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Every now and then there comes a book that just makes things simple and

understandable. This book is one such rare gem.


John and Joshua Doknjas make a substantial effort to dissect one of the most complex and often
misunderstood openings and provide the user with an objective understanding of the many complex
lines. Notably, this is done while maintaining an eminently easy to read and enjoyable format and
writing style. The book is full of passion, reflecting the young authors’ love for the game. The sample
games are well chosen and annotated and present good examples of the various lines and their pros and
cons.
Perhaps more importantly, the book does not require the reader to memorize countless lines until
move 30, but rather strives to develop the general feel for the resulting middlegame positions and
typical plans and transformations.
If you would like to develop an appreciation for this complex opening, improve
your general understanding of the game, and have an enjoyable read, then this
book is for you, whether you are a weekend club player or a seasoned
grandmaster.

International Master Yan Teplitsky


Former National Youth Coach and Olympic Medallist for Team Canada
First published in 2018 by Gloucester Publishers Limited, London.

Copyright © 2018 John Doknjas and Joshua Doknjas

The right of John Doknjas and Joshua Doknjas to be identified as the authors of
this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and
Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a


retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
electrostatic, magnetic tape, photocopying, recording or otherwise,
without prior permission of the publisher.

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ISBN: 978 1 78194 484 4

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About the Authors
John Doknjas
is a FIDE Master, who has finished first in the Under 18 2017 Canadian Youth Chess Championships.
He has won several strong tournaments in British Columbia, Canada, including the Grand Pacific
Open. John is a chess teacher with over five years of experience, and has annotated games for
distinguished national chess publications.
Joshua Doknjas is a National Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally.
He has won six national titles for his age. Joshua enjoys researching topical lines in the opening, and
frequently discovers new ideas. Joshua and his brother, John, have been playing the Najdorf for over
eight years; they have analysed and discussed cutting-edge developments, which are shared in this
book.
Contents
About the Authors
Bibliography
Foreword by Grandmaster Emil Sutovsky
Introduction

Part One: Sharp Lines


1 The English Attack: 6 Be3
2 Theoretical Paths: 6 Bg5
3 The Sozin: 6 Bc4

Part Two: Quieter Systems


4 The Classical: 6 Be2
5 The Fianchetto: 6 g3
6 Patient Prophylaxis: 6 a4
7 Early Skirmish: 6 f4

Part Three: New Developments


8 The Adams Attack: 6 h3
9 Offbeat Trails: 6 Qf3, 6 Rg1, 6 h4, 6 Bd3, 6 Nb3

Index of Complete Games


Bibliography
Chess Developments: The Sicilian Najdorf 6 Bg5
, Kevin Goh Wei Ming (Everyman Chess 2014)
Dismantling the Sicilian, Jesus de la Villa (New in Chess 2009)
Dismantling the Sicilian – New & Updated Edition, Jesus de la Villa & Max Illingworth (New in Chess
2017)
Grandmaster Repertoire – 1 e4 vs. The Sicilian I, Parimarjan Negi (Quality Chess 2015)
Playing 1 e4 – Sicilian Main Lines, John Shaw (Quality Chess 2018)
The Cutting Edge 2 – Sicilian Najdorf 6 Be3, Milos Pavlovic (Quality Chess 2011)
The Sharpest Sicilian 2012, Kiril Georgiev and Atanas Kolev (Chess Stars 2012)

Online Resources and Databases


ChessBase Live Database
Chesspublishing.com
ICCF Database
MegaBase 2013
The Week in Chess

Chess Engines
Komodo
Stockfish
Foreword
Writing a book on Najdorf is always a challenge. Writing it from the black side is an even bigger
challenge, as you have to deal with the numerous dangerous lines – and I was a bit sceptical when the
request to review the present book arrived. Honestly, I didn’t know much about Joshua and John, but
their joint effort was a pleasant surprise. Long past are the days when one had to be a strong
grandmaster and renowned theoretician to write an opening manual. The Doknjas brothers have penned
a comprehensive repertoire book on one of the most complex openings, and managed to make it a good
read as well as an in-depth research. The authors discuss both topical and side lines; they bring a lot of
key games that are augmented by their analysis, and even provide the reader with tasks and puzzles.
They focus on their favourite lines – as repertoire books usually do, but keep being in touch with the
reader and do not dig too deep. They obviously use engines, but there is no feeling they were overused
– it is pretty much a human book.
This is the first such massive work for the Doknjas brothers and, as often happens in these cases, you
see a lot of passion for the work – and it resulted in a book that will be useful for both club players and
grandmasters.

Grandmaster Emil Sutovsky


President of the Association of Professional Chess Players,
Aeroflot Open and Gibraltar Chess Festival Co-Champion,
and Olympic Gold Medallist for Team Israel
Introduction
The Najdorf Sicilian is a treasure trove of dynamic potential and opportunities to seize the initiative, as
well as a variety of structures which widen the ambitious player’s chess horizons. This is in essence
what drew us to it around eight years ago when we first began playing the Najdorf, and it has since
become one of our favourite openings. However, one problem that often discourages many players
from learning the Najdorf is the immense amounts of theory (such as the Poisoned Pawn variation of 6
Bg5). Keeping this in mind, our book is conscious of providing practical lines that are understandable,
as opposed to a labyrinth of variations that require extreme memorization. At the same time, we ensure
that Black’s position is theoretically sound and contains good opportunities to play for the win.

The Structure of the Repertoire


We typically recommend going for the pawn structure where Black plays ... e5 on the 6th move. This is
the structure the Najdorf tends to be most commonly associated with.

The main drawback is the weak d5-square, but Black can keep this square monitored to prevent
White from achieving a positional advantage. This structure gives Black active play along the c-file and
allows him to gain space on the queenside with ... b5. Perhaps most importantly, the pawn on e5
occupies key centre space, making a possible ... d5 break significantly more powerful.
However, against several of White’s tries, we opt for a different approach if ... e5 isn’t ideal. For
example:

* After 6 Bc4 or 6 Bg5, White’s control of the d5-square is too strong and our preference is 6 ... e6 and
6 ... Nbd7 respectively. Notice how these moves don’t concede the fight for the d5-square.
* If White plays 6 h3, our repertoire covers 6 ... e6, aiming for a more dynamic position as opposed to
the standard 6 ... e5.
* Finally, going for a Dragon set-up works better against some of White’s sidelines. An example of this
is seen after 6 a4, when 6 ... g6 gives Black a much improved version of the Dragon because the
inclusion of a4 makes castling queenside for White very treacherous.

A Model Najdorf Game


To give a taste of the Najdorf, we’d like to show a game by one of its greatest practitioners of all time.
The game features a wide variety of typical Najdorf ideas in both attack and defence. We hope it serves
as strong encouragement for your journey through the depths of this fascinating opening.

M.Adams-G.Kasparov
Linares 2005

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6


Kasparov heads into a Scheveningen structure, which he had earned a very good reputation for
handling with expertise. However, our preference against the English Attack is to take up a greater
influence in the centre with 6 ... e5, as can be seen in Chapter 1.
7 Be2

Quite a common move, but not White’s most energetic approach. Instead 7 f3, preparing a kingside
attack with g4, is the main line. 7 g4!? immediately is also an interesting alternative.
7 ... Qc7 8 Qd2
8 a4 is more popular, restricting Black’s queenside play. It leads to a different type of game after 8
... b6 9 f4 Bb7 10 Bf3 Nbd7, where both sides have dynamic chances. White controls more centre space
but Black can develop good play against White’s vulnerable e4-pawn.
8 ... b5 9 a3 Bb7 10 f3
White plays for the classic English Attack set-up. He aims to castle queenside and begin advancing
his kingside pawns. One plan for Black is to work towards attacking in the centre with ... d5. Another
plan, as seen in this game, is expanding on the queenside with ... b4. This is especially effective here
because of the “hook” White has created with a3.
10 ... Nc6
Kasparov develops his queenside quickly before worrying about castling. As is often seen in the
Najdorf, Black can quickly seize the initiative if White isn’t being too threatening.
11 0-0-0 b4!
Blasting open lines on the queenside and beginning to develop a powerful attack against White’s
king. Using the a3-pawn as a hook to play ... b4 is a common theme in several Najdorf structures.
12 axb4 Nxb4 13 g4 Be7 14 g5 Nd7 15 h4!
White gains space on the kingside and prepares to undermine Black’s e6-pawn with h5 followed by
g6.
15 ... Nc5!
Protecting the e6-pawn while simultaneously bringing another piece into the attack.
16 Kb1 Rb8
The rook creates pressure on the b-file, eyeing White’s king. Note how White can’t really neutralize
Black’s attack by playing b3 since this will weaken the queenside dark squares and leave the c3-knight
vulnerable.
17 h5 0-0
This may look dangerous because of White’s incoming attack on the kingside. However, Kasparov
has prepared an excellent way to meet g6.
18 g6 Bf6!
Holding the kingside together while exerting pressure along the long diagonal. This idea is also
seen in a variation of Game 38 from Chapter 8 on 6 h3.
19 Rdg1 Ba8!
Unleashing the power of the b8-rook while keeping the bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal to continue
hammering down on White’s centre.
20 Bg5 Be5 21 gxh7+
21 Bf4 would continue the attack on Black’s powerful bishop, but here Black has the excellent
resource 21 ... Nbd3!, when White will experience problems with Black’s attack on the unprotected d4-
knight and along the b-file.
21 ... Kxh7 22 Nb3 Nxc2!
Undermining the b3-knight and destroying the cover of White’s king. This is the culmination of
Black’s massive build-up of forces on the queenside.
23 Nxc5 Na3+ 24 Ka2 Qxc5 25 Na4 Nc2!!
A brilliant way to finish off the game. Kasparov is able to leave his queen en prise because of the
mate threat with ... Rxb2.
26 Kb1
The point of Black’s previous move is seen after 26 Nxc5 Rxb2 mate.
26 ... Qa3 0-1
White resigned, as taking the knight runs into ... Rfc8.

Tips for Getting the Most out of This Book

* Pay attention to the exercises and questions in the games as these tend to highlight important and
instructive concepts.
* After playing through each of the games, read the conclusion to make sure you have understood the
main ideas. Most of the conclusions mention the critical variation(s) of their game, so it is especially
beneficial to review these lines.
* It’s more important to memorize theory in the most critical and sharp chapters such as 6 Bg5, 6 Be3,
6 h3 and 6 Bc4. The reason for this is because the positions can be quite concrete and therefore
precision is often a necessity. In the quieter systems such as 6 Be2, 6 g3, 6 f4 and most sidelines,
understanding the general ideas and plans is of a higher priority.

Acknowledgements
There are several people who we would like to thank for their help and support throughout this project.
First of all, we want to express our gratitude to Victoria, Dave, and Neil for their diligent proofreading
and review of our work. We are also appreciative of Yan Teplitsky and Emil Sutovsky for their honest
feedback and opinions of the book. Finally, thanks to Byron Jacobs for always providing us with
helpful direction and guidance.
Joshua Doknjas and John Doknjas,
Canada,
November 2018
Chapter One
The English Attack: 6 Be3
The English Attack with 6 Be3 is a popular and aggressive way to meet the Najdorf. The main idea of
the English Attack is simply to castle queenside and push the g- and h-pawns against Black’s king. Our
recommendation for Black is the fashionable 8 ... h5 variation, slowing down a potential kingside pawn
storm from White. This usually leads to rich positions where Black has excellent chances for dynamic
play.
White also can play positionally after 6 Be3 e5, and in Game 1 we will have a look at 7 Nf3 and 7
Nde2. Both of these moves are aimed at slower play and don’t pose serious problems for Black. In this
game, we will see how Black is able to generate play on the queenside which allows him to win a pawn
and eventually the game.
The chapter then moves on to the position after 7 Nb3 Be6.
In Game 2 we look at some of White’s sidelines on move 8. In these lines, we refrain from playing an early ... h5 because White
would be able to play f4! and have excellent attacking chances on the kingside. The game is a typical example of a pawn race, where
Black quickly advances his pawns on the queenside and gains a much better position. Then, he switches to the kingside to prevent
White’s threats but is unable to convert an endgame with an extra pawn.
The next five games focus on 8 f3, White’s most popular choice. As mentioned above, we meet this
with 8 ... h5!, giving White difficulties to create kingside play.

In Game 3 we cover White’s kingside castling plan. The play leads to similar positions that we see
in the chapter with 6 Be2 and Black doesn’t have much to worry about in these lines. This game is an
excellent example of many of the typical ideas for both sides. White plays on the queenside but, after a
quick counter-attack on the kingside, Black is able to convert his advantage in the endgame.
White’s normal English Attack plan is dealt with in Game 4. White plays 9 Qd2 and castles
queenside but finds that his attack is much harder to carry out with Black’s pawn on h5. Black gains
powerful queenside play right out of the opening and, after sacrificing the exchange, he is able to finish
off an interesting endgame.
White’s most common way of meeting 8 ... h5 is 9 Nd5, which is the topic of the next three games.
In Game 5, we see White combine this 9 Nd5 plan with queenside castling. This idea is frequently
connected with White sacrificing a pawn for play in the centre. In the game Black gives this pawn back
and both sides begin attacking on opposite flanks. Black’s queenside attack proves to be more powerful
and he finishes off the game without giving White any counterplay.
Games 6 and 7 focus mostly on the positional systems of 9 Nd5 and the various plans from which
both sides can choose. In Game 6, White tries 13 Na5!?, which is an idea based on a quick queenside
expansion. Black responds accurately and counters with ... e4 at the right moment, breaking through in
the centre and obtaining excellent counterplay.
In Game 7, we see the main line of the entire 8 ... h5 system, where White tries to play on the
queenside and Black plays in the centre or on the kingside. In this game, Black is able to execute his
attack accurately on the kingside while preventing White’s queenside play with ... b6 and ... a5.

Game 1
M.Perunovic-A.Areshchenko
Hungarian Team Championship 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3


After 7 Nde2 Black should take advantage of White’s slow play by developing quickly. The knight
retreat gives Black time to achieve an ideal Najdorf set-up with 7 ... Be6 8 f4 Nbd7 9 f5 Bc4 10 Nc1
(10 Ng3 is worse for White because the knight on g3 blocks White’s g4-pawn and Black can continue
with 10 ... Bxf1 11 Rxf1 Be7) 10 ... Bxf1 11 Rxf1 Be7 (11 ... b5 12 Nb3 Rc8 13 a3 Nb6 was played in
D.Andreikin-A.Areshchenko, Dresden 2007, and also gave Black a good position). Here Black has
achieved an ideal Najdorf position. From f6, Black’s knight guards the d5-square, and White’s knight
on c3 is tied down to defending the e4-pawn. If White plays Bg5 and Bxf6, Black can recapture with
the other knight. Play may continue 12 Nb3 b5 13 a3 Nb6 14 Bxb6 Qxb6 and Black dominates on the
dark squares; once unleashed, the e7-bishop will become an unopposed monster.
7 ... Be7 8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Be6
We chose this move over 9 ... Nc6 in order to allow the knight to move to the more flexible d7-
square. Black’s knight on d7 reinforces the knight on f6 (which is an important defender of the d5-
square). If the f6-knight is exchanged, the knight on d7 can then recapture and take its place. This idea
is fundamental in many Najdorf positions, in order for Black to protect the d5-square.
9 ... Nc6 is still not a bad alternative. Play may continue 10 Bb3 (10 Qe2 can be met by 10 ... Na5)
10 ... Be6 11 Bg5 Nd7 with a fairly balanced position (and 11 ... Na5 is interesting as well).
10 Bb3
After 10 Bxe6 fxe6, White has allowed Black to control the previously weak d5-square as well as
the f-file. In return, White has gained a temporary attack, as both the e6-pawn and b6-square are weak.
White will spend the next few moves trying to take advantage of these weaknesses. Play can continue
11 Na4.
White tries to set up a bind. However, if Black responds dynamically this isn’t very threatening.
a) 11 ... Nfd7!? is the solid choice, simply covering the weak b6-square. Following 12 c4 Nc6, we
consider two of White’s main moves:
a1) 13 Qb3 is most popular, and after 13 ... Na5 14 Qd3 Qe8!, Black is on the way to developing
strong kingside play (14 ... Qc7 and 14 ... Nc6 are the only moves examined by Milos Pavlovic in The
Cutting Edge 2 – Sicilian Najdorf 6 Be3, and also Georgiev and Kolev in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012).
a2) 13 Rc1 Nc5 14 Nxc5 was agreed a draw in F.Bindrich-A.Brkic, Dresden 2007. Black could
have played on with 14 ... dxc5 as considered by Georgiev and Kolev. The doubled c-pawns prevent
White’s knight from controlling key squares. Even though Black’s pawns look ugly, control of all the
important squares yields at least an equal game.
b) 11 ... Nxe4? is a mistake, after which White is able to punish Black by attacking all of his
weaknesses (the b6-square, the vulnerable e4-knight and the weak e6-pawn) with 12 Nb6 Ra7 13 Qd3!!
(if 13 Nd5?! Ra8 14 Bb6 Qd7 15 Nc7, White wins the exchange, but 13 Qd3 is even stronger) 13 ...
Nf6 (neither 13 ... Nc5 14 Bxc5 dxc5 15 Qb3 nor 13 ... Ng5 14 Bxg5 Bxg5 15 Nxg5 Qxg5 16 Qxd6
help Black) 14 Ng5! and Black has no way to defend the e6-pawn. All of Black’s pieces are completely
dominated by White’s.
c) The active move 11 ... Ng4! is completely justified because White’s knight on a4 is temporarily
out of play. This gives Black time to start creating viable threats. 12 Qd3 is mentioned by Georgiev and
Kolev as not giving Black enough activity, but we think Black has a good position. For example, 12 ...
Nxe3 13 Qxe3 b5! gives the rook on a8 room to escape along the seventh rank, once it is forced to
move to a7. This is seen after 14 Nb6 Ra7 15 Nd5 Rb7 and now:
c1) 16 Qd2 Qd7 17 Nxe7+ Qxe7 18 Rfd1 Rb6 gives Black a very solid position.
c2) 16 Qd3 and best here is 16 ... Nd7, as given by Pavlovic, intending ... Nb6 followed by play
along the c- and f-files. This gives Black good play and the position has been seen in a few games, such
as M.Palac-E.Najer, Gjakova 2016.
Other tries for White are 10 Qd3 and 10 Qe2. After 10 Qd3 Bxc4 (10 ... Nbd7 11 Bxe6 fxe6 12
Ng5! wins the e6-pawn) 11 Qxc4 b5 12 Qd3 Nbd7 Black had a typical Najdorf position in I.Khairullin-
P.Negi, Moscow 2007. While the d5-square may appear weak, Black has many resources available.
This includes pushing ... b4 and playing ... Nb6 (inviting White to exchange his good dark-squared
bishop).
Finally, 10 Qe2 Qc7! gains a tempo on White’s c4-bishop to develop the queen. A sample line is 11
Bb3 b5 12 Rfd1 Rc8 with a comfortable position for Black.
10 ... Qc7
The immediate 10 ... b5! is our recommendation, but our main game is a good example of how to
play this structure as Black. By playing ... b5 Black threatens the ... b4 push and forces White to remain
vigilant. If the c3-knight is chased away, then the e4-pawn could easily fall. 11 Qd3 (11 Qe2 Qc7 12
Rfd1 transposes to O.Korneev-D.Khismatullin, Nakhchivan 2014, and here we recommend 12 ... b4
with a balanced position; 11 Nh4 with the threat of Nf5 should be met by 11 ... g6!, when 12 Nf3 Qc7
13 a3 Rc8 gives Black nothing to worry about) 11 ... Qc7, followed by ... Rc8 and ... Nc6, gives Black a
good position.
11 Nh4 g6
As mentioned in the previous variation, this is a very useful move to prevent White from playing
Nf5.
12 Bh6
12 Nf3 is also possible, but 12 ... b5 is fine for Black.
12 ... Re8 13 Qd2

Exercise: Can you spot the move that allows Black to take advantage of
White’s misplaced pieces on h4 and h6?
Answer: 13 ... Ng4!
Black creates a double attack on the bishop and knight.
14 Nf3 Nd7 15 Rad1 Rac8 16 Bg5!
Trying to exchange bishops is a good idea. If Black loses the e7-bishop, the d6-pawn will be weaker. In addition, the vulnerable
squares around Black’s king will be difficult to defend.
16 ... Ngf6!
Correctly avoiding the exchange.
17 Ne1 b5
Threatening ... b4, which will win Black the e4-pawn.
18 Nd3 Bc4!
Black prevents White’s knight from moving to d5 via b4. If Black played slowly with 18 ... Qb7?!
then 19 Nb4! a5 20 Nbd5 sees White beginning to take over the initiative.
19 a4
19 Rfe1 gives Black the opportunity to expand on the queenside with 19 ... a5!.
19 ... Qb7!
An excellent move – Black renews the ... b4 threat, and the queen on b7 attacks the e4-pawn.
20 axb5 axb5 21 Bxf6
By surrendering his dark-squared bishop, White no longer has any counter to its opposite number.
If Black can activate the bishop on e7, White’s dark squares will feel vulnerable.
21 ... Nxf6 22 Rfe1

Question: How should Black improve his dark-squared bishop?

Answer: By regrouping with 22 ... Bd8!


Remember this move! Playing ... Bd8 in the Najdorf is a typical way to activate the dark-squared
bishop. Note how Black can get away with this move because White is not attacking the d6-pawn at the
moment.
23 Nb4 Ba5
Suddenly, Black’s dark-squared bishop has become one of his best pieces. It attacks four of White’s
pieces along the a5-e1 diagonal.
24 Bxc4

Question: Should Black take the bishop on c4 or the knight on b4?


Which of White’s pieces is truly stronger?

Answer: Black should take the bishop on c4. The knight on b4 may appear strong (since it is going
to d5) but it will lack support when placed on this square, due to the pressure the bishop on a5 exerts on
White’s pieces.
24 ... Bxb4?!
Instead, 24 ... Rxc4! is better and, after 25 Nbd5 Nxd5, White is unable to recapture with the knight
because of the pin from the a5-bishop. 26 Qxd5 Qxd5 27 Rxd5 Bxc3 gives Black a much better
endgame.
25 Bb3
While Black is better, White’s light-squared bishop will exert constant pressure on both the d5-
square and against the black king.
25 ... Kg7
Since in the game White began to untangle with 26 Re3, perhaps it was better to force matters with
25 ... Bxc3 26 bxc3 Nxe4 27 Qe3 Nxc3 28 Rxd6 b4, which makes the position complex, but also
provides Black with some advantage.
26 Re3!
Beginning a counter-attack.
26 ... Bc5?
Again, 26 ... Bxc3 was necessary as White’s attack is becoming rather dangerous. Then 27 bxc3
Nxe4 leads to an unclear game.
27 Rf3?
This move gives Black time to win the e4-pawn and regain the initiative. 27 Rh3! was more
accurate and comes with tempo since 28 Qh6+ is threatened.
27 ... b4 28 Nd5 Nxe4 29 Qe2 f5

Now Black is back in control. Areshchenko spends the rest of the game methodically converting his
extra pawn into a win. The next eight moves are especially instructive. Notice how Black involves all
of his pieces in the attack, while at the same time putting constant pressure on White’s position.
30 h3 Rf8 31 Kh2 Qa7 32 Rf1 h5 33 g3 Ng5 34 Rd3 e4 35 Rdd1 Nf3+ 36 Kg2 Rce8 37 Ra1 Qb7
38 Bc4 Re5
Every single one of Black’s pieces (and some pawns!) are actively participating in the struggle.
39 Nf4 Nd4 40 Qd1 Rfe8
40 ... e3+ immediately was also decisive. After 41 f3 the reply 41 ... h4! strikes a serious blow
against White’s kingside.
41 Kh2 h4 42 c3 hxg3+ 43 fxg3 bxc3 44 bxc3 Qb2+ 45 Ne2 Nf3+ 46 Kh1 Rh8 47 h4 Nxh4! 48
gxh4 Rxh4+ 49 Kg2 Rg4+ 0-1
With ... Re8-h8 to follow.
White’s core idea in the 7 Nf3 line is to control the d5-square. Therefore, Black should employ the
development set-up with ... Be6 and ... Nbd7, keeping d5 firmly defended. Afterwards, Black can seek
activity by playing the ... b5 thrust, with the goal of gaining space on the queenside and threatening the
c3-knight. The moves 13 ... Ng4 and 22 ... Bd8 are also important middlegame ideas to remember, as
they often prove to be very useful resources for Black.

Game 2
A.Shirov-A.Volokitin
European Club Cup, Eilat 2012

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3


The actual move order of the game was 6 h3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Be3 Be7.
6 ... e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 h3!?
An interesting idea that prepares a kingside attack with g4. Compared to the more common 8 f3,
White now retains the option of playing f4 in one move. Others:
a) 8 f4 exf4 9 Bxf4 Nc6 10 Qd2 (instead, 10 Qe2 Be7 gives White nothing better than 11 h3 which
takes us to the line after 8 h3 Be7 9 f4) 10 ... d5! gives Black easy equality, and here White has a choice
between two options:
a1) 11 exd5 Nxd5 12 Nxd5 Qxd5 13 Qxd5 Bxd5 14 0-0-0 0-0-0 was considered by Georgiev and
Kolev in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012 and is completely fine for Black.
a2) 11 0-0-0 can be met by 11 ... Bb4 12 Qd3 Bxc3 13 Qxc3 0-0 14 exd5 Nxd5 15 Qg3 Rc8 (or 15
... Ncb4 which aims at an attack against White’s king; M.Parligras-A.Florean, Bucharest 2000, saw 16
Bd6 Qc8 and Black obtained good counterplay) 16 Bd6 Re8, which was balanced in M.Vavulin-
G.Oparin, Kolomna 2016.
b) 8 Qd2 Nbd7! (8 ... Be7 is met by 9 f3! which takes us out of our repertoire; this is seen after 9 ...
h5 10 Nd5 Bxd5 11 exd5 and we prefer to have the dark-squared bishop fianchettoed on g7 as we will
see later in the chapter) 9 0-0-0 (if 9 f3, we can play 9 ... h5 and this transposes to a later game in this
chapter; 9 f4 is met by 9 ... b5 which prepares to meet White’s f5 with ... Bc4) 9 ... Be7 10 f4 threatens
f5 and Black should meet this with 10 ... b5!. After 11 Kb1, Black has two good continuations:
b1) 11 ... 0-0 12 f5 Bc4 gives White the choice between:
b11) 13 g4!?, which is an interesting pawn sacrifice, but 13 ... Nxg4 14 Rg1 Nxe3 15 Qxe3 Bxb3
didn’t give White full compensation in L.Nisipeanu-S.Karjakin, Khanty-Mansiysk 2007.
b12) 13 Rg1 is simply met by 13 ... Ng4! 14 h3 Nxe3 15 Qxe3 Rb8 16 g4 Bg5 and White’s kingside
play isn’t very effective.
b2) 11 ... Rc8 12 f5 Bc4 13 g4 h6! (slowing down White’s kingside play) 14 Qg2 Bxf1 15 Rhxf1 b4
16 Nd5 Nxd5 17 Rxd5 Qc7, followed by ... Nf6 and expanding on the queenside, gives Black a
comfortable position.
8 ... Be7
Note that 8 ... h5?! is inaccurate because of 9 f4 exf4 10 Bxf4. White’s lead in development as well
as Black’s slight pawn weakness on h5 gives White an improved version of the 8 ... Be7 9 f4 lines.

9 Qf3
Others:
a) 9 f4 exf4 (9 ... Nc6!? is another way to play, but we prefer the immediate capture) 10 Bxf4 Nc6
11 Qe2! is the best placement for the queen because the d-file can now be used for the rook (11 Qd2
allows Black to play 11 ... Nh5, threatening to take the f4-bishop or play ... Bh4). Black should try to
control the e5-square by playing 11 ... Nd7! 12 0-0-0 Nce5 13 Kb1 (13 Nd4 or 13 g4 can also be tried,
but Black achieves a fine position by simply following the set-up shown after 13 Kb1) 13 ... 0-0 14 g4
(14 Nd4 Rc8 15 Qe3 and now 15 ... Qa5 is similar to our main variation and gives Black good
prospects on the queenside) 14 ... Rc8 15 Qe3 Re8 16 Nd4 Qa5!, which is the best way for Black to
develop the attack and has been tried in a few top-level games.
Now:
a1) 17 a3 has been tried several times, but Black has excellent results here. This is likely due to the
weakening of the queenside that a3 has caused. Black has several decent options such as: 17 ... Bf8 (or
17 ... b5 18 Nf5 Bxf5 19 gxf5 Nf6 is good as well) 18 Nf5 (18 g5 b5 19 Nd5 Bxd5 20 exd5 Nb6 was
fine for Black in J.Martí Pericot-M.Auzins, correspondence 2015) 18 ... Nb6! and Black developed a
dangerous initiative in D.Navara-W.So, 1st matchgame, Prague 2015.
a2) 17 Qe1 threatens Nd5 and was played in D.Swiercz-R.Wojtaszek, Poznan 2016. Instead of the
game’s 17 ... Bf8, we prefer 17 ... Bd8!? and a possible continuation is 18 g5 Nc5 19 Nb3 Nxb3 20
axb3 Ng6.
b) 9 g4 was tried in the famous game D.Navara-R.Wojtaszek, Biel 2015. Now Black has two decent
options:
b1) 9 ... d5 10 exd5 Nxd5 11 Bg2 Nxe3 12 Qxd8+ Bxd8 13 fxe3 Bh4+ 14 Kf1 Nc6 15 Nc5 and
Black has two ways to play from here:
b11) 15 ... 0-0 16 Bxc6 (16 Nxb7 Nb4! is excellent for Black) 16 ... bxc6 17 Rd1 Rae8! promises
Black good counterplay. For example, 18 e4 (or 18 Nd7 Bxd7 19 Rxd7 f5) 18 ... h5! 19 gxh5 f5 with
good play on the kingside.
b12) 15 ... Bc4+ 16 Kg1 Bg5 17 Re1 0-0-0 18 b3 Bh4 19 Rb1 Bg5 20 Kf2 (20 Re1 Bh4 just leads to
a repetition of moves) 20 ... Bh4+ 21 Kf3 e4+ 22 Kf4 g5+ 23 Kf5 Rhe8 24 Rhd1 (24 Bxe4 also doesn’t
hold for White: 24 ... Ne7+ 25 Kf6 Rd6+ 26 Kg7 Rg8+ 27 Kxh7 Bg3 and White is unable to escape the
threat of ... Be5 and ... Rh8 mate without losing a lot of material), and the refutation of Navara’s king
march is 24 ... Bd3! 25 cxd3 Ne7+ 26 Kf6 Ng8+! 27 Kg7 Bg3! (threatening ... Be5 to put White’s king
in a mating net) 28 Kxh7 Ne7 29 Kg7 Be5+ 30 Kxf7 Nc6 31 Kg6 Rf8. Of course, this line isn’t
practical for most players, and Black can choose to deviate with 15 ... 0-0 or even earlier by playing 9
... 0-0, which is discussed below.
b2) 9 ... 0-0 (avoiding the endgame and keeping the game more complicated) 10 g5 Nfd7 11 h4 (11
Qd2 a5! 12 a4 Nc6 13 0-0-0 Nb4 is a good idea to take advantage of the weakened b4-square, and now
14 Kb1 f5 gives Black good counterplay) 11 ... a5 12 a3 Nc6 13 Nd5 (13 Bh3!? a4 14 Nd2 Nc5! isn’t
bad for Black) 13 ... a4 14 Nd2 Nc5 15 Bb5 Na7 16 Bc4 b5 led to an interesting position where both
sides had their chances in O.Hesse-A.Pantazi, correspondence 2016.
9 ... 0-0 10 0-0-0
10 g4?! is inaccurate because of 10 ... a5!, and now White has a few ways to respond to this:
a) 11 a4 could be tried, but this weakens the b4-square and in Z.Andriasian-M.Ragger, Gjakova
2016, Black took advantage of this by playing 11 ... Nc6 12 0-0-0 Nb4.
b) If 11 0-0-0? then 11 ... a4 12 Nc5 a3! 13 b3 Qa5 gives Black an excellent position.
c) 11 Bb5 can be met by 11 ... Na6, followed by ... Nc7, attacking White’s bishop and preparing ...
d5.

Exercise: Should Black continue his development or start attacking on


the queenside?

Answer: 10 ... b5!


Black needs to start attacking on the queenside immediately.
The natural developing move 10 ... Nbd7 is too slow because White has 11 g4 b5 12 g5 Ne8 13 h4,
and a powerful attack against Black’s king will soon follow. If Black plays the same idea that we saw
in the 10 g4 variation with 10 ... a5?!, White would be able to take advantage of this by playing 11
Nc5!.
11 g4 b4 12 Nd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Bc8!
Black’s plan is to expand on the kingside and then play ... Ba6 to exchange off the light-squared
bishops. Meanwhile, White will try to bring his b3-knight to the e4-square via d2.
14 Bd3
14 Kb1 a5 15 Nd2 (15 Nc5!? can also be tried and in P.Andyka-Le Quang Liem, Ho Chi Ming City
2017, Black responded accurately with 15 ... a4 16 Ne4 Ba6 17 g5 Nd7 and had a comfortable position)
15 ... a4 16 Bd3 Ba6 17 Ne4 Nd7 18 Bxa6 Rxa6 19 g5 Qc7 20 Rd3 f5 is fine for Black, as in
V.Aleksandrov-F.Bleker, correspondence 2015.
14 ... a5 15 Nc5!?
15 Nd2 Nd7 16 g5 (16 h4 is met by 16 ... a4) gives Black several moves to choose from, but we
prefer 16 ... Ba6! (exchanging off White’s strong light-squared bishop) and in I.Oren-I.Ryzhkov,
correspondence 2016, play continued 17 Bxa6 Rxa6 18 Rhg1 a4 19 Qe2 Qa5, with good attacking
chances on the queenside for Black.
15 ... a4
15 ... dxc5 is playable, but White will have excellent compensation for the pawn after 16 d6 Ra7 17
dxe7 Qxe7 18 Rhe1.
16 Ne4
An interesting try to immediately attack Black is 16 Qe4 g6 17 h4!, but 17 ... Nd7 18 Ne6 fxe6 19
dxe6 d5 20 Qxd5 Nb6 21 Qc6 Qd5! 22 Qxb6 e4 gave Black good play in D.Morozov-V.Ivanov,
correspondence 2013.
16 ... Ba6!
Exchanging off the light-squared bishops is a good idea, especially because White’s bishop is
currently a stronger attacking piece than Black’s. 16 ... Nd7 17 Kb1 Bb7, targeting the d5-pawn, was
fine as well.
17 g5 b3
Not a bad move, but this seems kind of rushed and allows White to close off the queenside. 17 ...
Nd7 would have allowed Black to keep his options open and bring more pieces in to prepare the attack
on the queenside; for example, 18 Kb1 Bxd3 19 Rxd3 Qa5 with balanced chances.
18 a3 Qc8 19 c3 Bxd3 20 Rxd3 Nd7 21 Rg1
Exercise: How can Black deal with White’s upcoming kingside threats?

Answer: 21 ... f5!


Black switches from playing on the queenside to the kingside and is able to take advantage of
White’s pawn structure.
22 gxf6 Nxf6 23 Nxf6+ Rxf6 24 Qg4 Qf8 25 Rdd1 Qf7 26 h4?
This gives Black the opportunity to play a nice tactic and win a pawn. 26 Qe4 would have been
more solid.
26 ... Rg6 27 Qe4 Rxg1 28 Rxg1
28 ... Bxh4! 29 Rh1
29 Qxh4?? would run into 29 ... Qf5!, threatening mate on c2, and 30 Kd2 Qc2+ 31 Ke1 Qb1+
picks up the g1-rook.
29 ... g5 30 Kd2 Bxf2?!
As the game continuation led to a drawn endgame without much trouble for White, Black could
have considered slowly improving his position; for example, with 30 ... h5 31 Kd3 Rf8.
31 Bxg5 Qg6
After the queen exchange, Black doesn’t have many chances to play for the win.
32 Qxg6+ hxg6 33 Ke2 Bc5 34 Rh6 Kg7 35 Rh4 Ra5 36 Rc4 Ra7 37 Kd3 Kf7 38 Rh4 Kg7 39
Rc4 Kf7 40 Rh4 Kg7 41 Rc4 ½-½
In this game we looked at a couple of White’s attacking plans besides the main line with 8 f3. In
most of these, White delays f3 in order to play f4 in one move. Or, as tried by Shirov in this game,
White can place his queen on f3. This leads to a complicated middlegame with attacking play for both
sides; after our recommendation of a quick queenside expansion, Black has excellent prospects in the
arising positions.

Game 3
P.Leko-V.Topalov
Wijk aan Zee 2008

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 a4!?
A preventive move, designed to stop Black from pushing ... b5. However, Black can still obtain
counterplay on the queenside by using the resource ... Nb6.
White can also play quietly with 10 Be2 and then:
a) The pawn push with 10 ... b5?! is premature: 11 a4! and White seizes the initiative. In the
Sicilian, be careful about pushing ... b5 too early. If you play it while undeveloped, it can backfire. Play
can continue 11 ... b4 12 Nd5 Bxd5 13 exd5 Nb6 14 f4!, when White rips open the centre and Black’s
position becomes untenable; e.g. 14 ... Nbxd5 (if 14 ... Be7 15 fxe5 dxe5 16 d6 Bxd6 17 0-0-0 White’s
position is overwhelming; Black has too many weak pieces and his king is still in the centre) 15 Bf3
leads to a nice position for White following 15 ... Nxe3 16 Bc6+ Nd7 17 Qxe3 and the e5-pawn is
falling. White’s lead in development gives him a comfortable edge.
b) We recommend 10 ... Be7 11 0-0 b5 (11 ... Rc8 is also reasonable) 12 Rfd1 (notice how 12 a4 is
no longer dangerous on account of 12 ... b4 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 exd5 Nb6 15 f4 Nbxd5 16 Bf3 Nxe3 17
Bc6+ Kf8! and Black is simply a pawn up; in the 10 ... b5 variation, Black wasn’t able to play ... Kf8
because the bishop was still on f8) 12 ... Nb6 13 Bf1, and now 13 ... Qc7 gave Black a promising
position in V.Ivanchuk-L.Dominguez, Havana 2006.
10 ... Be7
11 a5 0-0 12 Be2 Qc7 has been seen in a few games, such as O.Kurmann-N.Georgiadis, Flims
2016, which continued 13 Nd5 (13 0-0 transposes to the 13 a5 variation of the main game) 13 ... Bxd5
14 exd5 b5 with a dynamically balanced position.
11 Be2 Qc7 12 0-0 0-0 13 Rfd1
13 a5 is mentioned as an alternative to 13 Rfd1 by Jesus de la Villa in Dismantling The Sicilian
(2009), but he does not consider 13 ... b5! (13 ... Rac8 was tried in P.Idani-Y.Kuzubov, Dubai 2015,
and Black was fine there as well), which allows Black to obtain good play on the queenside. For
example, 14 axb6 Nxb6 15 Rxa6?! (capturing this pawn is very dangerous for White) 15 ... Rxa6 16
Bxa6 d5!
When your opponent plays on the flank, strike in the centre! Playing ... d5 is one of Black’s most
powerful resources in the Sicilian, but he should only play it when White is unprepared. This position is
an excellent example.
13 ... Rfd8!?
13 ... Rac8! is probably best. By putting pressure on the c-file, Black prevents White’s knight from
moving to d5. Without this move, White has problems gaining a real advantage on the queenside. Play
can continue 14 a5 (if 14 Rac1 Nb6, White must exchange one of his bishops, giving Black at least an
equal game; 14 Nd5?? Bxd5 15 exd5 Qxc2 is the point of 13 ... Rac8!) 14 ... Rfd8 15 Qe1 Qc6! (Black
shows that playing ... b5 is not his only resource; he also prepares to push ... d5, since White’s pieces
are passively placed) 16 Qf2 (16 Bg5 d5! is noted by Pavlovic and was seen in B.Jeran-A.Saric, Nova
Gorica 2009; Black is seizing the initiative in the centre) 16 ... d5 gives Black a comfortable position.
14 a5
14 Qe1 is met with 14 ... Nb6!. This is an example of the principle that when White declines to play
a5 then Black should always play ... Nb6 if given the chance. As mentioned previously, White will
have to give up one of his bishops and, following 15 Qf2 Nc4 16 Bxc4 Qxc4, Black has no problems.
Playing 14 Nd5! was probably White’s best attempt to seize the initiative, although Black still has
no problems. Following 14 ... Nxd5 15 exd5 Bf5 16 Rac1 (16 c4 is de la Villa’s recommendation, but
Black has 16 ... a5!, shutting down White’s play on the queenside and forming a dark-squared
blockade), White is about to push the c-pawn to c5, ripping open Black’s position. Black must respond
actively in order to counter this plan with 16 ... Nc5!, correctly realizing that giving White a passed
pawn is no major concession. For example, 17 Nxc5 dxc5 18 c4 Bd6 19 b4 e4 yields a dynamic
position where both sides have an equal share of the chances.
14 ... b5! 15 Nd5
Question: Why did White play Nd5 right after Black played ... b5 - ?

Answer: By playing ... b5, Black no longer has a pawn protecting c6. White’s idea is to recapture
on d5 with the e-pawn, giving him control over the weakened c6-square.
After 15 axb6 Nxb6 16 Rxa6 Rxa6 17 Bxa6 d5!, Black has plenty of compensation for the pawn.
15 ... Bxd5
Playing 15 ... Nxd5 was a slightly better move – if Black can keep his light-squared bishop he
should generally choose to do so. After 16 exd5 Bf5, Black’s active light-squared bishop gives him at
least an equal game.
16 exd5
An interesting position has arisen. White’s main plan will be to open up the queenside so that his
light-squared bishop can attack Black’s fixed pawns on b5 and a6. Black will focus on keeping the
queenside closed and exchanging his bad e7-bishop for White’s good e3-bishop.
16 ... Rac8!
With the idea of preventing White from pushing c4. This plays in accordance with the plan we
discussed of keeping the queenside closed.
17 c3 Qb7
17 ... Re8 is an interesting alternative that prepares to put pressure on the e-file and was played in
J.Lopez Martinez-E.Miroshnichenko, Zürich 2009.
18 Ra3 g6!?
Black prepares to relocate his bishop, in order to open up the e-file for his rook. However, in view
of White’s next move, perhaps it is a bit too slow. Instead, the thrust 18 ... e4! works well since White’s
rook is out of play on a3. Black’s idea is seen after 19 f4 Ng4!, going after one of White’s bishops (a
recurring theme in this variation of the English Attack).
19 Na1!

Question: Where is the knight headed?

Answer: It is going to c6 via the c2- and b4-squares. If White manages to get the knight to c6,
Black’s position will be perilous.
19 ... Re8 20 Nc2 Bf8 21 Nb4 Bg7 22 Rc1
Note that 22 Nc6? runs into 22 ... Nxd5!. For now, this tactical resource keeps White’s knight away
from c6.
Exercise: White is about to push c4 and open up the queenside with a
better game. How can Black stop this?

Answer: 22 ... e4!


By attacking first! This move doesn’t give White time to play c4.
23 f4
Or 23 c4? Ne5!, “forking” c4 and f3. After 24 cxb5 Rxc1+ 25 Qxc1 exf3 26 gxf3 Nxd5, Black’s
dynamic pieces are more effective than White’s queenside passers.
23 ... Ng4 24 Bxg4?!
In order to still be able to play c4, White needed to keep his light-squared bishop on the board.
Pushing the f-pawn with 24 f5! is the best option. Play may continue with 24 ... Nxe3 25 Qxe3 gxf5 26
Rf1 Re5, when a very unclear position results.
24 ... hxg4 25 Qe2 Nf6
Consolidating with 25 ... f5 was likely the best choice, since all of Black’s pawns receive solid
protection.
26 Rd1 Rc4
An instructive position. Without the light-squared bishop, White is unable to make real progress on
the queenside.
27 Qd2 Qc8 28 Raa1
Exercise: Black would like to attack White’s f4-pawn, but the problem is
that White can play g3. How can Black prevent this?

