Sicilian Defense Canal Attack – A Study Guide

The Canal Attack is a line in the Sicilian Defense that goes:

  1. e4 c5
  2. Nf3 d6
  3. Bb5+ Bd7
Sicilian Canal Attack

Bd7 is the most natural move for Black to make on the 3rd move to trade the Bishop. White usually trades the Bishops but, in some cases, may also defend the Bishop by playing Qe2.

If Black trades the Bishops after Qe2, then the Queen will take the Bishop on b5. The Black Queen can now come on d7, and the two Queens can be traded as well. The game will now move to the end game.

White can also defend the Bishop with Nc3, allowing Black to trade the Bishops followed by a6.

Finally, White can defend the b5 Bishop by playing a4. After the Bishops trade, White will have double pawns, but White now has an open file for the Rook on ‘a’ file. Now Black cannot move the knight to c6, and if Black tries to bring the knight to d7, then white will capture the pawn on a6, leaving Black with an isolated and weak pawn on a6.

To exchange the knight for the Bishop:

  1. e4 c5
  2. Nf3 d6
  3. Bb5+ Bd7
  4. Qe2

Here Black can play Nc6 followed by White castling. If Black plays a6 here, White has to capture the knight on c6 otherwise, this White Bishop may get trapped. 

Main Line (Qxd7 or Nxd7)

If White captures the Bishop on d7, Black can capture with the Knight or the Queen.

If taken by the knight, then the development of the knight with a tempo will take place, but Black will not be able to occupy th ec6 square. This will allow White to castle and bring the White Rook to the e1 square threatening c3 and d4. After d4, White would have good central control, and Black’s knight would be slightly passive.

If Black takes the d7 Bishop with the Queen, Black can eventually play Nc6, and the Black knight will be a lot more active. Here Black will play Be7 and then castle.

Black may try to stop d4 by playing c4, but White will probably play b3, and Black’s pawn on the c4 square will be weakened. This will weaken the position for Black, so the better move to play is e6. Now when White plays d4, Black can play d5. If White captures the pawn on d5, then Black should capture White’s d5 pawn with the knight, and this would be a very comfortable position for Black.

Instead of playing d5 before exchanging the pawns on the d5 square, Black can play cxd4 followed by White playing cxd4 and then play d5. However, this position gives White the possibility to play Nc3, which was not an option when the pawns on d5 were traded. After Black plays d5, White plays e5, and the knight moves from the f6 square to the e5 square.

This looks like the Advanced line of the French Defense. Here Black has a very big advantage – the Bishop that is usually trapped on the c8 square in such lines is not there as it is traded, allowing Black to avoid that loophole. Black also has a very good outpost for the knight on the d4 square.


If Black plays Qxd7, White may respond with c4. If Black plays g6, the line will transpose into something similar to the accelerated dragon. White’s idea is to play d4 and exchange the pawns for bringing the pawn to the d4 square. Black can stop d4 by simply playing e5, followed by White playing Nc3. White now has a slight advantage because all the White pawns are on the light squares, and White’s Bishop is on a dark square and is more active than Black’s Bishop on f8.

People also play Nc6 instead of e5, allowing White to play d4. Black then plays cxd4 followed by Nxd4. Black can now play Nf6 followed by Nc3 by White. Black can now play e6 or g6. Black’s eventual plan is to play d5 and to exchange the pawns.

Variation – c4

White can play c4 after Black plays Qxd7. This move allows Black to play Qg4. To promote development, White can sacrifice the pawn on g2 to gain tempo.

Variation – Nc6

After Bb5+ on the third move, many good players prefer to play Nc6 instead of Bd7. White may either take or play c3, Nc3, and castling.


According to statistics found through the database:

Sr. No Result Rate
1 White Wins 31.7%
2 Black Wins 29.6%
3 Draws 38.7%
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