Chess openings – Najdorf Sicilian

Chess openings – Najdorf Sicilian

Welcome back to In today’s
video we look at the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian defense which begins
with the moves, pawn to e4, c5, knight f3, d6, d4, pawn takes pawn on
d4, knight takes pawn on d4, knight f6, knight c3, and pawn to a6, the
signature move of the Najdorf Sicilian. The Najdorf Sicilian is an incredibly
popular opening for Black. With his modest beginnings, he sets up opportunities
for tremendous counter-play. It’s for this reason that both
the ex-world champion, Bobby Fischer, and the former world champion, Garry
Kasparov, use this opening to great effect and scored many impressive victories
on the Black side. But what is so special about the Najdorf Sicilian?
How can White oppose this set up? Let’s take a look. The Najdorf is a variation of the Sicilian
defense which begins with the moves, pawn to e4 and pawn to c5. And with
the move, pawn to c5, Black prepares to capture any pawn which White might
place on d4 with a flank pawn. For Black to be able to play the Najdorf
Sicilian, White must first of all chose the open Sicilian with the move,
knight f3, followed by pawn to d4. In fact, this is exactly what most
players tend to choose since decades of practice have confirmed, over and
over again, that this strategy is White’s best method of fighting to maintain
his initiative against the Sicilian defense. To reach the Najdorf Sicilian, Black plays
the move, pawn to d6. And this is in contrast to the moves, knight c6 or
pawn to e6, which are also popular options in this position. The idea
behind this little move, pawn to d6, is quite simple. Black defends the e5
square, and this will come in handy in just a moment. White now continues
with the main strategy, pawn to d4. Pawn takes pawn. And now knight takes
pawn on d4. At this moment, White has made some achievements. The knight
on d4 is fantastically deployed and centralized, and the bishops
have no trouble finding adequate squares in this position. So White is very
ready for the active deployment of his pieces. If he had an opportunity in
this position, what he would like to do is play the move, c2 to c4, to
cement his advantage and give himself a fantastic position since this grip
on the d5 square would render Black central pawn majority relatively useless
in this position. It’s for this reason that Black nearly always throws
in the move here, the very important move, knight to f6, first of all
inviting White to play knight to c3 when he will be blocking the C pawn. Notice
now that this control of the e5 square, which was provided by this
little move, pawn to d6, comes in handy since White does not have the move,
e4 to e5, in this position. Now, White could try to avoid moving his knight
to c3 in front of the C pawn with the move, pawn to f3. But this is
a very rare move since it would neglect development for too long, and weaken
the diagonal near the king, making it harder to castle in the long term.
One approach for Black here would be the move, knight to c6, and now White
would try c4. This was the goal of not playing the move, knight to c3.
After queen to b6, Black is already quickly generating a little bit of
pressure in this position. And the knight needs to retreat since, if White
played bishop e3, there would simply be queen takes on b2. So after the move knight to c2 and, let’s
say, pawn to g6, even though White has managed to get the grip on the center,
Black has managed to push White from his centralized position in the
center. White will always have to do some uncomfortable squirming to prepare
castling because of the aggressive placement of Black’s queen. So
because of issues like this, White nearly always rejects the move, pawn
to f3, and instead plays knight to c3. It’s at this moment, that if Black
wants to play the Najdorf, he can simply play the move, pawn to a6. Of course,
he does have other options. He may play the dragon with g6, or
he may play the classical Sicilian with knight c6. Those are the main
other two options in this position, but a6 is the time tested Najdorf
Sicilian territory. It may seem like this little move, a6, comes
out of nowhere. But, in fact, the idea is very simple. Black controls the
b5 square. In the first place, this avoids any pesky visitors by White
on the b5 square, a point which we’ll see turns out to be important
in certain positions. The other benefit is that Black can often, and does,
play b7 to b5 as part of a plan to expand on the queen side, develop the queen
side pieces, and then swing a rook to the open C file and also start generating
pressure on e4. For example, let’s just throw some moves for Black.
He may play b5, bishop b7, which already targets the pawn. He may play
knight b7 and he may play rook c8 when he could even think about sacrifices
on c3 as a way to damage the structure and capture on e4. This is an example
of one of the plans which is supported by this simple move, pawn to
a6. On the other hand, White has a tremendous
lead in development, and he’s been given the right to move and develop yet
another piece, but this advantage is temporary. If Black gets enough
time, he will succeed at finding attractive squares for his pieces,
and then he’ll begin to profit from his queen side plan as well as the central
pawn majority. It’s for this reason that White needs to look for ways
to break through relatively quickly. He will, first of all, find attractive
squares for his pieces. And then his most popular strategy is to start
looking for ways to break through on the king side using a king side
pawn storm. If White is successful, he may succeed in breaking down
Black’s defenses before Black has a chance to hurry and complete his development. All of White’s major plans aim to build upon
these points. There are few major moves here, but today we will look at
White’s most popular option these days which is the move. bishop to e3.
The idea here is simply to play f3, queen b2 castling queen side, and