Answer: 28 ... g3!?


By pushing his own pawn there first. In addition to cutting off support to the f4-pawn, Black tries to
weaken White’s kingside.
29 h3
Correctly deciding to not capture on g3. While White’s f4-pawn lacks pawn support, Black’s g3-
pawn is also isolated. On 29 hxg3, Black has 29 ... Ng4 30 Nc2 Qf5!, when the threat of ... Qh5 and ...
Qh2+ is too much for White to deal with.
29 ... Nh5 30 Rac1 Bh6 31 b3 Rc7 32 Nc6!
White plays to his advantages. Black may have pressure on the kingside, but White is now making
use of his queenside pawn majority.
32 ... Ng7?!
Bringing the knight back to f5. Black could also continue by attacking on the queenside before
White obtains sufficient counterplay there. 32 ... Rb7 is an interesting defensive manoeuvre. Black
prevents White from pushing c4, since doing so will activate Black’s rook along the b-file; for example,
33 c4 bxc4 34 bxc4 Rb3 and Black has active play.
33 c4 bxc4 34 Rxc4 Qd7 35 Qc2!
A great rejoinder. White attacks e4, while strengthening his pressure on the c-file.
35 ... Rb7!
Black counters with a resourceful move. If White takes on e4, then he will lose the b3-pawn. In this
tense position both players manage to navigate with a high degree of precision.
36 b4
Possible is 36 Rxe4!?, switching the field of play. On 36 ... Rxe4 37 Qxe4 Rxb3 38 Re1 Nf5 39
Bb6, White’s idea is to suddenly gain the initiative on the e-file. However, Black should have no real
problems as White lacks targets to attack.
36 ... Nf5 37 Bc1 e3 38 Re1
Black has a good deal of activity but the problem is that his pieces are dispersed over the board. In
contrast, White’s pieces are working harmoniously.
38 ... Rb5 39 Qd3 f6!

Question: What is Black’s idea behind this curious move?

Answer: To play ... Qf7, and attack White’s weak d5-pawn. The way that Black manages to keep
coming up with counterplay is very instructive.
40 Re4
40 Bxe3 fizzles out to a double-edged ending after 40 ... Qf7 41 Re4 Rxe4 42 Qxe4 Qxd5 43
Qxd5+ Rxd5. White’s queenside pawn majority is blockaded for now and Black has some tactical
tricks on the kingside. While the position is objectively equal, a draw seems like an unlikely result
(especially if time trouble was a factor at this point in the game).
40 ... Rxe4?!
This gives White’s queen an outpost on e4 for free. Instead, 40 ... Qf7! prevents White’s queen
from reaching e4. Black will only exchange rooks once he can immediately take on d5. For example,
41 Bxe3 Rxe4 42 Qxe4 Qxd5 43 Qxd5+ Rxd5, reaching the same ending as discussed previously.
41 Qxe4 Qf7 42 Nd4!?
An interesting move, involving the knight in the attack on Black’s king.
42 ... Qxd5!
Topalov correctly sees that, due to a neat tactical resource, he is not losing his rook.
43 Qe8+ Kh7

Exercise: How does Black win after 44 Nxb5 - ?

Answer: 44 Nxb5?? loses to 44 ... Nh4!, which targets the weakest point in White’s position. A
picturesque situation has arisen where White has no way to defend against mate without giving up the
queen.
44 Nxf5 Qxf5 45 Qxe3 Rxb4 46 Qxg3 Re4
A good practical decision. In a tense situation, White’s rook seems more menacing than Black’s,
since it is threatening to play a check on e7.
46 ... d5?! needlessly allows 47 Re7+ Kg8 48 Re8+ Kf7 49 Qe3 and, while the position is
objectively equal, Black must be careful.
47 Rxe4 Qxe4 48 Qe3 f5!
An extremely instructive moment. By playing 48 Qe3, White has displayed his intention of wanting
to exchange queens. Knowing this, Topalov will only allow the exchange if he can get two connected
passed pawns. Since White was already in the mindset of desiring a queen exchange, it is difficult to
back away from it now.
49 Qxe4?
More accurate was 49 Kh2!. This strange move seems to keep up the tension; both queens are at an
impasse.
49 ... fxe4
Black has excellent winning chances because of his two connected passers and White’s weak a5-
pawn (which is fixed on a dark square, allowing Black’s bishop to attack it indefinitely).
50 Kf2 d5 51 g4!
An excellent move, trying to distract Black from advancing the d-pawn.
51 ... d4!
Black recognizes that White has no real threats on the kingside and coolly continues with his plan.
Many players would have felt the need to deal with White’s kingside pawn advance.
52 Bb2 Bg7 53 Ba3 Kg8
Or even 53 ... d3! which seems to lose the e4-pawn, but Black is doing fine after 54 Ke3 Bc3 55
Bc1 Bxa5. White’s pieces are stuck, and Black’s a-pawn will be running down the board shortly. Since
White’s kingside pawns lack piece support, they pose no danger to Black.
54 h4 Kf7 55 Bc5 Ke6 56 h5 gxh5 57 gxh5 d3
Another plan was 57 ... Kf5! with the idea of rounding up White’s pawns before continuing.
Possible is 58 h6 Bf6 (58 ... Bxh6? 59 Bxd4 Bxf4 60 Ke2 leaves only a few pawns on the board, giving
White excellent drawing chances) 59 Bd6 Kg6 60 Bf8 Bh4+ 61 Ke2 Bg3!, when White’s bishop is
unable to defend both pawns.
58 Ke3 Bh6 59 Bb4 Kd5
Black is in full control and White’s pieces can’t do anything.
60 Bd2 Bf8 61 Bc1 Bc5+ 62 Kd2 Kc4 63 h6 Bf2!
The final finesse. Black guards the e1-square, preparing to march the e-pawn towards promotion.
64 Kd1 e3 65 Bxe3
65 h7 also loses to 65 ... e2+ 66 Kd2 e1Q mate.
65 ... Bxe3 66 h7 Bd4 0-1
In the 10 a4 line of the English Attack, Black best plan is to try to play ... Nb6 without ... b5. When
White pushes a5 to stop ... Nb6, Black is then able to push ... b5 after all. Notice that it is fine to
sacrifice the a6-pawn here if Black can immediately strike in the centre with ... d5! (see the variation on
move 15 for an example).

Game 4
A.Gabrielian-L.Dominguez Perez
Russian Team Championship 2013

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5


The actual move order was 6 ... Ng4 7 Bc1 Nf6 8 f3 e5 9 Nb3 Be6 10 Be3, reaching the same
position as after 8 f3 below. 6 ... Ng4 is definitely playable, but there is quite a bit of theory to learn
after 7 Bg5.
7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 0-0-0
The more positional approach with 10 Nd5 will transpose to the next games after 10 ... Bxd5 11
exd5 g6.
10 ... Be7
Normally in the English Attack, White begins attacking immediately with g4. In this position,
Black’s h5-pawn makes this difficult to accomplish (which was the entire point of ... h5). So White’s
best course of action is to play more positionally in the centre, trying to prove that Black wasted a move
with ... h5. In turn, Black should attack on the queenside while making sure to still focus on fighting for
the centre. This means that mindlessly pushing the b- and a-pawns up the board is not an effective
strategy.
11 Kb1
Because much of the action will be happening the centre, it makes sense to move the king to safety.
Fixing the pawn structure with 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 exd5 Bf5 is completely fine for Black. For example, 13
Bd3 Bxd3 14 Qxd3 Bg5! gave Black very few problems in V.Krishnan-M.Amanov, Los Angeles 2012.
11 h3 goes against White’s best strategy of focusing on the centre. After 11 ... b5 12 Bd3 b4, Black
is already assuming the initiative. If White just tries to attack on the kingside with g4 (without trying to
play in the centre), Black’s queenside attack will be far faster.
11 ... b5
Castling at this point with 11 ... 0-0? is a bad idea, as Black’s h5-pawn now lacks support from the
h8-rook. In the ... h5 system, Black should typically delay castling until the centre becomes too
dangerous for the king. For example, White can play 12 h3 and meet 12 ... h4 with 13 Bg5.
12 g3!?
Question: What is the purpose of this quiet move?

Answer: The move 12 g3 defends some of White’s weak kingside dark squares (f4 and h4) and
discourages Black from playing ... h4. However, White’s main idea is just to wait and see what Black
plays. Since whoever controls the centre will control the game, both sides tend to be cautious about
playing any committal moves. For example, White usually refrains from Nd5 unless he is sure he can
gain the initiative in the centre.
Others:
a) 12 h3 is more natural with the idea of pushing the f-pawn, since now the f6-knight cannot jump
to g4. Black should continue with 12 ... Qc7 (12 ... h4!? is not the most useful move since White’s main
idea behind 12 h3 was to push the f-pawn and not the g-pawn; however, it is often a good waiting move
for Black to use, in order to see what plan White chooses) 13 f4 (13 Bd3?! b4! is the correct time to
attack the c3-knight, since the knight is unable to jump to d5 effectively; i.e. 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 exd5 Nb6
and now the weak d5-pawn forces White to give up his good dark-squared bishop following 15 Bxb6
Qxb6 16 Na5 Rc8, with a comfortable position for Black; the tactical resource ... Nxd5 takes the sting
out of Nc6).
And now:
a1) 13 ... b4?! (only play this move when White cannot play Nd5! advantageously) 14 Nd5 Nxd5 15
exd5 Bf5 16 fxe5! (removing Black’s control of the d4-square) 16 ... Nxe5 17 Nd4 gives White a
dangerous initiative in the centre. Notice Black’s h5- and b4-pawns and how little value they have.
Attacks on the flank become far less effective when your opponent has control of the centre.
a2) 13 ... Nb6 is a completely viable approach since it follows the theme of focusing on the centre.
After 14 Bxb6 Qxb6 15 Bd3 Rc8 16 Rhe1 Qb7, White’s position is not threatening as the move f5 can
be easily met with ... Bc4.
a3) 13 ... h4 isn’t completely necessary, but it is a good waiting move. White’s position seems
threatening, but notice how f5 can be comfortably met with ... Bc4. White can try:
a31) 14 Bd3 b4! (again, we see this idea of pushing ... b4 when Nd5 is inconvenient for White) 15
Nd5 Nxd5 16 exd5 Bxd5 17 Rhe1 0-0 doesn’t give White enough to show for the pawn.
a32) 14 Nd5 is premature. Once Black plays 14 ... Bxd5 15 exd5 Ne4, White’s position is difficult,
as the e4-knight will create quite a bit of havoc.
a33) As mentioned above, 14 f5 is met by 14 ... Bc4, and 15 a3 Rb8 (threatening ... a5) was
comfortable for Black in N.Grandelius-T.Hillarp Persson, Palau 2009.
a34) 14 a3 Nb6 sees Black’s plan of controlling the centre and attacking on the queenside
proceeding nicely.
b) 12 Nd5 lacks sting after 12 ... Bxd5 (but 12 ... Nxd5? would be a mistake because of 13 exd5 Bf5
14 Na5!, taking advantage of the c6-square) 13 exd5 Nb6, which is a typical idea: Black attacks the
weak d5-pawn, forcing White to give up his good dark-squared bishop. This gives Black a pleasant
game as White is unable to conduct a kingside attack on the dark squares. For example, 14 Bxb6 (14
Na5 Nbxd5 15 Bg5 Qc7 gave Black an advantage in A.Morozevich-B.Gelfand, Moscow 2008) 14 ...
Qxb6 15 Na5 Rc8 16 Nc6 Nxd5! is good for Black.
c) 12 Bd3 Qc7 13 h3 is too slow as White isn’t prepared to play Nd5. Therefore, Black has 13 ...
b4!, which was seen in A.Shirov-G.Oparin, Moscow 2017. Black quickly achieved a nice position after
the opening, but later went astray.
d) An enterprising try is 12 Qf2!? with the idea of stopping ... Nb6. However, Black can play 12 ...
Rb8! and the knight is ready to move to b6 again.
12 ... Rc8!?

There is an interesting idea behind this move. Black is trying to prevent the queen on d2 from
moving away due to the pressure of the c8-rook on the c3-knight. Without the queen’s protection,
Black could take on c3 and ruin the white king’s defences.
Worse is 12 ... Nb6?! because although playing ... Nb6 is one of Black’s most important ideas in
this line, it is too early here. Notice how the d1-rook is lined up against Black’s queen so after 13 Qf2
Nc4 14 Bxc4 bxc4 15 Nc5, White has a slight initiative, even if Black should still be fine after 15 ...
Qc7 16 Nxe6 fxe6.
Black’s standard move here is 12 ... Qc7 which solves the problem of the d-file pin, as seen in the
12 ... Nb6 variation. Now Black is able to play ... Nb6 with no problems. White’s best try to disrupt
Black’s plan is 13 Nd5 but, as we’ve seen before, playing Nd5 so early doesn’t give White much. This
is seen after 13 ... Nxd5 14 exd5 Bf5, with a level game. Black’s normal way to capture on d5 works
too: 13 ... Bxd5 14 exd5 0-0 and Black will play ... Nb6 on the next move; notice how Black chooses to
castle here because White may open the centre soon with a timely f4 or c4 push.
13 a3
White continues with his waiting strategy, hoping for Black to weaken himself in some way.
Others:
a) 13 Qf2 can be met by 13 ... Rxc3! (the point of 12 ... Rc8!) 14 bxc3 d5! and Black has a strong
initiative. Notice how after weakening White on the queenside, Black strikes in the centre. It is a
mistake to believe that Black’s attack will win solely by playing on the queenside.
b) 13 Nd5 is more popular but not very threatening to Black. This is seen after 13 ... Nxd5 14 exd5
Bf5 15 Bd3 Bxd3 16 Qxd3 Qc7 17 f4 0-0, which transposes to Zhang Xiaopeng-Zhou Jianchao,
Zhongshan 2014, where Black soon developed a powerful attack on the queenside.
13 ... Nb6!
Black correctly realizes that he is sufficiently prepared to move the knight here.
14 Qf2

Exercise: How should Black take advantage of White’s queen moving away
from d2? The solution is tricky because the b6-knight is threatened.

14 ... Nc4?!
Answer: By employing the exchange sacrifice we’ve seen before: 14 ... Rxc3! 15 Bxb6 Rxf3!! (this
brilliant move is essential to make 14 ... Rxc3 work). After 16 Qxf3 Qxb6, Black is one point down in
material but has more than enough compensation. The dark squares completely belong to him and
White’s defences on the queenside are fragile. Meanwhile, it’s hard to find any active plan for White,
as Black’s position is ultra-solid.
15 Bxc4 bxc4?!
This move opens the b-file but limits the scope of the c8-rook and e6-bishop. Perhaps slightly better
is 15 ... Rxc4, keeping the c-file and g8-a2 diagonal open. This benefits Black’s rook and e6-bishop,
keeping them active.
16 Bb6?
An active move, but it lets Black’s queen escape its cramped position. More accurate was 16 Nc5!
and Black’s queen is stuck. The only two squares it can move to (c7 and a5) both lose:
a) 16 ... Qa5?? 17 Nxe6 fxe6 18 Bb6 traps the queen on a5.
b) 16 ... Qc7? 17 Nxa6 Qb7 18 Nb4 and now the only way Black will break through on the
queenside is by playing ... d5 to open up the e7-bishop. This is seen after 18 ... d5!? 19 exd5 Bxb4 20
axb4 Nxd5 21 Bc5, reaching a messy position but one where White is definitely on top. He has an extra
pawn and Black is unable to castle.
16 ... Qd7 17 Nc5
Or 17 Na5! with the idea of trying to contain Black’s queen. It is harder to do now that the queen is
on d7, but the a5-knight seems to get the job done for the moment.
17 ... Qc6 18 Nxe6 fxe6 19 Ba5!

Question: Why did White move his bishop to the side of the board when he
could have retreated it to e3?

Answer: White realizes that his queenside needs more defence, so allocating the bishop to this
sector of the board is a smart idea. On e3, the bishop serves no real purpose.
In fact the natural 19 Be3? runs into 19 ... d5!, when White is in serious trouble. Black owns the
centre, and the e7-bishop is exerting formidable pressure on White’s queenside.
19 ... 0-0 20 Qe2 Rb8 21 Ka1
Useful prophylaxis: White knows the e7-bishop may become opened up soon and the a3-pawn will
be undefended due to the pin on the b-file.
21 ... Rfe8
It is interesting to note how the pace of the game is quite slow. This is a typical feature of the ... h5
line as both sides tend to get into a more strategic struggle for control of the centre. Also, Black’s c4-
pawn closes the c-file and g8-a2 diagonal, making quick attacks difficult.
22 g4
Exercise: White is beginning to get through on the kingside so Black needs to
get counterplay. How can Black use White’s a5-bishop to do this?

22 ... Rb7
Answer: By attacking it! The a5-bishop proves to be a useful tempo-gainer for Black who can try
22 ... Qc5!? 23 Bb4 Qc7 and the white bishop begins to feel uneasy due to the threat of ... a5!.
23 g5 Nd7 24 f4
The entire point of White’s last few moves; the h5-pawn is now undefended.
24 ... Reb8!
Black brings the other rook into the fray, increasing his attacking force on the queenside.
Additionally he frees the f8-square for the d7-knight where it will be a key defender of the black king.
25 Qxh5 Qc5
It is instructive to observe Black’s calm play. Although White has won a pawn on the kingside, he
is only attacking with his queen. Meanwhile, Black is using all three major pieces in his assault on
White’s king.
26 Qh3?!
Forcing Black to bring his knight to f8, but this is where the knight wants to go anyway. Also,
White’s queen on h3 eliminates the possibility of moving a rook there. Without being able to include a
rook in the attack, White’s campaign on the kingside is ineffective.
The immediate 26 Bb4 was better, although Black still has a pleasant edge after 26 ... Rxb4 27 axb4
Qxb4 28 Rb1 Qa5+! 29 Na2 exf4 as his queen is extremely agile. It can take on g5, move to e5, or
continue attacking on the queenside. All of Black’s other pieces can swiftly come to life (with moves
such as ... Ne5, ... Nc5, ... Rb5, ... d5). Meanwhile, the a2-knight and b1-rook are stuck on the
queenside, as the white king needs both of them to survive.
26 ... Nf8 27 Bb4 Rxb4!
After patiently building up pressure on the queenside for the last seven moves, Black’s pieces burst
into action.
28 axb4 Qxb4 29 Rb1

Exercise: White may play Rhg1 followed by g6 with a dangerous kingside attack.
How can Black prevent this?

Answer: 29 ... exf4!


By opening up the fifth rank for the queen to slide across.
30 Rhg1
And not 30 g6? as it allows Black to activate the dormant e7-bishop with 30 ... Bf6 and White’s
position is lost. The b1-rook and c3-knight are paralysed due to the pressure on the b2-pawn, and if the
queen on h3 moves off the third rank then Black plays ... Bxc3. Only the h1-rook can move but it has
nothing useful to do.
30 ... Qa5+ 31 Na2 Bxg5 32 Qc3!
Setting a trap ...
32 ... Qxc3!
Question: Why did Black exchange queens when he had a powerful attack on
the queenside? Couldn’t he have played 32 ... Qb5 - ?

Answer: If he played 32 ... Qb5, White would have spilt the fifth rank in half with 33 e5!! and
Black’s queen would have been cut off from defending the g5-bishop. This would give White’s attack
devastating momentum.
33 Nxc3 Bf6

Question: Who is better here, and why? What targets does the superior side have
to attack?

Answer: Even though the endgame may appear equal, Black has a tremendous advantage. White’s
problem is that his rooks have no good open files on which to operate, while Black has plenty of targets
to attack (the e4-pawn and the c3-knight, specifically). In positions such as this, a knight is very
powerful.
34 Rbf1
Or 34 Rbd1 Be5 and Black’s knight is headed to c5 via d7. Once there, defending the e4-pawn will
be a considerable challenge for White.
34 ... Bxc3!?
An interesting decision. Black gives up his dominant bishop in order to leave White with weak
doubled pawns. In addition, Black wants to protect the f4-pawn by playing ... e5, but leaving his bishop
locked inside the pawn chain would be unwise.
Also good was 34 ... Be5, when Black’s bishop seems to tie down all of White’s forces.
35 bxc3 e5 36 Rd1 Rb6 37 Rd5
The rook appears active, but it still has no real targets to attack. Black has managed to defend all the
key squares.
37 ... Kf7
More direct was 37 ... Ne6 38 Rgd1 Nc5, arguing that the e4-pawn is more valuable than the
backward d6-pawn.
38 Rgd1 Ke6 39 Rg1 Kf7
Again, activating the knight immediately works: 39 ... Nd7! 40 Rxg7 Nf6 41 Rd1 Nxe4 42 h4 f3
and it is clear which passed pawn is the more menacing.
40 Rgd1

Exercise: How can Black avoid a repetition but still protect both of his pawns?

Answer: 40 ... Ke7


By protecting the d6-pawn with the king and leaving the e6-square free for the knight (where it will
guard the g7-pawn).
41 Rg1 Ne6 42 h4 Rb8 43 Ra5?!
Stranding the rook on the queenside. Better was 43 Rdd1! with the plan of contesting the b-file, or
doubling rooks on the g-file. In either case, Black is forced to delay his plans and mull over his defence.
43 ... Nc5!
The value of the g7-pawn is moot; with only one rook, White is unable to prevent the f-pawn’s final
march.
44 Rxg7+ Kf6 45 Rg1 Nxe4 46 Rxa6 f3 47 Rc6 f2 0-1
A big theme of this line is how both sides focus heavily on controlling the centre. Black should aim
to play ... Nb6, but be aware of Qf2 (attacking the knight) followed by Nc5 (using the pin on the d-file).
Because of this tricky idea, it is often a good idea for Black to first move his queen to c7, or to play ...
Rc8!? as in the game. On a separate note, Black should only push ... b4 when it is awkward for White
to answer with Nd5.

Game 5
E.Inarkiev-M.Vachier Lagrave
German League 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5


As in the previous game, the actual move order was 6 ... Ng4 7 Bc1 Nf6 8 f3 e5 9 Nb3 Be6 10 Be3,
transposing to the main line with 8 f3.
7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 Nd5 Bxd5 11 exd5 g6 12 0-0-0
White could also start with 12 Be2 before castling queenside. The best way for Black to continue is
12 ... Bg7 13 0-0-0 b5, and here 14 c4 seems a bit risky as it opens up the file right in front of White’s
king (targeting the c6-square with 14 Na5 shouldn’t worry Black either, as after 14 ... Nb6 15 Nc6 Qc7
the d5-pawn and the c6-knight become weaknesses for White to defend). Following 14 ... bxc4 15 Na5
Nb6 16 Nc6 Qc7 (or 16 ... c3!? 17 bxc3 Qc7 18 c4 Nbd7 is interesting as well) 17 Qa5 Nbxd5 18 Qxc7
Nxc7 19 Bxc4 d5, Black has a comfortable endgame.
12 ... Nb6!

The natural 12 ... Bg7!? is another way to play. After 13 Kb1 (13 Qb4 Qc7 14 Na5 b5 15 Nc6 0-0 is
fine for Black) 13 ... b5!? (Black should avoid 13 ... 0-0?! as White gets excellent chances for a
powerful attack with 14 h3! as in A.Mista-A.Korobov, Czech League 2018), White can try to take
advantage of the c6-square with 14 Na5 and once Black plays 14 ... Nb6, we think White’s best is 15
h4!? (if 15 Nc6 Qc7, White’s knight on c6 is not a problem at all; the d5-pawn is weak and White is
forced to give up his prized bishop on e3 with 16 Bxb6, when 16 ... Qxb6 17 Qb4 Qc7 gives Black a
comfortable position) 15 ... Rc8 (15 ... Nbxd5?! would be met by 16 Bg5) 16 g3 (with the idea of
playing Bh3) 16 ... Nbxd5 17 Bh3 Ra8 18 Bg5 Qc7 19 g4 Rd8 20 Bg2 b4 21 Bxf6 Nxf6 22 Qxb4 0-0
(P.Makovský-L.Ljubicic, correspondence 2008) and Black had nothing to worry about.
13 Kb1
Others:
a) 13 Qa5 can also be tried, but this gives Black the opportunity to exchange off White’s good
bishop with 13 ... Bh6! 14 Bxh6 Rxh6 15 Qd2! (attacking Black’s rook and preparing f4 is the most
critical continuation; 15 Kb1 is less threatening, and 15 ... Kf8! 16 c4 Kg7 17 g3 Rh8 18 Rc1 Nbd7 is
recommended by Georgiev and Kolev, when Black is doing well) 15 ... Rh8 and now White has a
choice:
a1) 16 Na5 Qc7 17 c4, gaining space on the queenside, is an interesting way to play. Now Black
should bring his king to safety with 17 ... Kf8 18 Kb1 Kg7, when he is fine. A sample line is 19 Bd3
Nbd7 20 Rc1 Rae8 and Black may continue by attacking in the centre with ... e4, or preparing this
advance by first playing ... Nc5.
a2) After 16 f4! (trying to open up the centre as Black can’t castle) 16 ... Nbd7! is our preference as
it doesn’t make sense to open the position unnecessarily (16 ... exf4 has been played more often, but
Black’s position is dangerous after 17 Qxf4 Kf8 18 Bd3 Nbxd5 19 Qg5 Qb6 20 Rhe1 and ideas of
opening up the kingside with Bxg6 gave White good play in A.Volokitin-K.Shevchenko, Batumi 2018;
nonetheless, Black went on to win this game after the accurate 20 ... h4! 21 Bxg6 fxg6 22 Qxg6 Qf2 23
Rf1 Qe3+ 24 Kb1 Rh6!). Now 17 Kb1 Qb6 prepares for Black to castle queenside with a fine position;
for example, 18 fxe5 Nxe5 19 Qf4 Nfd7 20 Be2 0-0-0.
b) 13 c4 makes sense in order to protect the d5-pawn. However, this weakens the position of
White’s king. After 13 ... Rc8 14 Na5 Nbxd5 (the other capture 14 ... Nfxd5 15 Bg5 Qc7 leads to an
equal endgame following 16 Kb1 Be7 17 Bxe7 Nxe7 18 Qxd6 Nd7 19 Qxc7 Rxc7) 15 Bg5 was tried in
L.Dominguez Perez-R.Ponomariov, Dortmund 2016. After 15 ... b6 16 Nb7 Qc7 17 Bxf6, the
intermediate move 17 ... Bh6! would have given Black a good position.
13 ... Nbxd5
13 ... Nfxd5 is probably the easiest to learn. In the following lines, White doesn’t get any serious
attacking chances and Black should be able to get a roughly balanced endgame. White has two main
moves to choose from:
a) 14 Bf2 Nf6 (14 ... Be7?? runs into 15 Qa5!) 15 Bh4 Be7 16 Bxf6 Bxf6 17 Qxd6 Qxd6 18 Rxd6
Bd8 has been played several times before in correspondence chess and all of these confirm that Black is
perfectly fine in this endgame. Play may continue 19 Rd1 Rb8 (19 ... f5!?, gaining space on the
kingside, is possible as well) 20 Bd3 Bc7 21 Rhe1 0-0 and Black had no problems in R.Thierry-
V.Ivanov, correspondence 2012.
b) 14 Bg5 Be7 15 Bxe7 Qxe7! (15 ... Nxe7?! 16 Qxd6 Qxd6 17 Rxd6 gave White a better ending in
J.Schröder-A.Areshchenko, Mülheim 2017) 16 c4 Nf6 17 Qxd6 Qxd6 18 Rxd6 Nbd7 reaches a fairly
balanced endgame where White has two ways to play:
b1) After 19 Rd1, Black can play the solid 19 ... Ke7 as tried in P.Leko-C.Aravindh, Douglas 2017,
or the more active 19 ... e4!? in both cases with equal chances.
b2) 19 Be2 Ke7 20 Rhd1 a5! (threatening ... a4 and preventing White from playing Na5) 21 R6d3
Rhc8 22 Re3 Rc6! activates the rook and Black has no problems in this endgame.
14 Bg5 Be7 15 c4!?

White has several other moves to get play for the sacrificed pawn:
a) 15 g3!? has the idea of playing Bg2 and f4. Black should prevent this by playing 15 ... Nb6!
(whereas 15 ... 0-0? as tried in P.Leko-A.Giri, London 2012, would have given White a strong initiative
after 16 h4!, when the threat of g4 causes serious problems for Black) and while 16 Bxf6 regains the
pawn (if 16 f4, then 16 ... Ne4 wins for Black; 16 Bg2 is also met by 16 ... Ne4! and Black is slightly
better after 17 fxe4 Bxg5), Black will be fine in the endgame that arises after 16 ... Bxf6 17 Qxd6 Qxd6
18 Rxd6 Bd8 19 Rd1 h4 (making a slight weakness in White’s pawn structure) 20 g4 0-0, as seen in
A.Toman-C.Persson, correspondence 2015.
b) 15 Na5 Rb8?! was seen in A.Grischuk-V.Topalov, St. Louis 2015, and after 16 Bc4! Nb6 White
could have gone for 17 Rhe1! with excellent play. Black’s rook is more useful on the c8-square and
therefore 15 ... Qc7! is more accurate. Now 16 Bc4 can be met by 16 ... Rc8! 17 Bxd5 Nxd5 and if 18
Qxd5, then 18 ... Qxc2+ followed by ... Bxg5 gives Black a good position.
c) 15 Bd3 Qc7 16 Rhe1 0-0-0 was played in P.Leko-A.Areshchenko, German League 2017, but
White got excellent play after 17 c4 Nb6 18 c5! dxc5 19 Nxc5, since Black’s king was in some trouble.
16 ... 0-0! seems to be an improvement, when White has enough compensation for the pawn but not
more.

Exercise: Where should Black’s knight move?

15 ... Nf4!?
Giving the pawn back and keeping the game complicated, but White should be slightly better here.
Answer: 15 ... Nb6! is preferable. After 16 Na5 (16 Bxf6 is fine for Black: 16 ... Bxf6 17 Qxd6
Na4, when Black threatens ... e4 and we prefer his chances in the upcoming endgame) 16 ... 0-0 and
now:
a) 17 Nxb7 wins the pawn back, but Black generates an attack after 17 ... Qc7 18 Na5 (18 Nxd6
Rfd8 would put White in an unpleasant pin) 18 ... Nbd7 19 Bd3 Rfb8.
b) 17 h4! is White’s best attempt. However, Black can gain sufficient counterplay with 17 ... Na4!
18 g4 hxg4 19 fxg4 Ne4! 20 Qc2 Qb6.
16 Bxf4 exf4 17 Qxf4 0-0 18 h4

18 g4! may have been more accurate. Black would probably continue with 18 ... Rc8 (18 ... d5
could now be met by 19 g5, winning the d5-pawn), but after 19 h4 Black’s position is a little passive.
18 ... d5! 19 g4 Bd6 20 Qc1
20 Qg5! seems to give White better chances for an attack against Black’s king. Then 20 ... Re8 21
Bd3 Re5! is probably the most accurate defence, when 22 Qd2 Bf8 leads to unbalanced play with
chances for both sides.
20 ... Rc8 21 Qc3
White can win a pawn with 21 gxh5 Nxh5 22 Rxd5, but Black has excellent compensation after 22
... Qf6!.
21 ... dxc4 22 Na5 Qe7 23 Nxc4 Bb4 24 Qb3 hxg4
Black could also have played 24 ... b5, attacking the c4-knight and not letting White breakthrough
on the kingside.
25 h5 Rfd8 26 hxg6 Rxd1+ 27 Qxd1 fxg6 28 a3 b5 29 Nb6?!
29 axb4! was the best move for White, who is able to maintain equality after 29 ... bxc4 30 fxg4
Qe4+ 31 Qc2. If 31 ... Qe1+ (31 ... Qxh1 32 Qxg6+ Kf8 33 Qxf6+ leads to a perpetual), then 32 Qc1
gives Black nothing better than the endgame after 32 ... Qxc1+ 33 Kxc1 Nd5, which White should be
able to hold without too much trouble.
29 ... Rd8

Exercise: How should White deal with the threat to his queen?

30 Qb3+?
This is the decisive mistake as it allows Black to start a dangerous attack against White’s king.
Answer: 30 Qc2! (forcing Black to defend the g6-pawn) 30 ... Kg7 31 axb4 Qe1+ (31 ... gxf3 is
probably best and gives Black good play after 32 Bd3 f2!, but this is much better for White than the
game continuation) 32 Ka2 Rd1? (32 ... Qe6+ 33 Ka1 Qe1+ leads to a repetition) and the key point
here, compared to the game, is that White can gain counterplay with 33 Qc7+.
Not 30 Bd3?, which runs into 30 ... Ba5! and the knight is trapped on b6.
30 ... Kg7 31 axb4 Qe1+
Black has obtained a winning position and White has no counterplay.
32 Ka2 Rd1 33 Qc2 Ra1+ 34 Kb3 Qe6+ 35 Nc4 gxf3!
Black is in no rush to take the pinned knight on c4.
36 Qh2 bxc4+ 37 Bxc4 Qe3+ 38 Kc2 Rxh1 39 Qxh1 Qf4 40 Kb3 Ne4 41 Bxa6 Qd6 42 Qa1 g5
43 Qa5 g4 44 Kc2 g3 45 Bd3 Qe7 46 Qb6 g2 47 Qd4+ Nf6 48 b5 Qc7+ 49 Kb3 Qf7+ 50 Kc2 Qc7+
51 Kb3 Qc1 52 Qd6 Qg5 53 Qc7+ Kh6 54 Qh2+ Nh5 55 Qc7 Qg8+ 56 Bc4 Qg6 57 Qe5 g1Q 58
Qh8+ Qh7 59 Qe5 Qd1+ 60 Ka3 Qa7+ 61 Kb4 Qd2+ 0-1
In this game we looked at one of the critical lines in the English Attack, with an early 0-0-0. This is
one of the lines where Black needs to be well prepared in order to limit White’s initiative. For example,
the 13 Kb1 line, as featured in the game, where White sacrifices his d5-pawn, requires accuracy from
Black. Later in the game, we also saw that Black was able to create his own attacking chances once
White began playing too slowly.

Game 6
F.Caruana-B.Gelfand
FIDE Grand Prix, Baku 2014

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 f3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Be3 h5 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 Nd5
Bxd5 11 exd5 g6 12 Be2
If 12 Na5, then 12 ... Qc7 13 Be2 Bg7 transposes to the game; but Black has an additional
possibility here in 13 ... Ng8!? 14 0-0 Bh6, exchanging off White’s good bishop.
12 ... Bg7
In view of White’s Na5 plan, 12 ... b6?! might seem tempting. However, this move should only be
played after White has castled kingside: 13 0-0-0! Bg7 14 Kb1 0-0 15 g4 and Black’s attack on the
queenside is far too slow.
13 Na5
A clever idea, as White wants to push his queenside pawns as quickly as possible. Notice how
Black must not be tempted to push his b-pawn as White can then play Nc6.
See the next game for 13 0-0.
If 13 c4, then Black can play in similar fashion to the main game with 13 ... e4!, as seen in
A.Ballas-M.Codenotti, Kavala 2016. Since White has taken too long to castle, Black was justified in
ripping open the centre.
13 ... Qc7 14 c4

Exercise: White’s knight on a5 is out of play, so what move can Black play
to exploit this?

Answer: 14 ... e4!


Striking in the centre immediately. As White’s knight is not on b3 it is unable to assist in the
defence. This idea is very important in the 13 Na5 line in the English Attack.
Playing slowly with 14 ... 0-0 runs into 15 0-0 e4 16 f4 Ng4 17 Bxg4 hxg4 18 f5!?, which invites
complications that Black would prefer to avoid. I.Yagupov-D.Mager, Prague 2016, continued 18 ...
gxf5 19 Rxf5 Ne5 and while Black was holding things together, the position still seems tricky to
navigate.
15 0-0
15 f4 weakens the g4-square. After 15 ... Ng4 16 Bxg4 hxg4 17 0-0 White prepares to disrupt
Black’s position with 18 f5. Therefore, 17 ... f5! is best, when Black consolidates with no problems.
N.Mamedov-A.Korobov, Moscow 2011, continued 18 Rab1 Nc5 19 b4 Nd3 with an excellent outpost
for the knight on d3.
15 ... exf3 16 gxf3

Question: Taking with the g-pawn weakens the king, so why did White play this?

Answer: White’s idea is to use the pawn to control the e4-square (and potentially the e5-square by
pushing the pawn to f4). This limits the activity of Black’s knights, which is key to Black getting
counterplay.
On 16 Bxf3 Black can play 16 ... 0-0 17 b4 Ne5 (17 ... Rfe8, as pointed out by Georgiev and Kolev,
is good for Black as well) and White has an early queenside initiative, but Black has gained sufficient
counterplay in the centre due to playing ... e4 early. Here 18 Rac1 (note that 18 c5 can be met by 18 ...
Rfe8) 18 ... Rfe8 19 Bd4 was tried in X.Povill Claros-A.Heimann, Barcelona 2018. We think Black’s
best is 19 ... Nxf3 20 Rxf3 Ne4! with good play.
16 ... 0-0 17 b4 Rfe8
Instead, 17 ... Ne5! is our main recommendation and is a good alternative to the game. Play may
continue:
a) 18 c5 Qd7 (from d7, Black’s queen puts more pressure on White’s centre; the queen is also
prepared to attack on the kingside, if necessary) 19 Rad1 Rfe8 gives Black a solid position.
b) 18 Rac1 Qd7 19 Nb3 (19 Kg2 was played in B.Kalezic-A.Indjic, Hersonissos 2017; White has
prevented ... Qh3, but 19 ... Rfe8 followed by ... Re7 and doubling on the e-file gives Black an
excellent position) 19 ... b5! (a very rare move in this line, since it appears to weaken the queenside
severely; however, in this position White is not well prepared in the centre) 20 c5 dxc5 21 Bxc5 (21
bxc5? Nxd5 is Black’s point: White is not prepared to defend the d5-pawn) 21 ... Rfe8 22 d6 Qh3
results in a fun position for Black. White has strategic advantages (two bishops and a passed d-pawn),
but Black has nice attacking chances. The h3-queen, e5-knight, and e8-rook are very active, and
playing ... Kh7 and ... Bh6 will activate the bishop.
18 Rac1 Rxe3!?

Question: What will Black obtain for the exchange sacrifice?

Answer: By sacrificing the exchange, Black gains control of the dark squares. This increases
Black’s attacking chances in the centre and kingside, and diminishes the effect of White’s queenside
attack (especially because c5 is a dark square).
19 Qxe3 Re8 20 Qd2
Exercise: Black would like to play ... Bh6 in order to activate the bishop.
What is the most forcing way to accomplish this?

20 ... Kh7
An interesting move, fighting for control of the c1-h6 diagonal. However, Black has a better option.
Answer: 20 ... Qb6+! 21 Kh1 Bh6! 22 Qxh6 (22 f4 Ne4 23 Qe1 Nef6 24 Rb1 Ng4 led to a draw in
Y.Kryvoruchko-A.Areshchenko, Lviv 2014) 22 ... Rxe2 gives roughly even chances in an unbalanced
position.
21 Nb3
21 Kh1! sees White’s king stepping away from a possible ... Qb6 check. This move also prepares
for the opening of the position after ... Bh6. Play may continue 21 ... Bh6 22 f4 Ne4 23 Qc2 Qb6 24
Bd3 and White is comfortable as Black’s counterplay has been repelled and the extra exchange will
begin to tell.
21 ... Bh6 22 f4 Ne4 23 Qe1
Exercise: How should Black continue his attack?

Answer: 23 ... Ndf6!


By bringing his worst piece (the d7-knight) into the game. Black correctly resists throwing in a
queen check since this only makes White’s king safer; i.e. 23 ... Qb6+?! 24 Kh1 Ndf6 25 Bd3 leaves
Black’s knight on e4 with no useful moves. Notice how the queen on b6 is out of play. In the game, it is
much more active on the h3-c8 diagonal.
24 Bd3 Qd7 25 Rc2
25 Qd1! is a stronger move, aiming to activate the queen instead of the rook. After 25 ... Ng4 26
Qf3, White’s queen has suddenly become his best piece. It keeps all of Black’s pieces at bay, and gives
White hope of playing f5.
25 ... Qh3 26 Qd1
Exercise: White is about to play 27 Qf3 and consolidate the position completely.
Find the move for Black that keeps his attack alive.

Answer: 26 ... Bxf4!


This move takes advantage of White’s exposed king on g1.
27 Qf3
If 27 Rxf4 then 27 ... Qe3+ 28 Rcf2 Nxf2 29 Rxf2 Ng4 30 Qf3 Nxf2 31 Qxf7+ leads to a perpetual
check.
27 ... Qxf3
Black must exchange queens because White is starting to develop a dangerous attack. The c2-rook
is ready to come to the kingside in one move via the g2-square.
28 Rxf3 Ng5!
Once again, Black uses the position of White’s king to continue attacking.
29 Rf1 Re3 30 Nc1 Ng4 31 c5 dxc5 32 bxc5
Exercise: Black would really like to play ... Rh3 in order to attack White’s h-pawn.
The issue is that this would drop the bishop, since playing ... Nh3+ is no longer
an option. What move should Black play to solve this problem?

32 ... Re8?
Answer: 32 ... Be5! eliminates the problem at its root by removing the bishop from the attack by
the white rook. Since the threat of ... Rh3 is so strong, White must act at once with 33 c6 bxc6 34 dxc6
Bc7 (moving the bishop back, since White cannot play d6), but Black’s attack gives him the advantage.
33 h4?
33 Kh1! is the move that nullifies most of Black’s threats (such as ... Bxh2+, ... Nh3+, and ...
Be3+). On 33 ... Ne3 34 Re2 Nxf1 35 Rxe8, White has achieved a won game.
33 ... Re3!
A key saving resource, as the rook has the g3-square.
34 hxg5 Rg3+ 35 Kh1 Rh3+ 36 Kg2 Rg3+ 37 Kh1 Rh3+ ½-½
A tense game, right until the end!
The 13 Na5 line is an interesting try from White to immobilize Black’s queenside by preventing the
move ... b6. Black should respond to this by playing an early ... e4, taking advantage of the missing
knight on b3. In the middlegame, the open e-file gives Black equal chances against White’s queenside
attack, and a very dynamic game tends to ensue.

