Play the Sicilian Najdorf - Top-Level Repertoire - Part 2
GM Renato Quintiliano continues his Sicilian Najdorf journey. In Part 1, the Brazilian grandmaster covered White's most challenging variations against the Sicilian Najdorf: 6.Bg5, 6.Be3, 6.Be2, and 6.h3. The current database deals with all the remaining options.
True to his didactic approach, GM Quintiliano provides in-depth theoretical analysis backed up with instructive verbal explanations. As usual, in this course, you will find a bunch of novelties in theoretically important positions.
The course consists of 15 huge theoretical chapters, 30 interactive test positions, a Memory Booster, and a Video Version (9h Running Time).
Preview by GM Renato Quintiliano
On the diagram below, we have the starting position of the Sicilian Najdorf.
After having studied the most critical lines in the first part of this complete study of the Sicilian Najdorf, in the second database we are going to deal with White's remaining options. Although our work is considerably easier here, none of these lines can be considered harmless. In times of modern preparation, almost any move can be tried with the help of a strong engine and good preparation, and strong players often try to catch us off-guard in less exploited variations. I decided to begin by 6.Bc4 which is by far the most popular.
The first important crossroads is being reached after 6...e6 7.Bb3 b5
In this position, White usually castles. The move 8.Bg5 is an alternative and very aggressive setup. White usually goes for quick development and tries a direct assault against Black's defenses. The game can take a sharp and forced direction, but as we can see in the analysis of Chapter 1, White can't expect more than equality.
After 8.0-0 Be7, we have another important Sicilian Najdorf tabiya.
At this point, White's most ambitious continuation is 9.Qf3. In Chapter 2, I examine 9.f4, which is the second most popular plan. However, the analysis shows that the advance in the center is positionally risky and often allows Black to get an easier game.
The main position of interest arises after 9.Qf3 Qc7 10.Qg3 0-0 11.Bh6 Ne8
This is more or less the tabiya of the main line. Black's position might look passive, but it is very solid. Ne8 is not a real problem, as if the bishop retreats from h6 and often it does, we can go back to f6. White can try different plans to exploit the temporary lead in development, but it's not easy to force concessions on Black's position, and we always have enough defensive resources to deal with attacking ideas. I've examined White's ideas in detail in Chapter 3, but both the analysis and tournament practice show that Black is doing well here.
Another popular line against the Sicilian Najdorf is 6.g3. This variation usually leads to a positional game. We will counter this line with 6...e5.
At this point, all knight's retreats can be considered. In Chapter 4, we shall see how to fight against 7.Nb3. The move 7.Nf3 looks weird, but it is also playable and contains some creative ideas. In Chapter 5, we see how to deal with White's plans and achieve a good game.
It goes without saying that 7.Nde2 is the main line. The analysis shows that Black is fine with correct play, but it is important to remember the right move order. This line is analyzed in Chapter 6.
In Chapter 7, I analyze 6.a4, which is a very practical option to get an interesting game without too much theory.
Here, I recommend a different approach with 6...g6 going for Dragon positions, as the advance a2-a4 deprives White of the aggressive lines with 0-0-0. This is one of the rare cases when we will not stay true to the Sicilian Najdorf spirit.
Another interesting option is 6.f4.
This is an aggressive move, chosen mostly by players who are looking for an active set-up but don't want to discuss a lot of theory in heavily studied lines like 6.Bg5, or the English Attack. The potential of this move shouldn't be underestimated, but in Chapter 8 we see how to neutralize White's attempts and solve Black's opening problems.
A modern idea is 6.h4
This is the kind of idea that would have seemed just crazy and pointless 10 years ago, but nowadays is just as playable as any other move. The advance of the rook pawn creates interesting ideas and White can even choose between a sharp or more positional approach. On the other hand, it would be surprising if this is enough for White to claim an advantage against the Sicilian Najdorf. In Chapter 9 we study Black's plans against this line in detail.
In my opinion, 6.Bd3 is the most solid alternative among White's sidelines on move 6.
Some years ago this move was posing annoying practical problems for Black and I considered it very annoying. This move was also suggested by Cheparinov in his excellent course Top-Level Repertoire against the Sicilian - Part 1. However, nowadays we have even more than one satisfactory path to face it. In Chapter 10 we study a move order suggested by Giri, which seems very good to give a solid and playable position for Black.
In Chapter 11, we see 6.Rg1 which gained some popularity in the last years, especially in online games.
The drawback is that Black has a forcing path to a roughly equal endgame. Although the engine claims a tiny advantage for White and the efforts of White players to squeeze the position, I think in practice Black's position is totally fine.
The continuation 6.a3 is the kind of move that seems just harmless at first sight, but can cause some problems if you are caught by surprise. Believe me: even Carlsen has used it once to surprise a 2700 player in a classic game! Fortunately, in Chapter 12 I've analyzed this line in detail, so this is not going to happen to you.
The move 6.Nb3 seems strange, but it was trending some years ago due to some convincing wins of the Polish GM Bartel. Here I suggest playing 6...e6 7.g4 b5!
The game takes a sharp and double-edged character in which Black's chances don't look worse, as the analysis of Chapter 13 shows. I should mention that here and in chapter 7 - 6.a4 - are the only cases in which I refrain from the typical Sicilian Najdorf reaction e7-e5.
The queen moves 6.Qf3, 6.Qe2, and 6.Qd3 are all covered in Chapter 14. Each queen move has a particular idea, but in general, they are not so dangerous. Nevertheless, it's important to know some details and ideas, so Black is ready to take the initiative at the first chance.
Finally, in Chapter 15, we briefly check 6.b3, 6.Bd2, and 6.Nf3. I know, three bizarre moves. However, we can find them a few games by strong players in the database, so it doesn't hurt to study them a little bit.
Finally, this database concludes our study of the Sicilian Najdorf. This work is the result of many years playing the Najdorf and improving my lines and analysis, and I'm proud of the result achieved. I did everything possible to offer my best analysis and recommendations against all the lines, and really hope that these databases will be helpful for any player who aims to start in the Najdorf, or for those who want to improve their understanding of Sicilian Najdorf positions. Enjoy!