ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Well, that was certainly an exciting Wijk, where the Najdorf played an important part in proceedings. Confirmation that it is the King of all the Sicilian variations? I dare say that many subscribers will vehemently disagree, but this month we do have something of a Najdorf special.

Download PGN of February '11 Open Sicilian games

>> Previous Update >>

The Richter-Rauzer [B64]

Before we get down to Wijk and the Najdorf, though, we return to the pre-Wijk days of the Keres Memorial. There in Shirov - Lugovoi a solid line of the Rauzer was discussed, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0 9 f4 h6 10 Bh4 (10 h4!? is an aggressive alternative) 10...e5 11 Nf5 Bxf5 12 exf5:

This approach hasn't been especially popular in recent years, but I'm not too sure why, since Black is solidly placed and it's not so easy for White to demonstrate more than a small plus. After 12...exf4 13 Kb1 d5! Black frees his position by returning the pawn. Shirov opted for 14 Bxf6 (14 Qxf4 d4 15 Bxf6 Bxf6 16 Ne4!? is a critical alternative, recently preferred by Smeets) 14...Bxf6 15 Nxd5 Be5, reaching something of tabiya. After 16 f6 White was perhaps a touch better, but Shirov only won after an instructive mistake from Lugovoi in an opposite-coloured bishop endgame, and it may well be that 16 Bc4!? is the critical test. Will this line become fashionable again in 2011?

The Najdorf: The English Attack [B90]

Two of Grischuk's opponents at Wijk opted for the slightly sneaky 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 f3, avoiding his favourite line 6 Be3 Ng4. In Anand - Grischuk he responded with a main line: 6...e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Be3 Be7 (8...Nbd7 9 Qd2 b5 10 0-0-0 h5 had been Grischuk's earlier choice against Nepomniachtchi) 9 Qd2 0-0 10 0-0-0 Nbd7 11 g4 b5 12 g5 b4:

On the current evidence, this important, pretty theoretical variation is holding up well for Black, and Anand's decision to exchange on f6 was hardly a bold move.

Early ...h5 lines were fairly topical at Wijk, and 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 9 Nd5 Bxd5 10 exd5 Nbd7 comes under the microscope in Nijboer - Navara. There a manoeuvring struggle ensued until Navara blasted open the centre and Nijboer collapsed in the resulting tactics.

Unlike Anand and Nepomniachtchi, Shirov was unafraid to essay 6 Be3 Ng4 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 in Shirov - Grischuk. He followed up with a pawn sacrifice, 10 Be2 h5 11 Bxg4 hxg4 12 Nd5!?, which has received some attention before, but is far from being played out. After 12...Nc6 13 Nf5 Bxf5 14 exf5 Bxb2 15 Rb1 Qa5+ 16 Qd2 Bd4 17 Qxa5 Nxa5 something of a minor tabiya was reached:

Back in 1999 Anand had snatched the exchange against Topalov, but never really obtained any advantage. Shirov, though, preferred 18 c3!? whereupon 18...Bc5? 19 Nc7+ Kd7 20 Nxa8 Rxa8 21 h4! saw the position opening somewhat in his favour. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if we soon see a test of the much stiffer defence, 18...Bg7.

The Najdorf: Sidelines [B91]

Anand had to face both 6 h3 and 6 g3 at Wijk. He dealt with the former with the topical 6...e6 7 g4 Be7 8 Bg2 Nfd7 and never had any problems against Vachier Lagrave. Against the latter in Carlsen - Anand he again took play into a line of the Scheveningen with 6...e6 7 Bg2 Be7 8 0-0 0-0:

Remarkably this position has never been covered before on ChessPub, but then again neither did Carlsen seem too familiar with it. His positional idea 9 Nce2 Qc7 10 b3 was certainly rather slow and with the vigorous 10...e5! Black fully solved his problems.

The Najdorf: 6 Be2 [B92]

The good, old positional choice, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0 9 Be3 has never entirely fallen from favour, and has been tried of late by both Adams and Smeets. Quite a topical response is 9...Be6 10 Qd2 Nbd7 11 a4 Nb6!? (Anand, however, has stuck with 11...Rc8 followed by ...Nc5):

This idea of I believe Tukmakov's looks quite ambitious, but after 12 a5 Nc4 13 Bxc4 Bxc4 14 Rfd1 Rc8 ideas of ...d5 are high on the agenda. White certainly fails to set any problems in Smeets - Giri, where it's impressive just how quickly his position collapses once Black seizes an early initiative.

The Karpovian 9 Be3 is not, of course, White's only try and in Azarov - Wojtaszek we consider developments with both 8 Be3 and 8 0-0 0-0 9 Kh1. Do make sure you check out the main game, which continues 9...Nc6 10 f3 b5 11 Be3 Na5 12 Nxa5 Qxa5 13 Qd2:

Standard enough so far one might think, but Wojtaszek must soon have been feeling pretty scunnered when his mysterious king move, 13...Kh8?, was punished by the unexpected blow 14 b4!.

The Najdorf: 6 Bg5 Nbd7!? [B94]

Finally, in J.Hunt-Palliser we examine recent developments in that modern favourite, 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7!?:

Even six months ago I considered 7 Bc4 to be more critical than that standard, aggressive advance 7 f4. Now, however, I'm not so sure and 7 f4 may just be more critical after all!

More on the 6 Bg5 Najdorf next month!

Until then, Richard

>> Previous Update >>


Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms (just the polite ones, please), etc. Drop me a line at the Open Sicilians Forum, or subscribers can write directly to