Sicilian Kan Variation [Complete Guide]

The Sicilian Kan Variation is a very solid defense if you are willing to play the Sicilian defense. The next question arises here, Who should play Sicilian Kan Variation? The answer is if you are below 2200 rating, then it’s a very good defense choice for you.

Why the Sicilian Kan Variation?

The kan variation in Sicilian will give you a solid position in the opening and you will have a clear middle game plan. So it’s a very flexible opening with a solid pawn structure.

How to study the opening?

Here is one general concept about the opening. The concept is that you should know your opening’s plan before the game otherwise if you just remember opening moves, I can guarantee that you will lose your game in the middlegame.

And that’s how all strong chess players play, even they know their endgame of the opening. It’s hard to imagine that but its a fact.

Check Also: Chess Openings [Lifetime Guide]

Let’s start with the move order in kan variation in the Sicilian defense.

Starting moves of Sicilian Kan Variation

This is the starting position of  The Sicilian Kan variation in Sicilian defense. You can see the position in a picture below.

Sicilian Kan Variation

1. e4 c5, 2. 2Nf3 e6 3d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6.


The reason behind a6 move in Sicilian

Let’s talk about the a6 move. It has two functions. One is called waiting move and the 2nd is to play b5 in order to expand in queenside.

After moving the pawn to a6, black will wait for white’s reply and you should play according to white’s move. When you have played a6 move, then white has 3 main moves. One is Nc3, 2nd is Bd3 and the third is C4.

Here are pictures of these three moves.

Sicilian Kan Variation Nc3


Sicilian Kan Variation Bd3

Sicilian Kan Variation C4


Now please note that these 3 moves must be prepared carefully if you want to get any advantage otherwise you will have a passive position.

Sicilian Kan Variation Nc3

This is the most common reply against all Sicilian defenses. But no matter how white plays, black must reply concretely.

Sicilian Kan Variation Nc3

So after  white’s Nc3 move,  black must play the b5.

The b5 move has two purposes.

  1. The threat of playing b4 and capturing the pawn on e4.
  2. Black will develop his bishop on long diagonal and this bishop will put enough pressure on e4 square.

purpose of b4 move in kan variation

If we talk about the top grandmasters according to our kann variation. We can name top chess players who played the Kann variation. Like Garry Kasparov, Gata Kamsky, Peter Svidler, have played this variation with black pieces.

Garry Kasparov is Playing The Kan Variation

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


In this above game, if we look at on move order, Garry Kasparov used his queen for tempi. And believe me this tempo is very good in addition to the opening guidelines.


Garry Kasparov’s Game 2 in Kann Variation

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


Gata Kamsky is playing The Kann Variation

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


The one thing may have noticed that black has not castled yet. And therefore, you may play this variation without castling at your own risk. :).


Peter Svidler is playing with the Kann

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


I hope I cleared all the basics of this opening. Therefore, I am going to mention all the chess players who played the Kann variation successfully.

If you want to dig more into this chess opening, then you can watch the games of these chess players.  For more ideas about the Kann variation.

Strong players who used this Kann variation with black pieces.

  1. Garry Kasparov (4 games)
  2. Gata Kamsky (23 games)
  3. Peter Svidler (13 games)

Other Notable Players

  1. Vladimir Epishin (35 games)
  2. Levan Pantsulaia (29 games)
  3. Tomasz Markowski (32 games)

You must watch these chess games, if you want to play the Kann variation or if you already playing it. after watching all these games, you will become the master of the Kann variation.

Conclusion of Nc3 of the Kann

In conclusion, I hope you got the point and you will get ideas about the kan variation. In other words, the b5 move is good for playing because every club player needs the direction of play and that’s what the Kann variation is.

If we talk about the most important things in chess openings, a lot of beginners and club chess players just memorize the move rather than understanding. So, therefore, We have a clear understanding of moves. And the theory has been explained in an easy way.


Kann Variation Bd3

Enough discussion has been made on Nc3 move in the Kann variation. Now let’s talk about the Bd3 variation. Please remember that you must play according to white’s move.

You can not repeat the same move against all variations. You have to decide the best move for each variation because you need an advantage above your opponent.

The bishop on d3 does two things. First, it develops a piece, which is correct in the opening principles. Secondly, it defends e4 square, because black will attack e4 pawn.

Let’s start.