Game 7
M.Ali-K.Sasikiran
Asian Indoor Games, Ashgabat 2017
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 9 Nd5 Bxd5 10 exd5
Nbd7 11 Be2 g6 12 Qd2 Bg7 13 0-0 b6

Beginning to set up a dark square blockade on the queenside, in preparation for White’s imminent
pawn storm, and countering the threat of Na5. The drawback of 13 ... b6 is that it weakens the c6-
square, so Black must be careful to prevent White’s knight from reaching it. Thus, always think twice
before pushing ... e4 or ... b5 (usually, do not do this when White’s knight is still on b3).
13 ... 0-0 gives White the additional opportunity of playing 14 Na5! Qc7 15 c4 e4 16 f4 Ng4 17
Bxg4 hxg4 and, compared to the previous game, White can play 18 Rab1! which was given in John
Shaw’s Playing 1 e4 – Sicilian Main Lines. Black would like to consolidate his position with ... f5
followed by ... Nc5. However, White’s dual threats of f5 and b4 give Black some problems.
14 c4
Others:
a) 14 Rac1 0-0 15 h3!? was tried in F.Caruana-B.Gelfand, Wijk aan Zee 2014. Play continued 15 ...
Re8 16 g4!? hxg4 17 hxg4 and now 17 ... b5! is an important improvement for Black. Usually, Black
needs to be very careful when moving the b6-pawn forward because it allows White to play Na5.
However, in this situation, 17 ... b5 is tactically justified. White has spent two moves playing g4,
leaving him rather unprepared in the centre of the board. Black can meet 18 Na5 with 18 ... Nxd5!, and
after 19 Nb7 Qc7 20 Qxd5 Nf6! Black won back the piece and eventually the game in M.Warmerdam-
B.Bok, Dutch League 2017.
b) 14 a4 0-0 15 c3 Qc7 (15 ... Re8 is also playable, as in A.Fawzy-A.Areshchenko, Khanty-
Mansiysk 2017; however, in this particular position, it makes sense to play 15 ... Qc7, intending ... Qb7
and pressuring White’s d5-pawn) 16 h3 (16 Rad1 is also met by 16 ... Qb7) 16 ... Qb7 17 Rfd1 Rfe8 18
Ra3!? (preparing Na1-c2-b4) 18 ... Kh7! has the idea of ... Ng8 followed by ... Bh6, which is an
important strategic concept to remember. This position has been tested in several correspondence
games. For instance, H.Wilhelmi-K.Keuter, correspondence 2014, continued 19 Na1 Ng8 20 Nc2 Bh6
21 Bxh6 Nxh6 22 Nb4 Kg7 23 Nc6 Nf5 24 b4 Nb8, when Black was completely fine.
14 ... 0-0

We have reached one of the main positions of the English Attack with 8 ... h5. This is a common
Sicilian structure and is therefore a good moment to stop and take a look at the general plans for each
side.

White:

1) Bring the a1-rook to e1 or c1 and play Na1-c2. The knight helps support White’s queenside
expansion and paves the way for it to jump to c6 via b4.
2) Attack with h3 and g4 and suppress Black’s kingside play (the drawback is that this weakens
White’s kingside).
3) Expand on the queenside with b4 and eventually c5.
Black:

1) Gain space on the kingside with ... Nh7 and ... f5, or ... h4!? and ... Nh5.
2) Strike in the centre with ... e4 (be careful about doing this while White’s knight is still on b3, as then the knight would gain access
to the d4-square).
3) Suppress White’s queenside play with ... a5 and ... Nc5.
4) Exchange off White’s good dark-squared bishop (as will be seen in this game).
15 Rac1
Preparing Na1-c2. Others:
a) 15 Rae1 is also possible. After 15 ... Re8, 16 Na1 is White’s best, otherwise there will be no
queenside play with b4 (16 Kh1 can be met by 16 ... Rc8 – with this useful move, Black refrains from
committing to a plan of attack, instead reinforcing the c5-square). Black should continue with 16 ... e4.
As White has brought his knight away and no longer has the possibility of playing Nd4-c6. This is the
perfect moment to strike in the centre.
b) 15 h3!? is a very interesting move. By playing h3, White arms himself against Black’s ... e4
threat. White can now reply with f4 and Black no longer has the ... Ng4 resource available. Following
15 ... Re8 (as we’ve just noted, not 15 ... e4? 16 f4 since Black’s knight on f6 cannot jump to g4;
meanwhile, White’s knight on b3 is headed towards c6 via d4), White has several ways to continue:

b1) 16 g4 hxg4 17 hxg4 (17 fxg4?! Ne4 18 Qe1 Bf6 gives Black an initiative on the dark squares)
17 ... a5 makes Black’s position rock solid, while White has holes all over the dark squares. If White
pushes the g-pawn, Black should reply ... Nh5.
b2) 16 Rac1 Rc8 17 Na1 h4 is very similar to the 16 Rad1 variation; the only difference is that
White’s rook is on c1, not d1.
b3) 16 Rad1 Rc8 is a semi-waiting move but a useful one. On c8 the rook pressures White’s c-pawn
and provides additional protection to the c5-square. The game may continue in several different ways:
b31) 17 a4 could simply be met by 17 ... a5.
b322) A quiet move like 17 Qe1 will be met with 17 ... Nh7 followed by ... f5.
b33) 17 g4 gives Black no problems after 17 ... hxg4 18 hxg4 a5.
b34) 17 Na1 prepares Nc2 followed by b4 or Nb4. The best way for Black to react is with 17 ... h4!,
which is a typical idea to remember as Black prepares ... Nh5, taking advantage of the weak dark
squares in White’s position (17 ... e4?! is a move that Black would love to play since White’s knight is
on a1; the problem is that White controls g4 with the h3-pawn – after 18 f4, the f6-knight again has
nowhere to go). White can play 18 Bg5 in an effort to punish Black’s last move, but after 18 ... Qc7 19
Bxh4 e4!, White has spent two moves capturing the h4-pawn. Meanwhile, Black has optimally
prepared his position and has now struck in the centre with ... e4. White’s pieces are uncoordinated and
Black’s chances are no worse. For example, 20 f4 (20 Nb3 exf3 21 Rxf3 Ne4! 22 Qf4 f5 makes White’s
queen and both bishops excellent tactical targets for Black) 20 ... e3! and White’s dark-squared bishop
is sorely missed, as it had previously protected the e3-square.
15 ... Re8!

Question: What is the purpose of this move?

Answer: 15 ... Re8 is designed to slowly improve Black’s position. Black is prepared to employ
ideas such as ... e4, or perhaps ... Nh7 followed by ... f5. This all depends on how White decides to
play.
16 Rfd1
Others:
a) White can try to improve the placement of his knight by playing 16 Na1, but this gives Black the
opportunity to play 16 ... e4! 17 f4 Ng4! 18 Bxg4 hxg4. Now White could try 19 f5!, stopping Black
from consolidating with ... f5; however, 19 ... Ne5! 20 fxg6 fxg6 gives Black a great position.
b) If 16 h3, Black has a couple of good ways to play:
b1) 16 ... Rc8!? 17 Na1 h4 gives Black adequate counterplay and is very similar to 15 h3 (again, 17
... e4? is not very effective because of 18 f4! and Black doesn’t have ... Ng4).
b2) 16 ... Nh7!? 17 Na1 Bf6 (17 ... f5!? is fine as well) 18 Nc2 Bg5 19 Nb4 Bxe3+ 20 Qxe3 was
played in S.Sevian-Li Ruifeng, Dallas 2016, where Black can improve with 20 ... Qh4.
16 ... a5!
Note that 16 ... e4 is not the most accurate move because after 17 Nd4! the white knight will be
arriving on c6 – although even here, Black has some counterplay along the e-file after 17 ... exf3 18
gxf3 Qe7.
17 h3
Now Black must choose between three plans:
1) Trying to arrange the ... e4 push. With White’s knight on b3, this proves difficult. If Black drives
the b3-knight away with ... a4, then White’s queen gains an excellent outpost on b4.
2) Playing ... h4. This plan works best with White’s knight on a1, since it is temporarily out of play.
With White’s knight on b3, sacrificing the h4-pawn is not as effective.
3) Pushing the f-pawn. This plan works well here because it is not hindered whatsoever by the b3-
knight.
Instead, 17 Na1 e4! again sees this thrust working successfully now that White has moved the
knight out of play to a1.
17 ... Nh7! 18 Na1
White has played too slowly; Black has easy play on the kingside while White’s queenside play has
hardly started.
18 ... h4

Switching back to the ... h4 plan. This is logical because White’s knight is now out of play. Even
better, Black no longer has to sacrifice the pawn due to the protection from the queen on d8.
18 ... f5 is also possible. Play is likely to continue 19 Nc2 and here 19 ... Qf6! is a strong reply.
Black has ideas such as ... f4, ... Nc5, and eventually breaking with ... e4.
19 Nc2 Ndf6!
A powerful move. Black correctly decides that his queenside does not need extra defence; all that
matters now is attacking White’s king!
Not 19 ... Nhf6?, which allows 20 Bg5.
20 Bf1 Nh5 21 b3 Bf6
The bishop is headed to g5. Black’s strategy of dominating the dark squares is proceeding well.
22 Qf2 Rb8 23 Na3 Bg5 24 Nb5 Bxe3 25 Qxe3
A dream position for Black in this line. White’s queenside play is nowhere to be seen. White has
also lost his good bishop and Black has plenty of kingside space.
25 ... Nf4 26 Re1 Nf6 27 Nc3 N6h5
Temporarily ceding control of the e4-square is fine since Black can always play ... f5.
28 Ne2
28 Ne4 f5 29 Nf2 Qg5 gives Black an irresistible attack.
28 ... Nxe2+ 29 Bxe2 Kg7 30 Bf1 Ng3 31 Bd3 f5 32 Rcd1 Qf6 33 Bc2 e4!
Opening up the position at a favourable moment for Black. White’s c2-bishop will be hindered by
the e4-pawn and White is unable to seriously contest the f-file due to Black’s knight on g3.
34 fxe4 fxe4 35 Rd2 Re5 36 Rf2 Rf5 37 Qd2 Re8 38 Qe3 Rxf2 39 Qxf2 Qc3
Black now threatens 40 ... Rf8, regaining control of the f-file.
40 Re3 Qd4 41 Re1 e3 42 Qf3 e2+ 43 Kh2 Rf8 0-1
This game featured the main line of the English Attack with 8 ... h5. This line is strategically quite
complicated and choosing from the various typical ideas that Black has isn’t an easy task. By carefully
reviewing the annotations, variations, and plans discussed (on move 14) in this game, you will be able
to have a greater understanding of this structure, which is very common in several Sicilian lines. You
will also have a much better feel of which ideas work for both sides.
Chapter Two
Theoretical Paths: 6 Bg5
6 Bg5 is one of the most critical lines for Najdorf players to face. By meeting 6 Bg5 with the more
fashionable 6 ... Nbd7, we avoid many of the theoretically intensive lines that occur after 6 ... e6, such
as the Poisoned Pawn system. These lines often require understanding and memorizing over 30 moves
of theory in many different variations. With our recommendation of 6 ... Nbd7 the theoretical workload
is much less demanding. Black’s idea is to develop his queenside quickly and gain play in that sector,
while keeping a close eye on the e5-square (often delaying White’s attempts to break through quickly
in the centre). Another virtue of 6 ... Nbd7 is that it delays developing the f8-bishop, and Black only has
to decide on its location once White has committed to a particular set-up.

White has three main ways to play against 6 ... Nbd7. These are: 7 Qe2, 7 f4, and 7 Bc4.
Game 8 starts by looking at a couple of rare lines White has after 6 ... Nbd7. We also consider some
of the less critical lines after 7 Qe2. In all of these, Black doesn’t have much to worry about and will
usually achieve a comfortable position out of the opening.
Game 9 continues examining the 7 Qe2 variation, but this time White chooses to play the critical 9
f4! line. This is certainly one of White’s most dangerous tries and Black needs to react with some
accuracy. However, it should be noted that White also needs to play with precision or his attack will be
exhausted quite quickly.
Game 10 covers some of the rare lines in the 7 f4 variation. Black doesn’t have much to worry
about here, but some of the lines can be tricky and are useful to learn. The most important of these is 10
g4!?, as tried in the game.
Game 11 examines 10 Bd3 in the main line of the 7 f4 variation. Against this, we recommend
avoiding the natural ... e6 and instead fianchettoing the dark-squared bishop. White won’t be able to
rely on a direct attacking approach as the fianchetto makes White’s attack much more difficult to carry
out.
Game 12 considers an alternative approach for Black against 7 f4 with 7 ... Qa5!?. The idea with
this line is to pressurize White’s c3-knight immediately and prepare to attack in the centre with ... e5. In
this game we will see how the play can lead to less explored and very interesting positions.
Game 13 looks at the 7 Bc4 variation and the sidelines after Black replies with 7 ... Qb6!. In
particular, we analyse the critical 8 0-0 which has become very popular in recent years. However, our
recommendation leads to a decent position and limited theory to learn.
Game 14 analyses 8 Bb3, the main line for White in the 7 Bc4 variation. White’s most critical try is
castling queenside, but we also take a look at plans involving kingside castling. Black is doing well
theoretically and can expect to have unbalanced play with attacking chances for both sides after the
opening.

Game 8
F.Urkedal-S.Shankland
Baku Olympiad 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Qe2!?

A popular approach that was advocated by Parimarjan Negi in his book 1 e4 vs The Sicilian I.
White’s idea is to attack in the centre with f4 and e5 and castle queenside.
White can choose from several other moves here:
a) 7 Qd2 is playable, but not very consistent with White’s last move as the bishop on g5 now seems
to be misplaced. Black should continue with 7 ... e6 8 0-0-0 and now 8 ... h6! (8 ... b5 would allow 9
Nd5!? with an unclear position), with the point that 9 Bh4 can be met by 9 ... Nxe4! 10 Bxd8 Nxd2 11
Bh4 Nxf1, winning a pawn. And if White chooses 9 Bxf6 instead, then 9 ... Nxf6 10 f4 b5 (or first 10 ...
Qc7) is fine for Black.
b) 7 Be2 is harmless after 7 ... e6, when Black can develop normally; for example, 8 0-0 Qc7 9 f4
Be7 10 Bf3 Rb8, followed by ... b5, with a comfortable position.
c) 7 a4 is a positional approach that was tried in S.Karjakin-B.Gelfand, Khanty-Mansiysk 2015.
White can’t expect any advantage with this line and play typically leads to fairly pleasant positions for
Black. After 7 ... e6 8 a5 (or 8 Be2 Qc7 9 0-0 Be7 10 f4 0-0 11 Bf3 Qb6 and Black is doing well) 8 ...
Be7 9 Be2 0-0 10 0-0 Qc7 11 Qd3 h6 12 Bd2, we suggest 12 ... b5! and Black has no problems.
d) 7 Qf3 is an interesting way to play against 6 ... e6, but Black can meet this with the same set-up
that is chosen in the present game. That is, 7 ... h6 (the more popular 7 ... Qa5 is also fine for Black) 8
Bh4 g6 and Black has an improved version of the positions we will see in the game because the queen
on f3 gets in the way of White’s f-pawn. Play may continue 9 0-0-0 e5 (9 ... Bg7 is also fine for Black)
10 Nb3 b5 11 Kb1 Be7 12 a3 Bb7 with no problems for Black.
The two mainlines, 7 Bc4 and 7 f4, will be looked at later in this chapter.
7 ... h6
7 ... e6 8 f4 Qc7 9 0-0-0 transposes to a main line that is typically reached through the 6 ... e6 move
order. We prefer to avoid this transposition.

Question: Instead of playing 7 ... h6 and then 8 ... g6, why can’t Black play
7 ... g6 immediately?

Answer: If Black tries to avoid 7 ... h6 and plays 7 ... g6, then 8 0-0-0 e5 allows 9 Nd5! (Black
needs to circumvent this by playing 7 ... h6 first because he is then able to play ... g5!, getting out of the
pin) 9 ... h6 (9 ... exd4 also runs into trouble after 10 Qc4 followed by Nc7) and now 10 Qc4!, as
pointed out by Negi, gives White a dangerous initiative.
8 Bh4
8 Bxf6 Nxf6 9 0-0-0 (9 g3 was tried in H.Nakamura-G.Gopal, Gibraltar 2017; after 9 ... e5 10 Nf5
Be6 11 0-0-0 g6 12 Ne3, White is aiming to control the d5-square so Black continued actively with 12
... Rc8 13 Ned5 Nxd5 14 Nxd5 Rc5! and achieved a comfortable position) 9 ... e5 10 Nf5! g6 11 Ne3
Be6 12 Kb1 Rc8 13 Ned5 Bg7 was fine for Black in B.Jobava-A.Sarana, Minsk 2017, and he later went
on to win.
8 ... g6!
This is the most fashionable way to counter White’s 7 Qe2. The main idea behind this move isn’t
actually to fianchetto the dark-squared bishop; we will see that only in a couple of lines will Black
choose to place his bishop on g7. Instead, the key point of Black’s move is to take away the f5-square
from White’s knight.
For example, 8 ... e5 would run into 9 Nf5 g6 10 Ne3 and White is much better because he controls
the important d5-square.
9 0-0-0
The critical 9 f4 will be examined at in the next game.
9 ... e5 10 Nb3
If White tries 10 Nd5?, then 10 ... g5! wins a piece.
10 ... Be7 11 Kb1
Others:
a) Aiming to attack with Bd3 and f4 by playing 11 Qd2 is White’s most critical plan in this line.
Following 11 ... b5 12 a3, Black has a choice:
a1) 12 ... Kf8?! 13 Kb1 Kg7 14 f4 Bb7 15 Bd3 Rc8 16 Rhf1 slowly led to trouble for Black in
M.Schröder-C.Jacobs Jr., correspondence 2016, once White was able to expand on the kingside.
a2) 12 ... Qc7!? (aiming for a quick ... Nb6 and ... Nc4) 13 Bd3 (White could try to play 13 f4
immediately, but 13 ... exf4 with the threat of ... g5 is good for Black) 13 ... Nb6 leaves Black well
prepared to meet White’s f4 plan. For example, 14 f4 is met by 14 ... exf4 15 Bf2 Nc4 and Black has an
excellent position, while 14 Rhf1 is too slow and should be countered by 14 ... g5! 15 Bg3 Nc4.
a3) 12 ... Bb7 13 Bd3 Qc7! (13 ... Nb6 runs into 14 Na5!; and 13 ... Kf8 14 Kb1 Kg7 15 f4! was
slightly better for White in V.Durarbayli-Li Ruifeng, St. Louis 2017) 14 Kb1 transposes to the note on
White’s 13th move (13 Qd2).
b) 11 f3 b5 12 a3 Qc7 is likely to transpose to the game after 13 Kb1. White could also try 13 g4!?,
when Black should continue with 13 ... Kf8, followed by bringing the king to safety with ... Kg7 and
then ... Nb6.
11 ... b5 12 a3
Because of the way Black is able to attack the weakness created by 12 a3, it makes sense to
consider 12 f3, but after 12 ... Qc7 White should probably play 13 a3, transposing to the game, as 13 g4
b4! gave Black a much better position in C.Schwarhofer-T.Henrichs, Austrian League 2017.
12 ... Qc7 13 f3
White should try to play more aggressively with 13 Qd2! Bb7 14 Bd3, and now to maintain equality
Black should remember that the best way to counter the f4 plan is with 14 ... Rd8! (preparing to put
pressure on the d-file) 15 f4 (15 Rhe1 should be met by 15 ... Nc5) 15 ... exf4 (15 ... Nc5!? is also
interesting) 16 Bf2 (White cannot take the pawn immediately with 16 Qxf4 because of 16 ... g5), and
now 16 ... d5! 17 exd5 0-0 followed by ... b4 gives Black good play.

Exercise: What is best way for Black to continue in this position?

Answer: 13 ... Kf8!


Getting the king out of the centre, while keeping the rook on h8 where it can help to defend the
kingside.
The other moves Black might consider are:
a) 13 ... Bb7 may seem natural, but Black usually shouldn’t play this because it makes playing on
the queenside more difficult. This is seen after 14 g4, when Black would like to play 14 ... Nb6, but
White has 15 Na5! in reply.
b) 13 ... 0-0 isn’t bad, but it’s less flexible than the game continuation. For example, after 14 g4
Kg7 15 g5 hxg5 16 Bxg5, Black would prefer to have his rook on h8, helping to defend against White’s
attack.
c) 13 ... Nb6 can be met by 14 Qd2!, threatening Bxf6. The typical trick with 14 ... Nxe4 would
work if Black’s king was out of the centre. However, in this situation, White has 15 Nxe4 Bxh4 16
Nxd6+, and after 16 ... Kf8 17 f4! he develops a powerful initiative.
14 Bf2
White could try to attack at once with 14 g4!?, but after 14 ... Kg7 15 g5 hxg5 16 Bxg5 Black can
respond with 16 ... Nb6!, gaining excellent play on the queenside.
14 ... Kg7
Because White has played slowly in the opening and created a weakness with his pawn on a3, his
position is already very difficult to defend. The pawns on g6 and h6 also protect Black’s king against
any possible attack from White. We will see in the upcoming moves that White is unable to create any
serious threats.
15 h4 Nb6 16 g3?!
This is probably too slow, but White’s position is already quite unpleasant. For instance, 16 g4
would be met by 16 ... Be6 17 Bh3 (White is intending to play g5; meanwhile, 17 h5 allows Black to
play 17 ... g5, completely closing the kingside) 17 ... Nc4 with the idea of ... Nxa3, which is good for
Black; and 17 ... Na4!? is also interesting.
16 ... Rb8
16 ... Nc4 could have been played immediately, but there is nothing wrong with activating the rook.
17 Bxb6?!
It was not too late to play 17 g4 but the pawn on a3 still makes it difficult for White to defend his
queenside. For example, 17 ... Nc4 18 Be1 Be6 19 Bh3 a5, followed by ... b4, gives Black a strong
attack.
17 ... Qxb6 18 Bh3 a5

Black already has an overwhelming position because of his quick queenside attack and White’s
weakness on a3.
19 Bxc8 Rhxc8 20 Nd5 Nxd5 21 Rxd5 a4 22 Nc1 b4 23 axb4 Qxb4 24 Nd3 Qc3!
The threat of ... a3 forces White’s king to move.
25 Kc1 Qc4!
Now Black’s queen threatens to invade on a2.
26 Rh2
If White tries to cover the a2-square with 26 Kb1, then 26 ... a3 27 b3 Rxb3+! (27 ... a2+!? would
win as well) 28 cxb3 Qxb3+ 29 Ka1 Rc2 is completely winning for Black because White’s rooks are
uncoordinated.

Exercise: Black has multiple ways to win here, but what is the quickest way
to get through on the queenside?

Answer: 26 ... a3!


Blasting through White’s defences on the queenside. Reversing the move order with 26 ... Qa2
followed by ... a3 works as well.
27 bxa3 Qa2 28 Kd1 Rb1+! 29 Nc1 Qxa3 30 Qd2 Qxf3+ 31 Re2 Qxg3 0-1
In this game, we looked at some of White’s rare 7th move options as well as the less critical ideas
in the fashionable 7 Qe2 variation. White should have tried to play on the kingside more quickly in the
opening. Once Black was able to bring his king to safety with 13 ... Kf8!, White was unable to generate
enough play. This gave Black time to take advantage of White’s weakened queenside by creating a
powerful pawn storm which was too much for White to handle.

Game 9
Wan Yunguo-I.Cheparinov
Chinese Team Championship 2018
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!

9 ... e5 10 fxe5
Others:
a) 10 0-0-0? has been played a couple of times, possibly due to White mixing up the move order in
this line. The difference between castling and starting with 10 fxe5 is that Black has 10 ... exd4 11 e5
dxc3 12 exf6+ Ne5!, and after 13 fxe5 Be6 14 Qe1 Rc8 White will have difficulties defending the
queenside once Black starts playing moves like ... Qa5 or ... d5 (activating the f8-bishop). For example,
after 15 b4 d5 Black had already gained a decisive advantage in K.Sek-A.Dreev, Sochi 2017.
b) 10 Nf3 Qc7 11 0-0-0 b5 12 Nd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Bg7 14 fxe5 dxe5 15 d6 (15 Be7 Bb7 16 d6 Qa5
17 Kb1 transposes to 15 d6 etc) 15 ... Qa5 16 Kb1 Bb7 17 Be7 Rc8 is given by Goh Wei Ming as
leading to a fine position for Black, and after 18 Nd2 Qd4! Black obtains excellent counterplay.
Although Black is unable to castle, his king is quite safe in the middle of the board.
10 ... dxe5 11 0-0-0
White can also try:
a) 11 Nf3 led to a victory for White in S.Khader-S.Karjakin, Riyadh (rapid) 2017. However, Black
can easily improve with 11 ... Bb4! and the pin on the c3-knight becomes annoying. For example, after
12 Qe3 (12 Qc4 Qa5 is good as well) 12 ... Qc7 Black will continue with ... b5, bring his king to safety
with ... Kf8-g7, and then put more pressure on the pinned c3-knight. Meanwhile, White is unable to
generate much play against Black because of his pinned knight and development problems.
b) 11 Nb3 should be met by 11 ... Bb4 (11 ... Qc7?!, as tried in I.Yeletsky-A.Sarana, Loo 2018, was
better for White because he is able to switch plans and castle short after 12 Qf3 Bg7 13 a4 b6 14 Bd3
Bb7 15 0-0! and White has a small edge thanks to his pressure on the f-file and Black’s lack of play) 12
Qf3 g5! (getting out of the pin) 13 Bg3 Qc7 14 Be2 b6 15 0-0 Bxc3 (this needs to be played as Nd5!
was a threat) 16 bxc3 Bb7, and Black’s pressure along the c-file and on the e4-pawn compensates for
the slightly weakened kingside with ... g5.
11 ... Qc7
11 ... exd4? loses to 12 e5, when Black has no defence.

12 Nb3
Others are:
a) 12 Nd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Bd6 14 Nb3 (14 g4 is briefly considered by Negi in Grandmaster
Repertoire – 1 e4 vs The Sicilian I, but he gives 14 ... h5! and Black has at least even chances in this
unbalanced middlegame) 14 ... b5 and now:
a1) 15 Be1!? with the idea of Ba5 is interesting, and was tried against me (Joshua) in I.Perez-
J.Doknjas, Seattle 2017. Black has several good moves here, but best is probably 15 ... Nf6!, which
threatens ... Bg4 and also prepares to meet 16 Ba5 with 16 ... Qe7.
a2) 15 g4?! is premature and can be met by 15 ... h5! 16 g5 Nb6, which quickly gave Black an
overwhelming position in L.Yankelevich-D.Jakovenko, Baden Baden 2017, because of the closed
kingside and excellent prospects for Black on the queenside with ... Nc4 or ... Bf5.
a3) 15 Qd2 is advocated by Negi and is a critical line for Black. Best is to gain space on the
kingside by playing 15 ... f5! (alternatively, we can suggest 15 ... Kf8 as a line for those who find the 15
... f5 lines too complicated; Black’s simple plan is to bring the king to safety with ... Kg7 and then start
playing on the queenside; for example, R.Homont-V.Antonenko, correspondence 2016, continued 16
g4 – Negi also considers 16 Kb1 and 16 Na5, but these aren’t very critical for Black – 16 ... Kg7 17
Qg2 Bb7 18 Bd3 a5 19 Nd2 Rhc8! – 19 ... g5 is analysed by Negi, and leads to a pleasant position for
White – 20 Rhf1 a4 and Black had a decent position) and now:
a31) 16 Kb1 g5 17 Be1 Nf6 (17 ... f4!? is an alternative way to try to hold the kingside) 18 h4 g4 19
h5 was mentioned by Negi as an alternative to his main line with 16 g4. This was also seen in
A.Caruso-L.Nouveau, correspondence 2015, and 19 ... Ne4! gave Black a good position.
a32) 16 g4 f4 17 Bd3 attacks the g6-pawn (17 g5 is briefly considered by Negi, but Black has either
17 ... h5 closing up the kingside, or 17 ... e4!? followed by ... Ne5 with good play in the centre), and we
think Black’s best is 17 ... Kf7! (17 ... g5?! 18 Bf2 Nf6 19 h4! is shown by Negi, and gives White a
dangerous initiative).

Now White must try to bring his queen to the vulnerable e4-square:
a321) 18 Qg2 g5 (18 ... Bb7 is the alternative for Black, when 19 Qe4 would be met by 19 ... Rag8)
19 Qe4 Rg8 transposes to the forcing line that we will see after 18 Qe2.
a322) 18 g5 would be met by 18 ... h5!, making it difficult for White to create play on the kingside.
In my game, J.Cigan-J.Doknjas, Seattle 2016, I was able to get a much better position after 19 Qe2 Nb6
20 Nd2 Bg4.
a323) 18 Qe2 g5 (Black can also choose to avoid the forced line that follows by playing 18 ...
Rg8!?, and a complicated battle ensues where White will have trouble breaking through on the
kingside, though he does have the e4-square; meanwhile, Black will try to activate his knight with ...
Nb6-c4 and play on the queenside) 19 Qe4 was seen in A.Pichot-H.Asis Gargatagli, Barcelona 2018 (if
White chooses not to play energetically and decides on 19 Bf2?!, then 19 ... Nf6! 20 h3 Bb7 gives
Black an excellent position as White lacks active play). Here 19 ... Rg8! was best for Black, and a
repetition follows after the forced: 20 Qh7+ Rg7 21 Bg6+ Kf6 22 Qxh6 Rxg6 23 Bxg5+ Kf7 24 Qh7+
Rg7 25 Qf5+ Kg8 26 Qe6+, when a draw was agreed in D.Loisel-I.Bucsa, correspondence 2017,
because of 26 ... Rf7 27 Qg6+ Rg7 28 Qe6+.
b) 12 Qf3? has never been tried before, but it’s worth noting that 12 ... exd4 13 Bxf6 Nxf6 14 Qxf6
looks like White will achieve a material advantage as the rook on h8 is hanging. However, 14 ... dxc3
15 Qxh8 cxb2+ 16 Qxb2 Be6 is already dangerous for White because Black can develop quick play on
the queenside with ... Rc8 and ... Qa5.
c) 12 Nf3?! isn’t the most active square for the knight and 12 ... b5 13 Qd2 Bb4 14 Bd3 Bb7 15
Rhe1 Rc8, followed by ... Kf8-g7, provided me with a better position in L.Liu-J.Doknjas, Quebec City
2018.
12 ... b5
13 Qf3
White can also try:
a) 13 Rxd7!? Nxd7 14 Nd5 is an interesting rook sacrifice, and Black has two ways to meet this:
a1) 14 ... Qd6 15 Na5 g5! allows Black to develop more easily. White’s best try is 16 Be1!
(threatening Bb4) 16 ... Nb6 17 Bb4 Qg6 18 Nc7+ Kd8 19 Bc3! (not 19 Qd2+? which was the
continuation of M.Haubro-H.Ziska, Kollafjord 2017; after 19 ... Kxc7 20 Qc3+ Kd7 21 Bxb5+ axb5 22
Rd1+ Ke8, White didn’t have nearly enough compensation and Black won a few moves later), and now
play may continue with 19 ... Kxc7 20 Bxe5+ Bd6 21 Bxh8 f6 22 Qf2 Qxe4 23 Bxf6, when White has
regained his sacrificed exchange and a pawn, but after 23 ... Be6 24 Bd3 Qf4+ 25 Qxf4 Bxf4+ 26 Kb1
Nd5, Black is completely fine in this endgame.
a2) 14 ... Qb8 is probably Black’s safest choice; White can then try 15 Bf6 (15 Na5 Bb7 16 Qd2
Bxd5! exchanges off White’s strong knight and is fine for Black after 17 Qxd5 Bd6 18 Be2 0-0 19 Nc6
Nb6!) 15 ... Nxf6 (we suggest 15 ... Rh7!? if Black wants to avoid the forced draw; after 16 Na5 Bb7
17 Nxb7 Qxb7, White has compensation for the exchange but nothing more) 16 Nxf6+ Ke7 17 Nd5+
Ke8, which leads to a draw, as seen in H.Raja-A.Sarana, Moscow 2018.
b) 13 g4 is another attacking try, but not particularly dangerous for Black with his h6- and g6-pawn
blockade. Black can choose from two squares for the bishop:
b1) 13 ... Bg7?! would be inaccurate because of 14 Bg2 0-0 15 Rhf1 Bb7 16 Kb1, followed by Nd5,
giving White a small advantage; 16 Nd5!? immediately is promising too.
b2) 13 ... Be7! is best, and A.Das-S.Praneeth, Delhi 2015, continued 14 Bg2 0-0 15 Kb1 b4 (the
slower 15 ... Bb7 would also be fine for Black) 16 Bxf6 Nxf6 17 Nd5 Nxd5 18 exd5 Bd6 19 h4 a5 20
Nd2 a4 21 h5 and here Black should have closed up the kingside with 21 ... g5!.
c) 13 Nd5 Nxd5 14 exd5 Bd6 transposes to 12 Nd5 in the previous note.
13 ... Bg7
It’s important for Black to remember that 13 ... Be7?? is met by 14 Rxd7!, which happened in
G.Guseinov-V.Dobrov, Riyadh (blitz) 2017. If 14 ... Nxd7, then 15 Nd5 picks up a piece.
14 Kb1
White could also try 14 g4, and after 14 ... Bb7 15 a3 0-0 16 g5 we prefer 16 ... hxg5 (instead of 16
... Nh5!?, as in P.Bobras-N.Huschenbeth, Aachen 2016) 17 Bxg5 Rac8 with good play.
14 ... 0-0 15 g4?!
White should have played 15 a3 right away. Then after 15 ... Bb7 16 g4, we have transposed to the
game.

Exercise: How should Black take advantage of White’s last move?

15 ... Bb7?!
Answer: Black could have played 15 ... b4! immediately. Now play would likely continue 16 Nd5
Nxd5 17 Rxd5 a5 18 Be7 Re8 19 Bd6 Qb6 and Black is much better.
16 a3
White needs to prevent Black from playing ... b4, but this creates a weakness that Black is able to
exploit.
16 ... Rac8
An alternative plan for Black with 16 ... Bc6!? is good as well. This move has the idea of playing ...
Rab8 and expanding on the queenside. Play may continue 17 Bd3 Rab8 18 Nd5 Bxd5 19 exd5 and in
I.Kurnosov-R.Wojtaszek, Jurmala (rapid) 2013, Black played an interesting pawn sacrifice with 19 ...
e4!?. Instead, 19 ... Rb6 is mentioned by Goh Wei Ming and has the idea of ... Rd6, which is probably
sounder.
17 Bd3 Qb6
Question: What was the purpose of Black’s last move and how should White
deal with it?

Answer: 17 ... Qb6 threatened an exchange sacrifice with ... Rxc3!. White should protect his knight
and his next move is designed to do this.
18 Be1!
Duly defending the knight on c3.
18 ... Qe6!
Black’s queen moves to e6 where it attacks the g4-pawn and prepares to move the d7-knight to b6.
19 Rg1 Nb6 20 h4 Rfd8
Black’s plan is to play ... Nc4 and push his queenside pawns. This won’t be easy for White to
defend against, especially with the weakness on a3. White will have to try to breakthrough on the
kingside, but with Black’s pawns on h6 and g6, this isn’t easy to achieve and White was unable to do so
during the game.
21 Bd2?!
This is too slow and allows Black to quickly start an attack on the queenside. Instead, 21 g5 was
probably White’s best, even though Black can try to close up the kingside with 21 ... hxg5 22 hxg5
Nh5. Now White can play 23 Be2, but after 23 ... Rxd1+ 24 Bxd1 Nf4 both sides have their fair share
of chances.
21 ... Nc4 22 Bxc4 Rxc4 23 Rde1 b4!
Black begins his breakthrough on the queenside. 23 ... a5!? would have been slightly slower but
was also a viable option as White isn’t able to create active play quickly.
24 axb4 Rxb4 25 g5 hxg5
Interesting was 25 ... Rxb3!?, which has the idea of meeting 26 cxb3 with 26 ... Rxd2, while 26
gxf6 could be met by 26 ... Rxd2 27 fxg7 Qb6!.
26 hxg5 Nh5 27 Nd5 Rc4 28 Na5 Rxe4
Black is forced to give up the exchange here, but he quickly obtains excellent compensation.
29 Qxe4 Bxd5 30 Qb4 Rc8 31 Qg4
White needs to restrict Black’s g7-bishop. This can be done by playing 31 Bc3, and if 31 ... Nf4
then 32 Rg3! protects the c3-bishop and creates balanced chances.
31 ... Qe8 32 Rgf1?
Again, White needed to try 32 Bc3.
32 ... e4!
Suddenly Black has several pieces pointing towards White’s queenside. This move also activates
the g7-bishop and White’s position becomes very difficult to defend. Black’s immediate threat is ...
Rb8 or ... Qb5.
33 Re3 Rb8 34 Nb3

Exercise: How should Black continue his attack?

Answer: 34 ... a5!


Threatening ... a4 and trying to win the b2-pawn.
35 Bxa5 Bxb3 36 cxb3 Qb5!
And now White’s unprotected rook on f1 and bishop on a5 are under attack.
37 Rfe1
37 Rxf7! was the last chance, with the idea of meeting 37 ... Kxf7 with 38 Qxe4. However, Black
has 37 ... Qxa5 38 Qe6 Kh7 and White’s position isn’t so easy to defend.
37 ... Qxa5 38 Rxe4 Rxb3
Now Black’s attack is too powerful.
39 R1e2 Qb5 40 Qc8+ Kh7 41 Qc1 Qd3+ 0-1
White resigned as 42 Ka2 would be met by ... Rb6 followed by ... Ra6.
In this game, we looked at all of White’s most critical tries in the 7 Qe2 variation. Black is
objectively fine, but there are a couple of specific lines that must be played accurately, especially in the
dangerous 12 Nd5 variation. On the other hand, as we saw in this game, if White doesn’t play
energetically or is unfamiliar with the theory, Black can quickly gain a powerful initiative and a strong
attack against White’s king.

Game 10
T.Kantans-L.Van Wely
Tal Memorial (rapid), Jurmala 2017
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 f4
This is one of the most aggressive and direct ways for White to play and leaves Black with several
responses, all with the idea of developing and delaying ... e6. The key in the 6 ... Nbd7 lines is to play
... e6 only when it is favourable or necessary. In this game and the next two games devoted to 7 f4, we
will see several examples of how Black is able to use the delayed ... e6 to his advantage.
7 ... Qc7
Besides this move, Black has several alternatives:
a) The interesting 7 ... Qa5!? will be examined later in this chapter.
b) Playing for a version of the “Poisoned Pawn” variation with 7 ... Qb6 8 Qd2 e5 9 Nf5 Qxb2 leads
to difficult positions that we would prefer to avoid. Play may continue 10 Rb1 Qa3 11 Be2 (11 Bc4!? is
also tricky for Black) 11 ... h6 12 Bh4 exf4 13 0-0 which was covered by Kevin Goh Wei Ming in
Chess Developments: The Sicilian Najdorf 6 Bg5. This position has been tried in several games, most
notably in T.Radjabov-H.Nakamura, Medias 2011. However, Black’s position is very difficult to hold
and requires precise knowledge of the many ways White may start attacking.
c) If 7 ... b5?!, White has 8 Bxf6! Nxf6 and, after White opens the position with 9 e5, Black’s lack
of development will cause him serious difficulties.
8 Qf3
Others:
a) The seemingly harmless 8 Bd3 is actually a legitimate alternative to the mainline. Black can
choose from a few replies:
a1) 8 ... h6 is a bit uncomfortable for Black after 9 Bxf6 (but not 9 Bh4?! Qb6!, picking up either
the b2-pawn or the f4-pawn; e.g. 10 Nb3 Qe3+) 9 ... Nxf6 10 f5!, preventing Black’s development with
... e6 or ... e5. Objectively, this should be quite playable for Black. However, we would prefer to avoid
this with 8 ... g6, which promises Black more active play.
a2) 8 ... b5 is a natural option, but would be met by 9 Qe2!, preparing an eventual e5 break in the
centre. For example, 9 ... Bb7 10 0-0-0 g6 (10 ... e6 would be met by 11 Rhe1 followed by Nd5 or e5)
11 e5! dxe5 12 Ndxb5 axb5 13 Bxb5 leaves Black in serious trouble because of his lagging
development.
a3) 8 ... g6! is our recommendation, and after 9 Qf3 Bg7 (9 ... b5?! is too early and runs into 10 e5!
Bb7 11 exd6 Qb6 12 Qe3 with an advantage for White) the try 10 0-0-0 should be met by 10 ... h6!
(this is a very important idea to remember; if first 10 ... 0-0 11 g4, then 11 ... h6 is too late because of
12 h4! and White develops a dangerous attack) 11 Bh4 0-0 12 g4 e5! and Black obtains good
counterplay.
b) White can also try 8 Qe2 e5 9 Nf5 h6, and here he has two options:
b1) 10 Bh4 exf4 11 0-0-0 g6 (11 ... g5!? immediately is completely fine as well) 12 Re1 g5 13 Bf2
Ne5 gives Black a comfortable position.
b2) 10 Bxf6 Nxf6 and now:
b21) The safe 11 Ne3 exf4 12 Ned5 Nxd5 13 Nxd5 Qa5+ 14 Qd2 Qxd2+ 15 Kxd2 Rb8 promised
Black a comfortable endgame in T.Radjabov-V.Ivanchuk, Bazna 2009, thanks to his bishop pair.
b22) 11 fxe5 dxe5 12 0-0-0 is best answered with 12 ... Bd7!?, which has the idea of playing ... 0-0-
0 and is safe for Black; though 12 ... Be6 13 g4 g6 is also fine.
b23) 11 0-0-0 is met by 11 ... exf4! 12 Nd5 (12 Qd2 Bxf5 13 exf5 0-0-0 is level and was given by
Goh Wei Ming) 12 ... Nxd5 13 exd5+ Kd8. This may seem a little dangerous for Black as his king is
currently stuck in the centre. However, Black is able to consolidate his position quickly and White is
unable to cause any serious problems. Play may continue 14 Qe4 g6 15 Re1 Bd7 16 Nd4 Bg7 17 Qxf4,
which was seen in K.Pinkas-R.Wojtaszek, Katowice (rapid) 2015. Now 17 ... Qb6! would be a small
improvement over the game and gives Black a large advantage after 18 Nb3 f5.
8 ... b5
Black’s most popular move here is 8 ... h6, when White has to decide whether he should retreat his
bishop or capture on f6 with 9 Bxf6 (9 Bh4?! gives Black the option of playing 9 ... g5!, which provides
him with excellent counterplay for the sacrificed pawn; a sample line is 10 fxg5 hxg5 11 Bxg5 Qc5 12
Be3 Ne5 with good play for Black) 9 ... Nxf6 10 f5!, restricting Black’s play in the centre with ... e5 or
... e6. Play may continue 10 ... Qc5 11 0-0-0 g5!, which is probably best for Black to activate his
pieces. However, this leads to a very complicated line after 12 fxg6 Bg4 13 Qd3 Bxd1 14 gxf7+ Kxf7
15 Nxd1. This has been played many times including in D.Kokarev-A.Kovalyov, Mumbai 2010. White
has a pawn and excellent compensation for the exchange; we would prefer to avoid this.
The actual move order of this game was 8 ... e6 9 0-0-0 b5 10 g4 Bb7, transposing to move 10 in
the present game. The move we are trying to avoid here is 10 Bd3, as this transposes to a major system
arising from 6 ... e6 and is outside of our repertoire.
9 0-0-0
9 e5?! Bb7 10 exd6 Qb6 is pointed out by Goh Wei Ming and gives Black no problems.
9 ... Bb7 10 g4!?
White’s most direct attempt to attack. This is not a particularly threatening line if Black is well
prepared for White’s various attacking ideas. On White’s 11th move, we will see these three different
plans (11 a3, 11 Bxf6, and 11 Bd3) and how Black should respond:

The main line with 10 Bd3 will be analysed in the next game.
10 ... e6!
Now is the right time for Black to play ... e6. This transposes to a line in the “Gelfand System” with
6 ... e6 7 f4 Nbd7. In general, our repertoire is aiming to avoid a transposition to that system but, in this
case, 10 g4 is not a particularly threatening variation for Black if he knows what to do, so it makes
sense to play the natural ... e6 here. Others:
a) 10 ... g6 is too slow, as White has 11 Bxf6! Nxf6 12 g5 Nd7 13 Nd5 and he developed a powerful
initiative in A.Fier-H.Banikas, Greek Team Championship 2018.
b) The sharp 10 ... b4!? could be tried, but this leads to great complications after 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12
exd5 h6 (12 ... Qa5 13 Bc4! gives White a dangerous initiative; the important d5-pawn prevents easy
development from Black and pressuring the weak e7-pawn with Rhe1 and Qe2 will cause Black
additional problems) 13 Bh4 g5!, which is the best way for Black to play, illustrating a common idea in
several Najdorf lines. In this position, the key idea behind ... g5 is to control the e5-square for the
knight or activate the f8-bishop on g7. Play may continue 14 fxg5 hxg5 15 Bxg5?! (instead, 15 Bg3
gives White hopes for an advantage; Black would not be without his share of chances after 15 ... Bg7
16 Bg2 Ne5, but this is still something we prefer to avoid with 10 ... e6) 15 ... Qa5 and White is in
trouble because of Black’s threats on the d5- and a2-pawns. Of course, 16 Bc4 would be met by 16 ...
Ne5, giving Black a winning position.
11 Bd3
Others:
a) The most popular move here is 11 Bxf6 (White is hoping for 11 ... Nxf6 since 12 g5 Nd7 13 a3
gives him strong attacking prospects on the kingside), and Black’s best response is the zwischenzug 11
... b4!, pushing away White’s c3-knight before recapturing the bishop. This is extremely promising for
Black, and play may continue 12 Nce2 Nxf6 13 Ng3 d5! 14 e5 Nd7 15 Nh5 g6 16 Ng3 Bc5 17 h4,
when Black should just leave his king in the centre with 17 ... Qb6 18 Nge2 a5. White can try 19 h5,
but 19 ... Rg8 is quite safe for Black.
b) 11 a3 Be7 12 Bxf6 Bxf6 gives White a choice between two aggressive ideas:
b1) The sacrifice 13 Bxb5 axb5 14 Ndxb5 Qb6 15 Nxd6+ Kf8 is quite safe for Black. White has
two options to try to create play: 16 Nxb7 Bxc3 17 Qxc3 Qxb7 18 Qd4 Ke7 sees Black’s king in no
real danger on e7, while 16 Nxf7 Kxf7 17 Rxd7+ Ke8 18 Rd3 Be7 gives White four pawns for his
bishop, but with the open files on the queenside Black is completely fine.
b2) 13 g5 Bxd4 14 Rxd4 0-0 is a fairly comfortable position for Black because of ideas to attack in
the centre with ... e5 or even ... f5!?. For example, 15 Be2 (15 h4 f5! gives Black an excellent position)
15 ... e5 was fairly comfortable for Black in P.Leko-B.Gelfand, Monaco (rapid) 2001.
11 ... b4 12 Nce2
Note that the typical knight sacrifice on d5 with 12 Nd5? is too slow in this position. Black can
continue by playing 12 ... exd5 13 exd5 Be7 (13 ... 0-0-0 defends as well) 14 Nf5 Kf8 15 Rhe1 Bd8,
and Black keeps a nice advantage.
Exercise: How should Black activate his pieces?

