Sicilian Alapin

The Sicilian Alapin is a variation of Sicilian Defense. It is also known as the anti-Sicilian because it does not require the deep theory other lines require. It starts with 1.e4 c5, and White goes for an early 2.c3 attempt to prepare the d-pawn push.

Alapin Variation
It originated in the 1800s by a Russian grandmaster with the same name. The Alapin variation was not preferred back then due to Black’s response 2…d5. Since the 1900s, many elite players have chosen it as a fierce battling tool.. It is considered a noble weapon to avoid all the theories on other Sicilian variations today. Sicilian Alapin gives various chances to transition every sort of game with its subtleties. Most expert players tend to apply this chess opening in their games.

Winning Percentage on Both Sides

Master Games Statistics

Results Rate
Victory for White 29%
Draw 43%
Victory for Black 28%

Statistics from 21 Million Amateur Games

Results Rate
Victory for White 50%
Draw 4%
Victory for Black 46%

Main ideas of the Sicilian Alapin

Alapin Sicilian is considered a solid approach for both sides. Some lines can open up the position and lead to intense scenes. White often aims to occupy the center, push the enemy pieces, and stop their advancement. Some variations can transition to a quick endgame, where the better pawn structure is favored. On the other hand, Black typically seeks to weaken the rival’s further pawns. Hence, pawn breaks at certain lines are required for Black. Both sides usually activate their pieces at their ideal locations. Whoever has a better understanding of these locations can benefit from this route.

Sicilian Alapin Variation Theory

The 2…d5 line often transitions to an open game where both parties are solid regarding the pawn structure. It requires positional understanding in certain variations.

2…Nf6 line is considered a more strategic approach by Black. It allows the White side to dominate the center with the pawns. However, the enemy seeks to weaken them and utilize their advancement.

2…e6 often gives a French-type structure where Black aims to assault the base of the pawn chain. White often seeks to advance and control space, limiting the rival’s options. These games typically require good calculation.

2…d5 line

It starts after 2…d5 and has been one of the main variations throughout the years to counter the c3 approach by White. White has to capture the d5-pawn; otherwise, they will fall behind.


By trying to conquer the center, Black aims to equalize rapidly. White mainly needs to reply with 3.exd5. Then, the enemy will take on d5 (3…Qxd5). Here, White has two logical choices. The immediate 4.d4 would challenge the center and open the c1-Bishop’s scope.

The other possible attempt can be 4.Nf3, to capture on d4 with the Knight after the d4-pawn push. It is worth mentioning that 4…c4 after the 4.Nf3 would be a serious mistake due to the 5.Na3 (opposing the c4-pawn) move.

After 4.d4, Black can play almost every developing move. This flexible approach often leaves practically no room for a mistake. 4…Nf6, 4…Nc6, and 4….e6 are typical attempts that can be played with different move orders.

After a regular attempt, such as 4…Nf6, White starts improving the pieces to their ideal squares. 5.Nf3 would be a principled approach to start with. Then, the enemy can choose whether they want to use their c8-Bishop on the ‘a8-h1’ diagonal (by going b6-Bg7 or Bd7-Bc6) or place it on g4 to pin the f3-Knight. It is an important decision because Black typically goes for the e6-pawn push to stop further c4-d5 attempts by White. After 5…Bg4, White can unpin the Knight by choosing the 6.Be2. Then, the rival will likely go for 6…e6 and open up the other Bishop and castle in the short side.

Both sides put their Kings into safety and control critical squares. White Queen often goes to a4, Be3 usually protects the d4-pawn, and Nbd2 binds itself to the f3-Knight and frees up the e2-Bishop. On the other hand, Black typically goes for Nc6, followed by Rd8, and puts pressure on the d-file.

2…Nf6 line

It starts after 2…Nf6 (developing the knight) occurs. Black often expects the e5-pawn push, followed by the d4. Then, these pawns become targets for them.

The most popular response is 3.e5 to kick the f6-Knight and gain space. Then, 3…Nd5 is the only ambitious move to have an even game. 4.d4 is the classical follow-up to reinforce the e5-pawn. Moves such as 4.Bc4 (assaulting the d5-Knight) can be met by 4…Nb6.

