Complete Najdorf Repertoire for Black - Part 3
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The third and final database covers some of the most dangerous and topical systems against the Najdorf as well as all the sidelines. You will find a complete repertoire against the following moves: 6.h3, 6.Be3, 6.a3, 6.h4, 6.Bd3, 6.Nf3, 6.Qf3, 6.Qe2, and 6.Qd3. While 6.h3 and 6.Be3 are considered to be a mainstream theory, other moves are interesting sidelines.
In the past few years, the approach in the opening has changed a little, and people are now looking to get a playable position with interesting possibilities instead of going for theoretical discussions and long forced lines (We may want to call it the "Magnus Carlsen" effect!). Due to this new approach, White players switched to less exploited fields in order to pose new problems for Black in the Najdorf. We will see that despite those lines not being concrete or so aggressive-looking as the ones analyzed in database 2, Black should be aware of them as to avoid getting into trouble.
The database consists of 3 sections - Typical Pawn Structures, Theoretical Section and Test Section.
Typical Pawn 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:
1) Explanation of the structure
2) Model game
3) Test position
Let's take a look at structure 1.
This French-like structure occurs quite often in the Adams Attack (6.h3) when White plays e4-e5 and Black should close the center with d6-d5. Despite the similarity in the pawn's placement, there is one relevant difference regarding the pieces: Although the typical idea Ne2-d4 is still available here, White's light-squared bishop is poorly placed on g2. Of course, the d3-square would be a better place for this bishop. Therefore, Black has some interesting options as the maneuver Nb6-c4, putting pressure on the queenside, or improving the bad bishop via a6 after b5-b4 followed by a6-a5. The pressure along the c-file is, of course, a typical motif as well. When White plays 0-0-0 the battle is often decided by dynamical means. On the other hand, endgames are likely to happen when White castles kingside. In this case, a minor but interesting detail is that when White plays f2-f4, necessary to protect the e5-pawn, the king might become a bit unsafe.
Chapter 1 - 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 - White plays 0-0-0
In Chapter 1 we will start dealing with the most aggressive set-ups for White that include 0-0-0.
After 8.g5 we play 8...b5! One nice point about this line is that Black usually gets active counterplay on the queenside. We reach the critical position after 9.a3 Bb7 10.h4 Nc6 Again the most active way of development. 11.Be3 The best move order. (11.Nxc6 Bxc6 I think this helps Black as he has more options available to develop the counterplay on the queenside.) 11...Be7 12.Qd2 0-0 13.0-0-0 Nc5
14.f3 (14.Nxc6 Bxc6 15.f3 This is a worse move order as Black had the nice idea 14...Qb8!
The queen supports the pawn advances whilst the rook stays on a8 where it can be very helpful)
14...Rb8! An important move that should be remembered. In Sicilian positions, the rook is usually placed on the c-file, but the advance of the queenside pawns is very important in this line, so the rook belongs to b8 in order to support the b5-b4 break.
Chapter 2 - 6.h3 e6 7.g4 Nfd7 - White Plays 0-0
In this chapter, we will see the positional approach by White when he opts for 0-0 hoping to exploit his space advantage on the kingside. 8.Bg2 Be7 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Be3 0-0
Here we will analyze the most ambitious move 11.f4 as well as 11.Nce2 ( This plan was played a few times but White is not in time to achieve his desired set-up), 11.Qe2 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5! as well as the harmless 11.a4.
Chapter 3 - Sideline 6.a3!?
The history of how this move caught the attention of strong grandmasters is quite curious. Karjakin played it against Giri in the first round of the Tata Steel tournament in 2017 and although the game was drawn the move somehow attracted World Champion Magnus Carlsen who played it on the next day to score a nice win against Wojtaszek, one of the best Najdorf players in the world. Later, Karjakin confessed in an interview that he had no time to prepare against Giri as he had missed his laptop charger in Moscow, and 6.a3 was just an improvisation :) Anyway, this timid advance found many adepts since then and practical experience has shown that it is not as harmless as it may look at first sight. We answer this move with the most direct 6...e5.
Chapter 4 - Sideline 6.h4!?
"So, people are literally trying everything against the Najdorf?" was my first thought when I saw strong grandmasters play this move. After checking some of these games though, I had to admit that the line is just playable. It does not seem so dangerous for Black, but you always should know what to do against such lines in order to not fall for little tricks. We will again play the most principled move 6...e5.
Chapter 5 - Sidelines 6.Bd3!? and 6.Nf3
I think this is one of the most interesting sidelines against the Najdorf and it is still not fully explored. Although there are thousands of games with this move, it only has become fashionable in recent years after Nakamura used it to beat Vachier Lagrave, if I'm not wrong. White's position remains a bit flexible, and he can change his plans depending on the set-up chosen by Black. We play 6...g6 as this is one of those cases when Black can choose a Dragon set-up since the bishop is misplaced on d3 in such structures.
