The Sicilian Najdorf is considered to be one of the sharpest openings you can play. Moreover, it is also known to be one of the most extensively analyzed opening systems in chess and one of the most-feared counterattacking options against the move 1.e4.
It is an early declaration of war to any e4-player and usually leads to breathtaking dynamic and double-edged positions. The Sicilian Najdorf is a chess opening for Black against 1.e4 which starts with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6.
Many positions in the Sicilian Najdorf promise Black more active play than in most other openings. Black is able to enter unbalanced positions, which allows him to aim for more than equality with the Black pieces. Black can avoid premature simplifications, keep many pieces on the board and go for the full point. Therefore, the Sicilian Najdorf is the perfect weapon for players who seek a complex tactical and strategic fight.
However, a few words of warning: the Sicilian Dragon is not for everyone. Players who prefer staying away from sharp lines and razor blade variations should not play the Najdorf! Nerves of steel and a good memory for theoretical variations are prerequisites for this opening.
The importance of learning Najdorf theory cannot be underestimated. The Najdorf not only helps improve your understanding of the typical tactical themes in the most exciting opening in chess, but its very nature means you’re well on the way to becoming a super-sharp tactician.
Here, tactical bloodbaths are commonplace and the player who knows where the weak points are, and how to exploit them, wins.
GM Niclas Huschenbeth is an expert in all types of Sicilian positions and is also a walking encyclopedia when it comes to thematic positional sacrifices – some which even computers have trouble comprehending.
The Complex Sicilian Najdorf
The Najdorf was first played by the Czech player Karel Opocensky. However, as the Polish-Argentine Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf devoted a lot of work and effort to analyzing and popularizing this opening, it is his name that has become linked to the opening.
Starting with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6, Black’s move 5…a6 aims to take control over the important b5-square to stop White from moving one of his knights or the light-squared bishop to this square. Afterward, depending on White’s next move, Black either continues with 6…e5 (Najdorf’s original idea) or 6…e6 (leading to a Scheveningen pawn structure). See the diagram on the left.
If Black plays 6…e5, he usually brings his bishops to e7 and e6, castles kingside, places the queenside knight on c6 or d7 and brings the rook to the half-open c-file.
If Black plays 6…e6, Black usually brings his dark-squared bishop to e7 and, after playing …b7-b5 and bringing his light-squared bishop to b7, he leaves his king flexible in the center and only later castles kingside, brings his queenside knight to d7 and his rook to the half-open c-file.
In both cases, Black usually tries to create play on the queenside by launching a minority attack with his pawns or regrouping his pieces to put pressure on White on this wing.
In positions where both sides castle to opposite sides, the character of the position can become very sharp. Black attacks White’s king on the queenside and White launches an attack against Black’s king on the kingside. It’s all about who strikes first.
The recent game Carlsen – Svidler from the Biel Chess Festival 2018 is a good illustration of why Black needs to know what he is doing in this opening.
The game started with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 Qc7 10.0-0-0 Bg7 11.g4 e5 (see the position on the right).
Here, Carlsen could have played the sharp 12.Ndb5 (n the game, Carlsen played 12.fxe5) already and Black would have to know what he is doing.
For instance, 12…axb5 13.Nxb5 Qc6? loses on the spot in view of 14.Rxd6! Qxe4 15.Re6+!! Kf8 (15…fxe6 16.Nd6+ +-) 16.Re8+! Nxe8 (16…Kxe8 17.Nd6+! picking up the queen) 17.Qxe4 +-.
Be sure to watch GM Huschenbeth’s video for more in-depth analysis of the Sicilian Najdorf!
80/20 Tactics Multiplier: Sicilian Najdorf
The Sicilian Najdorf – even if only used as a training tool – rapidly develops your tactical skills, your sense of timing, deepens calculation and powerfully enhances your judgment in mutual attacking positions.
In the brand new 8-hour Najdorf Tactics Multiplier, GM Huschenbeth uses the Najdorf Sicilian as a platform to teach sacrifices that will devastate the position of your former rivals…in a way that any club player can understand.
GM Niclas Huschenbeth’s masterclass on the Sicilian Najdorf gives you a complete understanding of typical tactical patterns for both sides. Click here to get instant access with 50% off.
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