then g2 to g4 expanding on the king side and beginning to look for the very
attractive king side attack. This is known as the English attack. This
same piece configuration is seen time and again in the Sicilian for White.
But it all begins with this simple move, bishop to e3. Now, while it’s
possible for Black to play knight to g4, leading to some interesting
positions, the large majority of players prefer to continue along more standard
directions with either the move, pawn to e6, or with the move, pawn to
e5. We will take a look at both of these moves. The move, pawn to e5, is a highly active move
which is absolutely in the spirit of the Sicilian Najdorf. By driving
the knight backwards, White is forced to give up the centralized square of
his knight on d4. And at the same time, Black creates a pleasant square
for his bishop on e6. It may not look like it, but the move, pawn to a6,
is actually an important part of Black’s ability to play the move, pawn
to e5. We’ll see this if we back up just a few moves and imagine that if instead
of playing a6 first, Black simply played to move e5. Now remember, we
said one of the key purposes of inserting the move, a6, is to control the
b5 square and avoid a rival of pieces there. In this case, White would then
exploit the fact that Black has not inserted this move by playing the
excellent move, bishop to b5 check. This forces a piece to arrive on the
d7 square thereby granting White an opportunity to place his knight on
f5. Let’s take a look at this. For example, after
the natural move, bishop to d7, White would simply play bishop takes d7
check, knight B takes d7, and now knight f5. We’re attacking the d6 pawn.
Black often played in this position, knight c5, and now simply bishop
to g5. We’re getting a very clear picture at this point as to the problems
which Black faces since he has long-term weaknesses on the d5 and f5
squares. This is the reason why the move, a6, is so important if Black wants
to play e5. He must prevent this unpleasant exchange which begins with
the move, bishop to b5 check. So moving back to the Najdorf position after
bishop b3, Black now often plays pawn to e5. This time there is no hope
of bishop b5 check nor any hope of a profitable invasion on f5. Thus,
White generally retreats the knight to b3, and continues with the attacking
idea which he had in mind. The main line being bishop to e6, pawn to
f3, followed by queen d2 and castling queen side or an early or immediate
move, pawn to g4. Playing the move, e5, is double-edged because the d5 square
could turn out to be extremely weak, especially if White is able
to achieve g4 to g5 kicking away one of the main defenders of the d5 square.
Along with this, White has every intention of launching a full scale
attack on the king b4, or after Black is able to pass it. Black, on
the other hand, is making good use of this central pawn majority. If he can
keep himself active, he can even look for chances to play the move, d6
to d5, when he would nearly always stand better. More commonly though,
he gets his counter-play with moves, like b7 to b5, knight b d7, and rook
c8, moves which we discussed a little bit earlier. These are the main plans
for both sides. Another plan which has caught on recently
is to retreat the knight to f3 instead of b3. And with this move, White abandons
his intention of playing for a king side pawn storm instead of simply
playing for an attack against the d5 square for a grip on this square. The
idea is to play bishop to c4 and then castle king side. If Black tries
to prevent this with bishop to e6, he will quickly find that White simply
has the move knight to g5 when Black is forced either to concede the bishop
pair or White will end up with time to play the move, bishop to c4. Instead,
a more natural way for Black to play in an example line would simply be
bishop to e7, bishop c4, castling king side, and castling king side.
In this position we see that White does have a grip on the d5 square, and
at the same time he has managed to reduce the sharpness of the position
so that Black has somewhat fewer counter chances since the king is not
on the queen side. This might frustrate a Najdorf player who is looking
forward to a tactical battle. This has become a new idea for White in this
position. So much for our investigation of the move,
pawn to e5. We see here that Black generally gains an active position,
but he always has some minor concerns about the d5 square as well as larger
concerns about a potential king side attack. The other main move I would like to briefly
discuss in this position is the move, pawn to e6. Black’s strategy here is
to avoid creating that weakness on d5 and restrain White’s pieces while setting
up counter-play on the queen side. Since White does not have the
glaring weakness on d5 to help his attack, he’ll have to be much more resourceful
to get an attack to crash him and will often have to involve sacrifices
in order to get the job done. The line here now continues pawn to
f3, and now pawn to b5. Now White has a couple of options. He can play
the preparatory queen to d2, or he can start stretching out immediately with
the move, g4. In both cases, it’s against [inaudible 12:25] to consider
that despite his enormous lack of development Black has found time and time
again that he cannot only survive these positions, but can win games
by profiting from his queen side and central counter attacking chances as well
as the potential that White’s failed attack attempts will leave weaknesses
behind. These positions have given rise to many classical examples of White’s
struggles to break through the pawn center and profit from his extra
development before it’s too late. That’s all for today. We’ve only touched the
surface on this fascinating opening. If you like sharp attacking chess,
you will find it in the Najdorf Sicilian for both sides. This opening
is fascinating and has plenty of complicated, strategic, and tactical ideas
for both sides. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour as much as
I have. See you soon.

