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Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation

Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation
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8
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7 7
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Moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
ECO B90-B99
Named after Miguel Najdorf
Parent Open Sicilian

The Najdorf Variation () of the Sicilian Defence is one of the most respected and deeply studied of all chess openings. Modern Chess Openings calls it the "Cadillac" or "Rolls Royce" of chess openings. The opening is named after the Polish-Argentine grandmaster Miguel Najdorf. Many players have lived by the Najdorf (notably Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, although Kasparov would often transpose into a Scheveningen).

The Najdorf begins:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6

Black's 5...a6 aims to deny the b5-square to White's knights and light-square bishop while maintaining flexible development. If Black plays 5...e5?! immediately, then after 6.Bb5+! Bd7 (or 6...Nbd7 7.Nf5) 7.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 8.Nf5 and the knight on f5 is difficult to dislodge without concessions.

Black's plan is usually to start a minority attack on the queenside and exert pressure on White's e4-pawn. This is often carried out by means of ...b5, ...Bb7, and placing a knight on c5, or c4 via b6.

Variations

Main line: 6.Bg5

Classical Main line: 6...e6

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Position after 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4

The main move. In the early days of the Najdorf 7.Qf3 was popular, but the reply 7...h6 did not allow White to obtain any real advantage. Nowadays, White players almost universally respond with the move: 7. f4. White threatens 8 e5 winning a piece, but Black has several options:

Verbeterde List: 6...Nbd7

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Position after 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4

Historically speaking, this was the usual reply until the mid-1960s, when the rejoinder 7.Bc4 put the move "out of business". Recently however, ideas have been found by some Dutch players who call this variation De Verbeterde List ("The Improved Strategem"). The idea for Black is to postpone ...e6 in order to retain more dynamic options (for example, to play e7-e5 in one move). The idea was tested by Petrosian, Belov, and others, but received popular attention and developed rapidly after use by Dutch player Lody Kuling in 2007. The most important developments include:

English Attack: 6.Be3

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Position after 6.Be3

This has become the modern main line. Since the early 1990s, the English Attack, 6. Be3 followed by f3, g4, Qd2 and 0-0-0 in some order, has become extremely popular and has been intensively analysed. Black has three main options:

Fischer-Sozin Attack: 6.Bc4

Introduced by Veniamin Sozin in the 1930s, this received little attention until Fischer regularly adopted it, and it was a frequent guest at the top level through the 1970s. White plays 6. Bc4 with the idea of playing against f7, so Black counters with 6... e6 7. Bb3 b5. The Sozin has become less popular because of 6... e6 7. Bb3 Nbd7 where Black intends to follow up with ...Nc5 later. It is possible to avoid the Nbd7 option with 7. 0-0, but this cuts the aggressive possibility to castle long.

Classical/Opocensky Variation: 6.Be2

Because of the success of various players with these variations, White often plays 6. Be2 and goes for a quieter, more positional game, whereupon Black has the option of transposing into a Scheveningen Variation by playing 6... e6 or keeping the game in Najdorf lines by playing 6... e5. Another option is to play 6... Nbd7, in the spirit of The Verbeterde List. It is for this reason that this variation is called The Verbeterde List Unlimited.

Amsterdam Variation: 6.f4

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6. f4

Some lines include:

6...e5 7.Nf3 Nbd7 8.a4 Be7 9.Bd3 0-0
6...Qc7 7.Bd3
6...e6 7.Be2

GM Daniel King recommends 6...g6 against the Amsterdam Variation, leading to a more defensive kingside pawn structure. The idea is to eventually counterattack on the g1-a7 diagonal with a move like Qb6, preventing white from castling. An example line would be 6...g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.a4 Nc6 (note 8...Nc6 as opposed to the usual Najdorf Nbd7, as c6 is a more flexible square for the knight with a queen on b6) 9.Bd3 Qb6.

The Adams Attack: 6.h3

Introduced by Weaver Adams during the middle of the twentieth century, this odd looking pawn move has mostly been used as a surprise weapon to combat the Najdorf. Should Black continue with 6...e5 anyway, White can respond with 7.Nde2 following up with g4 and Ng3, fighting for the weak light squares by playing g5. It is thus recommended that Black prevents g4 altogether with 7...h5.

Black can also employ a Scheveningen setup with 6...e6 followed by 7.g4 b5 8.Bg2 Bb7, forcing White to lose more time by defending the e4 pawn, since b4 is a threat. It was not until the early 2008 when an answer to Black was finally found. After 9.0-0 b4, White has the positional sacrifice 10.Nd5!, which gives Black long term weaknesses and an open e-file for White to play on. Since then, it has been popular on all levels of chess.

Other sixth moves for White

Beside the main lines mentioned above White has other options: 6. f3 and 6. g3 are less common, but are also respected responses to the Najdorf. Moves such as 6. a4, 6. Bd3, 6. a3, 6. Nb3, 6. Rg1 (the Petronic Attack), 6. Qf3, and 6. Qe2 are rarely played, but are not so bad and may be used for surprise value.

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