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'The Poisoned Pawn is Refuted!'
Such was the shout very recently on the ChessPublishing forum after a post by IM Semko Semkov of Chess Stars. Indeed their new edition of The Sharpest Sicilian sees leading Poisoned Pawn advocate Kiril Georgiev now recommending 8 Qd2 Nc6!?, rather than 8...Qxb2. Has this most theoretical and complex of variations really been refuted?

Download PGN of September '07 Open Sicilian games

Najdorf: The Poisoned Pawn [B97]

We begin by seeing what all the fuss is about. Unsurprisingly it occurs in the fashionable position arising after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd2 Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 e5 dxe5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 12 Ne4 h6 13 Bh4 Qxa2 14 Rd1 Qd5 15 Qe3 Qxe5 16 Be2 Bc5 17 Bg3 Bxd4 18 Rxd4 Qa5+ 19 Rd2 0-0 20 Bd6:

Here 20...Nc6 21 0-0!? is a recent idea of Shirov's which has greatly worried Georgiev. We examine it in Shirov - Guliyev. As we've seen before on the site Black doesn't, however, have to give up the exchange.

Instead 20...Re8 was first analysed in Shirov - Ftacnik and we'll explore developments after both that and 20...Rd8 in Shabalov - Ehlvest.

Black can also deviate earlier and while the 16...Nc6? of Makropoulou - Banikas doesn't convince, as we note there the two possible deviations at move 14 are by no means refuted.

Finally I wondered if 10...Nfd7!? could really be so bad:

The answer can be found in the notes to Keres - Fuderer.

In conclusion it's not hard to see why 10 e5 has become something of a pain for Poisoned Pawn aficionados: Black must be both well prepared and tread carefully after it. However, on the current evidence, matters are by no means anything more than unclear after all of 20...Nc6, 20...Re8 and 20...Rd8, at least so long as Black is indeed well prepared! Of the earlier deviations, Banikas's play cannot be recommended, but both Karjakin's 14...Qb2 and the badly-neglected 10....Nfd7 remain a fertile ground for research.

Najdorf: 6 Bg5 others

The Poisoned Pawn is by no means the only defence to 6 Bg5 with an excellent theoretical reputation. Another is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nbd7 when Kevin Spraggett's speciality is 8 Qe2:

This move is rather dangerous and indeed after a few natural moves Black finds himself in huge trouble by just move 15 in Spraggett - Czakon.

Finally in Gashimov - Dominguez we take a look at 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Nc6; a line which has been popular at club level ever since Tony's Easy Guide to the Najdorf. Gashimov counters with the rare 8 Nxc6 bxc6 9 e5 h6 10 Bh4 g5 11 Bf2!?:

However, is by no means so innocuous and Dominguez quickly finds himself in trouble.

Najdorf: Rare 6th Moves

A good surprise weapon against the Najdorf is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Qf3!?, as I recommended in Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian (now available for download from

Black now has a number of options, including the 6...g6 of Sowray - Simacek, but in all cases White gains quite interesting play.

The Nameless 4...d5!? [B32]

Another line which I enjoyed writing about in Dangerous Weapons was 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 d5!?:

It's always interesting to see whether these lines have caught on and, if so, how they've developed. Most certainly this rare but solid line surprised a strong grandmaster and leading Sicilian expert in A.Sokolov-Zozulia.

Until October, Richard


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