100 thoughts on “Chess openings – Najdorf Sicilian

  1. Great lesson!  Very clear and informative.   Awesome graphics and layout as well.  What software are you using for the board inlay please?

  2. Hi Dereque! I love your videos, very informative and have helped me allot! I have a question. When black plays Nf6 attacking the central pawn, what if white plays Nd2 to defend the pawn with the idea of playing c4, b3 and Bb2?

  3. Your video rocks great job I learned a lot I won the world open because of you in a good way you deserve and aplause

  4. Very clear I could understand ever single word good jobbbbbbbbbbbb!!,!,!,!,!!,!
    And we're are u filming this

  5. What happens if white plays 3. Bc5 anyway against this opening? Could player not continue with the Ruy Lopez exchange game?

  6. Thanks Dereque…u r the best…i have purchased your openings on ipad also…pls include few more variations to your Ruy lopez opening…Rgds

  7. I m asking bcoz I have tried to explore Ruy Lopez….but failed to understand the strategy behind them…Thanks

  8. Why wouldn't white push his e3 pawn up to pressure the black pawn on d6? Forcing black to either attack or be taken..

  9. Thanks Dereque! I recently started playing more seriously and your videos have really helped me. You are a really good teacher. Maybe you can do a longer video on the Najdorf and explore other variations? I would watch that 🙂 cheers for now

  10. Hey Dereque. I posted a question on here some months ago. If you had time to answer that would be greatly appreciated! Here it is again incase you missed it. When black plays Nf6 attacking the central pawn (move 4), what if white plays Nd2 to defend the pawn with the idea of playing c4, b3 and Bb2? Thanks again for the videos! They have taught me allot.

  11. THANK YOU! I have a nationals competition coming up and i needed to touch on openings again, and ur videos have helped me so much!!!

  12. really great presentation. muchas gracias. hope you will make a similar video someday for 6. f3 and 6. h3 because these move along with 6. Be3 appear to be favored by engine analysis. My analysis data are posted online and I would be very interested in your comments. Here is the link:

  13. Nice video… my name is IM Jose Gascón (specialist in the Najdorf) for those who wants to go deep on the Najdorf go to and add me as a friend in the link down below… I am offering lessons at a very reasonable price here you can see … My mail is [email protected]… Again congrats for the video… Bye to everyone!

  14. Hi Dereque, 
    Thank you for your videos , it's a pleasure to listen and learn from you . You explain it clear and with sense .Great job . Regards from Poland : )

  15. Dereque, why is d5 always so important for black in sicilian and why did you say that black would stand better if he could play d5??