Answer: 12 ... Nc5!


Bringing the knight to a better post and immediately pressuring White’s e4-pawn.
Slightly too slow would be 12 ... Be7 13 Bxf6 Nxf6 (13 ... Bxf6!? is a possible improvement, but
still gives White unnecessary play after 14 g5 Bxd4 15 Nxd4 Nc5 16 h4, rapidly gaining space on the
kingside) 14 g5 Nd7 15 Kb1 0-0-0!? 16 c3!, which gave White some chances to attack on the queenside
in E.Berg-R.Vera, Calvia 2005.
13 Ng3
Black shouldn’t be afraid of the doubled pawns after 13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 Ng3, as he has several ideas
here. For example, striking in the centre with 14 ... d5! promises Black good play; as does 14 ... 0-0-0,
which will likely be followed by ... d5 or ... Nxd3.
13 ... Be7 14 Kb1
Question: Is it safe for Black to castle kingside here?

14 ... h6
Answer: Yes, 14 ... 0-0! is completely safe for Black, mainly because none of his kingside pawns
have moved yet and there are no weaknesses for White to attack. White may try 15 h4 a5 16 h5 a4 17
Bxf6, but now 17 ... gxf6! gives Black a nearly winning position because White is unable to break
through on the kingside fast enough. Meanwhile, Black will prepare to attack in the centre with ... d5.
15 Bxf6 Bxf6 16 Qe3!
White has several attacking ideas. These include Nh5, g5, and eventually e5.

Exercise: How should Black deal with these threats?

Answer: 16 ... g6!


Now White’s plans are rendered harmless, mainly because Nh5 is no longer possible.
If Black decided to play 16 ... 0-0?!, White can simply attack with 17 h4 and the hook on h6 gives
White easy kingside play.
17 Rhe1 0-0-0 18 Bf1
White could try 18 e5 dxe5 19 fxe5, but now 19 ... Bg7 will cause White some problems once
Black plays ... Rd5! to attack the e5-pawn.
18 ... e5!
The patient 18 ... Kb8!?, followed by ... Rc8 and ... d5, is also strong.
19 Nf3
Better was 19 fxe5 as this doesn’t give Black complete control of the a1-h8 diagonal. Play may
continue 19 ... Bg5 (19 ... Bxe5 would be met by 20 Bc4! followed by Bd5, trying to get rid of Black’s
bishop pair) 20 Qf2 dxe5 21 Nb3 Na4 with a very slight edge for Black. This would have been much
preferable for White than the game continuation.
19 ... exf4 20 Qxf4 Bg7 21 Bc4?
Exercise: Should Black play on the queenside or defend the f7-pawn?

Answer: 21 ... Na4!


By far the best move for Black. Without this, Black would have trouble defending both the f7-pawn
and the threat of Bd5. After this assault on the b2-pawn, White will be in serious trouble as his
queenside starts to fall apart.
22 Qxf7 Nxb2 23 Be6+ Kb8 24 Qxc7+ Kxc7
The queens have been traded and White finds himself without a good square for the d1-rook.
25 Rd4
25 Rc1 runs into 25 ... Na4 and the threat of ... Nc3 is devastating, while 25 Rd2 loses a rook due to
25 ... Bc3.
25 ... Rhf8
The simple 25 ... Bxd4 would also be winning for Black.
26 Rxb4 Rxf3 27 e5 dxe5
Black could also have played 27 ... Bxe5, as after 28 Rxe5 dxe5 29 Kxb2 Rf4 the endgame is easily
winning.
28 Rxb2 e4 29 Rb3 Bc3 30 Rc1 Bc6 31 Bc4 a5 32 Be2 Re3 33 Nf1 Rh3 34 Bd3 Be5?
A blunder, likely due to time pressure as this was a rapid game. Stronger was 34 ... exd3! 35 Rxc3
d2 36 Rxh3 d1Q! 37 Rxd1 Rxd1+ 38 Kb2 Rxf1 with a winning endgame for Black. 34 ... Rb8 was
winning too.
Exercise: White has a chance to gain counterplay. Can you spot the resource
that enables him to do this?

35 Be2?
After this, Black is able to win without trouble.
Answer: 35 Bxe4! would give White near equality. The key idea is seen after 35 ... Rxb3+?! 36
cxb3, when Black’s c6-bishop is pinned.
35 ... Rh4 36 Rd1 Rf8 37 a3 Ba4 38 Re3 Rb8+ 39 Kc1 Bf4 40 Rd4 Bc6 41 Kd2 Rb1 42 Rc4 Kb6
43 Rcc3 a4 44 Ng3 Rxh2 45 Rc4 Rh3 0-1
In this game, we looked at some of White’s less common tries after 7 f4. These lines aren’t that
threatening for Black, but some of the move orders can be tricky. For example, when Black should play
... e6 and when he should delay it isn’t always obvious. After White’s 10 g4, playing 10 ... e6 is a good
idea as White has committed himself to a less threatening set-up. While 10 g4 may seem dangerous,
White should be focusing on playing in the centre with 10 Bd3, as we will see in the next game.
Instead, White focused more on a kingside expansion and Black was able to cause his opponent
problems in the centre. Studying this game and the main variations will give a better understanding of
many of the common ideas and resources available to both sides.

Game 11
M.Antipov-M.Ragger
European Championship, Gjakova 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 f4 Qc7 8 Qf3 b5 9 0-0-0 Bb7 10 Bd3
g6!?
A very interesting idea and one of the reasons Black delayed playing ... e6. Now the bishop has an
opportunity to fianchetto. The natural 10 ... e6 transposes to a major branch of theory in the 6 ... e6
variation. The 6 ... Nbd7 idea aims to avoid these heavy complications and have more original
positions, as we will see in this game.
11 Rhe1
11 Nd5 immediately is possible as well. After 11 ... Nxd5 12 exd5 Bg7 13 Nc6 Nf6, White doesn’t
have anything better than 14 Rhe1, which transposes to this game.
11 ... Bg7
Exercise: Should White start attacking on the kingside with 12 g4 or 12 Qh3,
or should he play in the centre with 12 Nd5 - ?

Answer: 12 Nd5!
This move, which tries to open up the e-file and attack Black’s weak e7-pawn, is necessary for
White to not end up worse out of the opening.
Directly attacking with 12 g4? would be a bad decision because, after 12 ... 0-0 13 h4 b4 14 Nce2
e5!, Black has excellent play, whereas White’s kingside pawn storm is too slow.
Another attempt at attacking Black is 12 Qh3, which was tried in A.Fier-P.Jaracz, Czech League
2013. This game continued 12 ... 0-0 13 Bh6 e5! 14 Bxg7 Kxg7 15 fxe5 dxe5 16 Nb3, and now 16 ...
b4! would have promised Black an excellent game.
12 ... Nxd5 13 exd5 Nf6
Black can also defend the e7-pawn by playing 13 ... Bf6!?. However, this move is much riskier for
Black and White has interesting play after 14 Be4!, protecting the strong d5-pawn and preparing Nc6 in
some lines (also possible is 14 h4!? as tried in D.Kanovsky-I.Nyzhnyk, Legnica 2013). After 14 ... Rc8
(14 ... 0-0 15 Qg3, with the idea of playing Nf5, leads to a complicated position), White could try 15
Qg3! with the idea of meeting 15 ... 0-0 with 16 Nf5!? a5 17 Qh4!, giving White good attacking
chances.
14 Nc6
This move gives Black two options to deal with White’s direct threat on the e7-pawn.
White can try to play aggressively with 14 f5?! but this should hardly worry Black after 14 ... Bxd5
15 Nxb5?! Qd8!, as suggested by Goh Wei Ming (the natural 15 ... axb5?! runs into 16 Bxb5+ Kf8 17
Rxd5 Rxa2 18 c3, when the position is very complicated and Black may be slightly better; however,
avoiding this with 15 ... Qd8 gives Black a winning position). Following 16 Qe3 axb5 17 Bxb5+ Kf8
18 Bxf6 Bxf6 19 Rxd5 Rxa2, Black is completely winning.
Protecting the d5-pawn first and preparing Nc6 with 14 Be4 is a more challenging option for Black,
who should play 14 ... 0-0. After 15 f5 the best response is 15 ... Qc4!, giving Black excellent chances
for an advantage. The direct threat is taking White’s hanging a2-pawn or ... Nxe4 followed by ... Bxd5.
If 16 Qb3, the queens should be kept on with 16 ... Qc5 and Black is better because of the pressure on
the d5-pawn.
14 ... Bxc6!?
This is the more enterprising choice, choosing to avoid the semi-forced line that follows after 14 ...
e6. Nevertheless, because of the sharp positions that arise from 16 f5 below, we would recommend 14
... e6! as the safer option. This has the idea of undermining White’s c6-knight. White is forced to
continue playing in the centre with 15 f5 0-0! 16 fxe6 (White could also take on g6, but it would lead to
the same position) 16 ... fxe6 17 Rxe6 (to avoid the endgame that follows White could try 17 Qh3, but
after 17 ... e5 White’s knight on c6 is more of a weakness than a strength and White will have to be
careful to avoid being much worse) 17 ... Nxd5 18 Qxd5 Qxc6 19 Qxc6 (19 Qb3 is met by 19 ... Qd5
which reached an equal endgame in D.Kanovsky-I.Stohl, Czech League 2016) 19 ... Bxc6 20 Rxd6
(Black is also completely fine after 20 g3 Be5) 20 ... Bxg2 with a balanced endgame, which was
analysed by Goh Wei Ming.
15 dxc6 d5!
15 ... Rc8?! would be inaccurate as this runs into 16 f5! Qxc6 17 fxg6 hxg6 (17 ... Qxf3 was played
in T.Kantans-D.Navara, Tallinn rapid 2016, which continued 18 gxf7+ Kxf7 19 gxf3 Rc5 and now 20
f4! would have provided White with a pleasant endgame) 18 Bxf6!, when White takes advantage of the
pin along the e-file and a slightly better endgame arises after 18 ... Qxf3 19 Rxe7+ Kd8 20 gxf3 Bxf6
21 Ra7.
16 Bxf6
Others:
a) White’s best attempt for an advantage is with 16 f5! Qxc6 and now 17 h4! (White could also play
17 fxg6 hxg6 and Black will likely continue with ... Rc8 or ... 0-0 and have a comfortable position),
when Black should defend the e7-pawn with 17 ... Ra7!. Play may continue 18 g4 Rd7 19 Kb1
(attacking too quickly with 19 h5?! would be met by 19 ... h6 20 Be3 g5!, completely closing the
kingside) 19 ... 0-0 20 Qg2 and White prepares to attack with h5 or else fxg6 and then h5. Black
certainly has counterplay here, especially with a well-timed ... Ne4!? or play along the h8-a1 diagonal.
However, if White pays attention to Black’s ideas and is able to execute his attack accurately, this may
not appeal to all readers. For this reason, we are recommending 14 ... e6 as a safer and more solid
option. A sample line here is 20 ... Rfd8!, preparing to attack with ... Ne4. Now White needs to be very
accurate to have any hope for an advantage. Best is 21 Bd2! (White’s direct attempt to attack Black
with 21 h5 can be countered by 21 ... Ne4! and Black has good play), and now Black should play 21 ...
Ne4 22 Ba5 Rc8 23 fxg6 hxg6 24 h5 g5, when the position is very complicated, but White may be
slightly better. Of course, this line is quite deep and other options exist for both sides, but it illustrates
some of the key ideas and shows how Black can fight for counterplay.
b) White can also try to pressurize Black’s e7-pawn with 16 Qe3, but then Black has 16 ... 0-0!,
improving on A.Liang-J.Wallace, Stockholm 2017. Now 17 Qxe7 Qxc6 leaves material equal but
Black is slightly better because of White’s misplaced queen.
c) Another option for White is 16 Kb1. Black can meet this with 16 ... Qxc6 17 f5 and now 17 ...
Ra7! to defend the e7-pawn before castling gives Black a decent position. The natural 17 ... Rc8 should
be alright for Black as well.
16 ... Bxf6 17 Qxd5
Not capturing on d5 right away and instead playing 17 g4!? is very interesting. Black should reply
17 ... e6!, which prepares for the bishop to move to e7. If 18 f5, Black can just play 18 ... 0-0 with a
comfortable position.
17 ... Qxf4+ 18 Kb1
18 ... 0-0

Question: Why did Black avoid playing 18 ... Qxh2 straight away?

Answer: 18 ... Qxh2 isn’t a bad move, but it gives White a lot of play after 19 Qf3!, gaining a
tempo off Black’s f6-bishop. A sample line is 19 ... 0-0 20 g3! which gives Black’s queen some
problems. Then 20 ... Qh6 21 Be4, followed by g4 or maybe Rd7, is not bad for Black, but it is a bit
unpleasant.
19 Be4!?
White decides that giving up the h2-pawn is fine because of the attacking chances that can be
created along the h-file. Keeping the pawn with 19 g3 would probably be met by 19 ... Qb4 (19 ...
Qf2!? is also interesting) and now a sample line is 20 Qb3 Qc5 21 Be4 Rad8 with roughly balanced
chances.
19 ... Qxh2 20 Bf3 Rac8 21 Re3 Qc7 22 Red3 Qb6 23 a3 h5!?
An interesting idea, White will now have a difficult time trying to break through on the kingside.
Attacking on the queenside too quickly with 23 ... a5?! would run into trouble after 24 Rb3 Rb8 25
Qe4, followed by Rd7-b7.
Another good move for Black was 23 ... Rc7, preparing to put pressure on the c6-pawn with ...
Rfc8.
24 Qe4 Kg7 25 Rd7 Qc5 26 Rb7
White gives up control of the d-file. Instead, 26 c3 may have been more challenging as White could
then start attacking on the queenside and Black wouldn’t have a clear plan. For example, after 26 ...
Rfe8 White could play 27 a4!?, giving Black some problems to solve, albeit nothing major.
26 ... Rfd8 27 Rdd7 Rxd7 28 cxd7 Qg1+
28 ... Rd8! would be an attempt to avoid the forced draw that follows. The passed pawn on d7
seems to be quite dangerous, but if Black is careful to deal with it while expanding slowly with his
kingside majority, then he would have some winning chances. A sample line is 29 c3 h4 30 Qc6 Qe3
31 Ka2 g5 and White needs to be accurate to defend.
29 Ka2 Qc1 30 c3

Exercise: How did Black force a draw from here?

Answer: 30 ... Rxc3!


Opening up White’s queenside and activating the f6-bishop. This gives Black the threat of playing
... Rxa3+! followed by ... Qb2 mate.
31 bxc3 Qxc3 32 Qb1 Qd2+ 33 Kb3 Qc3+ 34 Ka2 Qd2+ 35 Kb3 Qc3+ ½-½
In this game, we looked at one of White’s main attacking ideas in the 6 Bg5 system with 7 f4 and
10 Bd3. Black used an interesting idea to play in Dragon-style with 10 ... g6!?. White responded
accurately with 11 Rhe1 and 12 Nd5, trying to take advantage of Black’s king in the centre and the e7-
pawn. The game quickly got very sharp, mainly due to Black avoiding the safer option on move 14 and
instead trying 14 ... Bxc6!?.

Game 12
I.Sidorenko-M.Rodshtein
European Club Cup, Novi Sad 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 f4 Qa5!?


An interesting alternative to our main recommendation of 7 ... Qc7. The main idea behind this move
is that the queen is more actively placed on a5, pinning the c3-knight. Note too that if Black places a
rook on the c-file, this causes more problems for White’s knight. The downside is that the queen on a5
can be attacked more easily.
8 Qe2
Besides this move, preparing an eventual e5, White has a number of alternatives:
a) The interesting 8 Qd3!? was mentioned by Kevin Goh Wei Ming in Chess Developments: The
Sicilian Najdorf 6 Bg5. Since then, this idea has only been tried in a couple of correspondence games.

Question: What is the purpose of the queen placement on d3 instead of d2?

Answer: The advantage of 8 Qd3 (over 8 Qd2) is not entirely obvious at first, but one of the main
points is seen after the natural 8 ... e6.
However, 8 ... e5 (instead, 8 ... e6?! can be met by 9 0-0-0 b5 10 Bxf6 Nxf6 11 e5! b4 12 Nb3 and
White’s queen being placed on d3, rather than d2, means that it isn’t attacked with tempo after 12 ...
bxc3) 9 Nf5 (9 Nb3 isn’t very energetic and doesn’t give Black any problems after 9 ... Qc7 10 0-0-0
b5) 9 ... Nxe4! undermines the f5-knight and is an excellent counter to White’s idea. We saw that after
8 ... e6 White is able to capitalize on the placement of his queen (d3 instead of d2). Now Black shows
that he is also able to take advantage of the queen’s position. After 10 Qxe4 Nc5, White has two critical
options:
a1) 11 Qc4 Be6 12 b4! was an intermediate move tried in M.Vodicka-G.Rivas Romero,
correspondence 2016. The game continued 12 ... Qa3 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 Qxd5 Qxb4+ 15 Kd1 f6 16 Bh4
Qxf4 17 Qf3 (17 Bd3 Nxd3 18 Qxd3 d5 19 Rb1 0-0-0 promises Black adequate counterplay as well) 17
... Qa4 and Black had good play.
a2) 11 Nxd6+ Bxd6 12 Qf3 Na4! is an important move for Black to put White under some pressure.
(Instead, 12 ... Ne6?! 13 0-0-0 is pointed out by Goh Wei Ming and gives White excellent chances for
an edge.)

Now 13 0-0-0 Nxc3 14 Rxd6 Nxa2+ 15 Kb1 0-0 reaches a dynamically balanced position. For
example, 16 Be7 (or 16 fxe5 Be6 17 Bd2 Nb4 18 Qa3 Qxa3 19 bxa3 Nc6 with a comfortable endgame
for Black) 16 ... Re8 17 Rd5 Qa4 18 Rxe5 Nb4 19 Bxb4 Rxe5 20 fxe5 Qxb4 21 Bd3 g6, followed by ...
Be6, gives Black good play.
b) 8 Qf3 h6 puts the question to White’s bishop:
b1) White’s most popular approach here has been 9 Bxf6 Nxf6 10 f5!? which is a common
cramping idea that we have seen before. Now the best way for Black to play is 10 ... g5! 11 fxg6
(otherwise Black has fairly easy development; for example, 11 0-0-0 Bg7 12 h4 g4 closes off the
kingside and Black will start attacking on the queenside) 11 ... fxg6 12 Qg3 Qg5, which gave Black a
good game in R.Khusnutdinov-Zhou Jianchao, Guangzhou 2010; and opening up the g7-a1 diagonal
for the dark-squared bishop with 12 ... Ng4! may have been even stronger.
b2) 9 Bh4 e5! (9 ... g5?! is interesting, but this isn’t so convincing to us after 10 Nb3! Qc7 11 fxg5
Ne5 12 Qe3 Nfg4 13 Qd2 Be6 14 0-0-0 with a complex but better middlegame for White) and now:
b21) 10 Nf5 is the most aggressive. Black should continue with 10 ... exf4 11 0-0-0 (11 Qxf4? runs
into 11 ... g5) 11 ... g5 12 Be1 Ne5 and White will have difficulties proving compensation for the pawn.
b22) 10 Nb3 Qc7 11 0-0-0 Be7 leads to a very comfortable and easy to play position for Black, who
will soon start to expand on the queenside.
c) 8 Qd2 e6 gives White several different plans:
c1) 9 f5 e5 10 Nb3 Qc7 11 Qe2 (preparing g4; 11 Nd5 would be met by 11 ... Nxd5 12 Qxd5 Be7!
13 Bxe7 Kxe7 and Black’s king is completely safe on e7; starting with 12 ... h6 13 Bh4 and then 13 ...
Be7 was given by Goh Wei Ming and is fine for Black as well) 11 ... b5 12 a3 h6 13 Bxf6 Nxf6 14 g4
and now 14 ... g5!, closing the kingside, was tried in P.Vishnu-Lu Shanglei, Ho Chi Minh City 2017.
The game continued 15 h4 Rg8 16 0-0-0 Bb7 17 h5, and here Black’s best was 17 ... Be7 with the idea
of running the king to the closed kingside and playing on the queenside.
c2) 9 Be2 b5 10 Bf3!? has rarely been played, but is initially given a high evaluation by the
computer (instead, 10 Bxf6 Nxf6 11 e5 is simply met by 11 ... b4). Black should continue with 10 ...
Bb7 (10 ... b4?! is likely too early; Black would have to be extremely accurate to survive after 11 Nd5!
exd5 12 exd5 Be7 13 Nc6 Qc7 14 0-0-0 Nb8! 15 Nxe7 Kxe7 and while Black isn’t worse here, this line
seems quite dangerous) 11 0-0-0 b4 12 Nd5 exd5 13 exd5 0-0-0! brings the king to safety (13 ... Be7?!
14 Rhe1 is very uncomfortable for Black).
And if 14 Nc6 (White’s best attacking attempt, otherwise Black will begin to consolidate) 14 ...
Bxc6 15 dxc6, then 15 ... Nb6! prepares ... d5 with a good position for Black.
c3) 9 0-0-0 b5 10 Nb3 (10 e5?! would be met by 10 ... b4) 10 ... Qc7 11 Bd3 leads to a typical
Najdorf position, but with White’s knight out of play on b3. After 11 ... b4 12 Ne2 a5, Black achieved
an excellent position in M.Shah Moradi-P.Idani, Arak 2016.
d) 8 Nb3 is a natural alternative, pushing Black’s queen back. However, after 8 ... Qc7, White’s
knight is slightly misplaced on b3 (where it is less active) and Black simply has a comfortable position.
Play may continue with 9 Qf3 b5 10 0-0-0 Bb7 11 Bd3 g6 and Black has an improved version of the
positions we saw in the last game.
8 ... h6 9 Nb3 Qc7 10 Bxf6
Preparing to play e5 and continuing with the plan that was set out with 8 Qe2. Retreating the bishop
with 10 Bh4 wouldn’t make sense as Black would now be completely fine after 10 ... e5.
10 ... Nxf6 11 e5
Exercise: How should Black meet this central advance?

11 ... Bg4
The bishop needs to come out to prevent White from castling queenside.
Answer: However, 11 ... dxe5! is slightly more accurate than the game continuation. After 12 fxe5
and now 12 ... Bg4!, Black’s idea is that 13 Qc4 is no longer possible because of 13 ... Qxe5+.
12 Qe3
White should try 12 Qc4! instead, when the ending after 12 ... Qxc4 13 Bxc4 dxe5 14 fxe5 Nd7 15
e6 gives him better chances than in the game continuation.
12 ... dxe5 13 fxe5 Nd7 14 h3
14 Nd5 could be met by 14 ... Qc6 15 Nb4 Qg6 and Black is fine.
14 ... Be6 15 Nd4 Qxe5
Keeping the queens on with 15 ... g5!? was also possible, but Black probably decided that the
ending promised excellent chances for an advantage.
16 Qxe5 Nxe5 17 Nxe6 fxe6
An interesting endgame has been reached where Black is a pawn up but White has enough
compensation due to Black’s doubled e-pawns. However, White has to be accurate to take advantage of
this and in the game he was unable to do so.
18 0-0-0 g6 19 g3 Bg7
Exercise: How should White try to create counterplay?

20 Bg2
Answer: 20 h4!, aiming for Bh3 to attack Black’s weak e6-pawn, is White’s best idea in this
endgame. However, after 20 ... Rc8! 21 Bh3 Rc6 White would still have to prove the compensation for
the pawn.
20 ... Rb8 21 h4 b5 22 Ne2 Rb6 23 Nf4 Nc4 24 b3 Ne3 25 Nxg6?
25 Rd2 would have given White some chances to hold, although the position after 25 ... Nxg2 26
Rxg2 e5 27 Nd5 Rd6 is still very unpleasant for White.
25 ... Nxd1 26 Rxd1 Rg8 27 Bh3 Bb2+
Another way to win was 27 ... h5! as now White’s knight runs out of squares. If 28 Nf4, Black
simply has 28 ... Bh6!.
28 Kxb2 Rxg6 29 Rd3 Rd6 30 Re3 Kd7 31 c4 b4 32 Kc2 Rf6 0-1
In this game we looked at the sharp 7 ... Qa5!?. White has a number of options to choose from but
very few of them are threatening. The main reason this line isn’t our main recommendation is because
of 8 Qd3!? which forces Black to be very accurate. However, it should also be mentioned that if White
doesn’t respond energetically or is unfamiliar with this variation, he may simply rely on “natural”
moves. If this is the case, Black will quickly find himself in a very comfortable Najdorf position.

Game 13
F.Perez Ponsa-S.Mareco
Villa Martelli 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Bc4 Qb6 8 0-0!?
A dangerous idea that rapidly rose in popularity in 2014. Since then, a number of strong
grandmasters, including Wei Yi and Baskaran Adhiban, have started to play this line.
Others:
a) 8 Qd2 is played with a similar idea to 8 0-0 but White leaves his b2-pawn unprotected. If Black
plays accurately, White will lack compensation for the pawn. After 8 ... Qxb2 9 Rb1 Qa3 10 0-0 e6 (an
alternative line is 10 ... g6!? which was tried in J.Burke-A.Sarana, St. Louis 2017; this can be
recommended for players wanting to avoid the more theoretically dense lines that occur after 10 ... e6, a
sample line being 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 Bxd5 h6 13 Be3 Bg7, when White has compensation for the pawn
but nothing more), White has chosen a number of different moves here, but only two are critical:
a1) 11 Bd5! is White’s best try to create play for the pawn. In P.Negi-Le Quang Liem, Gibraltar
2012, Black continued with the accurate 11 ... Nc5! (11 ... exd5 would be too risky after 12 Rfe1 and
White has a lot of play for the piece) 12 Rfe1 Qa5 13 Nb3 Nxb3 14 Rxb3 Nxd5! 15 exd5 e5 16 Be3 b5
and obtained a fine position.
a2) 11 Bxe6!? (not objectively best but Black needs to know what to do here) 11 ... fxe6 12 Nxe6
Qa5 13 f4 h6 (13 ... Kf7 is analysed by Goh Wei Ming and leads to similarly wild positions) 14 Bh4
Kf7!
The inclusion of ... h6 and Bh4 seems slightly useful to us, as the bishop is undefended on h4,
though 13 ... Kf7 is completely fine for Black as well. Now:
a21) 15 e5 Kxe6 may look dangerous for Black with a king on e6, but Black is more than fine here.
If 16 exf6 (16 Rbe1 is met by 16 ... Kf7), then 16 ... Nxf6 17 Qd3 Kf7 is good.
a22) 15 f5 b5 is excellent for Black; for example, 16 a4 Bb7 17 axb5 Rc8! and White isn’t able to
prove enough compensation for the sacrificed piece.
b) 8 Nb3 isn’t a very threatening line. Black can continue with 8 ... e6 9 0-0 Qc7 followed by ... b5
and ... Be7 with a very comfortable position.
The main line with 8 Bb3 will be looked at in the next game.
8 ... Qxb2
Attacking White’s unprotected bishops with 8 ... Qc5 is playable as well, but in our opinion more
risky for Black. For example, after 9 Bd5 e6 10 Re1 Be7 11 Be3 Qa5 12 Bxe6!, White had a promising
position in Wei Yi-L.Van Wely, Wijk aan Zee 2017.

Question: Why can’t Black develop naturally with 8 ... e6 - ?

Answer: 8 ... e6 isn’t a bad move, but Black’s queen on b6 wouldn’t be very effective here. For
example, 9 Qd2 Be7 10 Bxe6 (10 Be3 Nc5 11 Nb3 is also slightly unpleasant for Black, though it
should be playable) 10 ... fxe6 11 Nxe6 Kf7 12 Nd5, as tried in S.Azarov-K.Dragun, Katowice 2016, is
dangerous for Black and he will have to play accurately to deal with this sacrifice.
9 Nd5
9 Qd2 should be met by 9 ... Qb4!, and after 10 Bb3 e6 Black should be able to develop without too
much trouble, when White won’t have enough play for the pawn.
9 ... Nxd5 10 Rb1
White could also start with 10 Bxd5, but after 10 ... Qc3 White has nothing better than 11 Rb1 and
the play transposes to 10 Rb1. If White chooses to play 11 f4, then either 11 ... e6 or 11 ... g6 is good
for Black.
10 ... Qc3 11 Bxd5 e6!
The safer way to play; Black simply gives the pawn back.
The main line of this variation is 11 ... Qc7, but this allows White a number of attacking options to
choose from, which isn’t something most players would enjoy as Black. Here are some sample lines:
a) 12 Re1 e6 13 Bxe6!? is one of the reasons we chose to recommend 11 ... e6 instead. Black needs
to be very accurate to obtain a reasonable position. Of course, White also has to be able to find the
correct attacking moves, as after 13 ... fxe6 14 Nxe6 Qc4! the thrust 15 e5! is necessary to keep the
attack going. Now after 15 ... dxe5 16 Qh5+ g6 17 Qh3 Be7 18 Bxe7 Kxe7 19 Ng5, we think Black’s
best is 19 ... a5!, Here are some sample lines: 20 Rbd1 Ra6! defends the e6-square; 20 f4 can be
countered with 20 ... h6; and 20 Qa3+ is best met by the daring 20 ... Kf6! 21 Re3 Re8.
b) 12 Qh5 g6 13 Qf3 e6 14 Qxf7+ Kxf7 15 Nxe6 was the continuation of S.Barrientos-S.Mareco,
San Salvador 2016. Now 15 ... Qc6! would have been best and after 16 Nd8+ Kg7 17 Nxc6 bxc6 18
Bxc6 Ra7, Black is slightly better in this complicated endgame.
c) 12 f4 e6 13 Re1 has been met with several different responses:
c1) 13 ... Be7!? led to a quick draw in W.Fischer-D.Kraft, correspondence 2016. However, the
position after 14 Bxe7 Kxe7 15 e5 dxe5 16 Bxe6 fxe6 17 Qg4 Qc5 18 Qxg7+ Kd6! doesn’t suit
everyone, even if Black is objectively fine.
c2) 13 ... Nc5? is a mistake and White quickly obtained an excellent position in Wei Yi-Xu
Yinglun, Ho Chi Minh City 2017, after 14 f5 Be7? 15 Bxe7 Qxe7 16 fxe6 fxe6 17 Nf5!! Qc7 18 Bc6+!.
c3) 13 ... Nf6 (the main line which leads to an interesting Rauzer structure) 14 Bxf6 gxf6 15 f5 (15
Bb3 h5 16 Kh1 h4 17 h3 Bd7 gave Black a comfortable position and eventually a win in B.Adhiban-
Zhou Jianchao, Hyderabad 2015) 15 ... e5 (not 15 ... exd5?! as 16 exd5+ Kd8 17 Qh5 gives White a
powerful initiative) 16 Ne2 h5! 17 Rb3 (the engine initially believes White has an advantage after 17
Ng3 h4 18 Nh5, but here 18 ... Ke7! holds the position together; play may continue with 19 Qg4 Bh6
20 Qxh4 Bg5 and Black is completely fine in this unbalanced position) 17 ... Rb8 18 Ng3 (18 Kh1 Bd7
19 Qd3 Bh6 was okay for Black in U.Strautins-R.Tienhoven, correspondence 2016) 18 ... Bd7 19 Nxh5
Ke7 20 Qg4 Bh6! 21 Bxf7 Qc5+ 22 Kh1 Bg5 and Black is fine.
Finally, 11 ... g6? looks like a natural move and it would be good were not for 12 Rb3 Qc7 13 Qa1!
as played in S.Azarov-Xu Yinglun, Moscow 2016. The key idea is that 13 ... h6 can be met by 14
Bxf7+ Kxf7 15 Ne6!, and 13 ... Bg7 loses to 14 Ne6.
12 Bxb7 Bxb7
Not a bad move, but White is able to present Black with some problems here.
12 ... Rb8! is our main recommendation because it provides Black with a fairly balanced position
while requiring much less concrete knowledge. There are a couple of variations Black should be
familiar with, but in general the position isn’t extremely dangerous to play. White has three options to
choose from here:
a) 13 Bc6 Rxb1 14 Qxb1 Be7! allows Black to complete his development safely, since 15 Bxe7
Kxe7 gives him nothing to worry about.
b) 13 Rb3 should be met by 13 ... Qc5, taking advantage of the unprotected bishop on g5.
c) 13 Bxc8 Qxc8 14 Rxb8 Qxb8 gives Black a decent position.

Here is a sample line showing how Black can complete his development: 15 c4 Qb7 (15 ... Nc5!?
followed by ... Be7 is fine for Black as well) 16 Qa4! (probably the most challenging idea to deal with)
16 ... f6! 17 Be3 Kf7 is safe for Black.
13 Rxb7 Nc5 14 Rb6
14 Rc7!? isn’t so easy for Black, as after 14 ... Qa5 15 Rc6 Nxe4 16 Bh4 he needs to find a way to
develop and get his king out of the centre. This is best accomplished by playing 16 ... g5! and Black is
okay, even if his position still feels a little dangerous.
14 ... Nxe4
Black wants to play ... Be7 but, to do this, he must get rid of White’s bishop on g5. This can be
done by playing 14 ... h6 and now 15 Bh4 could be met by 15 ... g5, while if 15 Bf4, then Black should
give up the d6-pawn and quickly develop with 15 ... Be7 16 Bxd6 Bxd6 17 Rxd6 0-0.
Exercise: Where should White move his bishop?

15 Be3
Answer: 15 Bh4! is the most challenging move because it makes it more difficult for Black to bring
his bishop to e7. Now 15 ... Rc8 may be best (Black would like to play 15 ... g5 and quickly develop,
but here White has 16 Nxe6! fxe6 17 Qh5+ which wins on the spot), but after 16 Re1, White has a lot
of play while Black’s king is still in the centre.
15 ... Be7 16 Qg4 Nf6 17 Qxg7 Rg8 18 Qh6 Rg4!
Black plays energetically and causes White some problems with the d4-knight.
19 Rc6 Qa5
19 ... Qb2 might be a better square to place the queen on. From here, the queen keeps control of the
b-file while attacking the a2-pawn.
20 Qh3 Qa4
Exercise: How should White deal with the threat to the d4-knight?

21 Qf3?
Answer: 21 f4! is the strongest move. Black may try 21 ... Qxa2, but after 22 c4! White prevents
Black’s queen from retreating to d5 and has good compensation for the pawn.
21 ... Rxd4 22 Bxd4 Qxd4 23 Rxd6 Qe4 24 Rc6 Qxf3 25 gxf3 Kd7
Black has now achieved a much better endgame and is able to win without too much trouble.
26 Rb6 Nd5 27 Rb7+ Ke8 28 Rfb1 Bd8 29 c4 Nc3 30 R1b3 Na4
31 Kf1
Trading off a pair of rooks with 31 Rb8 Rxb8 32 Rxb8 might have given better drawing chances,
but it would still be extremely hard to hold after 32 ... Nb6.
31 ... a5 32 R7b5 Rc8 33 Rh5 Rxc4 34 Rxh7 Bb6 35 a3 Ke7 36 Rg7 Bc7 37 Rg4 Rc1+ 38 Kg2
Nb6 39 f4 Nd5 40 f5 exf5 41 Rd4 Nf4+ 42 Kf3 Ne6 43 Rd5 Kf6 44 h3 a4 45 Rbd3 Nf4 0-1
In this game we focused on 8 0-0, a line that has become very popular lately due to its sharp and
tactical character. We saw that Black has to be quite accurate in many of the variations, especially in
the main line with 11 ... Qc7. However, our proposed solution with 11 ... e6, giving the pawn back, and
then 12 ... Rb8! should cut down on the amount of specific knowledge that is required while still
providing a decent position to play.

Game 14
D.Jakovenko-A.Sarana
European Championship, Batumi 2018

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 Bc4 Qb6 8 Bb3 e6 9 Qd2
The most popular approach, played with the idea of castling queenside. White has a couple of
alternatives, but none of them are particularly threatening:
a) 9 f4 Be7 10 f5 Nc5 11 Qf3 (11 Be3 Qc7 12 Qf3 0-0 leaves White with nothing better than 13 0-
0, when 13 ... b5 transposes to 9 0-0 below) 11 ... Nxb3 12 Nxb3 Qc7 has been played several times;
after 13 Nd4 Bd7 Black had nothing to worry about in B.Savchenko-A.Kovacevic, Budva 2009.
b) 9 0-0 Be7 10 Be3 Nc5 (not 10 ... Qc7 because of 11 Bxe6!) 11 f4 Qc7 and now:
b1) 12 f5 b5 13 Qf3 0-0 14 fxe6 (14 a3 e5 15 Nde2 Bb7 16 Ng3 Nxb3 17 cxb3 was seen in
E.Ghaem Maghami-W.Spoelman, Emsdetten 2011, where Black should have played 17 ... a5 with the
idea of ... b4) 14 ... fxe6 15 Qh3 has been played five times in my database and in all of these games a
strong opportunity was missed:

15 ... d5! (the simple 15 ... Qd7 is also completely fine for Black) 16 exd5 and now 16 ... b4! 17
Nce2 Nxb3 18 cxb3 Nxd5 gives Black an excellent position.
b2) 12 Qf3 has been played several times, but is likely to transpose to 12 f5 above after 12 ... b5 13
f5 0-0.
b3) 12 e5?! (not the best way to play the position, but Black should know how to face this move) 12
... dxe5 13 fxe5 Qxe5 14 Nf5!? was tried in D.Velimirovic-Peng Zhaoqin, Pozarevac 1995 (14 Bf4 is
met by 14 ... Qh5 and White doesn’t have enough compensation for the pawn). Black responded
correctly with 14 ... Ng4 (White’s idea is seen after 14 ... exf5, when 15 Bf4 traps the queen), and after
15 Nd6+ Bxd6 (a slight improvement on the game continuation) 16 Bf4, Black has 16 ... Nd3! 17 Qxd3
(17 Bxe5? Bc5+ would be winning for Black) 17 ... Qc5+ and White lacks compensation.
c) 9 Bxf6 Nxf6 gives White a couple of moves to choose from, but the simple plan for Black is to
play ... Nd7-c5 followed by ... Bd7 and ... 0-0-0 with a comfortable position. For example, 10 f4 (10
Qd2 can be met by the same plan: 10 ... Nd7 11 0-0-0 Nc5 12 f4 Bd7 13 Kb1 0-0-0 with no problems
for Black) 10 ... Nd7 (10 ... g6!? followed by ... Bh6 has been played several times and leads to a decent
position for Black as well) 11 Qd2 Nc5 12 f5 Bd7 was good for Black in J.Tomczak-D.Swiercz, Polish
Team Championship 2016.
d) 9 Be3 should be met by 9 ... Nc5, when 10 0-0 (10 f4 Qc7 11 Qf3 b5 is good for Black) 10 ...
Qc7 11 f4 Be7 transposes to the note after 9 0-0.
9 ... Be7 10 0-0-0 Nc5
11 f3
Others:
a) White can also try to focus more on an attack in the centre with 11 Rhe1, when Black should
play 11 ... h6! as this forces White’s bishop to move to h4 where it will be unprotected. We will see
how Black can take advantage of this after 12 Bh4 0-0 (Black cannot delay castling for long as 12 ...
Qc7 13 Kb1 b5 gives White excellent play after 14 Bxf6 Bxf6 15 Nf5!) and now 13 g3 is White’s most
popular choice with the idea of protecting the bishop on h4 before playing f4 (if 13 f4? then 13 ...
Nfxe4 14 Nxe4 Bxh4 and Black picks up a pawn). Black can meet this by playing 13 ... Qc7 14 f4 Re8!
and is well prepared for 15 e5, as after 15 ... dxe5 16 fxe5 Nfd7 Black is completely fine.
b) 11 Qe2, putting pressure on the e-file, has also been played. 11 ... Qc7 aims to put pressure on
the e-file, and was played in F.Nijboer-B.Gelfand, European Club Cup, Novi Sad 2016. The game
continued 12 f4 b5 13 e5 dxe5 14 fxe5 Nd5 15 Bxe7 (15 Qh5 Qxe5 is fine for Black) 15 ... Nxe7 16
Ne4 Nxe4 17 Qxe4 Rb8 18 h4 Bd7 (18 ... 0-0 is completely playable for Black as well, but castling
definitely feels a little risky in a practical game) 19 h5 h6 20 Rh3 a5 21 a3 and here Black’s best is
probably 21 ... b4 (or 21 ... a4!? 22 Ba2 0-0).
11 ... Bd7
11 ... Qc7 12 Kb1 b5 13 g4 Bd7 is a more popular move order for Black. However, there isn’t much
of a difference between this and starting with 11 ... Bd7.
12 Kb1
Instead, 12 g4 Qc7 gives White a choice between different plans:
a) 13 Kb1 b5 would transpose to the game.
b) White can try to attack quickly with 13 h4, but this shouldn’t worry Black after 13 ... b5 14 Bxf6
(14 Kb1 again transposes to the game) 14 ... Bxf6 15 g5 Be7 16 h5 b4 and White’s kingside pawn
storm isn’t as threatening without his dark-squared bishop.
c) 13 a3 b5 14 Ba2!? reaches D.Swiercz-L.Bruzon Batista, St. Louis 2018 (through a slightly
different move order). Now, best was 14 ... Qb7 (14 ... Rb8 isn’t a bad alternative and was played in the
game; however, we think the rook is best placed on c8) 15 b4 (an interesting idea to try to set up a
blockade on the queenside) 15 ... Na4 16 Nxa4 bxa4 17 Kb2! (White brings his king to a1 and tries to
hold the queenside) 17 ... a5 18 c3 Rc8 19 Ka1 Qc7 20 Rc1 h5! and the position is balanced.
12 ... Qc7 13 g4 b5 14 h4
White could try to slow down Black’s attack with 14 a3, when we recommend that Black plays 14
... Qb7! followed by an immediate attack on the queenside with ... a5 or ... Rc8.
14 Nf5 is an interesting idea to attack quickly. However, after the accurate 14 ... exf5 15 Nd5 Qd8!
16 Nxe7 Qxe7 17 gxf5 Bc6, Black threatens to castle queenside as 18 Bf4 0-0-0 19 Bxd6 can be met by
19 ... Nfxe4 and Black will be slightly better in the endgame.