After e5, Nd5 and d4, Black takes the d4-pawn (4…cxd4). White can play cxd4 and Nf3 with different move orders because dxc3 would lose the d5-Knight due to Qxd5. 5.Nf3 can occur, and the rival goes for the casual 5…d6 and strikes at the e5-pawn. White wants to maintain the dominance of the central space and chooses to go for 6.cxd4.

Then, Black typically develops the b8-Knight to c6 and plays e6 to improve the f8-Bishop after the d6-pawn moves. White, on the other hand, develops the f1-Bishop to c4 and assaults the d5-Knight. The d5-Knight is generally moving to Nb6 to counter-attack the c4-Bishop. The c4-Bishop then can pin the c6-Knight by going Bb5.

The game can rapidly transition to an endgame after dxe5, dxe5, and Qxd1. These games often require a high-level understanding of the pawn structure and positional play due to the lack of specific ideas. Both sides typically develop the pieces and put their King into safety on the short side. Doubling Rooks on the c-file is an excellent way to gain a positional edge for both sides.

2…e6 line

It begins after Black chooses to move the e-pawn to e6 in the second move. The intention is quite straightforward, moving the d-pawn to d5. White often advances the d-pawn to d4 to claim the center in this variation.

After 3.d4, 3…d5 is the most common choice to claim the center. Then, if White takes the d5-pawn (4.exd5), the line transposes to the 2…d5 variation we’ve already examined after 4…Qxd5. The difference is that e6 is already played, and the c8-Bishop does not pin the f3-Knight. Instead, Black rapidly develops the Knights to c6-f6, plays Be7, and castles on the short side.

If White goes for the e5-pawn push instead, the game transposes to the French Defense. To summarize the ideas for both sides, Black typically aims to strike to d4-pawn by going Qb6 and Nc6. White often wants to remain that d4-pawn by improving the g1-Knight to f3. Black can then try to maneuver the g8-Knight to f5 to oppress the d4. White can stop this attempt by pushing the g-pawn to g4 (Maintaining the f5-square) and gaining space on the Kingside.

In these French structures, White can push the Kingside pawns (g- and h-pawns) to launch an assault on the enemy King. On the other hand, Black often increases the pressure on the d4-pawn, castles on the short side, and doubles the Rooks on the c-file.

Common Trap

Poisoned Pawn

It starts with Sicilian Alapin, and the Black side goes for the 2…d5 line. Then, instead of taking on the d5-pawn, White pushes the e-pawn to e5. Black develops the c8-Bishop to f5 before playing e6. 4.d4 is then chosen to maintain the pawn majority in the center. After Black captures on d4 (4…cxd4), White re-captures back (5.cxd4). Here, if the opponent goes for a tactic to win a pawn with 5…Bxb1, 6.Rxb1, and 6…Qa5+ (to win the a2-pawn), White moves the c1-Bishop to d2 and blocks the check. And once the a2 is taken by 7…Qxa2, the simple 8.Bc3 traps the Queen. The Queen has nowhere to go, and Ra1 is next to capture it.

Pros and Cons of the Alapin Sicilian

Pros Cons
Sicilian Alapin does not require a deep level of theory like the other Sicilian variations. Most variations require a high-level positional understanding to generate plans.
White often seizes the central space advantage and develops the pieces quickly. Black can equalize the game and possess a very sound pawn structure.
White’s forward pawns can be anchor points for powerful outposts. Black can target the forward pawns and weaken the White’s pawn structure.
White can transition to the French Defense in some lines. Black can force an endgame in certain lines.


The Sicilian Alapin is a firm variation and requires less theory knowledge, unlike other Sicilian variations. Most players who don’t want to struggle with the heavy theory of the Sicilian prefer to take this route. Due to its nature, it requires some degree of positional understanding and endgame knowledge. After both sides develop their pieces, the games often transition to an early middle game. It is played even at the highest level, with on-par results for both parties.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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Is the Sicilian Alapin a good opening?

The Alapin Variation is a respected choice against the Sicilian Defense. It avoids traditional open Sicilian lines, offering a more positional game. Its effectiveness depends on the player’s style and understanding of the opening.

Is the Alapin Sicilian good for white?

Yes, for players seeking a less theoretical and more strategic approach against the Sicilian Defense, the Alapin Variation can be very effective. It leads to unique positions and can often take Black players out of their main line preparations.

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