Brutal Nakamura’s Queen Sacrifice

Hikaru Nakamura is a four-time United States Chess Champion and represented the United States at five Chess Olympiads, winning a team gold medal and two team bronze medals.

In this free preview of the A Decade of Benjamin Mega Bundle, GM Joel Benjamin analyses Nakamura’s game against former World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov in a sharp Najdorf Variation.

The Fighting Sicilian Defense Najdorf Variation

One of the most studied chess openings is the Sicilian Defense Najdorf variation. The characteristic moves of the Najdorf variation, 5…a6 and 6…e5, were first played by Czech IM Karel Opocensky.

However, the opening is named after the player who did the most to make it a playable defense to 1.e4, Miguel Najdorf. Najdorf’s work was assisted by Bobby Fischer, who used the opening with great success against the best players of the time.

The Najdorf is a highly tactical opening leading to complex middlegame positions. Because of its strategic soundness and the complicated positions that arise, it gives you every opportunity to play for a win with black.

There are very few drawish lines in the Sicilian Defense Najdorf variation!

One of the most appealing characteristics of complex chess openings is they tend to suit players of many different styles. You will surely find a way to play the Najdorf Variation that suits you.

This applies equally to players on either side of the Najdorf variation. White can play the calm 6.Be2 and enter the quieter waters of the Classical Variation.

Positional players will find 6.g3 to their liking while attacking players can try the Old Main Line with 6.Bg5 or the English Attack with f3 and Be3.

Do not be put off by what you hear about the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Yes, the positions can get highly complicated at the highest levels, but this does not mean club players cannot play this excellent defense to 1.e4.

Before delving into the theory, play through a few games to see if you can find middlegame positions you will enjoy playing. No matter how solid an opening is theoretically, you won’t play it well if you are reaching positions you dislike.

Fortunately, there are many top-quality games for you to enjoy in the Sicilian Najdorf, like this excellent game by Nakamura.

Nakamura Provides a Warm Welcome to the Najdorf Variation

Although a blitz game, both elite players show great tactical ability and great knowledge of the Sicilian Defense, which makes this game an excellent opportunity for GM Benjamin to analyze some ideas in this always trendy opening.

The power of the Ne5 (and how to stabilize his position with Black), the positional exchange sacrifice, and the power of pawn breaks are some of the topics that Benjamin discusses, with instructive variations and must-known ideas the players played (even with little time to think!).

Nakamura

But the cherry on the cake is the spectacular sacrifice in the next position: 

Black sacrifices an exchange and gets interesting compensation, but the strong play from Nakamura gives Ponomariov no chance to activate his pieces.

After the last move, 31…Rg8, Black is simply lost!

Try to discover Nakamura’s brilliant idea to destroy Black’s position.

Hikaru played the killing 32.g5! hxg5 33.Qxe5!!, when Black’s position is simply collapsing. The queen can’t be taken, as after 33…fxe5 34.Bh5+ White gives checkmate on the next move (the power of the rooks on the open files is the key point).

You must see the rest of the video to check how Naka won in only a few more moves!

To really understand what happened in this game, learn very important strategical motifs and train your tactics, then you must see this free preview of the modern classic A Decade of Benjamin. GM Benjamin will give you a masterclass!

If you want to improve your play in every phase of the game, then check out the huge A Decade of Benjamin Mega Bundle and learn from the incredible analyses of GM Joel Benjamin!

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