Step inside the Closed Sicilian and work on your positional game. It's a reliable option to get you into middlegame in good shape.
Get used to maneuvering for the edge behind locked pawn chains. Impose your will on the game and force your opponent into submission.
There are three main second moves for White to play outside the Open Sicilian. You can play 2.Nc3, the Main Line of the Closed Sicilian. From there you can opt for the Chameleon System or the Grand Prix Attack.
2.c3 brings you into the Alapin Variation. You can build a strong center as White and try to counteract the Sicilian by keeping two pawns in the center.
2.Nf3 usually means the Open Sicilian but even then you can keep the center closed. You have a host of options like the Rossolimo Variation, the Canal Sokolsky Attack and more.
Closed Sicilian: Main line - 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6
When White chooses the Closed Sicilian with 2.Nc3 he is biding his time. Black will push his Queenside pawns and try to break through there. He would like to create a landing pad on White's second rank for his Queen and Rook.
White wants to build up his forces on the Kingside and when he is ready he will actually launch a pawn storm on the Kingside. He is often able to do this because the center is closed and his King will not be too vulnerable. He must be careful that Black does not manage to open the center.
These games are often quiet in the opening before exploding into life during the middlegame. The two sides attack on opposite wings and a calm nerve is a must. Both must weigh attack and defense with each move. If you can force your opponent to abandon his attack and go to defense you are a long way towards success.
Closed Sicilian: Chameleon System - 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2
The Chameleon System is a clever little idea in the 2.Nc3 lines. White plays 2.Ne2 instead of Nf3 allowing him to delay showing his hand.
He can play d4 and enter into Open lines or go instead with f4 keeping the position closed. Black wants White to make his intentions clear early so he can develop with confidence. This Ne2 move leaves him in a quandary. He must now try to find waiting moves.
White hopes to induce mistakes in this way. If Black plays moves preparing for an Open Sicilian White will play f4 and Black will be wrong-footed. With a little trace of trickery White can get a good lead in development and a good attack.
Closed Sicilian: Grand Prix Attack - 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7
White has another dangerous weapon in the 2.Nc3 lines. He can get quick off the blocks with the Grand Prix Attack. You can play f4 on your third move and you don't really worry about what Black is doing on the Queenside.
Just develop the Kingside quickly and efficiently. Use the e and f-pawns as battering rams to break-up the Black King's cover. Advancing these pawns even at the cost of a sacrifice will liberate your Bishops.
If you're Black you need to get your Queenside moving and put the skids under White's light-square Bishop. With your b, c and d-pawns rolling down the board White will have to be careful. As Black you should be able to take over d4 and plant a Knight there.
The Alapin Variation is an attempt by White to refute the Sicilian Defense head on. Black plays 1...c5 to basically say to White if you play 2.d4 I'm just going to trade my c-pawn for your center pawn. How do you like that?
So White says okay I'll play 2.c3 to prepare d4 and after the trade I'll still have my two proud center pawns. We'll just be trading c-pawns. Problem solved.
White uses this opening to ensure he gets a strong center. He's willing to spend that extra tempo. This opening has grown in reputation with many GMs and World Champions giving it the thumbs up. Several variations have grown out of it as it has matured.
White again plays Ne2 in the Keres Variation. He wants to frustrate any plan from Black that involves playing ...d6. He will fianchetto his King's Bishop and take a leaf out of Alapin's book with c3 and d4.
If Black does not take on d4 White can push on with d5 and gain space. All of a sudden White's apparently modest opening can turn nasty for Black.
Black must play carefully and remain switched on. Even if he insists on an open game by forcing trades, the trades may well favor White.
You can run with the Steinitz Variation as White in the Sicilian if you like the idea of fianchettoing the King's Bishop. This is a conservative game plan for White.
If you have the Black pieces you can get easy development as White will not be coming after you right away like in the Keres Variation or the Grand Prix Attack.
He will build a solid position hoping that his dark square Bishop will come into the game later if the center is busted open. This can be a problem for Black especially if most of his pieces have already been transferred to the Queenside.
The Hyper Accelerated Dragon is a very early ...g6 from Black. The Dragon Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6) was always one of the classic Sicilian options giving that instantly recognizable pawn structure. It was a favorite of many players.
The problem was White developed very annoying openings like the Yugoslav Attack, Sozin Attack, Richter Rauzer Attack and others that interfered with the Dragon so Black had to modify his move order to get his pet line in.
He came up with the Accelerated Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6) getting ...g6 in one move earlier and solving the problem.
Black even cut it down still further with the Hyper Accelerated Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6) yes ...g6 on the second move! Dragon fans can play their openings with a safe King and no harassment from White's attack lines mentioned above.
In the Najdorf Variation which is one of the main Sicilian set-ups that Black can choose from, ...a6 is played on the fifth move. The O'Kelly Variation sees 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6. So why play it on the second move?
b5 is a critical square in many Sicilian lines and Black stakes an early claim to it here. This is useful if White goes into Open lines where the game would likely transpose into a Najdorf.
If you're White and you meet the O'Kelly you're probably best advised to play c3 and head for the Closed lines. That way ...a6 may prove to be a wasted move.
The Nimzowitsch Variation, sometimes called the Nimzowitsch-Rubinstein Variation was first played by Rubinstein a century ago. It goes 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 and Black is more or less inviting White to play e5 and kick the Knight.
It's an opening with some similarities to the Alekhine Defense when the same Knight gets chased around the board as he tempts White pawns forward. There are even transpositions between the two.
Rubinstein got out of the opening in reasonable shape but eventually lost through error later on (nothing to do with the opening choice).
Nimzowitsch used the opening later and found some interesting possibilities for it. It is possible for Black to sacrifice a pawn and get a very sharp position. So a little study could bear fruit.
White can play the Rossolimo Variation to avoid theory in the Main Open Sicilian lines. It's the last real opportunity to duck out of the Open Sicilian. You can also, with White, take advantage of rapid development of your Kingside and the chance to attack quickly.
White develops as if in the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5). Against the Sicilian it works out a little different. Here White wants to trade his light square Bishop for the c6-Knight. This will leave Black with doubled pawns.
The loss of the Knight and rupturing of his Queenside pawns can leave Black with a loss of impetus on that wing. He also has to get going with his Kingside development before White catches him cold with a rapid attack.
The Canal-Sokolsky Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+) is similar to the Rossolimo and the two can often transpose. Black plays 2...d6 instead of 2...Nf6 in the Rossolimo. This means that when White brings his Bishop to b5 on the third move he does so with check.
It is Black's response to this that determines whether we go the Rossolimo route or stay in the Canal. Again White gets Kingside development completed quickly and can attack early.
You may still end up trading Bishop for Knight if the Knight is developed before the Bishop gets kicked by the advancing Queenside pawns.
You can give up the Bishop pair if you decide you're going to keep the center closed. If you think you might be tempted to play d4 and open up the position it might be an idea to keep both Bishops on.