Question: Is it safe for Black to castle here?

14 ... b4
Answer: 14 ... 0-0?! is a very dangerous way to play, as after 15 a3 Black will have a hard time
getting his attack going. For example, 15 ... Rab8 16 h5 a5 17 h6! was played in G.Farkas-J.Malik,
Tatranske Zruby 2016. The key point behind White’s attack is that 17 ... g6 is met by 18 Nf5! and now
the game continued 18 ... exf5 19 Nd5 Nxd5 20 Bxe7 Nxb3 21 Qxd5 Be6 (or 21 ... Rbc8 22 cxb3 Be6
23 Qd4 f6 24 gxf5, which is shown by Goh Wei Ming) and here 22 Bxd6 would have given White an
overwhelming advantage.
However, 14 ... Rb8 is a playable alternative to 14 ... b4. Black’s idea here is to delay pushing
White’s knight on c3 away to g3 where it will be well placed for an attack. The downside to this move
is that White has several other ways to start an attack:
a) 15 Nf5!? is a direct attempt to try to take advantage of Black’s king in the centre. This leads to
fairly forcing play where White must play actively to prove compensation for the sacrificed piece and
Black must defend accurately. Black’s best is 15 ... exf5 16 Bxf6 Nxb3! (16 ... Bxf6, as tried in I.Ortiz
Suarez-N.Delgado Ramirez, Praia da Pipa 2014, led to a dangerous position for Black after 17 Nd5 Qd8
18 exf5, when White had at least enough compensation for the piece) 17 axb3 Bxf6 18 Nd5 Qc6! (the
best square for the queen because the d8-square needs to remain open for the bishop to retreat there) 19
Nxf6+! (after 19 exf5 0-0 20 g5 Bd8, White doesn’t have nearly enough compensation) 19 ... gxf6 20
Qh6 fxg4 21 Qxf6 Rg8 22 Rxd6 Qc7 23 Rhd1 Rd8 24 fxg4 Rg6 and now White should force a
repetition with 25 Qe5+ Kf8 26 Qh8+ Ke7 27 Qe5+ Kf8.
b) 15 a3 a5 16 Qe2 was tried in V.Sanal-M.Popov, Khanty-Mansiysk 2015. Now Black should have
played 16 ... Qb6 17 Nf5!? exf5 with a complicated position, but White shouldn’t have enough
compensation for the piece.
c) 15 Bxf6!? Bxf6 16 g5 Be7 17 h5 h6! 18 g6 0-0 may seem dangerous due to the weakness on h6.
However, because White doesn’t have his dark-squared bishop to take advantage of the h6-pawn,
castling is fine. Play may continue 19 Rhg1 Kh8 20 Nce2!? (threatening Nf4 and gxf7; White could try
to open up the kingside with 20 gxf7, but Black has nothing to worry about after 20 ... Rxf7 21 Nce2
Nxb3 22 Nxb3 e5) 20 ... f6! (the best moment to close up the kingside) 21 Nf4 Qc8 and Black has a
solid position.
15 Nce2 a5 16 Ng3

16 ... Rc8?!
The main line in correspondence chess is 16 ... a4 17 Bc4 0-0 18 Nh5! (the most energetic way for
White to continue his attack; 18 h5 would be too slow after 18 ... Rfc8 and Black’s attack is much more
powerful than White’s) 18 ... Ncxe4 19 fxe4 Qxc4 20 Bxf6 Bxf6 21 Nxf6+ gxf6 22 Qh6 b3 23 cxb3 (23
Qxf6 bxa2+ 24 Ka1 a3 gives White nothing better than going for a perpetual with 25 Qg5+) 23 ... axb3
24 Qxf6 Rxa2 25 Qg5+ Kh8 26 Qf6+ Kg8 27 Qg5+ Kh8, and a draw was agreed in A.Krzyzanowski-
M.Stöckert, correspondence 2017.
We recommend 16 ... h6!? as a good alternative for Black to avoid the long forcing lines above.
Here White should play 17 Bxf6 (but not 17 Be3?! as now Black has 17 ... a4 18 Bc4 Ncxe4!, followed
by ... Qxc4, winning a pawn) 17 ... Bxf6 18 Nh5 (another attacking attempt is 18 g5, but Black could
meet this by playing 18 ... Be7 19 Nh5 g6 and the king is fairly safe on e8) 18 ... Be5 19 f4 Bxd4 20
Qxd4 and now 20 ... 0-0-0! worked excellently for Black in J.Pina Fernández-D.Morozov,
correspondence 2015.

The game continued with the natural 21 Qxg7 (if 21 Nxg7, then 21 ... Bc6 22 Rhe1 Rhg8 gives
Black more than enough compensation for the pawn), which was met by 21 ... Nxe4 22 Qxf7 Rhf8 23
Qg6 d5! 24 f5 a4 25 fxe6 Be8 and Black obtained an overwhelming advantage.
17 Rhe1

Exercise: How White could have gained an advantage after Black’s last move?

Answer: 17 Bc4! fights for the b5-square and puts Black under some pressure. If Black plays 17 ...
Ncxe4, trying to take advantage of the unprotected bishop on c4 (17 ... 0-0 is too dangerous after 18
Nh5, and 17 ... h6 would run into 18 Nb5!), White has 18 Nxe4 Qxc4 19 Bxf6 gxf6 20 Qh6 and even
though Black is a pawn up, he will be put under serious pressure in the centre.
17 ... h6 18 Bxf6 Bxf6 19 g5 hxg5 20 hxg5 Bxd4 21 Qxd4
21 ... e5?!
This deals with the threat of Qxg7, but weakens the f5- and d5-squares. Instead, 21 ... Kf8 was more
accurate. The endgame after 22 Qxd6+ Qxd6 23 Rxd6 Ke7 24 Rd4 Rh3 is more than fine for Black.
22 Qd2 Rh3
Exercise: How should White deal with the threat to the g3-knight?

23 Rg1
Answer: 23 Qg2!, threatening Nf5 (and maybe g6), is probably the best way for White to play.
Compared to the game, 23 ... g6? can be met by 24 Nf5! and both the h3-rook and the d6-pawn are
hanging.
The immediate 23 Nf5 is also possible, but after 23 ... Bxf5 24 exf5 Rxf3 25 g6 Nxb3 26 cxb3
Ke7!, Black should be alright.
23 ... g6 24 Qxd6 Qxd6
The resulting endgame is slightly more pleasant for Black.
25 Rxd6 Nxb3 26 axb3 Rh2 27 Rc1 Be6 28 Nf1 Rg2 29 Nd2 Ke7 30 Rd3 Rxg5 31 c4 bxc3
Taking over the h-file with 31 ... Rh5 would have provided Black with more winning chances. After
the text, the game quickly fizzles out.
32 Rcxc3 Rg1+ 33 Kc2 Rxc3+ 34 bxc3 f5 35 b4 axb4 36 cxb4 Ra1 37 Rc3 Ra2+ 38 Kd3 g5 39
exf5 ½-½
In this game we looked at 8 Bb3, White’s most popular way of playing in the 7 Bc4 variation. We
saw that there were several different plans on move 9 which White could choose from, the most critical
one being the game continuation with 9 Qd2. Black is doing very well theoretically in this variation,
but both sides must play with accuracy to properly carry out their attack and defend against the
opponent.
Chapter Three
The Sozin: 6 Bc4
The Sozin is a unique way to face the Najdorf in the sense that White can often choose between going
all in for an attack or playing more positionally. If White chooses the attacking option, Black tends to
be very well prepared for the ensuing complications (provided he knows the theory). If White chooses
the positional route, Black can quickly develop an initiative as the Sozin isn’t designed for defence. The
take away here is that if you know your stuff, you can easily develop a very comfortable and also
dynamic game.
Game 15 starts off the chapter by looking at 7 a3 and 7 a4. These moves follow the “positional
approach” and generally don’t end up in wild complications. Against 7 a3, Black does best by
developing normally and then challenging White’s d4-knight with ... Nc6. The only exception to this
plan is when White plays an early f4, in which case Black should focus his efforts on dealing with the
inevitable e5 push. 7 a4 is slightly more challenging since it stops Black from deploying ... b5. Black
should instead play ... Nc6, ... Bd7, and ... Rc8/ ... Qc7, getting good play along the c-file.
The rest of the chapter focuses on 7 Bb3 b5. Note that if White doesn’t retreat the bishop to b3
immediately, he will be forced to do so anyway on the next move when Black plays 7 ... b5.

8 Bg5 is possibly White’s sharpest attempt to complicate matters, and it’s the subject of Game 16.
However, we were able to bypass huge chunks of theory by choosing a system with 9 ... Qb6 and 11 ...
Bb7, where Black’s main idea is to play ... Nc6 quickly and recapture with the bishop. The beauty of
this set-up is that Black is able to attack extremely quickly on the queenside with ... a5, practically
forcing White to pacify the situation in some manner. This goes against the philosophy behind playing
the aggressive 8 Bg5 and, in all the resulting positions, Black is doing well.
The early f4 systems (8 f4 and 8 0-0 followed by 9 f4) are discussed in Game 17. In both systems,
White is inclined to go for an early f5 or e5 push, lest he ends up in a worse position without a fight.
Pushing with f5 tends to result in closed positions where White’s e4-pawn is a serious weakness; in
addition, Black’s development is straightforward ( ... Bb7, ... Nbd7, ... Be7, ... 0-0) and keeps the d5-
square under watch. The lines where White pushes e5 are more tactical, so the reader should spend
some time studying the theory. The amount of theory isn’t overwhelming, but it is important to know.
White’s last major system is the main line itself, involving short castling and 9 Qf3. We recommend
replying with 9 ... Qc7, which offers rich Najdorf positions giving Black good chances to develop an
initiative. Game 18 deals with 13 Nf3 (as well as White’s other moves before that point), which leads to
White trying to build a kingside attack while Black’s queenside pawns cause the b3-bishop serious
problems. Game 19 considers 13 f4, which gives way to a strategic middlegame where Black is a pawn
up but White has some pressure; with a bit of accurate play, it is clear Black is doing fine.

Game 15
A.Areshchenko-L.Dominguez Perez
European Club Cup, Eilat 2012

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 a4!?


An interesting attempt to stop Black’s queenside play by preventing the ... b5 push. This seems like
it might significantly disrupt Black’s development, as the c8-bishop can no longer go to b7. However,
as we will see in the game, Black’s bishop was perfectly happy on d7. It’s also important to note that
White is wasting a tempo playing a4 and this decreases his chances of a successful “Sozin attack” down
the road.
Another move aimed against the advance of Black’s b-pawn is 7 a3 which stops Black from playing
... b4 later. This move is sensible, but it’s not in the spirit of the fast attacking Sozin. Black can
continue developing normally with 7 ... b5 8 Ba2 Be7 9 0-0 0-0
And now White has three main options:
a) 10 f4 has been the most popular move in this position, but it is rather unconvincing. White
doesn’t appear equipped to defend his vulnerable centre and, after 10 ... Bb7 11 Qe2 Qc7, Black’s plan
is to complete development with ... Nbd7 and then play ... Nc5, attacking the e4-pawn (11 ... Nbd7?!
was seen in E.Klimentov-A.Yaroslavtsev, St. Petersburg 2017, and ran into some complications after
12 e5, when the f6-knight cannot retreat to d7; however, Black still enjoys a fine game). Note that 12
e5? doesn’t work here due to 12 ... dxe5 13 fxe5 Nfd7 14 Bf4 Bc5, when White’s vulnerable d4-knight
and weak e5-pawn are too much of a liability.
b) 10 Be3 reaches a quiet position following 10 ... Bb7 11 f3 Nc6, when Black has no problems (11
... Nbd7 also gave Black a good game in A.Fedorov-P.Jaracz, Czech League 2012). White is displaying
no aggression and probably will not for the near future. Meanwhile, Black’s main plan is to stick a
knight on c4 by playing ... Ne5, ... Qc7, and ... Nc4. Black may also prepare a ... d5 push, after moving
one of his rooks on to the d-file.
c) 10 Qf3 resembles the main line of the Sozin, except Black can now answer White’s queen foray
with 10 ... Bb7! since Bxe6 is not a threat due to Black’s already castled king. After 11 Qg3 Nc6 12
Nxc6 Bxc6 13 Bh6 Ne8 we’ve reached H.Hamdouchi-M.Vachier Lagrave, Pau 2012. White’s kingside
play has been rendered mostly harmless as Black can play ... Kh8 at any moment in order to drive away
the h6-bishop. In addition, Black can easily start playing on the queenside with ... Rb8 and ... b4. In the
game, Black actually played 14 ... b4 on the next move and he gained some useful activity.
7 ... Be7
Another approach is 7 ... Nc6 8 0-0 Qc7 which brings the fight to White along the c-file at once.
While there’s nothing wrong with this, it seems more prudent to castle first.
8 0-0 0-0 9 Be3
Others:
a) 9 f4?! is punished by the swift 9 ... d5! and White is not prepared to defend himself in the centre,
due to the cautious 7 a4. Play may continue 10 exd5 exd5 11 Be2 Nc6 12 Be3 Bc5 and Black has
White’s centre pieces tangled up. The d4-knight is immobile and the e3-bishop is a sitting duck waiting
to be attacked by ... Re8. Meanwhile, Black could also bring the queen in with ... Qb6, making the
pressure on the d4-knight insurmountable.
b) 9 Qe2!? defends the c4-bishop from any attacks along the c-file. White is also planning to play
Rd1 which will put some pressure on Black’s d-pawn. This approach by White is safe, but it’s too quiet
to cause Black serious problems. After 9 ... Nc6 10 Be3 Bd7 11 Rfd1 Qc7, we’ve reached a position
akin to the game.
9 ... Nc6

Question: What are Black’s three potential plans with this move?

Answer: They are:


1) Playing ... Bd7, ... Nxd4, ... Bc6. This will give the light-squared bishop a nice home on c6 where
it will pressure the e4-pawn and may even help prepare a ... d5 thrust.
2) Moving the knight to the nice b4-outpost where it will control the d5-square. Then, Black may
play ... b6 and ... Bb7, with the idea of pushing ... d5.
3) Playing ... Na5 (or ... Ne5, if permitted), with the hope of planting the knight on c4. If Black can
achieve this, White will either have to exchange off one of his bishops or will have to retreat with Bc1
in order to protect the b2-pawn. In either case, Black is a happy camper.
10 Kh1
The main move, with the idea of pushing f4. 10 Qe2 is very similar to the 9 Qe2 variation, and in
B.Savchenko-I.Kovalenko, Moscow 2010, Black continued with 10 ... Bd7 11 Rad1 Qc7 12 Ba2 and
here 12 ... b5! gave Black an excellent position.
As usual, 10 f4 is met with 10 ... d5!.
10 ... Bd7 11 Qe2 Rc8
11 ... Qc7 was also playable, but it’s not necessary here since White doesn’t have a rook on the d-
file. Therefore, 11 ... Rc8 was a slightly better choice.
12 Bb3?!
White is playing too passively to have any hopes of seizing the initiative. Now was a good time for
12 f4! since Black’s temporarily awkward d7-bishop makes the d5-push unfeasible. However, after 12
... Nxe4! (it is also possible to keep the tension with 12 ... Qc7 13 Nxc6 Bxc6 14 Bd3 Nd7 and the
game remains balanced; Black will probably play ... Bf6 soon, pressuring the c3-knight and stopping
White from playing e5) 13 Nxe4 d5 14 Bd3 dxe4 15 Bxe4 Qc7, an equal position arises.
12 Rad1 was tried in M.Adams-V.Ivanchuk, European Team Championship, Heraklio 2007. After
12 ... Ne5 13 Bd3, 13 ... Nxd3 would have given Black a comfortable position.
12 ... Na5
Black is methodically following the third plan discussed in the notes to 9 ... Nc6.
13 Ba2

Exercise: Find the best move for Black. (Hint: it is a common Sicilian motif.)

13 ... Qc7?!
In itself, this is not at all a bad move; however, it misses an even better one.
Answer: 13 ... Rxc3! shatters White’s queenside pawn structure, quickly seizing the initiative.
White’s pieces are in a knot following 14 bxc3 Nxe4 15 Nb3 (15 Qe1 d5 doesn’t improve his
predicament) 15 ... Nc6! 16 Qd3 d5, when White’s a2-bishop is without a future.
14 Rad1 Nc4
Black has successfully carried out Plan 3.
15 Bc1 Rfd8 16 f4 Be8
Now Black can play ... d5 when the time is right.
17 Rd3!
A strong multipurpose move, protecting the c3-knight and preparing to slide the rook over to g3.
17 ... Qb6!
Black counters with a strong move of his own, forcing White to deal with the threat to the b2-pawn.
18 b3
Now the a2-bishop remains dormant for quite some time. 18 Bb3 would have prevented White’s
bishop from going into hibernation, but now White can no longer play b3 if needed. This safeguards the
c4-knight’s immediate future, so Black can continue on the queenside with 18 ... Qc5 19 f5 e5 20 Nf3
b5, when Black’s pieces are active and excellently coordinated.
18 ... Na5 19 Bb2 Nc6 20 Nxc6 Bxc6

Question: By playing ... Bxc6, Black has carried out yet another one of the
plans discussed in the notes to 9 ... Nc6. Which one did he accomplish?

Answer: Plan 1, which is to exchange knights and put the bishop on c6. Now, the c6-bishop is a
key player in the barrage of the e4-pawn.
21 Rg3
White’s forces are beginning to look menacing on the kingside with the g3-rook and b2-bishop
bearing down on g7. Although White has no concrete threats at the moment, the imposing tank on g3 is
a sign that the battle lines have been drawn.
21 ... Qb4?!
Missing a nice tactical motif available to White. Others:
a) 21 ... Rd7 was better, protecting the e7-bishop and allowing Black to play ... Qb4 on the next
move.
b) 21 ... Qc5! was another solid choice and this move has the following ideas:
1) Black is preparing to possibly push ... d5.
2) The queen applies pressure on the c-file, which discourages the c3-knight from moving due to
the vulnerable pawn on c2.
3) Black can play ... Qh5 if needed, giving defensive support to the kingside.

Exercise: Find the best move for White.

Answer: 22 Nd5!
One doesn’t expect to see this move that often in the Sozin, especially when the “Sozin bishop” is
taking a nap on a2!
22 ... exd5 23 exd5 Re8 24 dxc6 bxc6?!
This makes it too easy for White to keep his extra pawn. 24 ... Bf8! would have been a gritty retort,
and now White has a few tries:
a) 25 cxb7 keeps the extra pawn, but Black’s compensation following 25 ... Qxb7 26 Qd1 Ne4 27
Rd3 d5 is sufficient for equality. Note that the d5-pawn is taboo, as 28 Rxd5?? loses to 28 ... Nf2+ 29
Rxf2 Qxd5, thanks to White’s back-rank problems.
b) 25 Qd3 is too passive, and after 25 ... Ne4 26 Re3 Nc5 27 Qe2 Rxe3 28 Qxe3 Rxc6, Black’s king
feels much safer, thanks to White’s lack of a rook on g3.
c) 25 Re3! keeps Black under pressure, since after 25 ... Rxe3 26 Qxe3 Re8 27 Qd3 White is
threatening to play Bxf6 and cxb7. In the interest of being greedy and restoring the material balance,
Black’s best is 27 ... bxc6 28 Bxf6 gxf6 and now White has the powerful 29 c4! which plans to create a
battery with Bb1. Also, notice how the c4-pawn prevents Black’s queen from disrupting White’s plans
by moving to e4. This position is definitely better for White, though Black is not losing.
25 Qxa6
25 Re3!? is an interesting alternative, declining the free pawn and preparing to blast open Black’s
king. After 25 ... Bf8 26 Bxf6 Rxe3 27 Qxe3 gxf6 28 c3! Qb7 29 Bb1, the bishop redeems itself,
suddenly becoming a very powerful attacker. It’s unclear how Black will deal with White’s upcoming
queen and bishop onslaught on the kingside.
25 ... d5 26 Qd3 Bd8
26 ... Qe4 may have been better, but going into an endgame when your opponent has the two
bishops and an extra passed pawn can be very unpleasant.
27 Be5
27 Bb1! would have perfectly demonstrated the concept of two weaknesses. White is preparing to
push the c-pawn and form a queen+bishop battery against Black’s king (Black’s first weakness).
Meanwhile, the a-pawn is just sitting and waiting to be used at the appropriate moment (Black’s second
weakness).
27 ... g6!
A smart move for a few reasons. First, Black wants to play ... Ne4, but doing so immediately lets
White take on g7. Second, Black is tempting White to play f5, which would open up the game. With
the a2-bishop out of action, Black would effectively be a piece up in the ensuing battle.
28 Qa6 Be7 29 f5?!
Taking the bait. Now with White’s queen out of action on a6, the white forces appear to be spread
too thinly across the board. 29 c3! would have kept the initiative firmly in White’s grasp, and after 29
... Qa3 30 Bb1 Black’s three kingside pawns are left to fend off a rook and two powerful bishops.
29 ... Ne4 30 Rgf3 Bc5!
The bishop sets up some potential tactics involving ... Nf2+ while covering the a7-square. This may
be important if White’s a-pawn decides to become ambitious and seek a promotion.
31 fxg6 fxg6 32 h3 Bd6
Question: What is Black’s goal behind playing this bishop retreat?

Answer: Black hopes to give his queen a stable square on d6 after the exchange of bishops. On b4
the queen always has to watch out for c3.
Instead, 32 ... Ra8? tries to remove the rook from the white queen’s gaze so that the e8-rook can
snatch the bishop on e5. However, after 33 Qxc6, White’s queen keeps a close eye on the a8-rook. Now
all that Black has achieved is to lose the c6-pawn and bring White’s queen back into the game.
33 c3
Finally – but this move has now lost most of its effectiveness.
33 ... Qa3 34 Bxd6 Nxd6?!
Missing the chance to bring the queen back from the brink. Black probably wanted to capture the
b3-pawn and get some winning chances, but this seems dubious due to the attack White crafts over the
next few moves.
35 Bb1!
Of course not the passive 35 R1f2?, when Black gets some initiative following 35 ... Ne4 36 Re2
Qc1+.
35 ... Qxb3 36 Qa7 Qb7 37 Qc5
The queen looks active here, but it accomplishes little. Also, if Black manages to play ... Ne4, he
will now do so with tempo.
37 Qf2! would have posed Black with some difficult problems, since both of Black’s rooks must
guard the back rank. In addition, White’s queen may move to h4 (attacking Black’s king) or a2
(preparing to push the a-pawn).
37 ... Qe7 38 a5
38 Bd3 was more cautious, stopping Black’s knight from leaping to c4.
38 ... Ne4?!

Allowing White to reach an endgame where only he has winning chances.


38 ... Nc4! still allows White to play 39 Rf8+ but now 39 ... Rxf8 40 Qxe7 Rxf1+ 41 Kh2 Rf7 leads
to a position where Black is not a pawn down and White’s bishop appears less active than Black’s
knight. Consequently, Black should manage to draw without too many difficulties.
39 Qd4

Exercise: Find the line that reaches the aforementioned endgame for White.

Answer: A nice shot was 39 Rf8+! Qxf8 40 Rxf8+ Rxf8 41 Bxe4 dxe4 42 Qc4+ Rf7 43 Qxe4 and
while the game is most likely drawn, White has some winning chances thanks to his passed pawn on
a5.
39 ... Qc5!
Black realizes that continuing to push for the win is not justified and he simplifies into a drawn
endgame. If both players were scrambling to make the 40th move here, a queen exchange was probably
a relief for both of them.
40 Qxc5!?
The obvious way to exchange queens, but definitely not the simplest. By keeping minor pieces on
the board, both players retain definite winning chances.
Baling out completely with 40 Bxe4 Qxd4 41 cxd4 dxe4 would have led to a quick handshake, as
the a- and e-pawns will inevitably be traded.
40 ... Nxc5 41 h4!
Of course! White must seek immediate counterplay on the kingside before Black manages to round
up the abandoned a-pawn.
41 ... Ne4
Black takes the safe route to a quiet draw. 41 ... Nb3!? would have kept the game alive, and 42 Rg3
Rf8 43 Rxf8+ Kxf8 44 h5 gxh5 45 Bxh7 Ke7 is anyone’s game (not 45 ... Nxa5??, which blunders the
game away to 46 Rg8+). It is uncertain if White can win the h-pawn before Black captures his a-pawn,
as well as who will be victorious in the ensuing pawn race.
42 Bxe4 dxe4

42 ... Rxe4?! doesn’t give Black leverage in the form of a passed e-pawn. This allows White to
focus entirely on pushing his own passed a-pawn with 43 Ra1! Rxh4+ 44 Kg1 Ra8 45 a6, although
with accuracy Black manages to hold a draw by playing 45 ... Rc4, when the f3-rook cannot move off
the third rank without losing the c3-pawn. Nevertheless, White can still play 46 Rff1 Rxc3 47 Rfb1
Rc4! 48 a7 Rf4 49 Rb8+ Rf8 and now the game is drawn by repetition following 50 Rb7 Rf7 51 Rb8+
Rf8.
43 Re3 Ra8 44 Ra1 Ra6 45 Ra4 Re5
It’s interesting how the white and black rooks appear to be mirror images of one another.
46 Raxe4 Rxe4 47 Rxe4 Rxa5 48 Kh2 Rc5 49 c4 Kf7 50 g4 h6 51 Kg3 Kf6 52 Kf4 g5+ 53 hxg5+
½-½
The 7 a4 line loses most of its potency if Black agrees to be flexible in how he develops his
queenside pieces. By developing along the c-file with ... Nc6, ... Bd7, and ... Qc7/ ... Rc8, Black will
achieve a comfortable set-up. In the middlegame, the three main plans for Black are outlined in the
notes to 9 ... Nc6. In this game, Black managed to accomplish Plan 3 on move 14 and then proceeded to
complete Plan 1 on move 20. If it were not for Black’s 21 ... Qb4?!, he would have continued to enjoy a
pleasant position. We also took a look at the 7 a3 line and it poses no problems. Black can continue
developing normally to achieve at least an equal game.

Game 16
A.Naumann-A.Areshchenko
European Club Cup, Halkidiki 2002

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 Bg5 Be7 9 Qf3 Qb6

A neat way to avoid some very sharp lines where White plays e5 on either the 9th or 10th move.
We are recommending this move because Black can easily reach a position that is both sound and fun
to play.
9 ... Qc7 has been played a bit more and it is fairly theory-heavy. Georgiev and Kolev, in The
Sharpest Sicilian 2012, did an excellent job of analysing the sharp lines that can ensue and they showed
Black is doing well theoretically. We are not recommending 9 ... Qc7 mainly because it takes a lot of
work to learn and quite a few of the positions are not so easy to play (compared to 9 ... Qb6). To give
the reader a taste of the type of positions that may occur, here are some sample lines: 10 e5 (10 0-0-0
Nbd7 11 e5 is another dangerous line, and after 11 ... Bb7 12 Qg3 Black can play 12 ... dxe5 or 12 ...
Nxe5; the former leads to safe and balanced positions, while the latter gives way to fiery complications
where Black is not worse) 10 ... Bb7 11 exd6 Bxd6 12 Qe3 Bc5 13 0-0-0 Nc6.
And now in V.Ivanchuk-S.Karjakin, Nice (rapid) 2008, the wild 14 Qxe6+!? was tried, when 14 ...
fxe6 15 Nxe6 gave White a powerful attack. With accurate play Black is still fine, but this is something
we prefer to avoid with 9 ... Qb6.
10 0-0-0
Others:
a) Note that 10 e5? fails to 10 ... Bb7 when, unlike in the 9 ... Qc7 line, White cannot take on d6 and
attack Black’s queen with tempo. Thus, after 11 Qh3 Qxd4 12 exf6 Qe5+ 13 Be3 Qxf6, Black has
earned an extra pawn and White lacks compensation. His c3- and b3- minor pieces are completely cut
off from the kingside at the moment.
b) 10 0-0 is a quieter alternative, leading to a position in the 8 0-0/9 Qf3 system. We recommend
playing 9 ... Qc7 there, whereas here Black’s queen is on b6. However, notice how White has already
committed his bishop to g5 and it would be inefficient for him to retreat it to e3. This has two
consequences:
1) Black’s queen will be able to remain on its active b6 post.
2) White’s g5-bishop hinders his attacking plan with Qg3 and becomes a target in some lines where
Black plays ... Nh5!. Now:
b1) 10 ... Qxd4?! runs into 11 e5 dxe5 (11 ... d5? 12 exf6 gxf6 13 Rad1 Qe5 14 Bf4 Qf5 15 Nxd5
saw White develop a winning attack in A.Hunt-B.Stam, Oslo 2004) 12 Qxa8, which hands White the
exchange for a pawn, although maybe things aren’t so clear after 12 ... Qb6 13 Qf3 Bb7 14 Qg3 Nbd7,
when Black’s seemingly weak e-pawns actually control a fair number of central squares. Nevertheless,
there is no reason to enter this line when Black achieves a good position by playing normally.
b2) 10 ... 0-0 11 Rad1 Nbd7 gives White a choice:
b21) 12 Rfe1 is a useful waiting move, but Black can answer with 12 ... Nc5!, when 13 Bd5!? (13
Qg3 Nh5 transposes to the 12 Qg3 line) 13 ... Bb7 14 Bxb7 Qxb7 15 e5 Qxf3 16 Nxf3 dxe5 17 Nxe5
Rac8 leads to a comfortable endgame for Black.
b22) 12 a3 poses Black with no problems after 12 ... Nc5 13 Rfe1 Bb7 (at this point, White should
welcome ... Nxb3 since Black’s c5-knight is a powerful attacker against the e4-pawn).
b23) 12 Qg3 is nicely answered with 12 ... Nh5!.

Black breaks a rule by deciding to exchange his important e7-bishop, but in this case doing so helps
relieve all the pressure White has on the kingside. A.Shabalov-H.Nakamura, Miami 2007, continued 13
Qh4 Bxg5 14 Qxg5 Nhf6 15 Rfe1 and here Black could improve slightly with 15 ... Nc5!; the idea is
that if White tries to regroup with 16 Qe3 then 16 ... Bd7! sees Black preparing to push ... a5 with a
powerful queenside initiative.
10 ... 0-0 11 Rhe1
Question: What is White trying to accomplish with this move?

Answer: He wants to reinforce his e-pawn and possibly plans a rook lift (Re3 and then Rg3 or Rh3
after the queen gets out of the way). 11 Rhe1 is also a useful waiting move.
White has some alternatives here:
a) 11 g4 b4 12 Na4 Qc7 13 Rhe1 Nc6 gave Black an excellent game in C.Mokrys-M.Avotins,
correspondence 2011. Notice how Black fights actively for the dark squares in the centre after White
began playing on the flank with 11 g4.
b) 11 e5? reveals one of the points of Black’s 9 ... Qb6 move as, after 11 ... dxe5!, White shouldn’t
take the a8-rook with 12 Qxa8? due to 12 ... Bb7, when Black’s queen covers the a7-square, cutting off
the white queen’s escape (12 ... exd4 is also winning for Black).
c) 11 Qg3 reveals White’s hand too early. Since the white queen no longer x-rays the h1-a8
diagonal, Black can play 11 ... Bd7!, and following 12 Rhe1 b4 (12 ... Nc6 is also possible, which will
transpose to the 13 ... Bxc6 variation of the main game if White captures on c6; while after 13 Nd5
Nxd5 14 Nxc6 Bxg5+ 15 Qxg5 h6 16 Qd2 Bxc6 the game is level) 13 Na4 Bxa4 14 Bxa4 Qa5 15 Bh6
Nh5 16 Qb3 gxh6 17 Nxe6 Bg5+ 18 Nxg5 Qxg5+, Black is up a piece for a pawn. White has some
compensation in the form of more active and coordinated pieces, but not enough to claim an edge
viewed against Black’s material advantage.
11 ... Bb7!
Question: What is the point of this move?

Answer: 11 ... Bb7 is not at all the most popular move, but we believe it is the best. Black’s idea is
to play ... Nc6 and take back with the bishop (not the queen) if White chooses to play Nxc6. One of the
points of doing this is that if White eventually wins the d6-pawn with Rxd6, he will not do so with
tempo. Also, by leaving the queen on b6, Black is able to play ... Qxf2 in some lines.
Other tries are:
a) 11 ... Nc6?! is natural but premature. After 12 Nxc6 Qxc6 13 Qg3 b4 14 Bxf6 Bxf6 15 Rxd6,
White wins the d6-pawn with tempo, giving him an edge.
b) 11 ... Nbd7 is the main move, but White can develop a very powerful attack with 12 Qg3 Nc5 13
Re3! and now his plan is to play Qh4 and Rg3/Rh3, which is not at all easy to neutralize. K.Berbatov-
L.Di Nicolantonio, Vaujany 2011, saw 13 ... Bb7 14 Qh4 Rfc8 15 Rg3 Kf8 16 Kb1 Qc7 and here
Georgiev and Kolev analyse 17 Bxf6 (the game move) and 17 Rf3, showing that Black emerges from
the ensuing complications intact. However, the quiet 17 Re1! holds off on liquidating the position and
protects the e4-pawn.
The rook’s presence on the e-file also creates the possibility of playing Nd5 or Nf5 at some point,
especially if Black’s king tries to escape the kingside via e8. Black may not be objectively worse, but
White’s active pieces and bag of tactical tricks make the position rather uncomfortable to play.
12 Qg3
12 Be3 is specifically aimed against Black’s plan of playing ... Nc6 but, other than this, Be3 doesn’t
accomplish much. Following 12 ... Qc7 13 Bxe6!? (13 Qg3 is met with 13 ... Nc6, which will be further
discussed in the 13 Be3 variation) 13 ... fxe6 14 Nxe6 Qc4 15 Nxf8 Bxf8, Black is doing well. White
can’t muster much of an attack without an influence on the light squares and his rooks are very passive.
Black’s plan is to transfer his b8-knight to e5, while using the queen to keep the centre under protection
(stable outposts for it are e6 or f7). When the time is right, ... b4 can be pushed, chasing away the c3-
knight and leaving White’s centre destabilized.
12 ... Nc6 13 Nxc6
13 Be3 is too passive, and after 13 ... Qc7 14 f3 Nxd4 15 Bxd4 Rfd8 (15 ... Bc6 is another good
move, aiming to immediately play ... a5; this presents White with some unpleasant problems), we have
reached M.Mujunen-V.Starodubtsev, correspondence 2015. Black’s plan is to push his queenside
pawns (either with ... b4, or ... Bc6 and ... a5!), while keeping an eye on the centre. The b7-bishop and
f6-knight are watching White’s e4-pawn and Black is ready to play ... d5 when the moment is right.

Exercise: How should Black recapture on c6?

13 ... Qxc6?!
A slightly dubious move, for not so obvious reasons in this particular position (see why in the 13 ...
Bxc6 variation below).
Answer: 13 ... Bxc6! was stronger, fulfilling the idea behind 11 ... Bb7. Now White can try the
following:
a) 14 Bxf6 Bxf6 15 Rxd6 wins a pawn but gives Black tremendous compensation after 15 ... Be7 16
Rd2 a5!, when White’s minor pieces are in trouble, his e4-pawn is a constant target and his major
pieces are uncoordinated. Add in Black’s control over the dark squares and it’s reasonable to say his
position is close to winning.
b) 14 Bh6 goes with the flow, but it actually leads to a poor endgame for White following 14 ...
Nh5! 15 Qg4 Qxf2 (the key behind keeping the queen on b6 and why 13 ... Qxc6 is dubious) 16 Qxh5
gxh6 17 Qxh6 Qh4 18 Qxh4 Bxh4 19 g3 Be7, when Black has a comfortable advantage thanks to his
two bishops and White’s weak e-pawn. Note that if White tries to exchange off his e-pawn with e5,
Black can play ... dxe5 and get a passer on e6.
c) 14 Re3? tries to employ the plan with Qh4 and Rg3/Rh3. This idea is too slow against Black’s
current set-up, as after 14 ... a5! 15 Qh4 a4 16 Rg3 (16 Rh3 Rfc8 17 Bxf6 Bxf6 18 Qxh7+ Kf8 19 Bxe6
fxe6 is easily winning for Black) 16 ... axb3 17 Bxf6 Bxf6 18 Qxf6 g6 19 axb3 b4, Black is winning the
pawn back and will have a much better position. Black’s major pieces can attack White’s king via the
a-file, while White’s pieces seem disconnected and lacking a concrete goal.
d) 14 Nd5! is the only way for White to keep the game roughly balanced. Following 14 ... Bxd5! 15
exd5 e5, Black seems at least equal since he has a strong central pawn on e5 and can quickly attack on
the queenside with ... a5. Note that White cannot break down Black’s centre with 16 f4?! due to 16 ...
Nh5!.
14 Bh6 Ne8

15 f4!
A strong follow-up, keeping White’s momentum going. White either wants to play f5 (opening up
the b3-bishop) or Bg5 (removing Black’s e7-bishop, which is an important defender of the d6-pawn).
15 ... Kh8 16 Bg5 Bxg5!?
A double-edged decision! Black chooses to leave his e8-knight passively placed but, in exchange,
he has weakened White’s pawns. This strategy works if White is unable to open up the game quickly
and take advantage of Black’s inactive pieces.
A common way to meet White’s proposed bishop exchange is 16 ... Bf6, which says that if White
wants to exchange bishops, he’ll have to activate Black’s e8-knight for free. After 17 Bxf6 Nxf6 18 a3
a5! 19 e5! dxe5 20 fxe5 Ng8 21 Ne4 Ne7, Black seems okay. White has a temporary initiative, but if
Black manages to exchange off a few pieces, then White’s isolated e5-pawn may become a major
weakness. The reason for this is that Black’s pieces will be able to focus more on attacking the pawn,
instead of having to worry about fending off White’s attack.
17 fxg5 b4 18 Ne2?!
A completely natural move, but in this instance it is inaccurate. White needed to play quickly and
gain the initiative in order to prevent Black from untangling his forces. 18 Na4! looks odd, but the idea
is to leave White’s e1-rook unblocked. Then, after a move like 18 ... Rc8, White can gain an initiative
with 19 e5! dxe5 (the natural 19 ... d5 sees Black facing a mating attack following 20 Qh4 a5 21 Re3!)
20 Rxe5 Qxg2 21 Qxg2 Bxg2 22 Nb6! and the lack of harmony between Black’s eighth rank pieces is a
huge problem for him.

Exercise: Find the best move for Black. (Hint: it has to do with restricting
White’s pieces.)

Answer: 18 ... e5!


Opening up the b3-bishop, but leaving the e2-knight without any squares in the centre. This is a
good decision in the concrete sense, as White’s bishop has no other pieces to work with (thus rendering
it harmless). Also, notice how the e5-pawn breaks the coordination of the g3-queen and d1-rook, which
were focused on attacking the d6-pawn.
19 Bd5 Qc7 20 Bxb7 Qxb7
Now the position has simplified but it seems easier to play Black as his pawns are less static than
White’s. For example, he can push his a- and f-pawns, and maybe even the d-pawn at the right moment.
Meanwhile, White lacks useful pawn breaks.
21 Qh4
The more strategic approach was 21 Qd3 a5 22 Ng3! (threatening Nf5) 22 ... g6 23 Nf1, when
White’s knight is headed to d5 via e3. The chances appear even following 23 ... a4! as Black’s
queenside counterplay offsets White’s central dominance.
21 ... Rc8 22 Rd3 f5!?
Forcing matters and opening up the light squares, which initiates a fierce struggle between both
players on that colour complex.
Waiting with 22 ... g6! was also possible. If White plays the natural 23 Rh3?, then 23 ... f5! gains
power due to White’s queen and rook being offside on the h-file.
23 exf5
23 Ng3!? was interesting, planning to meet 23 ... f4 with 24 g6! h6 25 Nf5, when White’s f5-knight
is somewhat unpleasant for Black to play against.
23 ... Rxf5 24 g4?!
Aggressive, but this pawn push blocks out White’s queen. As a result, Black is able to gain activity
in the centre. 24 Qg4 would have exerted some influence over the light squares on the h3-c8 diagonal,
while also keeping an eye on e4.
24 ... Qe4?!
Outwardly, this appears to control the centre. However, in a few moves White is able to push
Black’s queen away with tempo, giving the first player a temporary initiative. 24 ... Rf3! would have
blocked any ideas White had with Rh3, allowing Black to control the centre unhindered.
25 Rd2 Rf8 26 Nd4 Qd5!
An accurate find, keeping White’s knight from penetrating on e6.
27 g6 h6 28 Qe7
28 g5 exd4 29 gxh6 Nf6 30 Re7! would have forced Black to bail out to a draw after 30 ... Qh1+ 31
Rd1 Rxc2+! 32 Kxc2 Rc8+ 33 Kd2 Qg2+ 34 Ke1 (34 Re2 Rc2+ 35 Kxc2 Qxe2+ 36 Rd2 d3+ 37 Kc1
Qf1+ 38 Rd1 Qe2 is also a draw) 34 ... Qg1+ 35 Kd2 Qg2+.
28 ... Rf6 29 Qd7
Exercise: Find the move that removes some of White’s tactical target(s).

29 ... Qc4
Answer: 29 ... Ra8! was more accurate, removing the rook from danger. Also, by leaving the queen
on d5, it is able to provide more defence to the black pieces and king if needed.
30 g5! hxg5 31 Qh3+ Kg8 32 Nf5 Rc7 33 b3 Qe6 34 Qh7+ Kf8 35 Ne3 Rc5 36 Red1 e4!?
A fighting move! Black uses his passed e-pawn to distract White from attacking his king. 36 ...
Rxg6!? 37 Qh8+ Kf7 38 Qh5 Kg8 39 Nd5 sees Black two pawns up but, as compensation, White has
far better pieces.
37 Qh8+ Ke7 38 Rd5 Rxg6 39 Rxc5?!
Letting Black off the hook, for the most part. 39 Nf5+! Qxf5 40 Rxf5 Rxf5 is unclear, but White
should be a bit better.
39 ... dxc5 40 Qh5 Kf7 41 Rf1+ Kg8
Exercise: How can White actively keep Black’s rook from joining the battle?

42 Nf5

Answer: 42 Nd5! activates the knight and prevents Black’s rook from entering the action via the f-
file.
42 ... Rf6 43 Qxg5 g6 44 Nh6+ Kg7 45 Re1?
A natural move, but it ultimately allows Black to exchange queens and enter a favourable endgame.
45 Rd1! keeps Black’s queen from reaching f4 via d6.
45 ... Qd6 46 Ng4 Qf4+ 47 Qxf4 Rxf4 48 Ne5 Nf6 49 Rg1 Rf2?!
Missing a chance to save his extra pawn: 49 ... Rf5! 50 Nxg6 Kf7 leads to a type of geometric
entrapment of White’s knight, and escaping with 51 Nh4 Rh5 52 Ng2 Rxh2 loses a pawn, allowing
Black to press for the win.
50 Rxg6+ Kh7 51 Rg1 Nd5
51 ... e3 52 Nd3 Rxh2 53 Nxc5 should be drawn, but Black may have a few tricks here.
52 Ng4 Re2 53 h4 a5 ½-½
Playing 9 ... Qb6 and 11 ... Bb7 avoids much heavy theory and reaches easy-to-play positions for
Black. The main point of the set-up is to play ... Nc6 and recapture with ... Bxc6. Then, if
uninterrupted, Black wants to push the a-pawn and attack White’s minor pieces on b3 and c3. White
has a few plans to mix up the game before Black can do this, but none of them pose serious problems.

