In Part 1, IM Renato Quintillano wrote a quick summary of Black's main ideas and goals in the Najdorf, explaining the reasons why he thinks it is the most reliable option for Black in the Sicilian. In that database, he dealt with the positional lines, in which White wants to keep the position under control and prevent Black from taking the initiative, playing for a small advantage and a strategic approach. Time has come now to deal with those uncompromising lines, in which White seeks a direct attack against the black king, initiating a bloody battle for the initiative. Here the game tends to develop in a very concrete way, and both sides need to search for tactical resources and attacking ideas, instead of strategic motifs and positional maneuvers, as in the first database. Some move orders and subtleties gain in importance now, and strong calculation skills are required.
The database consists of 3 parts: typical middlegame structures, theoretical section, and test section.
Typical Middlegame Structures
In this section, Quintillano deals with 8 pawn structures which are often reached in the theoretical lines.
The structures are presented in the following way:
- Explanation of the structure
- Model game
- Test position
This structure can be reached in the line with 6.f4 when White plays fxe5. He can, of course, keep the pawn on f4, but then Black has ...exf4 when we reach structure 6 of the previous database. A slightly different position can be reached if White had already played a2-a4 in order to prevent b7-b5. Nevertheless, the structural ideas would be the same. After releasing the tension in the center, White accepts a worse structure (the isolani on e4) in order to have open lines and chances for a kingside initiative. That is why Black should try to reach an endgame type of position. In such structures, the exchange of the dark-squared bishops is favorable for Black. After such an exchange, White will remain with weak dark squares and passive light-squared bishop.
Structure 1 - Exercise
In database 1, we have dealt with the same pawn structure. The only difference is that now White's light-squared bishop will be placed on b3, instead of e2. If White manages to get such position with all pieces developed, his kingside initiative might become dangerous. The good news, however, is that this is not an easy task for White. In the 6.Bc4 lines, Black quickly expands on the queenside by means of b7-b5. When White concentrates all his efforts on the kingside, Black usually makes use of the vulnerability of the e4-pawn. There are two ways to exploit the weak central pawn - chase away the c3-knight by means of b5-b4 or go for an exchange sacrifice with ...Rxc3. In the former case, the extra pawn and White's spoiled structure give Black more than sufficient compensation for the exchange.
We have a typical structure from the 6.Bc4 variation. In this case, White has played e4-e5 instead of f4-f5. As compensation for the spoiled pawn structure, White has a space advantage and attacking chances. Being on b3, White's bishop is restricted by the e6-pawn. In such structures, Black keeps this bishop under control by putting one of his knights on c5. Objectively speaking, Black is fine if he manages to defend his kingside without creating weak squares around the king. So, moves as Be7-f8 or Bb7-e4-g6 should be preferred instead of moving pawns on the kingside. Black has nice chances not only from a strategic point of view. In some positions, Black can use the open lines and diagonals in order to harass White's king.
The following structure is a nice example of how doubled pawns can be beneficial in some cases. This usually arises after an exchange of the knights on the e5-square. Black's doubled pawns not only control important central squares but also make the idea of f2-f4-f5 impossible. Since White usually has a knight on c3, Black can make use of the d4-square which can be occupied by a knight. White usually tries to attack with his pieces. Such an attack, however, is not very efficient since Black has no weaknesses.
This structure may arise out of many Sicilian positions, but it is more common in the Najdorf and the Classical Rauzer. White had given the bishop pair away in order to spoil Black's pawn structure. White's task is to put pressure on the central pawns by means of f4-f5, thus keeping Black busy enough to prevent the bishop pair from coming actively to the game. Due to his compact center, Black is usually solid enough to keep an equal position. The open g-file allows Black to put White's kingside under pressure after the typical h5-h4 advance. Another point is that when White realizes the plan with f4-f5, the e5-square becomes very attractive for a knight, but especially for the dark-squared bishop. Black can make use of it by means of the maneuver Bh6-f4-e5. The fact that queens are not on the board favors Black because the white queen puts a lot of pressure on Black's center.
In this structure, White has sacrificed the b2-pawn, but the queens are on the board. In such positions, Black should be careful as the king is not that safe in the center anymore. In order to protect his king, Black usually castles long. With a careful play, Black holds the balance in such structures.
Now, we have a structure which is being reached in the line with 9.a3 of the Modern Poisoned Pawn. Regarding the pawn structure, Black has obvious advantages: White has two isolated pawns which can be attacked, and usually Black establishes a strong knight on e5. Black's plan is to find nice squares for his remaining pieces and to provoke new weaknesses in White's position. Accepting a passive defense is a risky choice for White. Instead, he should play actively when possible. Complicating matters with g5-g6 is often a typical idea in such positions. Another typical idea is to put pressure on e5 with Nf3 and Bd4, thus aiming to eliminate the defense of f7. Objectively, the position should be equal, but in practice, Black's play seems always easier.
