Kasparov vs Fischer in the Sicilian Najdorf, The Opocensky Variation with 6. Be2

The Opocensky Variation with 6. Be2 - Kasparov
The Opocensky Variation with 6. Be2

The Opocensky Variation of the Sicilian Najdorf with 6. Be2 remains one of the most commonly played lines for white against the Najdorf. In Fischer’s time in the 1950s and 1960s, more aggressive variations such as the Fischer-Sozin Attack, the 6. Bg5 Main Line, and the 6. f4 Amsterdam Variation were favored over the quieter Opocensky Variation with 6. Be2. However sufficient sources of counterplay were identified for black against the sharper continuations, and in the early 1970s Anatoly Karpov began to make his mark with some fantastic long-term positional ideas in the Opocensky Variation revolving around strategic dominance of the critical d5 square. In the 1980s and 1990s, Kasparov demonstrated that black could maintain excellent chances against the Opocensky Variation by achieving rapid activity on the queenside and center. As in many lines of the Sicilian Najdorf, black aims to take the initiative with the thematic …b5 and …d5 breaks. The Opocensky Variation is favored by players who enjoy a quieter positional struggle in place of the double-edged fireworks in more complicated lines in the Sicilian Najdorf (6. Bc4, 6. Bg5, etc..). A few of the most popular grandmasters to have employed the Opocensky Variation are Anatoly Karpov, Vasily Smyslov, Wolfgang Unzicker, Paul Keres, Viswanathan Anand, and the current #1 rated player in the world Magnus Carlsen.

Mastering the Sicilian Najdorf – Bobby Fischer vs Garry Kasparov

Game 1: GM Unzicker vs GM Fischer, Varna Olympiad 1962

Kasparov
Garry Kasparov vs Bobby Fischer differed in how they handled the 6. Bg5 line (learn more in my 4 hour long DVD)

Fischer characteristically responds to 6. Be2 with 6. …Be6 – immediately activating the bishop and fighting for control of d5. 6. …Be6 is a very common response to 6. Be2 because black wants to be able to respond to 7. f4 with 7. …Qc7 and 8. f5 with 8. …Bc4 – gaining space and activity in the center. White attempts to achieve a clamp on the black’s queenside with 13. a5, however Fischer energetically reacts with 13. …b5. After a few minor piece exchanges, white emerges with long-term positional advantage due to his pressure on black’s backward d6 pawn and white’s occupation of the critical d5 square. Black is able to compensate for white’s positional advantage with dynamic activity on the queenside, creating constant pressure against white’s queenside pawns with the minority attack with black’s b-pawn. With 24. …Qa7! and 25. …Ra2 – Fischer creates subtle threats that Unzicker fails to detect, resulting in the devastating shot 26. …Rxc3!! and white’s subsequent resignation.

GM Anand vs GM Kasparov, Linares 2000

Anand vs Kasparov
Anand vs Kasparov

Kasparov develops normally against 6. Be2, so Anand decides to spice things up with 9. f4 and 10. Nd5!? – rapidly trying to create pressure and gain space on the queenside. 14. …exf4 Kasparov opens up the e-file and clears the way for his knight to come to e5 as well. Kasparov’s targeted and energetic play enables him to create very strong pressure with his rooks on the c and e-files, demonstrating white’s lack of coordination with 22. …Nf3 23. gxf3. Kasparov continues to sacrifice a pawn for activity with 26. …h4 and 27. …Nh5, gaining valuable time to speed up his attack. With 30. …Qxc4! white’s house of cards collapses and black is left with an extremely favorable endgame.

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