Game 17
H.Groetz-N.Vyskocil
Austrian League 2008

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 0-0


8 f4 is premature since White’s king hasn’t castled; thus, Black can immediately challenge White in
the centre with 8 ... Bb7! (the standard move 8 ... Be7?! is dangerous since it leaves the g7-pawn
unprotected, allowing White to get away with 9 e5! dxe5 10 fxe5 Nfd7 11 Bxe6, although Black may
be okay after 11 ... Nxe5 12 Bxc8 Qxc8 13 Nd5 Nbc6!) and now:
a) 9 Be3 Nbd7 10 0-0 Qc7 transposes to the 9 0-0 line.
b) 9 e5!? is interesting but not entirely correct. Following 9 ... dxe5 10 fxe5 Nfd7 11 Qh5 (11 0-0
Bc5! gives Black too much central activity and sees him ready to castle on the next move) 11 ... g6 12
Qh3 Nc6 13 Nxc6 Bxc6 14 0-0 Qe7!, Black is about to complete development with ... Bg7 and ... 0-0,
entering into a good middlegame. Therefore, White’s best chance to complicate matters is 15 Bh6, but
15 ... Bxh6 16 Qxh6 Qf8 17 Qf4 Qc5+ 18 Kh1 0-0 gives Black slightly better chances, largely thanks to
White’s weak e-pawn.
c) 9 f5 fights for the central light squares, but allows Black to fix the e4-pawn with 9 ... e5!, and
after 10 Nde2 (10 Nf3?! puts the knight on an unproductive square where it can’t help out much on the
kingside; after 10 ... Be7 11 Bg5 Nbd7 12 Bxf6 Nxf6, Black had control of the dark squares and a weak
pawn on e4 to attack in M.Villalba-E.Butti, Asunción 2010) 10 ... Nbd7, Black’s plan is to keep control
over d5 while pressuring White’s e4-pawn. The best way to do this is by going after the defenders of
the pawn (the c3-knight can be attacked by ... b4 and ... Rc8, while a knight on g3 almost always finds
... h5 very uncomfortable). White will try to control d5 with moves such as Bg5 and Ng3-h5 but, even
if he succeeds, he usually must give up his dark-squared bishop. Following 11 Bg5 (11 Ng3 is met by
11 ... h5!, which plans to immediately kick back the knight, and White is already in trouble) 11 ... Be7,
White has two main moves:
c1) 12 Ng3 h5! sees White struggling to hang on to the e4-pawn, so his best try to get counterplay is
probably 13 Qd3!, protecting the e4-pawn and freeing the g3-knight to travel to e3 via f1, where it will
fight for d5. 13 ... Rc8! stops this plan by threatening to sacrifice on c3, which forces White’s knight to
stay on g3 protecting the e4-pawn (13 ... b4? lets White back into the game after 14 Qc4!). For
example, after 14 Bxf6 Nxf6, White shouldn’t play 15 Nf1? on account of 15 ... Rxc3! 16 Qxc3 Nxe4,
which is absolutely crushing for Black.
c2) 12 Bxf6 exchanges off one of Black’s knights in hopes of controlling d5. After 12 ... Nxf6, 13
Qd3 protects the e4-pawn while developing the queen; Georgiev and Kolev in The Sharpest Sicilian
2012 recommend 13 ... Rc8, but stopping White from castling kingside with 13 ... Qb6! is probably a
bit better, as seen in M.Voigt-A.Trisic, Hamburg 1999, since if White castles queenside then Black is
well prepared to attack there. Instead, 13 Bd5 is a good positional decision since it exchanges a bad
bishop for a good one, but Black can carry out a concrete operation to control d5 with 13 ... Qb6! 14
Bxb7 Qxb7 15 0-0 Rc8 16 Qd3 Rc5! and now White cannot play Nd5 without having to take back with
the e-pawn.
d) 9 0-0 is the main move, but allows Black to adopt a favourable set-up with 9 ... Nbd7! 10 Re1
(10 Be3 Qc7 11 f5 e5 12 Nde2 Be7 saw Black get a very nice Najdorf position in F.Rey Besada-
F.Quiroga, Villa Martelli 2008) 10 ... Nc5, and now the only aggressive way White can continue the
fight is 11 Bd5!? (11 f5 is not threatening, and after 11 ... e5 12 Nf3 Be7 13 Bd5 Bxd5! 14 exd5 b4!,
Black had a connected passed e-pawn and control of the centre in M.Khaghani-V.Mirumian, Urmia
2008). However after 11 ... Nxd5 12 exd5 b4 13 Na4! (13 dxe6 bxc3 14 exf7+ Kxf7 is winning for
Black) 13 ... Nxa4 (13 ... Bxd5 is also a viable option) 14 dxe6 Nc5 15 a3 Qf6! 16 axb4 Ne4, Black is
up a bishop for two pawns and White’s central attack has been blocked.
8 ... Be7 9 f4 0-0 10 e5
Question: What is the idea behind this move and what is Black’s strategy to
fight back?

Answer: White wants to drive the f6-knight away, leaving Black’s kingside vulnerable. This will
allow White’s queen and f1-rook to quickly set up mating threats along the h-file or g-file. Black
should try to take over the centre as soon as possible, which will give him resources to defend (such as
threatening a queen exchange). Others:
a) 10 f5 is, as usual, not strategically favourable for White. Following 10 ... b4! 11 Na4 e5 12 Ne2
Bb7 13 Ng3 Nbd7, Black has a comfortable position. J.Plaskan-O.Cvitan, Pula 2006, saw further with
14 Qf3 Bc6! 15 c3 a5 16 Be3 Qc7 17 Rac1 Qb7, when both White’s a4-knight and e4-pawn are causing
him major problems.
b) 10 Be3 lets Black take over the initiative with 10 ... b4 11 Na4 Bd7! and now:
b1) 12 c3 tries to rectify the a4-knight’s predicament, but 12 ... Bxa4 13 Bxa4 bxc3 14 bxc3 Nxe4
15 c4 d5 leaves Black a pawn up and slightly better. White will have to work to regain the material,
giving Black time to play actively (with moves like ... Bc5).
b2) 12 f5 e5 13 Nf3 Bb5! 14 Re1 Nbd7 is in Black’s favour, thanks to White’s weak a4-knight and
e4-pawn.
b3) 12 e5 Nd5! 13 Bxd5 exd5 14 b3 Bxa4! 15 bxa4 dxe5 16 fxe5 Bc5 sees White struggling with
five pawn islands.
10 ... dxe5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 12 Be3
This is the main move which aims to protect the d4-knight (and the g1-a7 diagonal in general)
before moving the white queen over to the kingside. The drawback of this preparatory move is that it
drops the e5-pawn and Black can still neutralize White’s attack.
Instead, White has a few other options available:
a) 12 Qh5 throws caution to the wind and tries for a quick mate. This should not go unpunished and
Black can immediately strike back with 12 ... Nc6!, capitalizing on White’s exposed king along the g1-
a7 diagonal. Following 13 Nxc6 Qb6+ 14 Be3 Qxc6 15 Rf3 (15 Rf4 doesn’t threaten to build a battery
by moving the rook to the h-file, so Black has time to attack White’s e-pawn with 15 ... Qc7!. and now
16 Bd4 Bc5 17 Re1 Bxd4+ 18 Rxd4 Qc5 19 Qh4 Nxe5 sees White with little to show for his lost pawn)
15 ... Bb7 (preventing Rh3 since the rook move would now allow ... Qxg2 mate) 16 Rg3.

We have reached M.Iliushin-A.Sharafiev, Kazan 2017, and A.Baciu-I.Bulmaga, Baile Govora


2017. In both games Black played 16 ... g6, but 16 ... Bc5! 17 Re1 g6 was slightly better since now the
pressure along the g1-a7 diagonal occupies White’s rooks. Following 18 Qg5 (18 Qh6 plans to play
Rh3 and mate on h7, so 18 ... Rfd8! is best, allowing ... Nf8 to be played if needed; White’s attack is
not getting through and Black has the upper hand) 18 ... Bxe3+ 19 Qxe3 (19 Rgxe3 prepares to play
Ne4, but Black can shut this plan down with 19 ... Nc5!) 19 ... Qc5, Black gets a better endgame.
b) 12 Qf3 is met with 12 ... Qc7!, and after 13 Bf4 (13 Qxa8? fails to 13 ... Bb7 14 Qa7 Bc5) 13 ...
Bb7, Black is beginning to take over the centre and White has no threats set up on the kingside.
c) 12 Bf4 protects the e5-pawn and prepares to move the white queen to g4. After 12 ... Bb7 13 Qg4
Bc5! (13 ... Kh8 is a more material-minded approach, preventing White from winning the exchange
with Bh6; however, it gives White time to control the centre with 14 Rad1! Qb6 15 Kh1 Nc5 and now
16 Nd5!? Bxd5 17 Bxd5 exd5 18 Nf5 g5! is a very messy position where Black is not worse, but
there’s no reason to go into this line when 13 ... Bc5 is simpler and gives Black an edge) 14 Rad1 Nc6
15 Bh6 g6, Black sacrifices the exchange, but in return will win White’s e-pawn and have full control
of the dark squares. After 16 Nce2 (16 Bxf8 Ndxe5! 17 Qf4 Bxd4+ 18 Kh1 Qxf8 19 Rxd4 Nxd4 20
Qxd4 just leaves Black a healthy pawn up) 16 ... Ndxe5 17 Qg3 Nxd4 18 Nxd4 Bxd4+ 19 Kh1, White
is threatening to play c3, attacking Black’s d4-bishop (which incidentally protects the e5-knight).
However, Black has the amazing resource 19 ... Nf3!! which solves all his problems and gives him an
edge.
This is seen after 20 gxf3 Qf6 (getting out of the d-file pin) 21 Bxf8 Rxf8, when Black’s queen and
two bishops are far more active than White’s pieces (especially his rooks).
12 ... Nxe5 13 Qh5
Exercise: Find how Black can maintain his strong knight on e5.

13 ... Nbc6
Trading off a pair of knights and making room for Black’s queen to enter the action. It will go to e5
and shoo White’s queen away in the nick of time.
Answer: 13 ... Qc7! is a slight improvement over the game move. The idea is simply to develop
and leave the e5-knight on its square (which stops White’s main idea of playing Rf3 and Rh3). Now:
a) A.Sychov-G.Arbrile, correspondence 2012, saw 14 Ndxb5! axb5 15 Nxb5 Qc6 16 Qxe5, when
White has eliminated his material deficit with interest, but now Black struck back with 16 ... Bb7 17
Rf2 Nd7 18 Qh5 Nf6 19 Qe2 Bc5, and after 20 Nd4 he could have improved with 20 ... Qb6!, followed
by ... Ne4 and ... e5 ideas. This would have given Black a slight advantage and in a practical game it
seems much easier to play Black’s side of the position.
b) 14 Ne4 sees White trying to make something of his investment for kingside play, but 14 ... g6!
15 Qe2 Bb7 leaves Black a pawn up with a better position. White has some compensation in the form
of superior development and dark square play on the kingside, but this alone isn’t enough compensation
for him to claim equal chances.
c) 14 Rf4?! Bb7 leaves White’s f4-rook looking misplaced, as it can’t move to h4 or g4 (which is
another point of leaving the black knight on e5!).
14 Nxc6
Yielding the fight in the centre in order to get on with the kingside attack at once.
14 Rad1 appears strong since it kicks Black’s queen off the d-file, but 14 ... Qe8! prepares to
challenge White’s queen with ... f6. If play continues 15 Ne4 (15 Nxc6 Nxc6 16 Rf3 f6 is just good for
Black), then Black can block White’s bishop with 15 ... Nc4! and now the ... f6 push appears inevitable.
For example, 16 Bxc4 bxc4 17 Ng5 Bxg5 18 Qxg5 f6 19 Qc5 Nxd4 20 Rxd4 e5 sees Black’s centre
pawns on dark squares nicely complementing his light-squared bishop, while White’s kingside attack is
nonexistent.
14 ... Nxc6 15 Rf3
15 Rad1 was played in I.Mestek-M.Van Delft, Pula 2015. Here Black should have gone for 15 ...
Qe8, transposing to the 14 Rad1 variation above.
15 ... Qd6! 16 Rh3!
A necessary provocation of Black’s h-pawn, allowing White to win it.
16 ... h6 17 Rg3
M.Srebrnic-G.Podkriznik, Ljubljana 2004, saw 17 Bxh6 Qc5+ 18 Qxc5 Bxc5+ 19 Be3, and here 19
... Bxe3+ 20 Rxe3 Bb7 would have given Black the better endgame; his e-pawn is a connected passer
and it blocks in White’s bishop.

Exercise: Find the move that saves the day for Black.

Answer: 17 ... Qe5


The only move, but one that Black is happy to make.
18 Qxe5 Nxe5 19 Bxh6 Ng6 20 Bg5
20 Be3 Nh4! is suddenly unpleasant for White, as Black’s knight is about to cause trouble on f5.
20 ... Bb7!
Question: Why does this move deserve an exclamation point?

Answer: It seizes the opportunity to develop the bishop on the long diagonal.
Slightly weaker is 20 ... Bxg5, since after 21 Rxg5 Black’s bishop cannot develop to b7
immediately due to the threat of Bxe6 (overloading the f7-pawn, which is protecting the g6-knight). A
draw was agreed in H.Groetz-J.Czakon, L’Estartit 2008, after 21 ... Rd8 22 Rf1 Bd7 23 Ne4.
21 Bxe7 Nxe7 22 Rd1 ½-½
Black could have played on here and pressed for a win, given his superior bishop and passed pawn
on e6.
The best way for White to create complications in the f4 systems is with 10 e5 (played in this
game), since otherwise Black will rapidly take over the initiative. However, in that line Black can gain
an advantage by dominating the centre, which always ends up neutralizing White’s kingside play. The
two best methods to do this are keeping a knight on e5 and creating play along the g1-a7 diagonal.

Game 18
Z.Stupavski-M.Palac
Zadar 2007

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 0-0 Be7 9 Qf3
White’s main move. The idea is to transfer the queen to g3 where it will pressurize Black’s kingside
along the g-file. This plan may seem scary, but in reality White’s attack is relatively harmless. As long
as Black defends sensibly, he often has very good chances to take over the initiative (usually on the
queenside).
9 ... Qc7
The most common move; now Black can meet an e5 push with ... Bb7.
9 ... Qb6!? is also a valid way to neutralize White’s threat of playing e5 and is recommended by
Georgiev and Kolev. Black’s idea is to put his queen on b7 where it will pressurize the e4-pawn. Play
may continue 10 Be3 Qb7 11 Qg3 b4 12 Na4 Nbd7! 13 f3 (13 Qxg7?! Rg8 14 Qh6 Ng4! 15 Qf4 Ndf6
gives Black excellent play and White is left wondering how to defend the e4-pawn while dealing with
Black’s threat of playing ... e5) 13 ... 0-0 with a relatively balanced game.
One of White’s main plans is to play a3, opening up the a-file for the rook; another idea is to move
a rook to c1 and then push c3. Meanwhile, Black should try to play ... Ne5 and ... Bd7, completing
development. With the rooks connected, Black has the resources to fight back on the queenside if
White opens it up.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 9 ... Qb6 line, but we recommend 9 ... Qc7 because it
tends to be easier for Black to develop an initiative.
10 Qg3
Others:
a) 10 Re1 goes against the intention of Qf3 which is to transfer the queen to g3 and start an
immediate attack. Black is fine after 10 ... 0-0 11 Qg3 Bd7 12 Bh6 Ne8 with a similar position to the
game. The e1-rook will only be useful if White can get an e5 push in, and the logistics of doing so
prove very difficult for the first player.
White has a few moves here:
a1) 13 f4?? just drops the d4-knight to 13 ... Qc5.
a2) 13 a3 seems overly cautious and after 13 ... Nc6 14 Be3 Bf6! we have reached S.Sevian-
K.Troff, St. Louis 2015 (by transposition). Black had a comfortable position as the f6-bishop exerts
pressure on the white knights and protects the g7-pawn.
a3) 13 Nf3 and now we have:
a31) 13 ... b4?! might seem better since it was how Black played in the game; however, after 14
Na4! Qa5 15 Bg5 Bf6?! doesn’t win the a4-knight due to 16 a3!, when, unlike in the game, White’s
rook is still on a1 and hasn’t moved to d1 yet; while 15 ... Bxg5 16 Qxg5 Qxg5 17 Nxg5 is just a
slightly better endgame for White.
a32) 13 ... Nc6, and now after 14 Bf4 b4 15 Nd1 Nf6!
Black is already a bit better, and the g3-queen and f4-bishop suddenly look clumsy in the presence
of the f6-knight. If White plays 16 e5 dxe5 17 Nxe5, Black retains his edge with 17 ... Nh5!.
b) 10 a3 stops ... b4, but wastes a tempo. Thus, after 10 ... 0-0 11 Qg3, Black has time to play 11 ...
Kh8 which stops all of White’s ideas with Bh6. Play could continue 12 Be3 Nc6 13 Nxc6 Qxc6 14 f3
a5!, when Black is beginning to become active on the queenside. He may even develop the light-
squared bishop to a6 where it will control the important a6-f1 diagonal if Black pushes ... b4.
10 ... 0-0 11 Bh6 Ne8 12 Rad1
White can also try:
a) 12 Rfe1 is met comfortably with 12 ... Bf6. 13 Nf3 was seen in M.Tissir-A.Giri, Baku Olympiad
2016, and following 13 ... Nc6 14 Rad1 Bb7 15 Bf4 Rd8, Black was completely fine. It’s important to
note that White can’t play the natural 13 Rad1? due to 13 ... Be5! and White ends up losing material in
all variations. For example, after 14 Bf4 Bxf4 15 Qxf4 b4 16 Bd5 (16 Nce2?! goes down without a
fight to 16 ... e5) 16 ... exd5 17 Nxd5 Qb7, White’s position looks active but it is not active enough to
justify the deficit of a bishop for a pawn.
b) 12 a3 is also countered with 12 ... Bf6, providing Black with a good game. Just like in the 12
Rfe1 line, the natural 13 Rad1? fails to 13 ... Be5!.
12 ... Bd7 13 Nf3
Question: What are some of White’s plans associated with this move?

Answer: The first is to possibly play Bg5 and recapture on g5 with the knight. Notice how
exchanging bishops complements White’s now-opened d1-rook since it will attack the less defended
d6-pawn. The second, and more important, idea is to play Bf4, hoping to force Black into playing ... e5.
If this happens, White’s c3-knight can jump to the d5-square and the b3-bishop will have an open
diagonal.
Other tries:
a) 13 Nce2!? Kh8 was R.Kasimdzhanov-S.Karjakin, Berlin 2015. Here the game continued with 14
Bg5 (14 Be3 allows Black to expand quickly with 14 ... Nf6 15 f3 a5!), and now Black could have
improved with 14 ... Nf6!, when White’s kingside pieces are in each other’s way. The queen prevents
the e2-knight from jumping to g3, while the g5-bishop blocks the queen’s attack along the g-file. 14 ...
Bxg5?! was what Karjakin played in the game, but it is slightly dubious since, without the e7-bishop,
the d6-pawn suddenly becomes much weaker. Whenever your opponent offers an exchange of dark-
squared bishops in the Sozin, always think twice before accepting.
b) 13 a3 prevents ... b4, but 13 ... Nc6 just gives Black a good game. If White tries to play akin to
the game with 14 Nf3 (or 14 Nxc6 Bxc6 15 Rfe1 a5!, which gave Black no problems in J.Polgar-
V.Anand, London 2012), then Black can answer with the immediate 14 ... Ne5! before White gets the
chance to firmly control the e5-square with Bf4.

Exercise: How can Black counter White’s aforementioned plan of Bf4 - ?

Answer: 13 ... b4!


This pawn push doesn’t give White time to carry out his Bf4 plan and immediately starts attacking
White’s queenside pieces. Driving the c3-knight away from its post means it won’t be able to jump to
d5 if Black is forced to play ... e5. Still, in general Black should not play ... e5 if he can help it, as it will
increase the range of the Sozin bishop on b3.
13 ... Nc6 is the main move, but it’s a bit weaker because it passively lets White carry out his main
plan with 14 Bf4, and after 14 ... b4 15 e5! Black has three options:
a) 15 ... bxc3?! leads to a tedious endgame for Black after 16 exd6 Bxd6 17 Bxd6 Nxd6 18 Qxd6
Qxd6 19 Rxd6 Rfd8 20 bxc3, when White has more active pieces and an extra pawn.
b) 15 ... Nxe5 16 Nxe5 bxc3 (16 ... dxe5 is better, when 17 Bxe5 Qb7 transposes to the 15 ... dxe5
line) 17 Nxd7 Qxd7 18 Qxc3 gives White an annoying little pull as his two bishops will not be going
away anytime soon.
c) 15 ... dxe5 16 Nxe5 Nxe5 17 Bxe5 Qb7 18 Ne4! Qxe4 19 Rxd7 is pleasant for White, at least in
theory.

He has two bishops, an attack, and more active pieces. Even if the queens get exchanged, White
will have a favourable 3 vs. 2 queenside majority in the endgame. However, Black can play 19 ... Bf6!
20 f4 Bxe5 (20 ... Qc6 was tried in F.Nijboer-Y.Pelletier, Istanbul 2000, and also gave Black a decent
position) 21 fxe5 Qc6 and suddenly White is being driven back and Black will connect his rooks with
... Nc7. This secures a roughly equal game, which means the 13 ... Nc6 move is playable. But Black
must play accurately in order to reach this position, whereas the 13 ... b4 move immediately gives
Black good chances to fight for an advantage.
14 Ne2
14 Na4?? drops material after 14 ... Qa5.
14 ... a5
This move is important. Due to ... a5, White will either have to play c3, or deal with the constant
threat of losing the b3-bishop to ... a4.
15 Nf4!
Question: What is the purpose of this move? Doesn’t it ignore Black’s threat
to win the b3-bishop? In general, how should Black play on the kingside to
deal with White’s aggression?

Answer: Instead of buckling to Black’s threat, White intensifies his pressure on the kingside. This
indirectly defends the b3-bishop since Black has no time to win it due to White’s threats. Black should
give his king greater protection, while encouraging exchanges to take place (in order to weaken White’s
attacking capacity).
Instead, 15 c3 gives Black excellent play on the queenside after 15 ... Nc6 16 cxb4 a4 17 Bc2 a3!
And now White has a few options:
a) 18 b3 Nxb4 19 Bb1 sees White threatening to push e5, but Black easily stops this with 19 ... e5
and the game is dynamically balanced. White’s b3-pawn is better than Black’s d6-pawn, but the a2-
pawn is very weak. White has some pressure on Black’s king, while Black’s pieces seem more
productive and active overall (for instance, look at the entombed bishop on b1).
b) 18 bxa3 tries to simplify things on the queenside, but Black retains an initiative following 18 ...
Rxa3 19 Bb3 Nxb4, when it is difficult for White to defend the a-pawn while attacking Black’s king. If
White decides only to focus on his a-pawn, then the g3-queen and f3-knight appear misplaced.
Meanwhile, if White just continues attacking on the kingside, Black will soon be an extra pawn up.
c) 18 b5 Nb4 19 Bb1 Bxb5 20 Rd2 Bf6 shows Black’s bishops criss-crossing the board, while
White’s queenside pawns remain under pressure. White can get a connected passed pawn with 21 b3,
but it doesn’t make up for how weak the a2-pawn is. White will need to keep his bishop constantly on
b1, since Black can cut off the support from the d2-rook by playing ... Bb2.
15 ... Kh8
Forced, but still a good move in itself: Black unleashes an unexpected double attack (he is
threatening to take the h6-bishop and play ... a4). Not yet 15 ... a4??, which loses to 16 Bxg7! Nxg7 17
Nh5.
16 Bg5 Nc6
Black develops while coolly dealing with the threat on his e7-bishop.
16 ... Nf6 is also playable, adhering to the rule of not exchanging dark-squared bishops. However,
in this case it is more important for Black to exchange off White’s attacking pieces (which includes the
g5-bishop). Also, notice how the f6-knight is pinned to the e7-bishop; this may give White some nasty
ideas of an e5 push down the road. After 17 Rfe1 (17 Qh4!? is very dangerous as well and Black
quickly ran into trouble in G.Kasparov-B.Gelfand, Linares 1993; however, Black’s play in the game
could be improved with 17 ... Nc6 and the chances are balanced) 17 ... Nc6 (17 ... a4 is met by 18 e5
with complications) 18 c3 bxc3 19 bxc3 a4 20 Bc2, all of White’s pieces are very coordinated, although
Black should be able to maintain the balance with 20 ... Ne5.
17 Bxe7
Others:
a) 17 Nd5!? is more challenging and, after 17 ... exd5 18 exd5 Nf6 19 dxc6 Bxc6, the game remains
roughly equal, though it seems a bit easier to play Black’s position due to White’s loose pieces.
The threats of playing ... a4 and ... Ne4 are not trivial to meet, so White’s best option is probably
simplifying with 20 Bxf6 Bxf6 21 Qxd6, but then 21 ... Qb7! gives Black excellent practical chances to
play for the win, even if the game remains objectively equal.
b) 17 Rfe1 is a waiting move that prepares a possible e5 push. Black can now force matters with 17
... a4 18 Bc4 Bxg5 19 Nxg5 Ra5! 20 Nf3 (20 Qh4?! h6 21 Nf3 Nf6 leaves White’s queen looking out of
place on h4; on g3, it at least put pressure on the d6-pawn) 20 ... Ne5 21 Bf1 (21 Nxe5?! gives Black
two pieces for a rook and pawn after 21 ... dxe5 22 Nd3 Qxc4 23 Nxe5 Rxe5 24 Qxe5 Nf6) 21 ...
Nxf3+ 22 Qxf3 Nf6, when the tide is turning in Black’s favour, as indicated by how active Black’s
pieces are becoming.
17 ... Nxe7 18 Qh4?!
Giving Black a free tempo to move his knight to f6. In all fairness, the ramifications of Black
having a knight on f6 are only evident a few moves later.
a) 18 e5?! was an interesting way to try to simplify, but after 18 ... a4! 19 exd6 Nxd6 20 Bxe6! (20
Rxd6 Nf5 is also good for Black) 20 ... fxe6 21 Rxd6 Nf5! 22 Rxd7 Qxd7 Black is simply up the
exchange for a pawn.
b) 18 Nd2 was White’s most pragmatic bet, allowing his bishop to go to c4 and giving the queen
access back into the centre. However, 18 ... a4 19 Bc4 Rb8 (the eager 19 ... e5?! is met with 20 Nd3,
which attacks the b4-pawn with tempo, and after 20 ... Rb8 White gets some counterplay with the
immediate 21 f4!) 20 Rfe1 e5 21 Nd5 Nxd5 22 Bxd5 Nf6 gives Black an ideal position.
White’s bishop is more of a target than anything else, while his queen and e1-rook aren’t doing
anything useful. Black has good plans, such as playing ... Nh5 and ... Nf4, taking White’s bishop and
pushing ... f5, and activating the pieces with moves like ... Bb5 and ... Rbc8.
18 ... Nf6 19 Rfe1!
Preparing a dangerous trap.
19 ... a4 20 Bc4
Exercise: Spot White’s trap and then find the best move to prevent it.

Answer: 20 ... e5!


White’s trick was based on advancing with e5. The move 20 ... e5! creates a favourable pawn
structure and eradicates this threat. Since White’s control over d5 is weak, it is fine if Black pushes the
e-pawn.
Note that 20 ... Ra5! is also a perfectly valid solution to the exercise, clamping down on d5 so that it
is not good for White to move his knight there after Black plays ... e5.
White’s trap is demonstrated after 20 ... Qxc4? 21 e5, when White will be regaining the piece, along
with a healthy initiative.
21 Nd5 Nexd5 22 Bxd5
22 exd5 Bg4 is good for Black; he has a much better pawn structure, a better bishop, and White’s
queen is still cut off from the game.
22 ... Ra5!?
Keeping White’s bishop on the board as it’s such a vulnerable target. While this is true, exchanging
on d5 immediately would have given Black a better pawn structure and handed the d7-bishop very
good control over the light squares: 22 ... Nxd5! 23 exd5 (23 Rxd5 runs into trouble after 23 ... Be6) 23
... Qc5 gives Black a clear advantage, due to his superior minor piece and central majority. Notice how
White’s knight lacks a good outpost in the centre; Black’s queen and e5-pawn control the dark squares,
while his bishop can easily influence the light squares (such as e4).
23 Ng5!?
Arguably White’s best practical chance as this sudden display of aggression may confuse Black. 23
b3 would have tried to improve the d5-bishop’s situation by letting it retreat to c4. If Black exchanges
with 23 ... Nxd5 24 exd5, then the a5-rook seems rather out of place, especially if White manages to
play Qe7 and attack the undefended f8-rook. Still, Black is clearly much better.
23 ... Kg8 24 Rd2
In the interest of creating chaos, 24 f4 would have been the way to go. However, if Black continues
calculating soundly, he would find that 24 ... h6! defeats White’s entire attack.
24 ... h6!
Calling White’s bluff and putting the question to the knight.
25 Bxf7+
25 Nf3 Rc5 leaves White in a hopeless position with far too many weaknesses.
25 ... Rxf7 26 Nxf7 Kxf7
While material is technically even, White’s problem is that his rooks lack open files. In addition,
White’s queen does not have time to coordinate with them before Black’s pieces break through.
27 Red1

Exercise: Find Black’s best move.

Answer: 27 ... Rc5!


Displaying accurate judgement. Black decides that allowing White’s rooks some activity is
tolerable; what is more important is not giving White’s queen time to be useful.
27 ... Ra6 would deny White’s rooks any play but would have given his queen time to get back into
the game with 28 f3! Rc6 29 Qf2, although Black is still very close to winning.
28 Rxd6 Be6
28 ... Rxc2! was even stronger as the endgame after 29 Qxf6+ (29 Qg3?? loses to 29 ... Qxd6) 29 ...
gxf6 30 Rxd7+ Qxd7 31 Rxd7+ Ke6 32 Rd1 Rxb2 33 Ra1 a3 is elementary for Black to win. His rook
on b2 ties down White’s king and rook, and Black’s king cannot be stopped from marching over to the
queenside.
29 Qg3!
The best chance; the e4-pawn has no value when compared to getting the queen coordinated with
the rooks.
29 ... Nxe4 30 Qf3+ Nf6 31 h3?!

Giving Black time to re-establish his dominance. 31 Qe3! would have continued to go with the flow
of playing actively; after 31 ... Rxc2 32 Qxe5 Bxa2, Black is still much better, but White’s pieces
appear far more formidable now.
31 ... Rxc2 32 Qe3 Qc5 33 Qxc5 Rxc5
The endgame is lost for White; the queenside pawns are easy targets for Black’s pieces, while
White’s rooks are unable to pick up any pawns.
34 Rb6 b3 35 axb3 axb3 36 Rdd6
36 Rb7+ Kg6 37 Re7 Rc6 would have temporarily slowed down Black’s progress, but it’s only a
matter of time until Black regroups.
36 ... Bd5 37 g4 Rc1+ 38 Kh2 Rh1+ 39 Kg3 Ne4+ 0-1
White’s plans with 13 Nf3 are positionally justified, but their problem is that they’re rather slow.
Black can capitalize on this by quickly attacking on the queenside, driving back White’s pieces and
forcing him to deal with the unpleasant ... a4 threat (winning the b3-bishop). If White passively
responds to this threat by playing c3, then Black continues playing with tempo on the queenside and
gains some good activity for free. If White ignores ... a4 and attacks on the kingside (as in this game),
Black can nullify White’s threats with a few precise moves (see Black’s 15th and 16th moves).

Game 19
R.Kasimdzhanov-B.Gelfand
FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent 2014
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bb3 b5 8 0-0 Be7
The actual move order of the game was 7 0-0 Be7 8 Bb3 b5.
9 Qf3 Qc7 10 Qg3 0-0 11 Bh6 Ne8 12 Rad1 Bd7 13 f4
White’s plan is simple: he wants to play f5 and f6, tearing open Black’s kingside. Being the brave
Najdorf players that we are, we’re going to let White do just that.
13 ... Nc6

Question: What is the point of playing this move, especially when White is
about to play f5 and f6 - ?

Answer: The goal of this move is to exchange off White’s d4-knight. If this knight is left at its post,
it will help put extreme pressure on the e6-pawn after White plays f5.
14 Nxc6
Others:
a) 14 Nce2 Kh8 15 Bg5 Nf6 was E.Blomqvist-V.Anand, Gibraltar 2016. Here we see the 15th
World Champion’s forces coming to life, whereas White’s attack has lost most of its momentum. The
game continued 16 Qh4 (16 Qf3 protects the e4-pawn directly, but it is met nicely with 16 ... Nxd4 17
Nxd4 a5!, when Black is seizing the initiative on the queenside and this display of aggression will
reverberate over the whole board) 16 ... Rae8! and Black protects the e7-bishop, taking away some
ideas White has with e5. Also, in some cases the e-file may open after f5 and the rook will be active
along this file.
b) 14 f5 leads to a wild position following 14 ... Nxd4 15 Rxd4 Bf6 16 Rd3 Be5 17 Qg4 b4! 18 f6
(18 Ne2 avoids complications, but now the simple 18 ... exf5 19 exf5 Bb5! is good for Black) 18 ... g6
19 Ne2 a5 20 Bxf8 Kxf8 21 Qh4! a4! 22 Qxh7 which was A.Morozevich-G.Kasparov, Astana 2001.
Here Black could have improved his already impressive play with 22 ... Bxf6!, when he is better since
White’s b3-bishop is lost.
c) 14 Bg5 employs a strategic motif of the Sozin, which is to trade off dark-squared bishops and
then attack the vulnerable d6-pawn. This strategy often works because White’s rook on d1 and queen
on g3 are both pointing at d6. However, in this instance Black is fine after 14 ... b4! (14 ... Bxg5 15
fxg5 Nxd4 16 Rxd4 Qc5 was also fine for Black, as seen in A.Morozevich-B.Gelfand, Istanbul
Olympiad 2000) 15 Nce2 Bxg5 16 fxg5 Nxd4 17 Nxd4 a5 18 c3 a4, since his queenside activity makes
up for the passive e8-knight and f8-rook. Also, notice how White’s queen is obstructed by the g5-pawn
so that it is unable to apply any pressure on the g-file. This significantly reduces White’s attacking
capacity on the kingside.
14 ... Bxc6 15 f5 Kh8!
Here’s the catch! Black will let White play f6, but only if he gives up his prized bishop on h6.
16 f6
White must take up the gauntlet with this move or else Black is just better.
Others:
a) White is in far too deep to back out with 16 Be3?!, when Black can swiftly punish him by
playing 16 ... b4 17 Na4 Nf6! 18 fxe6 Nxe4 and now:
a1) 19 Qg4 fxe6 20 Qxe6 was tried in J.Olivier-T.Polak, Baden 1999, and here Black could have
improved with 20 ... Bg5!, gaining a very good game. 20 Nb6 can also be met with 20 ... Bg5!, since
White’s e3-bishop is undefended and 21 Bxg5?? runs into 21 ... Qxb6 22 Kh1 Nf2+ which wins for
Black.
a2) 19 Qh3 fxe6 20 Nb6 (20 Qxe6? misses the chance to bring the a4-knight back into the game,
and after 20 ... Bg5 21 Bd4 Bf6 22 Be3 Rae8 Black is in full control; White’s pieces are scattered while
Black’s are working harmoniously in the centre) 20 ... Rae8 21 Rxf8+ Rxf8 22 Qxe6 Bg5 and Black’s
pieces are very active.
b) 16 fxe6?! is an attempt to sharpen up the game, but after 16 ... gxh6 17 exf7 (17 Rxf7 Rxf7 18
exf7 Ng7 left Black with a better position in G.Young-W.Harper, St. Louis 2011; by exchanging rooks,
White has given up a potential attacker he could use) 17 ... Nf6, White has no way of immediately
continuing his attack, leaving Black up a bishop for two pawns.
16 ... gxh6 17 fxe7 Qxe7
Question: Describe what’s going on here and what should Black’s main plan be?

Answer: Let’s take stock of the position. Black has won a pawn and neutralized much of White’s
kingside pressure. However, Black has obvious weaknesses on h6 and d6, and all of his pieces, with the
exception of the well-placed c6-bishop, are inferior to their white counterparts. Therefore, Black’s plan
is to quickly bolster the defence of his weak pawns, while at the same time activating his pieces. An
example of this might be playing ... Rg8 followed by ... Rg6, activating the rook and protecting the h6-
pawn, though notice how this does leave the f7-pawn less defended.
18 Qf2!
A clever move, aiming the queen towards the centre and queenside. Black’s a6- and b5-pawns
appear active, but they are also vulnerable.
18 Qf4!? is an interesting move, which we first became aware of by playing a blitz game against
each other. The game continued 18 ... h5! 19 Ne2! e5 20 Qe3 Ng7 21 Ng3 h4 22 Nf5 Nxf5 23 Rxf5 and
now Black could have got a slight edge with 23 ... Bd7! 24 Rf2 f5, when his centre pawn mass is
beginning to come alive.
18 ... Ng7!
Fighting fire with fire; Black’s plan is to play ... f5, activating three of his pieces (the f8-rook, c6-
bishop, and g7-knight). While ... Ng7 does go against our plan of protecting the d6-pawn, sometimes
rules can be broken. 18 ... Rb8!? is more cautious, stopping Qb6, but it’s debatable whether wasting a
tempo to accomplish this is worthwhile (especially because Black must become active immediately).
19 Qb6
19 Qd4 was played in S.Rublevsky-Bu Xiangzhi, Ningbo (rapid) 2010. Here Black could have
immediately obtained equality with 19 ... Rfd8 20 Ne2 Qa7!.
19 ... Rfc8 20 Rf2!
A strong move since White now threatens to play Rfd2 or Rdf1, keeping Black guessing which of
his weaknesses will be attacked. Also, Rf2 involves some prophylaxis as it protects the g2-pawn and
shields the white king on the a7-g1 diagonal.
20 a3 is well met by 20 ... a5!, as seen in B.Michiels-Bu Xiangzhi, Antwerp 2008.

Exercise: Figure out how Black can fight back with active play.

Answer: 20 ... a5!


As with 18 ... Ng7, Gelfand again proves he is more than up to the challenge. Black’s idea is to
abruptly resolve the tension on the queenside by exchanging pawns, and this will enable him to focus
his energy on the centre and kingside. Notice too that ... a5 comes with tempo as it threatens to win the
b3-bishop with ... a4.
21 a4 bxa4
21 ... b4?! betrays the idea of ... a5 as it keeps all the queenside pawns on. After 22 Nb5 Bxb5 23
axb5!, Black simply has more problems as White now has a passed b-pawn.
22 Bxa4 Rab8!
A very concrete move. Gelfand invites his opponent to capture on a5, after which the queen will be
misplaced on the side of the board. Then, after the ensuing exchanges on a4, White’s knight will be
vulnerable on the now opened a-file. Both of these factors complement Black’s plan of starting a
counter-attack in the centre.
The automatic 22 ... Bxa4?! is unwise in view of 23 Nxa4 Rd8 24 Qe3! Qg5 25 Qxg5 hxg5 26 Rxf7
and White has the initiative. Black’s pieces are still inferior to White’s and the e6-, d6-, and a5-pawns
are serious weaknesses.
23 Qxa5
23 Qe3 appears aggressive but actually leads to simplification following 23 ... Rxb2 24 Bb3 a4 25
Nxa4 Bxa4 26 Bxa4, when the game seems very drawish as Black’s extra pawn is not making its
presence felt.
23 ... Bxa4 24 Nxa4
There is an interesting draw by repetition after 24 Qxa4 Rxb2 25 Nb5 (25 Rdf1!? keeps the game
going, and after 25 ... f5 26 exf5 Nxf5 27 Nd5! Qg7! both sides have chances) 25 ... Qe8 26 Nxd6!
Qxa4 27 Nxf7+ Kg8 28 Nxh6+ Kh8 29 Nf7+.
24 ... Qb7!?
A curious ploy. While the queen pressurizes the e4-pawn, does it really belong on the queenside? If
Black is going to begin operations in the centre, the queen appears better placed there. On the other
hand, Black may have wanted to stop White from pushing his passed b-pawn, though the pawn is a
long way from being a major threat.
25 Re2
25 Rxd6 Qxe4 shows both White’s and Black’s pieces becoming more active in the opened up
position. A perpetual check or a queen exchange, after which the game will head into drawish waters, is
likely to follow.
25 ... Rc6

Black has carried out the plan outlined in the notes on the 17th move. All of his pawn weaknesses
are either well protected or not under pressure. In addition, his pieces are all fairly productive (the g7-
knight helps to carry out the advance ... f5, while the major pieces are powerfully placed along the c-
and b- files).
26 b3 f5
26 ... Rbc8! was slightly more accurate as it protects the c5-square with tempo. After 27 Rc1 f5 28
e5 d5, White cannot play Nc5, which leaves his knight stranded for the moment.
27 e5 d5 28 Rf1
White could have improved his worst placed piece with 28 Nc5!, and after 28 ... Qe7 29 b4, his
queen and knight duo are shepherding the b-pawn forward.
28 ... h5
It wasn’t too late for 28 ... Rbc8!, controlling c5.
29 Rff2
29 Nc5! is still best.
29 ... h4!
Black is making excellent use of his doubled h-pawn. He has turned his worst pawn into an
instrument that cramps White’s kingside.
30 Qd2 Qe7 31 Qh6 Kg8 32 h3

Exercise: One of Black’s pieces is not helping out. Transfer it to an active post.

Answer: 32 ... Rb4!


The rook is heading to e4, where it will be powerful on a protected square right in the middle of the
board.
33 Nb2!
At the last moment, White brings his knight back into the game before Black develops an
overwhelming position.
33 ... Re4 34 Nd3 Qc7?!
A subtle and seemingly powerful move. Black’s idea is to pressurize the c2-pawn, threatening ...
Rxe2 followed by ... Rxc2. If White moves the e2-rook to d2, then Black’s e4-rook no longer faces an
opponent. This secures its position on the e4-square where it can protect the h4-pawn and attack the e5-
pawn indefinitely. However, if White’s rook does move to d2, it actually becomes a dangerous force
(this is discussed further in the 35 Rd2 variation below).
34 ... Ra6! was better, activating the rook while leaving White’s own rook on the suboptimal e2-
square.
35 Qg5
Kasimdzhanov decides to simplify the game and navigate into safer waters. This is a completely
reasonable decision, given that the players were likely scrambling to make the 40th move here.
Nevertheless, 35 Rd2! was objectively stronger, and after 35 ... Qf7 36 c4! dxc4 37 Nf4, White is
suddenly threatening to play Rd8+. Black’s defence is difficult due to this threat and also because of the
pesky pieces on f4 and h6.
35 ... Rxe2 36 Rxe2 Rxc2 37 Rxc2 Qxc2 38 Ne1

Another path leading to a drawn game was 38 Qd8+ Kf7 39 Qf6+ Ke8 (39 ... Kg8 40 Qd8+ just
repeats the position) 40 Qxg7 Qxd3 41 Qg8+ Kd7 42 Qf7+! (42 Qxh7+? is obviously a mistake; the h-
pawn was insignificant and taking it didn’t even give White a passed pawn) 42 ... Kc6 43 Qxe6+ and
the game will probably be over within a few moves. White will try to push his passed e-pawn and then
Black will bail out with a perpetual check.
38 ... Qxb3 39 Qd8+ Kf7 40 Nf3!?
Choosing not to repeat the position with 40 Qf6+.
40 ... Qe3+ 41 Kf1
Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

Answer: 41 ... h6!


