Sicilian Scheveningen Chess Opening

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 is the Scheveningen variation of the Sicilian defense. This is also lesser played than the Najdorf and the Dragon variation. Black intends to put more control on the d5 square and eventually play d5.

White has three main options here. 6.g4, 6.Be3 and 6.Bg2

Keres attack with 6.g4

6.g4 is the most dangerous continuation against 5…e6. This can be compared to Yugoslav attack in the dragon variation. Keres attack is a major reason to avoid this variation altogether.

Black’s main alternative is to play 6…h6, stop the immediate g5.

The main line goes 7.h4 Nc6 8.Rg1 and here 8…d5 is the most popular move.

This freeing move allows black to finish the development quickly and almost equalize. The main line is 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxd5 Qxd5

Black will play Bd7-Be7 0-0 and finish the development. And if 11.Bg2, black can move with 11…Qe5+ or 11…Qc4 with perfectly playable game.

Instead of 7…Nc6, black can also play 7…e5, attacking the g4 pawn and d4 knight at the same time.

Here, white can play 8.Nf5 directly or add an in-between moves 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+Qxd7 and now 11.Nf5

Black wants to eliminate the annoying f5 knight immediately. The line goes 11…g6 12.Nxh6 Bxh6 13.g5 Bg7 14.gxf6 Bxf6 15.h5 with the idea of Ne5 and white has a better game here.

Therefore after 8.Bb5+ Nbd7 is a better way for black. After 9.Nf5 a6 10.Bxd7 Qxd7, black defends the d6 pawn and is doing fine.

Black can play h5-Qc6-Bd7 and gradually complete development. White’s lack of light squared bishop is a big relief for black.

White plays 6.Be3

6.Be3 has a typical idea of creating a kingside attack with Qd2-f3,g4 and 0-0-0 for white.

Black’s most popular reply is to play 6…a6 and transpose to the Najdorf variation, where black has chosen e6 instead of regular e5.

The game can go 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 Bb7 10.g4 Nb6 where black has delayed kingside castle and preparing to face g5 with the quiet Nfd7.

Black will try to create his own attack with Rc8-b4..etc.

White plays 6.Be2

The quiet 6.Be2 is the most played move in this variation. White’s main plan is to continue kingside development with f4-f5 ideas.

The main line goes 6…Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.f4 Nc6 9.Be3 and here black can play 9…e5 with good chances of equality for black.

Sample line can go 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Kh1 exf4 12.Bxf4 Be6 13.Bf3 Qb8 with an attack on b2 pawn and the idea of developing the queen to b4.

White can also transpose into the Najdorf with 6…a6. White can go ahead with the same plan just with an inclusion of move a4. For example, 7.0-0 Be7 8.a4 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.f4

Black can play the immediate 10…e5 or finish the development with 10…Qc7 with a solid game.


Scheveningen variation is a reasonable choice for black. But given that Najdorf and Sicilian dragon are more aggressive, this line has been less popular at top levels. White can opt for the dangerous Keres attack or plays regular set-up with Be3-Qd2-f3-0-0-0-g4 or Be2-0-0-Be3-f4.

However, black should be fine and achieve a playable game in all variations.

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

Recent Posts