
Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation that you would see at the highest level of play.
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 Nf6 6. Be2 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Rd1 O-O 9. h3 Qb6 10. Qxb6 axb6 11. Nc3 Nb4 12. Ne1 Nd7
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 Nf6 6. Nc3 g6 7. h3 Bg7 8. Bc4 a6 9. a4 Qc7 10. O-O O-O 11. Rd1 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Ne2 Na5 14. Qd3 Rfc8
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 Nf6 6. h3 g6 7. Be2 Bg7 8. O-O O-O 9. Rd1 Qb6 10. Nc3 Qxe3 11. Bxe3 b6 12. Nd4 Bb7 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. exd5 Nxd4 15. Bxd4 Bxd4 16. Rxd4 Rfc8 17. c4
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 g6 6. h3 Bg7 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. Bc4 O-O 9. O-O Na5 10. Bd3 a6 11. Re1 Be6 12. Bd2 Rc8 13. b3 Nc6 14. Rad1 Nb4
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 g6 6. h3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Bg7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Rd1 Qc7 11. Qg5 Na5 12. Bf1 Bb7 13. Qh4 a6 14. a4 Rac8 15. Rd4 Nh5
4… Nc6 5. Qe3 Nf6 6. h3 d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 e6 9. a3 Bc5 10. Bd3 O-O 11. O-O Qc7 12. Rd1 Ne5 13. Nxe5 Qxe5
I’ll Take the Chekhover Sicilian, Please! | Chess Openings Explained
History of the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
The Sicilian Defense, Chekhover Variation, is named after the Soviet chess player Vitaly Chekhover, who employed it in the game Chekhover–Lisitsin, Leningrad 1938.
Despite its deviation from traditional opening principles, the Chekhover Variation has proven itself to be a viable option in competitive play, although it’s relatively rare in comparison to other Sicilian Defense variations.
Is the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation Good for Beginners or Intermediates?
Due to its unconventional move order and the early development of the queen, the Chekhover Variation might not be the best choice for beginners who are just learning the principles of chess openings.
These principles typically advise against early queen development to avoid potential attacks that can disrupt the player’s game plan.
However, for intermediate players who are already comfortable with the fundamental opening principles and are looking to diversify their repertoire, the Chekhover Variation can be a fascinating choice.
Its unconventional nature might lead to unanticipated positions, offering a richer understanding of the game’s dynamics.
How Often the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation Is Played at the Grandmaster Level
The Chekhover Variation, while not unheard of, is relatively rare at the grandmaster level.
High-level players often prefer variations that adhere more closely to traditional opening principles, allowing for controlled development and less risk.
That said, the Chekhover Variation has been used occasionally as a surprise weapon or when a player is looking to avoid well-trodden theoretical paths.
FAQs – Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation
1. What is the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation?
The Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation, also known as the Szily Variation or Hungarian Variation, is a particular chess opening named after Vitaly Chekhover.
The sequence of moves is defined as follows:
- e4 c5
- Nf3 d6
- d4 cxd4
This opening is characterized by White’s fourth move, where the queen is developed early, contrary to standard opening principles.
2. Why is the fourth move in the Chekhover Variation considered unusual?
In general chess strategy, it is not recommended to develop the queen too early in the game, as it can become a target for the opponent’s pieces.
In the Chekhover Variation, however, White chooses to do this on the fourth move.
This creates an intriguing dynamic where White must navigate potential threats to the queen while taking advantage of its powerful position on the board.
3. How popular is the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation among grandmasters?
The Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation, is somewhat rare at the grandmaster level.
It tends to be less preferred than other variations of the Sicilian Defence because the early queen move can invite aggressive play from the opponent.
Despite this, it does make appearances in grandmaster play, illustrating that it can still be effective under the right circumstances.
4. Is the Chekhover Variation common among amateur players?
Yes, the Chekhover Variation is quite common among amateur players.
This could be due to the unexpected nature of the early queen development, which can potentially catch opponents off guard.
Additionally, amateur players may not be as equipped to exploit the early queen move, making the variation a viable option at this level.
5. Who was Vitaly Chekhover?
Vitaly Chekhover was a Soviet chess player and endgame study composer.
The Chekhover Variation is named after him based on a game he played against Georgy Lisitsin in Leningrad in 1938.
6. What is the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO) code for the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation?
The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO) assigns code B53 to the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation.
The ECO is a collection of chess openings that provides extensive analysis and categorization.
The ECO code allows players to easily reference and study specific openings.
7. How does White respond to aggressive play from Black in the Chekhover Variation?
The exact response can vary greatly depending on Black’s specific moves, but in general, White must be prepared to move the queen to safety while also developing the remaining pieces.
Proper positioning and tactical play will be crucial in maintaining an advantage despite the early queen development.
8. Can the Sicilian Defence, Chekhover Variation, transition into other Sicilian Defence variations?
Yes, depending on how the game progresses and the moves chosen by both players, the Chekhover Variation can potentially transition into other variations of the Sicilian Defence.
It’s also possible for it to transition into entirely different openings based on the players’ choices.
The Sicilian Defense, Chekhover Variation, is a unique and intriguing approach within the vast world of chess openings.
Its early queen development defies traditional principles, introducing an element of surprise and offering a wealth of tactical possibilities.
While perhaps not the most popular choice at the grandmaster level, nor the easiest for beginners to grapple with, it presents a stimulating option for intermediate players looking to explore less conventional pathways in their games.
As with any chess opening, understanding and success with the Chekhover Variation will come with study, practice, and experience.