A safe move, giving the king a hiding place on h7 and preventing White’s knight from jumping to
g5. Black is effectively in no danger from this point on.
42 Qxh4?!
This is too optimistic; White has no real chances of a successful attack, so trading into a drawn
endgame was the pragmatic choice. Granted, this position is still very drawish, but Black now has a
protected passed pawn on d5.
42 Qf6+ was better, and 42 ... Kg8 43 Nxh4 seems dangerous for Black, but White’s aggression is
rendered harmless by 43 ... Qg5, when White barely forces a draw with 44 Qxg5 hxg5 45 Nf3 g4 46
hxg4 fxg4 47 Ng5 Kf8 48 Kf2 Ke7 49 Kg3 Nf5+ 50 Kxg4.
42 ... Kg6 43 Qf6+ Kh7 44 Qd8 Qa7
A sneaky move, hoping to play ... Nh5 or ... f4 followed by ... Nf5. In order to do either of these,
Black must first control the seventh rank to prevent White’s queen from pestering Black’s king.
44 ... f4 is tempting, hoping to mate White by moving the g7-knight to g3. However, White’s queen
erases all hopes after 45 Qd7 Kg8 46 Qc8+ Kh7 47 Qd7 Kg6 48 Nh4+ Kh7 49 Nf3 and Black’s king
cannot avoid being a hindrance to the g7-knight.
45 Qh4!
Seeing Black’s trick and stopping both threats.
The innocent 45 Ke2? would have fallen victim to 45 ... Nh5! 46 Qh4 Kg6, when even Black’s king
has become an active player!
45 ... Qd7 46 Kg1 Qe8 47 Kh2 Nh5
Black has accomplished this knight manoeuvre, but at the expense of his queen’s activity.
48 Qb4
48 Nd4 is also good, activating the knight and pressurizing the e6-pawn.
48 ... Qg6 49 Qe7+ Qg7 50 Qh4 Qf7
This position is practically the same as the one three moves ago. Black’s queen has “upgraded” its
post from e8 to f7, but this does little to affect the situation.
51 Nd4
Since the position remains more or less the same, 51 Qb4 again works fine.
51 ... Qg6
51 ... Ng7 is too passive, letting White get away with playing 52 Qd8! Qa7 53 Nc6 and the knight is
heading to e7. Now White’s pressure is not about merely occupying Black’s pieces but rather actually
attacking Black’s king.
52 Qe7+ Ng7 53 g3 Qg5
Gelfand agrees to go into a drawn endgame, as White has shown that Black has no real chance of
activating both his queen and knight.
54 Qxg5 hxg5 55 g4 fxg4 ½-½
The game is drawn because Black’s knight is tied to the defence of the e6-pawn. If Black’s king
moves to f7, White plays Nf3 and forces the king to go to g6 (if Black wants to keep his g5-pawn),
after which White’s knight simply returns to d4.
If White hopes to stop Black from taking over the initiative after 13 ... Nc6, then he has to go for
the main line with 14 Nxc6, followed by pushing the f-pawn. The position after 17 ... Qxe7 in the main
game is critical, as the entire line’s evaluation depends on it. Black’s plan is to activate his pieces
quickly while protecting any of his weak pawns that are attacked. Gelfand did an excellent job of this
and he was able to gain some initiative in the centre later on. The reader should pay special attention to
his 18th, 20th, and 22nd moves. They are good examples of how Black should deal with White’s
pressure while simultaneously continuing to activate the pieces.
Chapter Four
The Classical: 6 Be2
The positional approach with 6 Be2 was one of Karpov’s favourite set-ups against the Najdorf in the
70s and 80s. In accordance with the 12th World Champion’s style, the Classical Variation attempts to
develop quietly and exploit Black’s weaknesses. White’s main plan usually involves controlling the d5-
square, although there are quite a few lines where he plays the energetic f4 push.
Game 20 looks at 7 Nf3 where White aims to play Bg5 and control the d5-square. Black meets this
plan by playing ... Be6 and castling, declining to fight for d5 immediately. Later in this game, Black is
able to regain control over d5 and achieve an ideal Najdorf position.
Game 21 deals with a similar concept, where White plays 7 Nb3 and 8 Bg5. As in Game 20, Black
does best to develop quickly and avoid an immediate contest for d5. Later in the game, White played
too slowly and Black was able to blast through in the centre with 21 ... d5! followed by 22 ... f5!.
The rest of the games deal with the most common 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0, which can be seen below:

Game 22 examines 9 Kh1 which has the idea of waiting for Black to reveal his hand. In response,
Black should play the flexible 9 ... b6, refusing for the moment to commit to any plan. In the game,
Black completed his development and then began active operations with 12 ... b5 and 15 ... d5, giving
him an overwhelming position. Game 22 also looks at some of White’s less popular approaches (i.e. 9
a4, 9 f4, 9 Re1).
Game 23 analyses 9 Be3 Be6 10 Qd3 where White’s plan is to play Nd5 and gain the bishop pair.
To counter this, we recommend that Black plays 10 ... Nc6, and the threat of ... Nb4 prevents White
from playing Nd5. The climax of this game ensues when Black’s kingside and centre attack overcomes
White’s defences, and Black eventually won a complicated endgame.
Game 24 focuses on White opening the game with 9 Be3 Be6 10 f4. Black’s best plan is to take on
f4 and then control the weakened e5-square. In the game, Black’s dark square control proved to be
more important than White’s bishop pair and slight influence on the light squares.
Game 25 features the old main line with 9 Be3 Be6 10 Qd2 (or first 10 a4). White’s most important
ideas are to control the d5-square and prevent Black’s counterplay with ... d5 or ... b5. Meanwhile,
Black should always be on the lookout for chances to play ... d5 or ... b5 should White’s vigilance drop.
In the game, Black showed another plan that involved manoeuvring his knights and trading off the
dark-squared bishop, which worked out nicely for him.

Game 20
A.Tari-Ding Liren
European Club Cup, Antalya 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nf3!?


This line had a huge surge in popularity after strong grandmasters such as Carlsen, MVL, and
Anand played it several times in 2017. The goal of 7 Nf3 is to avoid theory-heavy waters and try to
simply control the d5-square. If Black reacts properly, this is not enough to give White any advantage.
7 ... Be7
Spending time to stop White from playing Bg5 with 7 ... h6 is playable, but it seems too slow after
8 Nd2! Be7 9 Nc4 b5 10 Ne3, when White will be able to put some pressure on Black with moves such
as Bf3, a4, and Ncd5.
8 Bg5
An important part of White’s strategy. Eliminating the f6-knight will secure a strong level of
control over d5.
8 ... Be6!
Prioritizing quick development over fighting for the d5-square.

Question: White’s entire set-up revolves around controlling d5, so why isn’t
Black trying to keep a knight on f6 to fight for it?

Answer: At first sight, 8 ... Be6 is a paradoxical move. However, quick development is a far bigger
priority for Black. Playing 8 ... Nbd7 would keep his queenside pieces tangled up, allowing White to
rapidly attack with Nd2 and Nc4. Another key point behind 8 ... Be6 is that White’s temporary control
over d5 won’t provide him with any advantage, especially because White has to exchange his dark-
squared bishop for Black’s knight.
The standard Najdorf move to counter Bg5 is 8 ... Nbd7, but in this particular line it is not as
energetic. If White doesn’t capture on f6, Black’s pieces will be boxed in. After 9 a4, Black has two
options:
a) 9 ... h6 is an enterprising try, when 10 Be3 (10 Bh4 is met with 10 ... Qb6!) 10 ... Ng4 provides
Black with decent play. However, Black’s cramped queenside pieces and lack of control over d5 seems
slightly unpleasant. W.So-M.Vachier-Lagrave, Stavanger 2018, continued 11 Bc1 Ngf6 12 Nd2 Nc5 13
0-0 Qc7 and Black had a sound position.
b) 9 ... 0-0 10 Nd2 Nc5 11 Bxf6 Bxf6 12 Nc4 Be7 13 a5 was given by de la Villa and Illingworth in
Dismantling the Sicilian – New and Updated Edition (2017), and was also the course of M.Vachier
Lagrave-I.Nepomniatchi, St. Louis 2017. Black was quickly under positional pressure and this was the
key game that allowed MVL to win the 2017 Sinquefield Cup.
9 Bxf6
9 0-0?! goes against White’s entire strategy, as Black can simply play 9 ... Nbd7 with at least an
equal game.
9 ... Bxf6 10 Nd5
Or 10 0-0 0-0 11 Qd2 (11 Nd5 would be met with 11 ... Nd7 12 Qd2 Rc8, which was played in
M.Womacka-N.Huschenbeth, Tegernsee 2017, and is similar to the game) 11 ... Be7 (11 ... Qc7 is
another valid way to play, and 12 Rfd1 Be7 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 Qxd5 Nd7 is given by de la Villa and
Illingworth, leading to equality) 12 Rad1 Nd7, when Black is doing fine. Because the black forces are
well prepared to fight in the centre, Nd5 loses most of its potency. After 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 Qxd5 b5!,
White’s light square control is almost meaningless. The f3-knight is unable to help to fight for d5 and
the e2-bishop cannot go to c4. Meanwhile, Black can double his major pieces on the c-file, attack the
e4-pawn with ... Nf6 or ... Nc5, and prepare to push the d-pawn with ... Nb6/ ... Nf6 and ... Rad8/ ...
Rfd8. We would even argue that Black is better positionally because all of his pieces have more active
prospects than White’s.

Exercise: White is threatening to exchange on f6 and Black’s queen is unable


to take back because it must defend d6. What should Black do?

Answer: 10 ... Nd7


Playing this move after Nd5 is an important motif to remember. Black’s queen must remain on d8
to protect the d6-pawn, so the d7-knight is ready to recapture on f6. Notice how it’s fine to leave the
d6-pawn unprotected because the d5-knight shields it.
11 0-0 Rc8!
This move appears active, but its main purpose is prophylaxis. If the pressure on d6 becomes too
great, Black can always play ... Rc6.
12 Re1
12 a4 gains space on the queenside, and S.Das-F.Amonatov, Kolkata 2018, continued 12 ... 0-0 13
Nd2 Bxd5 14 exd5 Be7, when Black obtained a comfortable position with ... f5 next.
12 ... 0-0 13 c3 Be7 14 Bf1
White is playing a slow game, but it’s debatable whether this is out of choice or necessity. White’s
set-up has given him control over d5, but overall it seems very artificial. There are no concrete plans for
White, while Black has many useful moves at his disposal (playing ... b5, ... Nc5, ... Nf6, and possibly
even ... f5 later on).
14 ... Nf6 15 Qb3
15 Nxe7+ surrenders all control over d5, leaving White with a worse position after 15 ... Qxe7 16
Qd2 Rfd8, when White has no targets to attack whatsoever. The d6-pawn and d5-square are too heavily
defended, and White’s minor pieces are poorly placed. Black can choose between attacking on the
queenside, arranging ... f5, and even playing ... d5.

Question: How should Black capture on d5? (Hint: what colour complex is
White’s bishop on?)

Answer: 15 ... Nxd5


With the knight, because Black wants to keep his bishop in order to stop White from controlling the
light squares. In many Najdorf lines, Black is forced to exchange on d5 with the bishop, but he should
exchange with the knight whenever possible.
16 exd5 Bg4
Discouraging White from taking on b7 due to the threat of ... Bxf3.
Interesting was 16 ... Bf5 with the intention of stopping White from playing Bd3. However, Black’s
compensation for the pawn after 17 Qxb7 Rb8 18 Qxa6 Rxb2!? is somewhat unclear.
17 Nd2
Taking the pawn and hoping for the best with 17 Qxb7! was probably a better practical choice.
After 17 ... Bxf3 18 gxf3 a5, Black’s kingside attack looks awfully scary, but at least White has some
tangible compensation. (18 ... Rb8?! needlessly gives White a passed pawn after 19 Qxa6 Rxb2 20 a4.)
17 ... Rb8?!
Prematurely committing the rook to b8. If Black’s plan was to push ... b5, then this move would be
justified. However, ... b5 would only help activate White’s pieces after a4.
17 ... Qd7! was slightly more accurate, as it connects the rooks and allows the c8-rook to continue
controlling the c-file. In addition, Black is now able to play ... Bd8 if White’s knight goes to b6 and
becomes too bothersome.
18 a4 Qa5!

Question: What is the purpose of this peculiar queen move? Black


obviously doesn’t want to open up the queenside and activate White’s
pieces, so what’s the plan?

Answer: One idea of 18 ... Qa5 is to use the queen to tempt White into pushing his queenside
pawns. When this happens, White’s queen will be blocked from attacking the b7-pawn and White’s
overextended pawns may even become targets.
19 Qc4?!
Giving in to Black’s plan. Now, with White’s queen no longer attacking b7, Black enjoys some
relief. Instead, 19 Re4! would have caused Black some problems after 19 ... Bd7 20 Rb4 b5 21 Ra3!,
when White’s queenside pressure has materialized into a concrete attack. White may even have a slight
advantage after 21 ... Qb6 22 axb5 axb5 23 Qa2!, since Black has no way to contest the a-file.
19 ... Bh5 20 b4?!
It was too late to retreat the queen with 20 Qb3 as Black’s centre attack is too powerful after 20 ...
f5! 21 Qa3 e4! with a similar position to the game.
Better was 20 Nb3! which has some useful plus points. The first is to push Black’s queen away,
allowing White to move his queen back on the b-file. The second is to play Na5 after Qb4, putting
pressure on the b7-pawn. The third is prophylaxis: if Black plays ... e4 then White can answer it with
Nd4-e6.
20 ... Qd8
With the queen’s mission completed, it returns home and prepares an attack on the kingside.
21 a5!
Since White is already committed to pushing his queenside pawns, playing a5 makes sense. It fixes
Black’s queenside pawns on light squares (allowing the f1-bishop to attack them) and gives the knight
an outpost on b6.
21 ... f5 22 Qb3 e4 23 Nc4 Bf6

Even though Black has centre pawns on both colour complexes, both of his bishops are completely
unrestricted. This gives Black excellent chances for a kingside attack.
23 ... Rc8!? wastes some time on the queenside, but the idea is to avoid getting the rook trapped on
b8 after Nb6. Now 24 Nb6 Rc7 still leaves Black’s rook cramped, but at least it has some options. It
can stay on the c-file or transfer elsewhere along the seventh rank.
24 Rac1
White’s plan isn’t obvious, but nevertheless it is quite dangerous. He wants to play Nb6, followed
by c4-c5.
24 ... Kh8?!
In view of White’s plan, now isn’t the best time for prophylaxis. More to the point is 24 ... Bg5! 25
Rc2 Qe7 26 Nb6 Rbe8 27 c4 f4 28 c5 e3!, when it’s clear Black’s attack is more threatening than
White’s. Black is using all of his forces to attack White’s king, while White only has three pieces
operating on the queenside.
25 Nb6 Bg5 26 Rc2 Bg6 27 c4!
Of course. White must seek immediate counterplay. Black used a tempo playing 24 ... Kh8 so
White has a chance to make a comeback.
27 ... f4 28 c5?
But this is too hasty. Allowing a discovered attack on the c2-rook is too dangerous. 28 Rce2 was
more prudent, although Black is clearly on top after 28 ... e3 29 fxe3 fxe3.
28 ... e3 29 Bd3

Exercise: Black has two choices (29 ... Bh4 or 29 ... exf2+). They seem to
accomplish the same thing, but there is a key difference between the
two move orders. Which one is better?

Answer: 29 ... Bh4!


This is the accurate move order. The idea of not taking on f2 right away is to prevent a white rook
from going on the f-file.
29 ... exf2+? allows White to simplify with 30 Rxf2 Bh4 31 g3 fxg3 32 Rxf8+ Qxf8 33 Rf1 and
Black has to be really accurate to gain any advantage from this position.
30 Bxg6
30 g3? Qg5! leaves White’s kingside in dire straits. The g3-pawn is under tremendous pressure and
the f2-pawn (which defends the g3-pawn) can be eliminated at any moment.
30 ... exf2+ 31 Rxf2 Bxf2+ 32 Kxf2 Qh4+
32 ... hxg6?? blunders to the sneaky 33 Qh3+ Kg8 34 Nd7 Rf5 35 Nxb8 and White has at least an
equal position. Suddenly the queenside majority is looking very formidable.
33 Kf1
Exercise: What is Black’s best move here? Taking on g6 is good for Black, but it
allows White to exchange queens with 34 Qh3. How can this problem be solved?

Answer: 33 ... f3!


By throwing in this intermezzo, which simultaneously cuts off White’s queen and attacks the king.
34 gxf3 hxg6 35 c6 Rbe8
A more “brute force” method was 35 ... Qh3+ 36 Ke2 Rbe8+ 37 Kd1 Rxe1+ 38 Kxe1 Re8+ 39 Kd2
Qxh2+ and White’s king is finished.
36 Re3?
36 Re6 avoids mate, but Black is still completely winning after 36 ... Qh3+ 37 Kf2 Qxh2+.
36 ... Rxf3+ 37 Rxf3 Re1+ 38 Kg2 Re2+ 39 Kf1 Qe1 mate
The 7 Nf3 line is a very positional approach in that its main goal is to control the d5-square.
Nevertheless, Black should prioritize quick development with 8 ... Be6, as opposed to fighting for d5
with 8 ... Nbd7. When White plays Nd5 (while Black’s dark-squared bishop is still on f6) Black should
answer with ... Nd7, protecting the bishop. Then, playing ... Rc8 is another good concept to remember,
with the idea of playing ... Rc6 to protect the d6-pawn if needed.
In the middlegame, it turns out that White’s control over d5 is not enough for an advantage on its
own. Black’s control over the dark squares and better piece coordination more than make up for it. As
we saw in this game, Black does well to challenge White’s knight on d5 early on, usually with ... Nf6.
Since White is not prepared to defend his stake in the centre, Black has no problems.

Game 21
V.Onischuk- M.Vachier Lagrave
Bastia (rapid) 2016
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 Bg5
White’s main plan in this system is to trade off the f6-knight and control the d5-square. However,
this plan is rather one dimensional and White is giving up his good dark-squared bishop in order to
accomplish it. Therefore, Black should continue to develop his pieces quickly and not worry about
fighting for d5 just yet.
8 ... Be6
8 ... Nbd7 is also playable and the coordination between the f6-knight and d7-knight keeps d5 well
protected. However, Black’s queenside pieces are in a tangle and White can pose some problems with 9
a4! b6 10 Bc4 Bb7 11 Qe2, when Black is too passive for our taste. This isn’t the type of position most
Najdorf players look forward to playing!
9 Bxf6 Bxf6 10 Qd3
10 Nd5 is met by 10 ... Nd7, when White’s knight on d5 prevents any attacks on the d6-pawn. If
White tries to double his queen and rook on the d-file with 11 Qd3 Rc8 12 0-0-0 (Black can meet 12
Rd1 by playing 12 ... Rc6 and the d6-pawn is firmly protected) 12 ... Bxd5 13 Qxd5 Qc7! 14 Qd3 0-0
gave Black a good position in D.Lintchevski-A.Sorokin, Kazan 2015; Black’s pressure on the c-file
prevents White from capturing the d6-pawn, and if needed Black can always play ... Be7 to give the
pawn more support.

Exercise: Black wants to develop the b8-knight to the d7-square, but doing
so immediately drops the d6-pawn. How can Black solve this problem?

Answer: 10 ... Be7


The purpose of this move is to protect the d6-pawn, allowing ... Nd7 to be played. We believe
Black’s knight belongs on d7 (not c6) because from that square it can easily fight for d5 with ... Nf6 or
even ... Nb6.
10 ... Nc6 is another way to play this line, when play can get quite complicated after 11 0-0-0 Be7
and now:
a) 12 Kb1 0-0 13 Nd5 a5 gives chances for both sides.
b) 12 Nd5 is not effective after 12 ... a5 13 Nxe7 Kxe7 with a strategically superior position.
c) 12 g3!? is interesting, with the idea of pushing f4; D.Lintchevski-A.Areshchenko, St. Petersburg
2010, continued 12 ... a5 13 a3, and here Black could have improved with the aggressive 13 ... a4! 14
Nd2 Nd4, reaching a dynamically balanced position.
11 Nd5
A sharper option is 11 0-0-0 Nd7 12 Nd5 Bxd5 13 Qxd5 Qc7, when the chances are roughly level,
although there is still some spark left in the game. White will probably regroup his knight by playing
Nd2-c4 and focus on controlling the d5-square indefinitely. Meanwhile, Black will play ... Nf6 (in
order to fight for d5), castle, and then begin a queenside attack with ... b5 or ... a5. Positionally White is
slightly better, but Black has dynamic possibilities. It should be noted that if White plays 14 Qc4!?,
Black should decline the queen exchange with 14 ... Qb6, and after 15 Rhf1 0-0 the game remained
equal in V.Bernadskiy-P.Idani, Tehran 2017.
11 ... Nd7 12 Rd1
12 Nxe7 removes the e7-bishop and plans to play Rd1, attacking the d6-pawn. Black’s best is 12 ...
Kxe7!, using the king to temporarily defend the pawn until one of Black’s rooks can help out (12 ...
Qxe7 13 Rd1 has been seen in a few games, such as D.Saduakassova-E.Berg, Dubai 2011; while the
position should be objectively equal, the attack on the d6-pawn causes Black some difficulties). It isn’t
dangerous for Black to play this move since White lacks the firepower to get through to Black’s king in
the centre. For example, after 13 0-0 Qb6 14 Rfd1 Rhd8 15 c4 Rac8 16 Rac1 Nf6 17 Rc3 Kf8, the d6-
pawn is securely defended and Black’s king is safe on the kingside.
12 ... Bxd5
Question: Why did Black capture on d5, exchanging off his light-squared bishop?
Doesn’t this give White control over d5?

Answer: Black only captured the knight because White was threatening to take on e7 and win the
d6-pawn. The rule is that Black should only exchange on d5 when forced to (as in this situation). Also,
while it looks like White has full control over d5, Black can play ... Nf6 and fight for this square.
13 Qxd5 Qc7 14 c3
A sensible move, protecting the c-pawn while also complementing White’s light-squared bishop.
Others:
a) 14 Nd2 immediately is also possible, but it doesn’t give White anything special after 14 ... 0-0
(14 ... Nf6 was also fine; but Black doesn’t need to push the queen off the d5-square yet) 15 0-0
(leaving the king in the centre with 15 Nc4 drops the a2-pawn after 15 ... Nf6 16 Qd3 b5! 17 Ne3 Qa5+
18 c3 Qxa2) 15 ... b5 16 c3 g6, when Black had a fine position in M.Carlsen-A.Giri, Qatar 2015.
b) 14 c4?! is an awful move, blocking in White’s bishop and weakening some key dark squares (d4,
c5, b4).
14 ... Nf6
14 ... 0-0 leaves White’s queen on d5 and may be even more accurate than the game move. The d5-
queen appears active, but it accomplishes nothing concrete (each pawn it attacks is securely defended).
The queen is more of a target that Black can attack with his knight when the moment is right. The
position after 15 0-0 (15 Nd2 is slow, allowing Black to begin a queenside attack with 15 ... b5 16 Nf1
Rab8) 15 ... b5 is mentioned by Georgiev and Kolev in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012 and Black is fine.
15 Qd3 0-0 16 Nd2
16 0-0 was tried in A.Horvath-M.Vachier-Lagrave, Berlin 2018. The game continued 16 ... b5 17
Rfe1 Rfd8 18 Bf3 Rab8 19 Nd2 Nd7 20 Nf1 Nc5 21 Qe2 and here MVL played 21 ... Bg5! with the
idea of meeting 22 Ne3 with 22 ... Bxe3.
16 ... Rfd8 17 Bf3
White defends against ... d5, but as we will see later in the game this isn’t a permanent solution to
stop the break.
17 ... b5 18 0-0 g6!?
Question: What is the purpose of this move, and doesn’t it weaken the
dark squares?

Answer: This move patches up the kingside light squares which prevents White’s knight from ever
reaching f5. 18 ... g6 may look like it weakens the dark squares, but White’s lack of a dark-squared
bishop prevents him from making anything of it.
Also good was 18 ... Nd7 with the idea of playing ... Nc5, and also ... Bg5 if White is about to move
his knight to e3.
19 Ra1?!
A slightly dubious move. White is preparing to play a4, but he is giving up all control of the centre.
Black is soon able to take advantage of this with a ... d5 break.
19 Rfe1 seems to make more sense, preparing Nf1-e3-d5. Black’s idea may have been 19 ... Bf8!?
20 Nf1 Bh6!! 21 Ne3 Bxe3 22 Rxe3 Rab8 and Black would have play on the queenside. The idea of
moving the dark-squared bishop to the h6-c1 diagonal is an extremely important concept to remember.
It prevents White’s knight from going to d5 via e3, giving Black at least an equal game.
Exercise: Find the move that works to prevent the a4 push and frees up the
e7-bishop.

Answer: 19 ... Nd7!


A great multipurpose move for several reasons.
1) Black prepares to move the knight to c5 or b6, stopping the a4 push.
2) The f-pawn can now be advanced, which gives Black a dynamic resource that he soon utilizes.
3) Black’s bishop is opened up and he is able to play ... Bg5 if needed, which stops White’s knight
from reaching d5 via e3. As mentioned previously, please remember this bishop manoeuvre! It is very
important because we never want White to have a knight on d5 when we’re missing our light-squared
bishop.
20 Rfd1 Nb6 21 g3?!
A prophylactic move designed to shore up the dark squares and give the f3-bishop a retreat square.
However, in light of Black’s next move, 21 g3 is too slow.
Moving the queen to safety with 21 Qe2 was better, taking the sting out of ... d5.
Alternatively, 21 Rac1!? is an interesting combative move, with the idea of meeting ... d5 with c4.
After 21 ... d5?! 22 exd5 f5 23 c4! e4 24 Nxe4 fxe4 25 Qxe4, White has a much better version of the
game, due to his added activity along the c-file.
21 ... d5!
White’s pieces are ill-prepared for combat in the centre, so Black rips it open. Playing ... d5 when
White is not in control of the centre is a very common theme in the Najdorf.
22 exd5
Trying to pacify the situation with 22 Qe2 does little good for White after 22 ... dxe4 23 Bxe4
Rab8, when Black’s central majority is about to become a major attacking force. It is unclear how
White’s passive pieces are supposed to deal with the threat of ... f5 followed by ... e4.
22 ... f5! 23 h4!
Planning ahead: White accepts that he should sacrifice a piece, so he pushes his h-pawn to begin
seeking immediate counterplay. It’s important to note that 23 h4 is objectively not the best move, but in
practical terms it is White’s best try.
23 Qe2 saves the piece, but gives White a very passive position after 23 ... e4 24 Bg2 Rxd5, when
Black is completely dominating. His central pawn armada severely limits White’s forces.
23 ... e4
Interestingly, refusing the piece with 23 ... Rd7!? may have been even stronger, with the idea of
preserving the e5-f5 pawn duo. After 24 h5 Rad8 25 Qe2 Kg7!? (there’s also nothing wrong with
playing 25 ... e4 immediately), each of White’s pieces are tied down and Black can play ... Nxd5 or ...
e4 whenever he wants. If White moves the d2-knight away, then Black pushes ... e4. If White moves
the a1-rook away, then Black plays ... Nxd5 (since a4 isn’t a strong threat anymore).
24 Nxe4 fxe4
Exercise: What is the best way for White to recapture on e4?

25 Bxe4?!
While this move sets up a battery with the queen, the bishop doesn’t do anything other than attack
the g6-pawn. The queen is better suited to be in the centre since it can do multiple things at once.
Answer: 25 Qxe4! is the best move, with the idea of queen centralization: from e4, the queen
attacks g6, can give a check on e6, can move to g4, and controls the e-file. For example, 25 ... Bd6 26
h5 Re8 27 Qd4 Re5 28 hxg6 hxg6 29 Re1 shows Black’s forces spread thin across the board, mainly
due to the white queen’s influence on the queenside, centre, and kingside.
25 ... Nc4 26 Bxg6!
As with 23 h4, this is the best practical chance. Because of his passive rooks, White’s attack has a
limited chance of success. Still, he needs immediate counterplay and 26 Bxg6 is the only way to get it.
The safe 26 Re1 lets Black consolidate his position with 26 ... Bc5 (the risky 26 ... Nxb2!? is also
possible, but it seems unwise to be grabbing pawns at a time like this) 27 Re2 Rd6!, when the passed d-
pawn just blocks in White’s pieces and the g6-pawn has enough defence.
26 h5? sacrifices too much material after 26 ... Nxb2 27 Qc2 Nxd1.

Exercise: White’s kingside attack is becoming dangerous. How can Black bring
in a defender quickly?

Answer: 26 ... Bc5!


An accurate find in a tough situation! Black opens the seventh rank for his queen, threatening to
take on g6 and play ... Qg7. In addition, Black also has the threat of ... Bxf2+ followed by ... Qb6+,
forking White’s king and bishop.
26 ... Nxb2? blunders into a perpetual check after 27 Bxh7+ Kh8 28 Qd4+ Kxh7 29 Qe4+ Kg7 30
Qg4+ Kf8 31 Qf5+ Kg7 (31 ... Ke8? 32 Rd4 amazingly gives White a winning attack; the threats of
Rg4-g8 mate and doubling rooks on the e-file starting with Rae1 are too much for Black to handle,
despite having two extra pieces) 32 Qg4+ etc.
27 d6?
White falters. The purpose of 27 d6 is to open up files and diagonals for the queen, but this isn’t
enough to justify allowing Black’s rook to get so active after ... Rxd6.
Forcing Black to take action with 27 b4 was necessary, when 27 ... Bxf2+ 28 Kxf2 Qa7+!! (the
obvious 28 ... Qb6+?! 29 Kg2 Ne3+ 30 Kh3 doesn’t let Black play 30 ... Nxd1?? since the h7-pawn is
not protected, and White is winning after 31 Bxh7+ Kg7 32 Rxd1) 29 Kg2 Ne3+ 30 Kh3 Nxd1 31
Rxd1 hxg6 32 Qxg6+ Qg7 gives Black a position that is winning in theory. However, neutralizing an
active queen and three passed pawns isn’t the easiest thing to do over the board.
27 ... Rxd6 28 Qf3 Rf8 29 Bf5 Kh8!
Black finds the right moment for prophylaxis during the storm. White isn’t threatening anything at
the moment, so Black has time to move the king away. 29 ... Rdf6?! is too anxious, fuelling White’s
attack after 30 Qg4+ Qg7 31 Bxh7+!.
30 b4 Rdf6 31 Rd5
On 31 bxc5 Rxf5 32 Qe4 Qxc5 White is down one point and Black’s pieces are extremely well
coordinated.
31 ... Ne5!

32 Qe2 Bxf2+ 33 Qxf2 Rxf5 34 Qc5 Qg7 0-1


In the 7 Nb3 and 8 Bg5 line, Black does best to develop quickly and ignore the d5-square for the
time being. He should play 8 ... Be6, followed by relocating the f6-bishop to e7 and playing ... Nd7. If
White plays Nd5, Black should only exchange his light-squared bishop for it if White is threatening to
play Nxe7 and win the d6-pawn. In the middlegame, the idea of retreating the f6-knight to d7 is key. It
prepares to move the knight to c5 (where it can attack the d3-queen) or to b6 (where it helps prepare ...
d5). Another important purpose of ... Nd7 is to allow Black to play ... Bg5 if White’s knight is about to
move from f1 to e3. This prevents the knight from reaching d5, which is very important since Black no
longer has a light-squared bishop.

Game 22
J.Hjartarson-S.Vidit
Reykjavik 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0 9 Kh1!?
A quiet little move with a nasty bite that picked up popularity in the 1990s, when top-level players
such as Kasparov and Anand played it. The idea behind 9 Kh1 is to wait and see what Black does,
while tucking the king away into safety.
Others:
a) 9 a4 b6 reaches a position similar to the main game after 10 f4 Bb7 11 Bf3 Nbd7 followed by ...
Rc8 putting pressure on the c-file. 9 ... Nc6!? followed by ... Be6 and ... Nb4, taking advantage of the
weakened b4-square, is a good alternative. The slight problem with 9 ... Be6 is that, after 10 f4 exf4 11
Bxf4, White is playing the 9 Be3/10 f4 line with the extra move a4; of course, this is not that dangerous
for Black and after 11 ... Nc6 12 Kh1 Rc8 13 Qe1 Ne5 14 Rd1 Nfd7, Black is fine.
b) 9 f4?! leaves the e4-pawn very weak, as it will never have any support from the f-pawn. Thus,
Black should respond by playing 9 ... b5! immediately and if 10 a4 (10 a3?! is the main move, but too
passive; Black has the perfect Najdorf set-up after 10 ... Bb7 11 Bf3 Nbd7 12 Kh1 Rc8, which was also
given by Georgiev and Kolev) 10 ... Bb7 Black has great counterplay against White’s centre.
R.Ziatdinov-S.Sjugirov, St. Petersburg 2011, continued 11 axb5 axb5 12 Rxa8 Bxa8, and notice how
White could take Black’s b5-pawn, but then Black captures White’s e4-pawn.
c) 9 Re1 is a fashionable line; White idea is to play Bf3 and then manoeuvre the b3-knight to d5 via
d2-f1-e3. To counter this, Black should immediately begin fighting for control over d5. The goal is
either to play ... d5 or force White to play Nd5 prematurely (and after exchanging on d5, White will be
stuck with a pawn there). Play can continue 9 ... Be6 10 Bf3 b5! 11 a4 (11 Bd2 has the idea of
controlling the a5-square but this isn’t so dangerous and Black should respond with 11 ... Nbd7 12 Nd5
Nb6! 13 Ba5 Nfxd5 14 exd5 Bf5, when Black enjoys the better position; White’s minor pieces are not
working harmoniously and Black will soon be able to play ... f5 and fully control the centre) 11 ... b4
12 Nd5, and solidifying the queenside with 12 ... a5! is strong (12 ... Nxd5 13 exd5 Bf5 14 a5! should
be completely fine for Black, but the weak b4-pawn will give him some slight problems to solve). Then
13 Nxe7+ Qxe7 14 Be3 was seen in A.Areshchenko-Z.Andriasian, Martuni 2014, where Black could
have slightly improved with 14 ... Rc8, putting pressure on the c-file and gaining a very comfortable
position.
9 ... b6!
Black, in turn, plays a semi-waiting move! In our opinion, 9 ... b6 is the most accurate reply to 9
Kh1, since Black refuses to commit to any plan until White demonstrates his intentions. Black’s other
replies (9 ... b5, 9 ... Be6, 9 ... Nc6) suffer from the problem that Black commits himself to a certain set-
up too early:
a) The natural 9 ... b5?! seems sound, but the problem is that Black is advancing his queenside
pawns before knowing if White will play f4 (weakening the e4-pawn). Thus, the ... b5 push is rather
aimless and weakening, giving White a slight advantage after 10 a4! b4 11 Nd5 Bb7 (11 ... Nxe4??
loses to 12 Bf3 f5 13 Nxe7+ Qxe7 14 Qd5+, forking Black’s king and rook) 12 Nxf6+ Bxf6 13 f3 a5 14
Be3, although this should only be very slightly worse for Black.
b) 9 ... Be6 is also slightly inaccurate because of 10 f4 and, compared to the 9 f4 line, Black’s
bishop is slightly misplaced on e6. If 10 ... exf4 (10 ... Qc7?! is just asking to be attacked on the
kingside; White gets a tremendous position after 11 f5 Bc4 12 g4 d5 13 g5! Nxe4 14 Nxe4 dxe4 15 f6,
when Black’s kingside is about to be ripped open) 11 Bxf4 and White has a slight edge as he is a tempo
up compared to the 9 Be3 with 10 f4 lines.
c) 9 ... Nc6 is probably Black’s best alternative to 9 ... b6, but even this move is somewhat
committal. In the 6 Be2 system, Black normally wants to develop his knight to d7. In principle, it seems
wrong to play ... Nc6 just because White is waiting one move with 9 Kh1. Still, if this move is more to
the reader’s taste, here is a sample line: 10 f3! (10 f4 is the main move, but Black is fine after 10 ... b5
11 Bf3 Bb7 12 Nd5 exf4 13 Bxf4 Ne5) 10 ... Be6 11 Nd5 a5!, which is given by Georgiev and Kolev
and Black has good activity. Nonetheless, we prefer the set-up with 9 ... b6.
10 f4
This is White’s only chance to play aggressively, but by playing f4 he has revealed his plan, which
is to attack on the kingside, and weakened his e4-pawn. Therefore, Black should focus all his efforts on
attacking the e4-pawn and this includes a quick ... b5. Others:
a) 10 Be3 is not that dangerous, and Black should play 10 ... Bb7 11 f3 b5!

Question: Why is playing this move good, when we said it was bad on the
9th move?

Answer: The reason ... b5 works now is that, after White plays a4 and Nd5, Black can play ... Nxd5
and his bishop on b7 prevents White’s queen from coming to d5. In the 9 ... b5 variation, this was not
the case, since the bishop was still on c8.
After 12 a4 (12 Qd2 Nbd7 is a normal position in the Classical Variation, where Black has no
problems) 12 ... b4 13 Nd5 Nxd5 14 exd5 Nd7, Black has a few plans. The first is to play ... Bg5, with
the aim of activating the dark-squared bishop. The second is to create pressure on the c-file with moves
such as ... Qc7. The third is to begin advancing the centre pawns with ... f5. For example, F.Nijboer-
S.Barrientos, La Bordeta 2010, continued 15 c3 bxc3 16 bxc3 Bg5 17 Bf2 Qc7 18 c4 Rab8 19 Bd3 f5
and Black was constructively carrying out the aforementioned ideas.
b) White can also delay Be3 with 10 f3 Bb7 11 a4 (11 Be3 b5 transposes to the 10 Be3 variation)
and here Black should play 11 ... Nc6!, when the knight prepares to leap in on b4. It’s important to note
that Black only plays ... Nc6 once White has committed his pawn to a4 (since the pawn can no longer
move to a3 and control b4). Now 12 Be3 Nb4 gave Black the better game in G.Arzumanian-V.Popov,
Nefteyugansk 2002. Black’s plan is to push ... d5 or put pressure on the c-file with ... Rc8/ ... Qc7.
10 ... Bb7 11 Bf3 Nbd7
11 ... b5?! is slightly too early, as White has a rare idea at his disposal; 12 fxe5! dxe5 13 Qxd8
Bxd8 (13 ... Rxd8 runs into 14 Na5) 14 Nc5 Bc6 15 Be3 with a small initiative for White. He will soon
control the d-file with one of his rooks, and Black still has to finish his development.
12 Qe2?!
This move does not co-ordinate with f4. White needs to attack on the kingside at once before
Black’s queenside play becomes too strong. White has two other options here:
a) Preventing ... b5 with 12 a4 is too slow and White’s centre collapses after 12 ... Rc8 13 f5 Rxc3!?
(13 ... Rc4!? is also good, putting pressure on the centre; if Black manages to play ... Qa8, White’s e-
pawn will be on the verge of annihilation) 14 bxc3 Nxe4, when Black has excellent play for the
exchange.
b) 12 Qe1, with the plan of playing Qg3 and pressuring Black’s kingside, may have been more to
the point. However, we prefer Black’s chances after 12 ... Rc8 13 Be3 b5 14 a3 Rc4!? (14 ... Rc7?!
immediately is inaccurate due to 15 Na5!), when Black’s plan is to play ... Qa8 and pressurize the e4-
pawn. Another reason to play 14 ... Rc4 is to lure the b3-knight away from its post, so that White can
no longer play Na5. After 15 Nd2 Rc7 16 Qg3 Kh8 17 Rad1 Qa8 Black had the better position in
A.Ismagambetov-Wang Hao, Shenzhen 2011. White’s attack is facing tough resistance on the kingside,
while Black’s plan of attacking the e4-pawn is going well.
12 ... b5!

Exercise: Give two reasons explaining why it is now a good time to play
this move.

Answer: First, Black’s pieces are well developed and coordinated, which prevents White from
taking advantage of his position if the game opens up (such as with fxe5). Second, any ideas White has
with a4 and Nd5 have been rendered harmless because the f6-knight and b7-bishop control the d5-
square.
For example 13 a4 b4 14 Nd5 Nxd5 15 exd5 Re8 shows that the a4 and Nd5 idea no longer works.
White’s d5-pawn is weak and Black is beginning to take over the e-file. He can also control the c-file
with ... Rc8 and ... Qc7.
13 a3 Rc8 14 f5!
The best chance to get counterplay on the kingside. By pushing the f-pawn, Black is unable to play
... exf4, which may be dangerous if his rook is on e8. In addition, f5 allows White to potentially begin a
pawn storm with g4 and h4.
14 ... Re8!

Question: Why did Black move the rook to e8, when the e-file appears
completely blocked?

Answer: Black is planning to open the centre with ... d5!. The idea is that after White plays exd5,
Black can play ... e4, and it will be dangerous for White to take the e4-pawn due to the e8-rook’s
pressure along the e-file.
15 g4?
This allows Black to carry out the aforementioned idea with ... d5. The strength of the ... d5 push is
actually amplified by g4 because now White’s king is exposed along the h1-a8 diagonal.
The best defence is the very tricky 15 Bd2!, and now on 15 ... d5?! 16 exd5 e4 17 Nxe4 Nxe4? (17
... Rxc2 is necessary, with an equal game) 18 Ba5! Black’s d7-knight is forced to move to b6 where it
becomes a target for White’s queen. For example, after 18 ... Nb6 19 Qxe4 Bxa3?? 20 Qd4, White wins
due to the double attack on Black’s b6-knight and a3-bishop.
15 ... d5! 16 exd5 e4! 17 Bg2
17 Nxe4? loses after 17 ... Nxe4 18 Bxe4 (18 Qxe4 Bf6 19 Qf4 Rxc2 leaves White in an
indefensible position: Black is going to play ... Ne5 and take on d5 while White has difficulties
stopping this plan) 18 ... Bd6! with the threat of ... Bxd5 and ... Nf6. White must move his queen out of
the pin, but this doesn’t save him after 19 Qg2 Rxe4 20 Qxe4 Qh4! 21 Bf4 Nf6, when Black will
capture on d5 with a winning attack.
17 ... Nxd5 18 Nxe4 N7f6 19 c3
Moving all the pieces off the e-file with 19 Nxf6+ Bxf6 20 Qf2 would have lessened some of the
pressure on White, although Black is still winning after 20 ... Bh4!.
19 ... Nxe4 20 Qxe4 Bd6
All of Black’s minor pieces are pointed towards White’s king. In addition, the e8-rook and d8-
queen are ready to jump to e2 and h4 respectively, joining the attack. White is helpless against such a
powerful armada, especially since some of his pieces on the queenside are not yet developed.
21 Qc2 Qh4 22 Bf3

Exercise: Find the tactical combination that diverts the f1-rook away from
its post, allowing Black to play ... Re1+.

Answer: 22 ... Nb4!


Black creates a discovered attack against the f3-bishop with the plan of playing ... Bxf3+ to bring
the f1-rook to f3.
23 Bg5
The best chance, hoping to finish developing the queenside pieces. 23 axb4? loses on the spot to 23
... Bxf3+ 24 Rxf3 Re1+ 25 Rf1 Rxf1+ 26 Kg2 Qxh2+ 27 Kxf1 Qxc2.
23 ... Bxf3+
23 ... Qxg5?? blunders the win away since 24 axb4 Bxf3+ 25 Rxf3 Qxg4 26 Qg2 gives White an
equal game.
24 Rxf3 Nxc2 25 Bxh4 Nxa1 26 Nxa1 Re2 0-1
Brief Summary of the 9th Move Sidelines
1) If White plays 9 Re1, Black should play 9 ... Be6 and immediately begin fighting for control over
the d5-square.
2) If White plays 9 f4, Black should play 9 ... b5 because White has weakened his e4-pawn.
3) If White plays 9 a4, Black should play 9 ... b6 (just like he would in the 9 Kh1 line).

