Fischer vs Kasparov: The Sicilian Najdorf, Amsterdam Variation with 6. f4

Double-Fianchetto Response to 6. f4
Double-Fianchetto Response to 6. f4

The Amsterdam Variation with 6. f4 is an interesting option to the main lines of the Sicilian Najdorf, allowing white to deviate from the more thoroughly analyzed variations like 6. Bc4, 6. Bg5, and 6. Be2. The drawback for white is that black is able to easily equalize relatively early in the opening, allowing the Sicilian Najdorf player to first nullify white’s pressure in the center and further to establish concrete counterplay against white’s set-up. White’s main problem in the f4 line is that his primary attacking plan is simply not that dangerous. If black chooses to fianchetto his king-side bishop, normally white completes development and after black has castled kingside, white proceeds with Qe1, f5, Qh4, Bh6, and Ng5. However, this plan is very slow and black is able to stir up counterplay in the center with the thematic breaks of …b5 and …d5. Fischer’s strategy against most sidelines in the Najdorf involves a double-fianchetto formation, often beginning with the fianchetto of the queenside bishop after playing b5 to threaten complications with …b4 in the future. This double-fianchetto set-up allows black to pressure white’s center from both sides of the board, and it is very difficult for white to identify a concrete target to attack due to his inability to break the center open with his pawns. This double-fianchetto system is fundamentally different than other set-ups in the Sicilian Najdorf as black is able to generate counterplay and attack on the kingside as well as the center and queenside.

IM Nicevski vs GM Fischer, Skopje 1967

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Mastering the Sicilian Najdorf – Bobby Fischer vs Garry Kasparov

Fischer
Fischer

Fischer responds flexibly to the Amsterdam Variation with 6. f4, preventing an early e5 break with 6. …Qc7 and 7. …Nbd7. Although Fischer blocks the diagonal for his dark-squared Bg7 with 12. …e5!?, he actively establishes a strong hold on the center and good play on the dark square. After a complicated middlegame, Fischer reroutes his queen to cover his kingside and central light squares with 23. …Qc8! and 24. …Qf5 – repelling white’s attack with active counterplay. Black plays fundamentally aggressive chess, resulting in a very loose pawn formation for white. Fischer’s consistent pressure leads to a difficult position and subsequent blunder by white with 34. Qg4??

GM Stefansson vs GM Kasparov, Reykjavik 1995

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Kasparov’s plan against the Amsterdam Variation of the Sicilian Defense is similar to Fischer’s, although Kasparov usually played …g6 earlier. The resulting middlegame is similar, however Kasparov was much less likely to commit himself with …e5 and playing on the kingside with …h6 and …g5, instead preferring to generate counterplay by attacking on the queenside and in the center. With 13. …Nb6 and 14. …Nfd7, it is evident that Kasparov intends to transfer all of his energy towards opening the queenside. After 19. …Nc5 and 20. …Nxe4, white is left with a terrible pawn structure and black’s bishops prepare to dominate the newly opened center. Instead of the simplifying 23. …Qxc3. Kasparov opts for 23. …e5! – neglecting material gain to further open the position for an attack on white’s king via the a8-h1 diagonal in the future. Kasparov’s attack is very instructive as he breaks open white’s defense with 32. …f3, subjecting his opponent to a horribly passive defense. After 40. …Qxd4, white resigned in the face of impending mate with …f2+

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