This unusual structure arises almost naturally in the endgame of the sideline 6.Rg1. Black has exchanged queens and a pair of knights and both kings usually go to the queenside. The nature of this variation is a draw with a correct play by both sides, although some details should be known. Due to the g4-pawn, White has an exposed position on the kingside and should be careful not to create new weaknesses. Black can use his kingside majority in the long run, but his main plan is to provoke the g4-pawn to advance. In this case, he can make use of the f5-square. With a white pawn on g5, Black can play g7-g6 followed by h7-h6 in order to invade via the h-file.
Chapter 1 - 6.f4
This move is an option for players who look for an uncompromised and aggressive weapon against the Nadorf but without the long theoretical discussions. This line is far from being harmless. Great players like Ivanchuk and Smirin have used it with a success.
The main line of the chapter goes 6...e5 7.Nf3 Nbd7
This is the first important crossroads of the variation. Black is ready to expand on the queenside by means of ...b7-b5. Later on, he can follow with ...Bb7, thus putting pressure on the e4-pawn.
In this position, Quintillano deals with four moves - 8.Bd3, 8.Qe2, 8.Bc4, and 8.a4.
The critical position of the chapter is being reached after 8.a4 Be7 9.Bd3 0-0 10.0-0 exf4!
A very important move that should be remembered. Black gets a free piece play and can put some pressure on e4. The pawn structure is similar to the one which is dealt with in chapter 7 of Part 1. In his analysis, Quintillano proves that Black is completely fine in all the lines.
Chapter 2 - 6.Bc4 e6 - Part 1
This move marks the beginning of the so-called Fischer - Sozin Variation. This line, which nowadays is not often seen at the highest level, used to be a dangerous weapon in the hands of many attacking players, including the 11th World Champion Bobby Fischer. The bishop is actively placed on the diagonal a2-g8 and supports White's attacking ideas on the kingside.
The first important position arises after the moves 6...e6 7.Bb3 b5
As usual, Quintillano believes that the quick queenside expansion gives Black the chance to overtake the initiative. In this position, White's most principled move is 8.0-0. Important alternatives are 8.Bg5, 8.Qf3, 8.Be3, and 8.f4.
The moves 8.Qf3 and 8.Be3 are highly transpositional and they are dealt with via different move orders.
Chapter 2 features 8.f4 and 8.Bg5.
The move 8.f4 seems to be rather risky and gives Black the chance to fight for the initiative. The main position of the chapter is being reached after 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Qf3 Qc7
In this position, White has two main continuations - 10.e5 and 10.0-0-0. In his analysis, Quintillano shows that with a precise play, Black has nothing to fear.
Chapter 3 - 6.Bc4 e6 - Part 2
In this chapter, the author stars dealing with the main line which arises after 7.Bb3 b5 8.0-0.
This is by far White's most natural move. Instead of going for risky attacking ideas, he just completes the development. At this point, Black must pay attention to the move order. For example, the natural 8...Bb7?! 9.Re1 Be7 runs into 10.Bxe6!. That is the reason why Black should first develop the kingside by means of 8...Be7. In this position, White's most principled move is 9.Qf3 which is dealt with in the next chapter.
The most important position of the chapter arises after 9.f4 0-0
The move 9.0-0 used to be the old main line. Modern computers, however, demonstrate that White cannot build a serious kingside initiative without completing the development. At this point, IM Quintillano deals with no less than five continuations - 10.f5, 10.a3, 10.Be3, 10.Qf3, and 10.e5. In his survey, the author proves that Black does not face problems in this line. Very often, he even has the chance to fight for an advantage.
Chapter 4 - 6.Bc4 e6 - Part 3
This chapter covers the current main line in the system with 6.Bc4. The position of interest arises after 7.Bb3 b5 8.0-0 Be7 9.Qf3.
Instead of early pawn advances in the center, White goes for a quick mobilization of the pieces. At the same time, he is winning important tempos. With his last move, he introduces the threat of e4-e5. In order to answer e4-e5 with ...Bb7, Black plays 9...Qc7. We reach the main crossroads after 10.Qg3 0-0 11.Bh6 Ne8
Black's passivity is of a temporary nature. He is planning to extinguish White's initiative by means of ...Bd7 followed by ...Nc6. Later on, Black can start expanding on the queenside, thus gradually weakening the e4-pawn. In order not to find himself in a bad position, White should play very energetically. Quintillano deals with the moves 12.Rfe1, 12.Be3, and 12.Rad1. According to the current state of the theory, Black can easily hold the balance in this line. That is the main reason why 6.Bc4 is not so popular anymore.
