Kasparov vs Fischer: Sicilian Najdorf, English Attack with 6. Be3

The English Attack - Basic Strategy - Sicilian Najdorf
The English Attack – Basic Strategy

The English Attack in the Sicilian Najdorf is an extremely interesting line that reflects the fullest complexity of the Najdorf system. With white employing a set-up similar to the Yugoslav Attack in the Sicilian Dragon, the lines are drawn very clearly with a classic example of opposite-sides castling. White will go queenside and aim to directly attack black’s kingside with moves like f3, g4, g5, and h4 while black will aim to attack white on the queenside with a b5-b4 advance combined with pressure on the c-file as well as counterplay in the center, specifically fighting over the d5 square. In Fischer’s time during the 1950s and 1960s, the English Attack was still in it’s developmental stages although GM Robert Byrne was contributing a good amount to the theory of the line. The English Attack’s popularity faded in the 1970s, however it came back on the main stage of opening theory thanks to the efforts of a few british grandmasters in the 1980s (Nunn, Chandler, and Short). I particularly enjoy games in the English Attack because you really have no option but to shoot it out. As the English Attack was still in it’s early stages during Fischer’s time, he was not forced to spend much time on developing a response to it. The English Attack is one of the most dangerous lines you can face in the Sicilian Najdorf, however Kasparov developed a system that really takes the bite out of the English Attack by transferring his knights directly to the queenside (quickly to b6 and d7, possibly to c5 or c4 as well).

Game 1: GM Judit Polgar vs GM Garry Kasparov, World Cup of Rapid Chess – Cannes, 2001

Click to see the interactive chess board - Sicilian Najdorf
Polgar vs Kasparov
Polgar vs Kasparov

Kasparov responds to 6. Be3 with 6. …e6, leaving the main lines of the Najdorf and playing a Sicilian that is more similar to the Scheveningen Defense. With 7. …b5, black immediately beings operations on the queenside and white will have to reckon with …b4 at any moment. With 8. …Nfd7, Kasparov employs a bizarrely effective plan that is centered around the ideas of prophylactic removing the knight from harm’s way on the kingside and directing all of black’s attention towards attacking and creating counterplay on the queenside. Kasparov follows with 9. … Nb6 and 10. …Nbd7, making 4 knight moves in his first 10 moves! With 12. …Rc8 Kasparov is threatening to sacrifice an exchange with …Rxc3 which leads to a devastating attack by black as his knights terrorize white’s queenside and center, and black will continue with the …d5 break to open his dark-squared Bf8 as well. An eclectic, double-edged battle ensues as each side maneuvers to open a respective front and attack the enemy king. After experiencing consistent pressure from Kasparov, Polgar falls into a trap with 38. Nc6+ and quickly finds herself in a lost Q+P endgame. This game is an excellent example of the type of resourcefulness and energetic play that is required to excel with the Sicilian Najdorf.

Game 2: GM Robert Byrne vs GM Bobby Fischer, Manhattan Blitz 1971

Click to see the interactive chess board

This game showcases one of the few encounters Bobby Fischer had with the English Attack in the Sicilian Dragon. Fischer’s plan in this game is no longer played because it is too committal and allows white to achieve excellent attacking prospects on the kingside and center. The problem with this set-up is that Fischer plays 7. …Be7 and immediately castles with 8. …0-0, giving white the green light to attack the black king. Kasparov’s plan appears much better, as he immediately directs all of his energy towards disrupting white’s coordination with an immediate attack on the queenside. With 14. …Rc8, Byrne seizes the initiative with the attentive 15. Bh3! and 16. Na5!? – forcing Fischer to defend. Fischer went on to sacrifice the exchange with 20. …Rxc2+ and black achieved excellent compensation for the material. It seemed that Byrne pushed too hard for the win due to the dynamic imbalance of material, leading to Fischer’s winning counter-attack and machine-like precision to win as black with 52. …h3.

One comment on “Kasparov vs Fischer: Sicilian Najdorf, English Attack with 6. Be3

  1. Durgasharan Krishnamurthy says:

    Thanks for the excellent exposition.

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One comment on “Kasparov vs Fischer: Sicilian Najdorf, English Attack with 6. Be3

  1. Durgasharan Krishnamurthy says:

    Thanks for the excellent exposition.

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