Lifetime Repertoires: Najdorf Sicilian is the new course by Grandmaster Anish Giri. His previous Chessable course, Lifetime Repertoires: French Defense, proved very popular and changed opinions on the merits of 1 e4 e6.
The Najdorf Sicilian isn’t so much in need of a Public Relations man as it is has been popular since the 1960s. Indeed, it has been a theme on this blog all week, as we saw a great game from Bobby Fischer in Malcolm’s Daily Telegraph column, a selection of checkmates from Fischer from Sicilian games and presented the basics of the Najdorf in yesterday’s post.
The Najdorf Sicilian (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6) is undoubtedly sound and provides Black with plenty of ways in which to fight for the initiative. The biggest problem is the amount of theory it has built up over the years. It is therefore intriguing to see how Grandmaster Giri handles the problem, especially in the main line.
Najdorf Sicilian: Main Line 6 Bg5
There is no point in trying to play either side of the battle after 6 Bg5 without serious preparation. When I last followed the theory, Black’s old-fashioned 6 …Nbd7 was under a cloud but the Poisoned Pawn Variation was considered Black’s best way of playing. However, mastering the theory after 6 …e6 7 f4 Qb6 8 Qd2 Qxb2 is a daunting task for any player.
State of Play
Lifetime Repertoires: Najdorf Sicilian gives a worthy overview of the current state of play after 6 Bg5 and passes comment on the validity of Black’s array of responses.
I learned that 6 …Nbd7 has emerged from the shadows and was seriously considered for the starring role in this course.
The Poisoned Pawn Variation is still sound, but attaining mastery of the lines is not an easy task.
‘The variations are forced and often go into a deep endgame all the way to move 40. As theory stands right now (and I am sure will always stand), Black is holding his own by force here and while I am ready to bring all of that with me to my top-tournaments, I felt it would be unfair to unload all of this onto the children of my course, who want to have a fun time playing the Najdorf Sicilian and not have to be ready to pass some serious memory-test on demand.’
However, fans of the Polugaevsky System (6 …e6 7 f4 b5) may have start looking for an alternative as ‘unfortunately it seems to crack under the pressure of the modern engines.’
This course heads into the more traditional main line after 6 …e6 7 f4 Be7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 0-0-0 and now the recommendation is 9 …Nbd7.
‘The so-called three-piece system. Black has developed the bishop, queen, and a knight and is ready for the standard Sicilian push b7–b5, now that e5 push can be met with Bb7!. This used to be the main-line until some problems have started appearing and the focus shifted back to the poisoned-pawn variation. However, about a decade ago new ways started appearing here for Black.’
After 10 g4, two different lines are covered on the course.
One is 10 …h6, after which it is very easy for White to take a wrong turn and end up in trouble. For example, after 11 Bh4 Black can immediately turn up the heat.
White already has to find the unlikely counter of 12 e5! as 12 fxg5 runs into 12 …Ne5! and 13 …Nfxg4, when the White position is creaking.
After 12 e5! Black still obtains a very good position, as the course clearly demonstrates.
The alternative line for Black is 10 …b5.
This leads to very complicated play. If Black understands the position then it will be very effective not only over the board and correspondence chess but also in online games, despite whatever time limit may be in use.
One very important point in this line is that ‘if White wastes a move, Black will have a very comfortable game.’ As we know, a ‘comfortable game’ as Black in the Sicilian is a significant building block on the way to success.
Naturally, as a Lifetime Repertoire course, the material is not confined to the world of the Najdorf. It is important to provide a full repertoire in such flagship releases and that means there is through coverage of everything from the second move options onwards.
This is particularly helpful for club and tournament players, who may well know what to do on the tenth move of a main line but will also need knowledge of various gambits (including 2 b4) and also ways to keep Black going against the quieter systems in which White aims to keep control of the situation (such as 2 c3 and 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+).
If you studied the material in this course very carefully then you would never have to worry about facing 1 e4 again.
Head here for further details on Lifetime Repertoires: Najdorf Sicilian.
There is also a Short and Sweet version of the course, which can be found here.