Chapter 5 - 6.Bg5 - 7th move sidelines
In this chapter, the author starts dealing with maybe the most dangerous system against Najdorf - 6.Bg5
After 6.Bg5, White starts fighting for the initiative since the very first moves. Arising positions are very sharp with a lot of tension and tactical resources for both sides. Against this system, Quintillano provides a repertoire which is completely justified from a positional point of view. Once you study it, you can play it at any level without fearing tactical tricks.
After 6.Bg5, the author goes for the classical 6...e6.
We should mention that 6...Nbd7 is another interesting option which offers more flexibility for both sides.
After 6...e6, White's main choice is by far 7.f4. Quintillano starts dealing with it in the next chapter.
Chapter 5 features White's sidelines on move 7 - 7.Qd2, 7.Qe2, 7.Qd3, 7.Bc4, and 7.Qf3.
These continuations do not promise an advantage for White if Black knows what he is doing. In his analysis, Quintillano proves this point in a rather convincing way.
Chapter 6 - 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 - sidelines
In this chapter, the author starts dealing with White's main move 7.f4 which is answered with 7...h6.
This almost forgotten move became very popular, mainly thanks to the efforts of the French top GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who plays it exclusively. The insertion of h7-h6 adds important details and resources to the old Poisoned Pawn Variation, and the author considers it to be a reliable choice against 6.Bg5.
The first important tabiya arises after 8.Bh4 Qb6
Of course, the author also deals with 8.Bxf6. The move 8...Qb6 is Black's most principled reaction. Black puts pressure on the undefended b2-pawn. Actually, the pawn on b2 is very important because it keeps the c3-knight stable.
In this position, White has two main moves - the classical 9.Qd2 and the modern main line 9.a3. In chapter 6, however, the author deals with two alternatives on move 9 - 9.Bxf6 and 9.Qd3. Despite being tricky, these moves fail to pose problems against a well-prepared opponent. In this chapter, Quintillano provides you with convincing antidotes against these two continuations.
Chapter 7 - 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2
This is the classical main line. White sacrifices the b2-pawn for the sake of the initiative. One can safely affirm that this is the most concrete line in the entire Najdorf. Surprisingly enough, this line is not so difficult to study since all the moves are very logical from a positional standpoint. Furthermore, in the main line, Black manages to achieve quite a solid position in the main line.
In this position, the author goes for 9...Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3
In this position, White has the following options at his disposal: 11.f5, 11.Be2, 11.Bxf6, and 11.e5.
Quintillano provides in-depth analysis of all these moves. Of course, White's main choice in this position is 11.e5. In this case, Black should be very precise in order not to find himself in a cramped position. Fortunately, the author manages to solve Black's problems with an important novelty in the main line.
Chapter 8 - 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.a3
This is the modern main line, and probably White's best bet for an advantage. In the classical line (without h6), this move is not that promising for White, as the bishop would be on g5. In this case, however, White can go for the following set-up: Bf2, Qf3, and 0-0-0. Although many top GM's have played this line recently, Vachier Lagrave remains the model player to follow.
The first important crossroads is being reached after 9...Be7 10.Bf2 (Caruana's 10.Qd3 is also dealt with) 10...Qc7
In this position, Quintillano examines five continuations for White - 11.Bd3, 11.Qe2, 11.Bg3, 11.g4, and the main line 11.Qf3.
All these continuations are submitted to extremely detailed analysis. In a number of lines, the author provides new ideas for both sides. It is beyond any doubt that White's most challenging move is 11.Qf3. With a precise play, Black holds the balance even against this move.
Chapter 9 - 6.Nb3
In last years, due to the high level of preparation and the enormous amount of theory in the main lines, White started looking for alternatives as early as on move 6. This and the last chapter of the database is dedicated to two of the most aggressive sidelines. When the search for options began, the knight's retreat on b3 was the first attempt to bring Black out of his comfort zone. This move became increasingly popular after some interesting games of the Polish GM Bartel against Najdorf experts such as Gelfand and Wojtaszek.
By making a generally useful move, White provides his opponent with a wide choice. Later on, he can try to find the weak points in Black's reaction. Quite modern and profound!
The main line of Quintillano goes 6...e6 7.g4 b5
This seems to be the most principled reaction. Black starts his queenside expansion without wasting time. In this line, we enter a double-edged and complex middlegame. As usual, the author explains all the ideas and provides extensive analysis. Armed with this knowledge, the reader should be able to hold his own in the arising positions.
Chapter 10 - 6.Rg1
Like in the previous chapter, White wants to advance his g-pawn, although this time he is very clear about his intentions. These two last chapters provide a nice introduction to 6.h3, which will be seen in the third database.
Quintillano suggests that Black should answer this system with 6...e5 7.Nb3 Be6
The advance ...d6-d5 cannot be prevented. According to the author's analysis, the eventual simplifications in the center will lead to a balanced endgame.
This section includes 20 interactive test positions which allow you to test your understanding of the theoretical positions. Below, you can find 5 of them.