I must admit that I fail to see the point of this move. Maybe White is just trying to get a game? Anyway, as harmless as it may look, a few GMs have tried this, so we can give a look and will simply respond with 6...Nbd7 when this knight certainly makes more sense on d7 than White's on f3.
Chapter 6 - Sidelines 6.Qf3 / 6.Qe2 / 6.Qd3
In this chapter, we are going to deal with early queen moves. 6.Qf3 is the most played, and it seems the most promising for White as well. One important point is that with the queen on f3, the thematic e5-advance looks less attractive. 6...Nbd7! I don't know exactly why, but whenever I cannot play e5 in the Najdorf, I have the impression that Dragon set-ups (either with or without Nbd7) seem the logical second option to go for.
6.Qe2 White wants to follow up with 0-0-0 and at some point, he can transpose to 6.Bg5-like positions. But I think the typical Najdorf move 6...e5 works out nicely here.
6.Qd3 the less frequently played of the three options, still, you can find some games played by grandmasters with White. 6...Nbd7 7.Be2 g6 I think the Dragon set-up is reliable for Black against this line. I cannot see how the queen could be useful on d3.
Chapter 7 - 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 - Sidelines
6.Be3 This is one of the 3 main moves against the Najdorf, and it is a very promising option for White. The main and most dangerous line is, of course, the English Attack, but we will start with sidelines and early deviations, in which the first player looks for less studied attacking set-ups. 6...e5 7.Nb3 (In this chapter we also look at 7.Nde2!? This might look a bit strange but it was seen in some grandmasters games, many of them by the Romanian-born and now German GM Nisipeanu.) 7...Be6 8.h3
This is an option for White players that aim go for a promising attacking set-up whilst avoiding the theoretical discussions in the English Attack. White has two main plans: Qf3-0-0-0-g4 and a quick f2-f4 followed by Qe2-0-0-0-g4. Both ideas lead to interesting positions. Black should know what to do in order to neutralize White's ideas.
Chapter 8 - 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 - With f2-f4
6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Qe2 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 b5 I think this is the most precise move order. As in our main line against the English Attack, the bishop will be more useful on f8 for the time being.
10.f4 This is another popular variation to get interesting attacking prospects against the Najdorf while avoiding tons of theory. White's main idea is the quick push f2-f4-f5, followed by a pawn sacrifice aiming to open lines on the kingside. With a precise play, however, Black is doing completely fine in this line.
The last two chapters deal with the position arising after 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5!?
This interesting line became popular in recent years. Usually, it is not advisable to move pawns on the side that you are going to be attacked on, but Black has a clear point here: He stops or at least makes the g4-advance harder which gives White more space and promising attacking chances on the kingside. The first player is forced to look for new ideas, and the game can change into a positional battle.
Chapter 9 - 8.f3 h5!? - Without Nd5
In this chapter, we start by investigating what happens if White keeps trying to go for an attack anyway as well as if he goes for a positional approach but refuses the ideas connected with the transformation in the pawn structure by means of Nd5.
9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Kb1 Be7 12.Bd3 The start of an interesting set-up. 12...b5 13.h3 White intends to continue with either f3-f4 or g2-g4.
13...Nb6!? Black partially ignores White's ideas on the kingside while creating his own threats. This was played only four times, but I think it gives good chances as well. (The more solid 13...h4 is most often played, and Black is also doing fine there.)
Chapter 10 - 8.f3 - With Nd5
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the move 8...h5!? succeeds in making White's "normal" attempts to attack harder. The most promising ideas for White are connected with the transformation in the pawn structure by means of Nd5 at some point, and after the subsequent exchange (B or N x d5 - exd5). The new structure is not exactly new for us (see chapter 8 of the first database) but the presence of the pawn on h5 and some differences in the pieces' placement make the position just different, with its own features and possibilities. White has more freedom and space after the exchange, and although his main plan is to make use of the pawn majority on the queenside, ideas on the kingside are not discarded either as the h5-pawn can be used as a hook for the attack in some variations. Black should be aware of those ideas. He should keep the queenside as safe as possible and look for timely counterplay on the kingside by advancing the e and f-pawns, and in some cases even by means of the advance h4-h3. Usually, the game has a positional character. I think the positions arising from this line are very rich in resources and offer nice chances for both sides, with interesting and double-edged positions.
9.Qd2 Nbd710.Nd5 Despite this is not being the most frequently played move, it has been the most popular choice of grandmasters in the last years. White provokes the early transformation in the pawn structure while keeping the option of castling to either side. 10...Bxd5 11.exd5
11...g6! It is important to remember this move. The d6-pawn is safe now, and Black can develop the bishop more actively either to g7 or even to h6 if allowed.
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.