  16. Hi Dereque, I love your work.
    About 2:55 you said that 2… d6 is important to stop 5. e5. But in other variations 5. e5 is still incorect, e.g. 2… Nf6 (…) 5. e5 Nxe5; 2… e6 (…) 5. e5 Qa5+ 6. Nc3 Qxe5+. Is there any better reason for 2… d6 in Sicilian?
    Best regards

  17. Am an occasional player and I really appreciate these videos. The clarity, insight, and intellectual generosity are awesome.

  18. Great Video! It would be very helpful if you could make another video explaining what to do if black does move knight to g4. I have been facing this move a lot and I am not sure exactly how to respond.

  19. hi Dereque i like your videos :))) very much i appreciate it but one thing i'd like to learn is the scheveningen najdorf style i'd like to learn it from you after e4-c5,nf3-d6,d4-cxd4,nxd4-nf6,nc3-a6,be3-e6 so in this variation what would you think is the next best move for both sides to play? thanks a lot :)))

  20. Dereque, thank you very much for the demonstration of why black must play a6. I'm playing correspondence chess against an opponent who played e5 straight. Now your demonstration will help me a lot.
    Sometimes people may think that this examples of why the opening plays a move is boring, but it helps us understand the chess game a lot.
    Thanks a lot again!

  21. Love your videos mate, you´re a great teacher. As a suggestion, I think it´d be cool if you also added some context to the opening (i.e. why is it called like that and when it started etc…). Apart from that, brilliant job!

  22. As usual, this is a good video. But I do think it's a bit misleading with regards to 5. f3. That variation is a respectable sideline, albeit not a very ambitious one, tried frequently by Ivanchuk and Rublevsky, among others.

  23. dereque you the best! I think there is a niche on youtube for taking this videos even a step further, and go into a specific attacking line. Your videos are the best on youtube though, everyone elses are too long and don't go into the "why" enough.

  24. What keeps white from checking the king with his Bishop after black pawn takes pawn and before taking with the knight? I'm new at this and trying to figure out how to respond without messing up my ability to develop well after defending.

  25. When my brother and I used to play chess long ago, when we played c5 and..then a6, we used to say " OOOHHH!! you're doin da NAAAJ-DORF!!!"

    We had no idea in hell what we were doing.

  26. What is e5 instead of a6 countered with or why is it suboptimal? It looks quite good to me as it gains the center and attacks the knight

  27. You really love White pieces, don't you? Even while explaining Sicilian, you are showing from White's perspective 🙂

  28. hey! i love your teaching way! can u teach us full najdrof line and c4 from white and a wanderfull video master

  29. Good job. Good video. The move e5, removing the knight is also seen in boleslavsky's classical approach, in the classical Sicilian. I kinda find it funny. Considering I'm studying it 🙂

  30. Thank you!!!! These Sicilian videos (Dragon, Najdorf, and the Open Sicilian) are so helpful. Now i have a greater understanding of how the Sicilian opening works.

  31. I currently play Sicilian and I would really like to see a video about Scheveningen Variation which is Black playing 5)…e6. However, I think it doesn’t matter too much because black nearly always plays the useful a6 move later in the game. BUT I need some answers about Open Sicilian. In ANY stage of the game if White tries to challange Black’s b7-b5 advance by playing a2-a4, what should I do? I know that we need to keep b5 square under control to keep the White pieces away from there so we cannot just wait and capture back with our a6 pawn on b5. Do we push our pawn to challenge the c3 knight, or capture b5-a4 right away? I don’t like giving White an open a-file after they capture with their rook. And sometimes they push b2-b4 and then a2-a4. I really need some advice about this. AND when I play Sicilian some people play the very, very different move 2)Bf4. If that’s a wrong move by White, please tell me the way to punish it. People often play 2)Bf4 against me and I want to know how to play along this move. Thanks so much.

  32. Really excellent video, but sometimes you're a little bit to fast for non native English speakers. Just let us a second more to translate; it's challenging enough to understand what's going on without a delay caused by translation 😎

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