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Hello dear subscribers,
This update should definitely suit Najdorf players as the position after 5...a6 is seen in 7 games this time! Moreover, almost all the games have a significant theoretical value. Enjoy!

Download PGN of December '15 Open Sicilian games

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Taimanov modern line 7.Qf3 Bd6 [B48]

We will start with the only game which doesn't belong in the 'Najdorf Section'.

In Laznicka - Stachowiak the players entered into the complex and fashionable position after 8...Be5. I must admit that Viktor's way of handling this position looks very promising, so after 9.g3:

I do not see how Black should meet the coming f2-f4 advance. At the moment, Black's play till move 14 looks optimal, but had White played 15.Rd3!, the pressure on the d7-pawn would be quite unpleasant. Instead, the inaccurate 15.Rd2?! allowed Black to solve all his problems. Moreover, after the over-optimistic 19.f5? Viktor's position seemed very dangerous from a strategic point of view. Luckily for him his lower-rated opponent then committed a serious mistake on move 22, so he was able to win the game anyway.

In general, Black's position after 7...Bd7 looks quite shaky.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.g3 [B90]

Our next game Vachier - Lagrave - Topalov saw Black deviating from the main theoretical lines with 8...Nbd7:

In my opinion, the real test of this idea would be 9.a4!?, seizing a lot of space and reducing Black's active possibilities. Instead, 9.Bg2 b5 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.Qxd5 doesn't seem dangerous for Black. In fact, Topalov's novelty 11...Rb8 was not the only decent way of handling the position. The position was about equal till move 22, when Maxime erred with 22.h4?! Luckily for him, Veselin didn't exploit this loss of time, and after 22...Qf6? 23.Qb5 it was White who seized the initiative. Despite the inaccuracy on move 33, Vachier-Lagrave's further play was quite impressive, so his victory is fully deserved.

Najdorf 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 [B90]

In our next top-level game, Bacrot - Gelfand, White went for an original setup with 11.Qd3!?, which was already seen on our site before:

I have to admit that I'd underestimated this idea in my previous Update. Now, when I look at the position after 12...g6, White's position seems quite promising. Indeed, White has a clear plan of making progress on the k-side by means of h4, g3, Bh3 and possibly f2-f4. Instead, Black has no clear targets on the opposite side. The position after 13...Rc8 was covered in the game Kovacevic-Szuhanek, where 14.f4 (which still looks best) was played. Instead, Etienne chose a quieter way of handling the position and played 14.a3. The first critical moment came on move 18, when Boris slowed down his q-side counter-play with 18...Nc6?! as a result, after 20.gxf4 White developed a powerful attack. Still, had Black played 20...Bxh3, the result of this game would still be unpredictable. Instead, 20...Na5? led to a major loss of material.

Najdorf 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.h3 [B90]

The game Khismatullin - Sjugirov saw another theoretical discussion in a fashionable line:

In the Diagram position after 9...0-0 Dennis opted for 10.g4?!, trying to avoid 10.0-0-0 b5 11.g4 b4, which was covered on our site before. Unluckily for him, Sanan was well-prepared for it, and so he chose the best reply 10...a5! This position already seems unpleasant for White, even though it was seen in several high-level games. Anyway, the next few moves were very natural, and after 12...a3 Black developed a serious initiative on the q-side. The further play of both players wasn't very precise (apparently, the novelty 13.Nxe6?! invites more trouble), but Black's victory was quite impressive and well-deserved.

In general, 10.g4?! is definitely not recommended.

Najdorf 6.Be2 e5...9.Nd5 Nbd7 10.Qd3 [B92]

Our next game Anand - Vachier Lagrave saw another theoretical discussion in one of the most popular lines in the 'Classical Najdorf' with 6.Be2 e5. In the theoretical position after 11...b5:

Vishy came up with the rare idea 12.Nd2!?, intending to keep his centralized knight on d5 at any cost. The position after exchanging on d5 contained a definite strategic danger for Black, but Maxime was able to regroup his pieces well, so the position remained balanced for a long time. The first critical moment came on move 20, when Maxime committed a serious mistake, 20....Qg5? Luckily for Vachier Lagrave, his great opponent didn't manage to find the strong 21.Nc4 fxe4 22.Qh3, so after 21.Rad1? axb5 Black's over-aggressive play was fully justified. Moreover, the next mistake 24.Qc2? allowed Maxime to achieve an important victory.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.Bb3 e6 9.Bxf6!? [B94]

Our next game Poetsch - Donchenko saw the rare, but very interesting concept of exchanging the dark-squared bishop at an early stage of the game. In the position after 10.Qd2:

White often managed to develop a serious initiative on the q-side, but this time Alexander was well-prepared, so after 10...Nd7! 11.0-0-0 Nc5 12.Rhe1 Bd7 Black was ready to complete his development. Frankly speaking, White's effective innovation 13.Nf5 is connected with a dubious piece sacrifice, so 13...Nxb3!? 14.axb3 exf5 could have refuted White's aggressive approach. Instead, Donchenko went for the safe 13...0-0-0, and the game ended in a short draw.

No doubt 10...Nd7! looks like the best (and possibly, the only) way of solving the problems in this line.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 setup with Qe2 [B96]

The game Eliseev - Sjugirov also has a significant theoretical value for the 6.Bg5 line. In the well-known position after 12.Bh4 (which was already explored on our site before) Black employed the interesting idea 12...h6!? In response, Eliseev came up with the novelty 14.Rg1. It might be the best way of handling the position, though after 14...g5 15.fxg5:

Black's position would be perfectly playable had he played 15...hxg5! Instead, 15...Nh7? 16.g6! allowed White to develop a powerful attack and achieve a beautiful victory at the end.

Najdorf 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 b5 10.Bd3

Our last game Jakovenko - Gelfand saw an interesting theoretical discussion in one of the most explored lines of the Najdorf with 6.Bg5. In the well-known theoretical position after 11...Qb6:

Dmitry employed the rather rare, but quite dangerous approach: 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.f5! Being surprised, Boris then committed a serious mistake 13...b4? It's hard to believe, but had Dmitry played 14.Na4! Black's position would be completely lost! Instead, the passive 14.Nce2? led White into an inferior position. Even though the further play was full of mutual mistakes, the whole game is still very thrilling and interesting, leading to a draw by repetition on move 39.

Overall, 12.Bxf6 followed by 13.f5 looks very promising for White, so we shall hope to see further practical tests.


See you next month, Michael

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