The variation of Bd3 on move five is played at the highest level and at the club level. So you must prepare against it properly. You must note that in every opening you have to prepare each variation deeply if you want to get any advantage.

At this stage most beginners make mistakes. Because choosing the variation according to your taste is very important and in short, you have to stick to one line from many lines.

selecting the variation of the kann

I have highlighted all the 4 moves. It’s very hard to decide for every chess player but I will try to give one recommendation.

You must play g6 line of the kan variation of Sicilian

The reason why you should start with g6 move is that it is a very clear and direct way to play against club chess players. And if you choose any other variation then you may have to study a lot of theories about this opening.

So I am here to give you one simple choice. You should play a g6 move.

We will watch some games played in g6 move, and after watching these games I am sure that you will understand the ideas and plans of the kan variation.

The conclusion of the g6 line is, that you will get a hedgehog system, which means you will control your whole territory in the first 3 ranks with the black side.


List of strong chess players who used this line

Gata Kamsky, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Dmitry Andreikin, Viktor Bologan.

Let’s watch two games, and if you want to dig more into this variation, then you can search chess player’s games which I mentioned above. After that, you will find sufficient knowledge about the opening.

Game: Reyhan vs Kasimdzhanov

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


Game: Kogan vs Bologan

The f4 system will occur in your chess games in this variation, therefore, this game may give you some ideas on how to handle this type of position.

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


Conclusion of Bd3 line

Now let’s conclude this topic. As I mentioned above there are 4 main lines against Bd3. You have to choose one of them. And I recommend that if you are below 2200 elo, then you should play the g6 move against Bd3 first. And later you may play other variations.

The reason why I selected g6 move because the g6 move is very clear and straight forward. With g6 move, you will develop your pieces and you will break the center with d5 move on the right time.


Sicilian Kan Variation C4

In short, let’s discuss our last variation in this post. This is the 3rd variation according to our post on the Sicilian Kan.

When white plays C4, it enters in Maroczy Bind pawn structure. The pawn structure is called, when a white player has a pawn on e4 and c4. This pawn structure with the pawn on e4 and c4 is considered very solid. And in this type of structure, white has a space advantage.

Again here, black has a choice. Black has 4 main moves here. Let’s see what are four moves that black can play or is playing at the est level.

What to choose against c4 in the Kan ?

Again there is a lot of choice black has against c4. You can play Nf6, Qc7, b6, Bc5, and other alternatives. I will stick to one move because I want to make this repertoire as easy as possible.

In short, I will play Nf6 against c4. And playing Nf6 you force your opponent to protect his e4 pawn. And he has to play Nc3. Although he can protect his both e and c4 pawn with Bd3 it’s not the best move. The reason it’s not the best move because it’s against the opening principles. And this bishop will be blocked until you advance your pawns.

I cleared all the move orders in an easy way. I am teaching you the reason behind every move. And if you learn this way, then you don’t have to memorize all the moves.

You will play Nf6 against C4 and when white protects it, then you will attack his protecting piece with Bc5 move.

Here you will see a few games in this position. And I will also mention the names of the players who played this variation with success.

Kan Variation with c4

In short, I have cleared everything about this variation and about the position mentioned above.

Now, let’s see the list of strong players who used this variation in their chess games while playing the Kan variation against c4.

  1. Peter Svidler
  2. Dmitry Andreikin
  3. Vassily Ivanchuk
  4. Loek Van Wely
  5. Fabiano Caruana

These chess players don’t need an introduction, and you can say that you’re in good company while playing this variation.

Let’s watch the games played in this variation.

Game: Karjakin vs Svidler

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


Game: Narmontas vs Andreikin

You may play in this style after reaching the mentioned position.

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)


Game: Ehlvest vs Ivanchuk

(Note: Please flip the board to the black side for a better view.)

Game: Giri vs Caruana

This game will also teach you the endgame skills.




In a short conclusion, You may play the Sicilian kan with confidence. And as I mentioned above this defense is very flexible and its pawn formation is solid. One thing I want to mention here is that You must understand the variation rather than moves.

And if you learn any chess opening by understanding every move, then you will have more knowledge of the opening without memorizing.

Many top players played this opening with success. And if you are going to play the Sicilian kan variation, then you don’t need to worry about the opening choice.

I hope I am able to clear all things which I mentioned in the opening. If you are playing this defense and you have any other plans and ideas or traps, you can mention your ideasin comments below.

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