Summary of 9 Kh1: In this line, White is trying to conceal his intentions and wait for Black to
commit to an unfavourable set-up. Thus, Black should play 9 ... b6 and develop quietly, watching what
White does. Later on, Black should play ... b5 when the strength of White’s a4 and Nd5 idea has
diminished. This usually happens when Black has developed his light-squared bishop to b7, since it
controls d5 and forces White to recapture with the e-pawn after playing Nd5.

Game 23
P.Zvara-D.Swiercz
Czech League 2013

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0


If White plays 8 Qd3 immediately, then Black should respond with 8 ... Be6 in preparation for
White playing Nd5. Now:
a) After 9 Nd5 Nxd5 10 exd5 Bc8!, Black has a fine position as he will soon have full control over
the centre with moves like ... f5 and ... Nd7-f6. S.Fedorchuk-A.Colovic, Llucmajor 2017, continued 11
Bd2 and here 11 ... 0-0 (instead of the game’s 11 ... b6) 12 c4 f5, with the idea of playing ... f4 and ...
Bf5, is fine for Black.
b) White can also play the tricky 9 Bd2!? with the idea of Nd5 followed by Na5. Black can counter
this plan by playing 9 ... 0-0 10 0-0 Nc6 11 Nd5 a5! and the a5-square is firmly under Black’s control
(stopping Na5). Another key idea behind ... a5 is to play ... Bxd5 and ... Nb4, as seen after 12 a4 Bxd5
13 exd5 Nb4! with an equal game.
8 ... 0-0 9 Be3
Again, 9 Qd3 should be met with 9 ... Be6 10 Nd5 (10 f4 exf4 11 Bxf4 Nc6 followed by ... Ne5 is
fine for Black) 10 ... Nxd5 11 exd5 Bc8! and Black has a comfortable position.
9 ... Be6 10 Qd3
White’s main plan in this system is to play Nd5, followed by quickly pushing the queenside pawns.
So, one of Black’s main goals is to prevent White from playing this move for as long as possible. When
White does manage to play Nd5, Black should be able to exchange on d5 with his f6-knight. This keeps
the two bishops and lets Black start attacking in the centre/kingside by advancing the f-pawn.
10 ... Nc6!?
A dynamic move with two interesting ideas. The first is that White can’t immediately play Nd5 due
to ... Bxd5 followed by ... Nb4, forking the d3-queen and the d5-pawn. The second is that Black’s
knight on c6 doesn’t block the retreat of the e6-bishop, which often lets Black capture on d5 with the
f6-knight (preserving the two bishops).
10 ... Nbd7 is the main line in these Qd3 systems. After 11 Nd5 Bxd5 12 exd5 Rc8, Black intends
to follow up with ... Ne8 and ... f5. M.Carlsen-A.Grischuk, St. Louis 2015, continued 13 c4 Ne8 14
Qd2 b6 15 Rac1 a5 and Black had prevented White’s queenside play and was now ready to gain space
on the kingside. This approach isn’t bad, but we prefer to keep our light-squared bishop with 10 ... Nc6,
since much of White’s play in the centre and queenside takes place on the light squares.
11 Rfd1
Note that 11 Nd5? is of course a mistake due to 11 ... Nxd5 12 exd5 Nb4.
11 a3 uses prophylaxis to prepare Nd5. Black has two options:
a) Refusing to move the c6-knight away with 11 ... Rc8 is slow, allowing 12 Nd5! which is slightly
unpleasant for Black; best here would be 12 ... Nd7! 13 Nxe7+ (13 Rad1 lets Black exchange off
White’s good bishop with 13 ... Bg5!) 13 ... Qxe7 14 Rad1 Rfd8 15 Qxd6 Qh4! with some counterplay.
b) Because White’s e-pawn will be on d5 after the exchanges, Black should immediately move the
c6-knight away with 11 ... Na5!. Now:
b1) 12 Nxa5 Qxa5 looks comfortable for Black and 13 Rfd1 Rac8 transposes to the game.
b2) 12 Nd5!? Nxb3 13 Qxb3 Nxe4 14 Qxb7 Bxd5 15 Qxd5 Nf6 16 Qd3 d5 leads to a dynamically
balanced position, as in A.Parente-A.Mukherjee, correspondence 2016.
b3) 12 Nd2 avoided the exchange in R.Ponomariov-S.Shankland, Tsaghkadzor 2015. Now we
prefer 12 ... Rc8 followed by ... b5 with good play on the queenside; the game’s continuation 12 ... d5
gives Black a decent position as well.
11 ... Rc8
A useful waiting move. 11 ... Na5 is slightly too early because, after 12 Nxa5 Qxa5 13 a4, White
will quickly start a queenside expansion. It makes more sense for Black to begin with 11 ... Rc8 and
only play ... Na5 when White is threatening Nd5.
12 a3

Question: What move is White threatening to play and how should


Black respond?

Answer: 12 ... Na5!


White’s previous move prevented ... Nb4 and threatened to play Nd5 again. So, now is the correct
moment to play ... Na5.
12 ... Nd7!? is another idea, preparing ... Nc5 or ... Bg5. However, 12 ... Na5 is much more natural.
13 Nxa5
Avoiding the exchange with 13 Nd2?! is too clumsy, allowing Black to seize the initiative with 13
... b5! and White’s pieces are in each other’s way. If White tries to untangle by moving the d2-knight it
will allow Black to play ... Nc4. White’s only real concrete plan is playing Nd5 but this is ineffective
after 14 Nd5 Nxd5 15 exd5 Bd7, when Black’s extra centre pawn gives him an edge.
13 ... Qxa5 14 Nd5!
This is necessary because Black is about to play ... b5 and stop White from attacking on the
queenside.
14 Rac1!? looks quiet but is actually quite venomous. White’s plan is to play Nd5, followed by
quickly pushing the b- and c- pawns. Black should counter this plan by playing 14 ... b5!, when White’s
hopes of a queenside expansion are crushed (14 ... Rfd8?! would be too slow after 15 Nd5 Nxd5 16
exd5 Bd7 17 b4! and White’s queenside expansion comes quickly; after 17 ... Qc7 18 c4 f5 19 g3,
Black has a much worse version of the game). If White is not careful, Black could even consider
sacrificing the exchange with 15 Qd2 Rxc3!? (15 ... Qd8 is also perfectly playable).

Question: How should Black capture on d5, and why?

Answer: 14 ... Nxd5


Capturing with the knight is almost always preferable in these positions, as it retains the bishop
pair. As usual, there’s no need to exchange off the light-squared bishop with 14 ... Bxd5?!, when White
has a slight pull after 15 exd5 e4 16 Qb3!?.
15 exd5 Bd7 16 b4!
Beginning a queenside expansion.
16 ... Qd8 17 c4 f5!
This kind of position is typical of the Qd3 lines in the 6 Be2 Najdorf if both sides play accurately.
White’s queenside attack seems slightly quicker, but Black’s attack is more centralized and is closer to
White’s king. Therefore, the position is dynamically balanced.
18 f4!
A well-known attempt to close the centre and prevent Black’s offensive. Black should almost never
meet this move with ... e4, since this allows White to gain control of the d4-square.
18 Rac1 gives Black too much control after 18 ... f4 19 Bd2 Bf5 (19 ... b6?! is sensible, but slightly
too slow; White gains an initiative after 20 c5!? bxc5 21 bxc5 Bb5 22 Qe4) 20 Qb3 Bg5 21 c5 e4! and
Black’s active pieces make his attack effective.
18 ... Bf6!
A typical and good reaction to White’s plan with f4. Black holds the centre and prepares to create
pressure on the e-file. In addition, his dark-squared bishop will be an active player along the a1-h8
diagonal and possibly also the h2-b8 diagonal.
The alternatives are not as strong:
a) 18 ... b5!? is possible, with the intention of simplifying both sides’ pawn structures. In any case,
Black has equal chances after 19 fxe5 bxc4 20 Qc2 f4! (20 ... dxe5?! allows White to push the d-pawn
with tempo by playing 21 d6!, and 21 ... Bf6 22 Bxc4+ gives White some play) 21 Bd4 dxe5 22 Bxe5
Bf6.
b) On the other hand, 18 ... e4?! would severely limit Black’s kingside and centre play. After 19
Qc2, the threat of c5 puts Black on the defensive.
19 Rac1 Re8
Putting pressure on the e-file actually stops White from playing c5, as shown in the variation below.
20 Re1
After 20 c5?? exf4 21 Bxf4 Bb5, the bishop on e2 is lost.
Exercise: Through what sequence of moves can Black activate his pieces
with tempo?

Answer: 20 ... exf4!


This diverts the e3-bishop from the g1-a7 diagonal, which allows Black to bring out his queen with
tempo.
21 Bxf4 Qb6+ 22 Kh1 Re4
Black’s pieces enjoy tremendous activity and it’s clear that his pressure in the centre trumps
White’s sole plan of playing c5.
23 Bd2?
Too passive, allowing Black to continue increasing the pressure.
23 Qg3! is an interesting attempt to turn the tables. The chances appear approximately even after 23
... Rce8 24 Bf3 Rxe1+ 25 Rxe1 Rxe1+ 26 Qxe1.
23 ... Qf2 24 Qf3 Bd4!
Cementing Black’s control, as most of White’s pieces (Qf3, Re1, Be2) are completely tied down.
25 Bc3
Exercise: Black is in full control in the centre, but White is starting to become
active on the queenside. How can Black shut down White’s activity?

25 ... Rce8?
This natural move actually allows White to escape because Black must defend the d4-bishop.
Answer: 25 ... b5! would open a second front on the queenside and overload White’s defences.
Black would have enjoyed a better endgame after 26 Red1 bxc4 27 Rxd4 Rxe2 28 Qxf2 Rxf2, when the
opposite-coloured bishops give White some drawing chances but the problem is that he has to defend
against two weaknesses (Black’s passed c-pawn and kingside pawn majority). Because these
weaknesses are far apart, White’s defensive task is difficult.
26 Rf1! Qh4
26 ... Qxe2 results in a drawn endgame after 27 Qxe2 Rxe2 28 Bxd4.
27 Bxd4 Rxd4?!
Suddenly Black’s pieces seem very uncoordinated and he no longer has any attack while White’s
queenside majority is still a threat. 27 ... Rxe2! would have kept some initiative, although White is fine
after 28 Bf2 Qf6 29 c5 dxc5 30 bxc5 Bb5 with a roughly equal position. The only reason Black isn’t
worse is because of his active pieces (especially the rook on e2).
28 c5! f4
Trying to set up a pseudo-fortress with 28 ... g6!? 29 c6 Bc8 falls short to 30 b5!, when White is
breaking through on the queenside.
29 c6 Bc8
Exercise: White’s queen and bishop don’t do much and they can be easily
attacked. How can White regroup these pieces to make them more active?

30 Rc4?
White’s pieces are still in vulnerable positions, so adding the rook into the mix doesn’t help matters.
Answer: 30 Qc3! Qf6 31 Bf3 gives White a stable, long-term advantage. The bishop on f3 protects
the d5/c6 pawn chain and White has no real targets for Black to attack.
30 ... Bg4 31 Rxd4
The endgame after 31 Qxg4 Qxg4 32 Bxg4 Rxc4 33 cxb7 Rb8 34 Bc8 is drawn. Sooner or later
Black will have to sacrifice the exchange on c8 due to the b8-rook’s inactivity.
31 ... Bxf3 32 Bxf3 b5?
Leaving the f-pawn pinned to the queen allows White to win it. In addition, the d5-pawn can now
solely protect the c6-pawn due to the lack of pawn tension. This frees up all of White’s pieces from the
chore of defending the c-pawn.
More accurate was 32 ... Re1 33 Rd1 Rxd1 34 Rxd1 Qe7! and Black holds the balance. The tension
between the b7- and c6-pawns is crucial for Black to maintain as it forces either White’s rook or bishop
to defend the c-pawn constantly, preventing White from making progress. For example, 35 h3 Qc7 36
Rc1 (36 Bg4? just drops a pawn to 36 ... bxc6) 36 ... Kf7 37 Bg4 Kf6 leaves White’s rook stuck on c1.
33 Re4?
33 g3! wins the f4-pawn, and soon afterwards the game. White’s new-found pressure along the f-
file, combined with the passed c-pawn, give Black too many things to worry about. After 33 ... Qf6 34
Rxf4 Qc3 35 Bg4, it is clear that Black’s forces are overwhelmed.
33 ... Rxe4 34 Bxe4
Exercise: Black’s queen needs to stop the c-pawn from promoting. Ideally
the queen wants to be behind the passed pawn and not in front of it.
How can Black accomplish this?

34 ... Qe7?!
This allows White to force Black’s queen on to the c7-square, making it a mere blockader of the c6-
passer.
Answer: 34 ... Qf6! 35 Bf3 (35 Rc1? drops a pawn to 35 ... Qb2) 35 ... Qc3 and Black’s active
queen is easily enough to draw the game.
35 Rc1 Qc7 36 Bf5 Kf7
Exercise: How can White try to oust Black’s queen from c7?

37 h3
Answer: By opening up a second front on the kingside with 37 g3!. Once the f-file is opened,
White’s plan is to play Be6 and bring his rook to f7. However, with very accurate play Black manages
to hold on with 37 ... Kf6 38 Be6 g5, when the f-file remains closed for the time being (whereas 38 ...
fxg3? opens the floodgates, allowing White to play 39 Rf1+ Kg6 40 Rf7 Qd8 41 hxg3 with good
winning chances; Black’s only hope is to try for a perpetual check).
37 ... g6 38 Bd3?!
The bishop is too passive here. White’s plan is to play a4 and Bxa6 but, as we will see, this
approach is flawed. 38 Be6+ Kf6 39 g3 would have kept White’s winning chances alive, although
Black is able to defend with careful play.
38 ... Kf6 39 a4?!
In theory, this idea is quite strong. White’s plan is to capture on a6 once Black takes on a4 and then
to march the b-pawn up the board. The problem is that Black’s active king can attack the d5-pawn. It
was not too late to reroute the bishop back to the h3-c8 diagonal with 39 Be2!.
39 ... bxa4 40 Bxa6 a3!
Diverting the rook from the c-file in order to prevent White from playing b5-b6!.
40 ... Ke5? runs into trouble after 41 b5 Kxd5 42 b6 Qxc6 43 Rxc6 Kxc6 44 Bb5+! Kxb6 45 Bxa4
and, as long as White doesn’t give up the g-pawn, this endgame is winning.
41 Bc4?
This breaks the co-ordination between White’s rook and c-pawn, giving Black all the winning
chances.
Bailing out with 41 Ra1 was necessary, when the game fizzles out to a draw after 41 ... Ke5 42
Rxa3 Qb6! 43 b5 Kxd5 44 Rc3 Qd4 45 Rc1 f3! and White’s king will be far too exposed to avoid a
perpetual check.
41 ... Qb6?!
41 ... Qa7!, with the threat of pushing the a-pawn, was stronger. This causes White to retreat his
pieces with 42 Bf1 (refusing to back down with 42 Kh2? gets the rook and bishop forked after 42 ... a2
43 Ra1 Qd4) 42 ... Qe3 43 Ra1 Qc3 and Black is winning.
42 Kh2
After 42 b5? Qc5, White’s pieces are paralysed.
42 ... Qxb4
Striking while the iron is hot with 42 ... a2! seems promising, and White’s position is precarious
after 43 Bxa2 Qf2 44 Bc4 f3, while 43 Bf1 Qxb4 44 c7 Qb7 45 c8Q Qxc8 46 Rxc8 a1Q dooms White
to a long and passive defence.
43 Bf1?
43 Rc2! was necessary, when Black’s queen is unable to usher the a-pawn forward while keeping
an eye on White’s c-pawn. Even though Black’s majority on the kingside may prove useful, this
position seems very drawish.
43 ... Qd2 0-1
In the Qd3 lines of the 6 Be2 Najdorf, Black should bring his knight to c6 so that White has trouble
playing Nd5 due to ... Bxd5 followed by ... Nb4!. If White prevents the ... Nb4 idea, Black usually
moves his knight to a5 to exchange it for the b3-knight. Afterwards, White could play Nd5, but then
Black can capture with the f6-knight and retain the two bishops. As we saw in this game, White is often
able to expand rapidly on the queenside, but Black’s dominance in the centre provides full
compensation.

Game 24
P.Makoli-A.Shirov
European Club Cup, Kemer 2007

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 Be3 Be6 9 0-0 0-0 10 f4
At first sight this is an aggressive approach. However, the resulting positions are usually quite
balanced. This happens due to both sides only having one centre pawn each, which removes some of
the dynamics from the game.
10 ... exf4
10 ... Qc7?! is too timid, allowing White to grab an early initiative with 11 f5 Bc4 12 g4!.
11 Rxf4
In our opinion, this move is stronger than 11 Bxf4. It has two purposes: the first is to keep the e3-
bishop on the g1-a7 diagonal, allowing White to play Nd4 without fearing ... Qb6. The second is to
transfer the rook to b4 (after 12 Nd5 Bxd5 13 exd5), although what we suggest prevents this plan from
happening.
The more popular (but far less threatening) move is 11 Bxf4, after which Black has no problems
with 11 ... Nc6, and now:
a) 12 Nd4?! is premature, allowing Black to snatch a pawn by playing 12 ... Qb6 13 Be3 Qxb2 and
White has very little compensation as he has not yet created any activity on the kingside. Meanwhile,
notice how White’s queenside is very weak due to the missing b2-pawn. In the Najdorf, this pawn tends
to be an important adhesive to hold White’s queenside together. 13 ... d5!? is an equally strong option
which aims to attack White’s currently vulnerable pieces in the centre, i.e. the e3-bishop and d4-knight.
b) 12 Qe1 prepares an assault on the kingside with ideas of Qg3 and Bh6. However, White has no
other pieces participating in the attack, so it should not be treated too seriously. Black can continue
employing his normal ideas involving ... Ne5 and ... Qc7/ ... Rc8 with 12 ... Ne5 (12 ... d5 is an easy
way to get a completely equal game) 13 Rd1 Qc7 14 Qg3 Kh8 and White is left wondering how to
continue on the kingside.
c) 12 Kh1 is a prophylactic move aiming to play Nd4 without the fear of ... Qb6. As usual, Black
should continue employing the normal plan of ... Ne5 and ... Rc8 with 12 ... Rc8!? (12 ... d5 is once
again an easy way to gain assured equality; 13 e5 Nd7 14 Nxd5 Ndxe5 is analysed by Georgiev and
Kolev, and Black could even claim to be slightly better due to his superior piece coordination in the
centre) 13 Qe1 (13 Qd2 Re8 14 Rad1 Ne5 was fine for Black in M.Massoni-A.Areshchenko, Grosseto-
Prugna 2015) 13 ... Ne5 14 Rd1 Nfd7 (14 ... Qc7 is also viable) 15 Nd4 Re8 16 Nf5 Bxf5 17 exf5 Qb6
and Black has sufficient dynamic activity for his positional shortcomings. White does possess the two
bishops and a superior pawn structure, but his passive pieces make it tough to utilize these rather
“abstract” advantages.
11 ... Nc6!
A natural move but a very important one! First, it prevents White from playing Nd4 without having
his prized knight exchanged. Second, it gives Black the option of playing ... d5, since his queenside is
no longer undeveloped. If White wants to avoid dry equality, he must act now.
Black is ill-prepared to open the centre with his undeveloped queenside pieces. Thus, 11 ... d5?
gives White a clear edge after 12 exd5 Nxd5 13 Nxd5 Qxd5 (13 ... Bxd5 ran into some serious
problems in G.Kuzmin-N.Gutsko, Stanitsa-Luganskaya 2010, after 14 Rd4!) 14 Qxd5 Bxd5 15 Rd1!,
when all of White’s pieces are exerting tremendous pressure on Black’s position. The problem is that
the b8-knight is not yet developed, so Black cannot hope to negate White’s control of the d-file.
12 Nd4!

A more prudent move than 12 Nd5. White lets the knight on c3 remain at its post where it keeps the
e4-pawn securely protected.
12 Nd5 hopes to exchange off Black’s strong e6-bishop, but 12 ... Ne5! refuses to concede anything
to White (12 ... Bxd5 is also playable, but it gives up the light-squared bishop too easily; after 13 exd5
Ne5 14 Rb4 Qc7 15 a4 Rfe8 16 a5 Nfd7, it is debatable whether Black has enough compensation for
losing the bishop pair; the answer is probably yes, but he must play actively along the e-file in order to
prove it), as Black realizes White’s central activity is not well founded. The e4-pawn is vulnerable and,
if it falls, White’s pressure will dissipate quickly. At this point White has a few options, but none of
them lead to an advantage:
a) 13 Qd2 Ng6 practically forces White to sacrifice the exchange on f6 due to the weak e4-pawn
(13 ... Rc8 is also playable, as in D.Horwitz-K.Weber, correspondence 2014). After 14 Bb6 Qd7 15
Nxf6+ Bxf6 16 Rxf6 gxf6 17 Bd4 Ne5 18 Rf1 Qe7, White is just a few tempi short of having a
successful attack. Black is able to consolidate quickly, as shown by 19 Qh6 Kh8! 20 Rxf6 Rg8 with a
better position. The threat of exchanging rooks with ... Rg6 forces one of White’s major pieces to
immediately retreat.
b) 13 Qd4 overprotects the e4-pawn but blocks in the e3-bishop. Without the threat of Bb6, Black
can play normally with 13 ... Rc8 14 c3 Re8, which prepares to play ... Nxd5 and put pressure on the
newly opened e-file. White’s only way to prevent this plan is to move the d5-knight away, but this will
give up any pressure he still has.
c) 13 Bb6 attempts to strike quickly, but Black’s position proves too robust after 13 ... Qd7 14 c3
(14 Qd4?! prevents White’s knight from moving to d4, which allows Black to safely play 14 ... Nxd5
15 exd5 Bf5 without the fear of the bishop being threatened; once Black plays ... Bg5, his bishops will
exhibit a formidable influence over the centre and kingside) 14 ... Ng6! (but not 14 ... Nxd5?! 15 exd5
Bf5 16 Nd4 Bg6 17 h4, when White’s pieces begin to apply serious pressure on the kingside) 15 Nxf6+
(15 Rf1 simply drops a pawn to 15 ... Nxe4) 15 ... Bxf6 16 Rxf6 (16 Rf1 Rfe8 shows almost all of
Black’s pieces focusing on the centre, while White’s are scattered around the board) 16 ... gxf6 17 Qd4
Ne5 18 Rf1 Qe7, when White’s queen and rook come up short against Black’s defences. Over the next
few moves Black will consolidate his position with ... Kh8 and ... Rg8, when his extra exchange will
begin to tell.

Question: Is it better for Black to play 12 ... Nxd4 or continue with the plan
of controlling the dark squares with 12 ... Ne5 - ?

Answer: 12 ... Nxd4


It is better to exchange on d4 because White’s knight is far too strong. Normally, Black would play
... Ne5 immediately, but a white knight on d4 creates a major exception!
12 ... Ne5?! tries to carry out the normal plan on the dark squares, but White’s knight on d4 makes
this treacherous for Black after 13 Qe1 Rc8 14 Qg3, when the threat of Nf5 keeps the e6-bishop tied
down. In the meantime, White can mount more pressure on the kingside with moves like Raf1 and
h4!?.
13 Bxd4
13 Qxd4!? activates the queen, but the e3-bishop is left without any immediate prospects. Black can
continue as in the game with 13 ... Nd7!, and the threat of ... Bg5 left White with some problems in
D.Sharma-S.Arun Prasad, Bratto 2012.
13 ... Nd7!
This move basically argues that a black knight on e5 will be stronger than a white knight on d5. The
validity of this argument depends on whether Black’s control over the dark squares is more important
than White’s control over the light squares. The answer is yes, since White has a lot of weak dark
squares (f4, e3, d4, f2) and Black can immediately fight for them with moves like ... Bg5. Meanwhile,
Black does not have many weak light squares (other than d5).
14 Kh1

14 Bg4 has also been tried several times. Nguyen Van Thanh-S.Nitin, Budapest 2017, continued 14
... Bg5 15 Rf1 and now 15 ... Ne5 would be a slight improvement and give Black a good position.

Exercise: White wants to play Nd5 soon, so how should Black prepare for
a potential opening of the e-file?

Answer: By quickly putting his major pieces on the e-file with 14 ... Bg5! 15 Rf1 Qe7, the idea
being to meet 16 Nd5 with 16 ... Bxd5 17 exd5 Rae8!, and now Black has pressure on the e-file. He
will follow up with ... Ne5 and ... f5, beginning to completely take over the kingside.
14 ... Ne5
This is not at all a bad move, but 14 ... Bg5 seems slightly stronger because it activates all of
Black’s pieces (not just his knight).
15 Bd3?
A subtle inaccuracy, allowing Black to favourably reorganize his pieces. 15 Nd5 is more active than
the game move, though it poses Black no problems after 15 ... Bg5 (15 ... Bxd5?! needlessly cedes
control over the light squares) 16 Rf1 Rc8.
15 ... Nc6 16 Bg1 Bf6 17 Rf1
17 Nd5!? was an attempt to break free and be active, although Black is still better after 17 ... Bxb2
18 Rb1 Be5 19 Rf1 b5, as White’s compensation for the pawn is highly questionable.

Question: Should Black exchange on c3 in order to weaken White’s pawns?

Answer: 17 ... Bxc3!


Yes! Shirov’s decision is fully justified, since Black is able to close the game and prevent White
from gaining an initiative on either colour complex. Meanwhile, the doubled c-pawns and now isolated
a-pawn are major weaknesses.
17 ... Be5 would have continued with our standard plan, but it is not the strongest way to play in
this position.
18 bxc3 Qa5 19 Bd4?!
Spending time protecting the c-pawn is ineffective, as the pawn is too weak to survive in the long
run.
Getting immediate counterplay with 19 a4! was necessary, and after 19 ... Qxc3 20 Rb1 White is at
least able to use his bishops to pressure Black’s queenside.
19 ... Qa4 20 Be3
20 Be2 is no better, as the e4-pawn becomes a target. For example, after 20 ... Rfe8 21 Bf3 f6!, both
of White’s bishops lack any prospects. They are stuck defending weaknesses, while Black’s pieces are
able to roam freely and continually chip away at White’s position.
20 ... f6!
In a way, the culmination of Black’s strategy which began with 17 ... Bxc3.
Black demonstrates that he is able to keep the position locked down, denying White’s bishops any
play. Meanwhile, the black queen eyes the e4-, c2- and a2-pawns, showing that they are serious
weaknesses.
21 Qe1 Rad8 22 Qg3 Kh8 23 Rf4 Ne5
White’s attack is starting to build up, but it is important to note its limits. With his bishops and a1-
rook unable to actively participate, the kingside campaign can only accomplish so much.
24 Bd4 Bf7?!
Question: Why is this move somewhat dubious?

Answer: 24 ... Bf7 seems slightly too slow and it prevents the f8-rook from defending the
important f6-pawn. It’s useful for the rook to defend the f6-pawn in case the g7-pawn is no longer able
to do so in the future.
More to the point was 24 ... Qa3! 25 Qe1 b5 and, without the white queen on the kingside, the
attack has come to a standstill. Meanwhile, Black is continuing to restrict White’s pieces on the
queenside and has tied down the d4-bishop to the defence of the c3-pawn.
25 h4!
The only way for White to achieve sufficient counterplay. Black’s kingside pawn structure must be
broken up in some way.
25 ... h6?!
Because White was not currently threatening to play h6, this move seems like an unnecessary
weakening of Black’s kingside. Now the g7-pawn could easily become overloaded as it must defend
both the h6- and f6-pawns (indeed, this actually happened later in the game).
26 Qf2 Be6 27 Qe3 Qe8!
Retreating the queen to defend the kingside in case White’s attack becomes dangerous. Black
understands that White’s queenside weaknesses aren’t going anywhere.
28 Be2
White wants to prevent ... Qh5, but notice how the c2-pawn is no longer defended.
28 a4!? would have been an interesting way for White to improve his queenside pawns. The plan is
to play a5, followed by a possible Bb6. In addition, the pawn on a5 could cause the b7-pawn to become
a major headache for Black. However, it is important to note that Black’s position is still clearly better.
28 ... Rd7 29 a3 Re7 30 Raf1?!
White is trying to break through on the kingside, but Black’s defences are far too solid for this to be
successful. More importantly, 30 Raf1 no longer defends the a-pawn. Notice how both of White’s
queenside weaknesses are now unguarded.
Again, the idea of 30 a4 gives White more chances than the game continuation.
30 ... Bg8!
A move which shows a refined degree of patience. Black refuses to play 30 ... Qa4 immediately and
instead improves his kingside defences. White will soon play Rxf6, followed by Qxh6+. It is best if
Black’s bishop is prepared to be a defender on g8, rather than a tactical target on e6.
Less patient was 30 ... Qa4?! 31 Rxf6 gxf6 32 Qxh6+ Kg8 33 Rxf6, when Black is objectively
better, but playing with an open king against a queen and two bishops is very dangerous.
31 Qg3?!
Slightly inaccurate. White’s queen must remain on e3 so that the threat of Rxf6 remains a
possibility. Now Black is able to get away with playing ... Qa4.
31 ... Qa4 32 Qe3 Qxc2 33 Rxf6
Practically forced, as passive defence is no longer a viable option for White.
33 ... Rxf6 34 Rxf6 gxf6 35 Qxh6+ Rh7 36 Qxf6+ Rg7
This position is completely winning for Black, as White is unable to effectively continue his attack.
37 Bf3 Qc1+ 38 Kh2 Nxf3+?
This move needlessly frees up the d4-bishop and allows White to win the g7-rook. Coolly keeping
White’s queen tied down to defending the h4-pawn with 38 ... Qe1 was more accurate, and then
White’s attack would come to a complete standstill.
39 Qxf3 Qh6 40 Qg3 Bh7 41 Bxg7+ Qxg7 42 Qxd6 Bxe4 43 g3
Exercise: What are Black’s only real two plans to try to win this game?

Answer: In this interesting endgame, Black’s only hopes of winning are to produce mating threats
with his queen and bishop, or to exchange queens. Trying to create a passed pawn on the queenside is
slow and infeasible as White’s kingside pawns will shortly become dangerous.
43 ... Bc6 44 Qc5?
A subtle inaccuracy, but one that gives Black a winning endgame. By surrendering control of f6,
White allows Black’s queen to gain control of the vital f-file.
It was better to pester Black’s king with checks by playing 44 Qd8+ Kh7 45 Qd3+ Kh6 46 Qe3+
and so on.
44 ... Qf6!
The problem for White is that Black is threatening to play ... Qf3 or ... Qf1. Both of these moves
create a mating net.
45 Kh3
There is no hope in a queenless endgame as 45 Qd4 Qxd4 46 cxd4 b5 47 Kg1 a5 48 Kf2 b4 49 axb4
a4 leaves White’s king one move short of catching the runaway passer.
45 ... Kg7 46 Qc4 Qf5+ 47 Qg4+ Kf6!
A final, elegant touch. Black allows his king to play a key part in the decisive attack (i.e. controlling
the g5-square) and takes advantage of the fact that White is unable to exchange queens.
48 h5
48 Qxf5+ Kxf5 49 g4+ Kf4 50 g5 Be8 leaves White in zugzwang.
48 ... Qf1+ 0-1

In the 10 f4 line, Black should remember to play 11 ... Nc6 immediately after capturing with 10 ...
exf4. The reason is to threaten to play ... d5 (which keeps White on his toes) and to prevent White from
getting a knight on d4. In the middlegame, Black’s normal plan usually consists of playing on the dark
squares with moves such as ... Ne5 and ... Rc8. If White plays Nd5, Black should think carefully about
whether exchanging with ... Bxd5 is really necessary. This move gives up Black’s important light-
squared bishop and often White’s d5-knight is not actually a dangerous piece (see the 12 Nd5
variation).

Game 25
Y.Zherebukh-J.Xiong
St. Louis 2018

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0 9 Be3 Be6 10 a4
Another move order is 10 Qd2 Nbd7 11 a4 Rc8, which transposes to the game.
10 ... Nbd7
An important moment; Black only commits the knight to d7 after White has played a4 (showing
that he will be playing on the queenside). If White were to play an aggressive plan with f4, Black
would prefer his knight to be on c6, not blocking his e6-bishop from retreating to c8 or d7.
11 Qd2
11 f4 is not as powerful now since it makes a4 look like a wasted move. Play can continue 11 ...
exf4 12 Rxf4 Ne5 (12 ... Ne8 with the idea of activating the dark-squared bishop on either f6 or g5 is
interesting as well and was tried in D.Di Berardino-A.Kovalyov, Buenos Aires 2007) 13 Nd4 Rc8 with
a dynamically balanced position.
11 ... Rc8 12 a5
A necessary move, keeping Black from bringing the knight to b6. If Black is able to play ... Nb6, he
normally achieves a very comfortable position.
12 Rfd1 lacks a concrete plan, allowing Black to play 12 ... Nb6! (or 12 ... Qc7 as in N.Sammalvuo-
M.Carlsen, Copenhagen 2004) 13 a5 (13 Bg5 threatens to win the d6-pawn after Bxf6, but Black can
meet this with 13 ... Ne8!? which was tried in V.Laznicka-V.Babula, Olomouc 2004; Black’s idea is to
defend the d6-pawn before playing ... Nc4) 13 ... Nc4 14 Bxc4 Rxc4, which is noted by Georgiev and
Kolev, and Black has a good position.
12 ... Re8!
Black prepares a possible strategic takeover on the kingside. In the 6 Be2 variation of the Najdorf,
the d7-knight usually has two destinations. Its preferred square is b6, and its second choice is f8. From
f8, the knight subtly prepares to jump to g6, eyeing the crucial dark squares on f4 and h4.
13 Bf3!
The f3-bishop clamps down on the d5-square, preventing Black from achieving one of his most
desirable breakthroughs. However, it’s important to realize that the f3-bishop has now become a
prominent target that Black can attack by playing ... h6 and ... Nh7-g5!.
13 Rfd1 also has prophylactic intentions against the ... d5 break and 13 ... h6 (Black has many other
possible set-ups to choose from and 13 ... Qc7 is also playable, as seen in A.Kovchan-A.Korobov, Lviv
2014; Black’s idea is to pressurize White’s centre with ... Qc6) 14 Nc1!? has the idea of bringing the
knight to d5 via d3 and b4. However, the rest of White’s pieces are too artificially placed, while Black’s
are working in perfect harmony. Thus, Black’s best plan is to open the centre, allowing him to
demonstrate the superiority of his forces. 14 ... Qc7 15 Qe1 was seen in Z.Hracek-K.Sasikiran, Bled
2002 (15 Nd3 d5! gives Black full control of the board), and now we think Black should have played
15 ... Nf8 16 Nd3 d5!, when Black has control over the centre, the c-file and, after ... Ng6, the kingside
too. White’s pieces appear to be active, but notice how almost none of them are working together in a
uniform plan.

Exercise: Black would like eventually to exchange his bad dark-squared bishop
for White’s good one on e3. What move should he play to begin working
towards this goal?

Answer: 13 ... h6!


By playing this useful move, which prepares both ... Nh7 and ... Bg5/ ... Ng5. Notice how 13 ... h6
also prevents White from playing Bg5 which would put some pressure on Black’s position.
13 ... b5?! is slightly premature due to 14 axb6 Nxb6 15 Na5, which makes it more difficult for
Black to exchange off White’s e3-bishop by playing ... Nc4. This relationship between the b6-knight
and a5-knight that exists after Black plays ... b5 is important to remember.
13 ... Rc4 was tried in H.Nakamura-I.Nepomniachtchi, St. Louis (rapid) 2017. Black’s idea is to put
more pressure on the c-file. However, Black’s rook can be attacked quite easily on c4 and we prefer the
plan starting with 13 ... h6.
14 Nc1

Question: What is White’s idea with this move and what should Black play
to counter it?

Answer: White’s idea is to play Nd3-b4-d5, as we’ve seen in previous variations. As with those
lines, this plan seems a tad slow and the knight on c1 is temporarily out of play. Therefore, Black
should play 14 ... b5!.
14 ... Nh7?!
This move continues the plan that was started by 13 ... h6, but Black should have switched
strategies by playing 14 ... b5! since the b3-knight can no longer jump to a5. After 15 axb6 Nxb6 16
Rxa6 Nc4, Black has a powerful initiative on the queenside.
15 g3
Safeguarding the f3-bishop from ambush, while also protecting the weak h4- and f4- dark squares.
However, notice how White’s light squares have become far less tenable.
15 Nd5 looks strong, but 15 ... Bg5 shows that it is Black who has a definite edge. The d5-knight
merely looks good, while Black’s strategy of exchanging the dark-squared bishops is far more
effective. Without the e3-bishop, White is unable to apply real pressure on the queenside, nor is he able
to adequately defend his kingside dark squares.
15 ... Bg5!?
Proceeding with the discussed plan, but at what price? Allowing moves such as Qxd6 and Nd5
seems like it gives White more counterplay than is justified. Developing normally with 15 ... Qc7!,
followed by ... Bg5 or ... b5, was perhaps a bit better for Black. Notice how the black queen prevents
White’s c3-knight from moving (due to the hanging c2-pawn).
16 Nd3?!

Black’s kingside pressure far outweighs White’s potential control over the d5-square. In addition,
when the dark-squared bishops are exchanged, Black will have control over some useful dark squares
(c5 and d4).
Thus, White should have grabbed the d6-pawn in order to unbalance the game. 16 Qxd6! Bxe3 17
fxe3 Qg5 18 Qd2 Ndf6 gives Black excellent compensation for the pawn, but the position is
dynamically equal.

Exercise: Black has some pleasant kingside pressure, but he isn’t really
playing anywhere else on the board. What move should Black play to attack
the a5-pawn and begin fighting on the queenside and centre?

Answer: 16 ... Nb8!


An imaginative idea! When the b8-knight moves to c6, it will attack the weak a5-pawn, and prepare
to jump to d4 after the dark-squared bishops are exchanged. In a sense, this move allows Black to start
dominating the entire board.
Proceeding normally with 16 ... Bxe3 17 Qxe3 Ng5 would have also been fine for Black, but
controlling the entire board is better than dominating only one small sector of it.
17 Bxg5
More uncompromising was 17 Bg2! and, due to the threat of 18 f4, Black must play 17 ... Bxe3 18
fxe3 with a double-edged position. It is not clear if Black can win the a5-pawn before White’s kingside
pressure becomes intolerable.
17 ... Qxg5
17 ... Nxg5 would have been a sharper approach, after which play could have continued 18 Bg2
Nc6 19 f4 exf4 20 gxf4 Nh7 with a very unbalanced position. Objectively, Black should be better as he
is winning the a5-pawn. However, White’s armada in the centre is bound to lead eventually to some
fireworks.
18 Qxg5

Question: How should Black recapture on g5? (Hint: what will soon be
White’s main source of counterplay?

Answer: 18 ... hxg5!


Taking with the h-pawn in order to prevent White from attacking with f4. Without counterplay on
the kingside, White lacks an active plan.
18 ... Nxg5 would not have been bad, but after 19 Bg2 Nc6 20 f4 White has definitely achieved
equality as his activity fully compensates for the bad g2-bishop.
19 Rfd1
Fighting for the d5-square with 19 Nb4 would have been stronger. However, Black is still better
after 19 ... Nf6 20 Rfd1 Rc4! as the c3-knight is unable to move because of the soon to be hanging c2-
pawn.
Trying to play f4 with 19 Bg2 is abruptly prevented with 19 ... g4!.
19 ... Nc6 20 Ne2 g4!?
From a strategic point of view, this move is interesting. Playing ... g4 limits the scope of the e6-
bishop, technically making it a worse piece. However, ... g4 also allows the h7-knight to gain an
excellent outpost on g5, and it prevents any future plans White has with f4. This is an example of how
it’s fine to “twist the rules” if the pros outweigh the cons.
21 Bg2 Ng5!
Black’s patient, long-term strategy has proved justified. He now controls every part of the board
and the pawn weaknesses on e4 and a5 make the defensive task strenuous for White.
22 c3!
A quiet, prudent move. White patches up some of his weak dark squares and prepares to protect a5
by pushing b4 if needed. The drawback of this move is that it weakens the queenside light squares, so
Black’s new goal is to exchange off the g2-bishop.
22 ... Red8 23 Ne1
A necessary move, preventing ... Nf3+. It also prepares to play Nc2, even though doing so
immediately will allow ... Nf3+.
23 ... Kf8!
Patiently bringing the last piece into the game. Black is in full control, so there’s no need to rush
just yet.
An impulsive move like 23 ... Bc4? would allow 24 Nc1 Kf8 25 Nc2 with a close to equal game.
Notice how ... Nf3+ is not as big of a threat because Black has helped White move the e2-knight to
safety on c1.
24 Rd2
24 Nc1! would have been more challenging as ... Nf3+ loses its sting. Since White is actually
threatening to play Nc2 now, Black must act quickly with 24 ... g6 25 Nc2 f5, gaining enough activity
to retain the initiative.
24 ... Ke7 25 Nc2?
This is too soon as it allows Black to open up the game with tempo. As was the case earlier, White
should only play Nc2 once he moved the e2-knight away.
25 Nc1 is still a perfectly valid idea.
25 ... Nf3+ 26 Bxf3 gxf3 27 Nc1
Exercise: White’s pieces are temporarily passive, but they will soon be
coming alive with moves like Ne3 and Ra4. What active move can Black
play to maintain his advantage?

Answer: 27 ... d5!


Seizing the initiative without hesitation! Black had spent the entire game manoeuvring, but now he
sharply changes the tempo when the position demands it.
Of course, a slow move like 27 ... g6? gives White everything he wants after 28 Ne3 f5 29 Nd5+
Bxd5 30 exd5.
28 exd5 Bxd5
Exchanging pieces with 28 ... Rxd5? 29 Rxd5 Bxd5 wouldn’t make much sense. Black’s pieces are
more coordinated than White’s, so each of them has a higher relative value.
29 Kf1 Be6
An interesting line is 29 ... Bc4+! 30 Ke1 Rh8 31 h4 g5! 32 Ne3 Be6 (but not 32 ... gxh4? 33 Nf5+
Ke6 34 Nxh4, when it is tougher for Black to convert his advantage into a win) 33 Ra4 gxh4 34 Rxh4
Rxh4 35 gxh4 Rh8 with a winning endgame for Black. He will be a pawn up in one move and his
pieces are still superior to White’s.
30 Rxd8 Rxd8 31 Ke1
Exercise: White has one weakness on a5 but, besides this, his position is not
so bad. How can Black create another weakness?

Answer: 31 ... g5!


Aiming to fix the h2-pawn permanently on its starting square. Once this is accomplished, White’s two weaknesses on a5 and h2 will
give Black enough of an advantage to win the game.
32 Ra4
Attempting to free the h-pawn with 32 h4 wouldn’t have helped much as Black can reply 32 ...
gxh4 33 gxh4 f5! with the idea of pushing ... e4 if White tries to defend the h4-pawn with Ra4.
32 ... g4 33 Ne3 f5 34 h4!?
A good practical try but, because of White’s other weakness on a5, it falls short.
34 ... gxh3 35 Rh4 Kf7!
Accurate until the end. Black will play ... Kg7 or ... Kg6 after White takes on h3, which will
eliminate all counterplay. Notice how White cannot play Rh7+ now as the h3-pawn is too dangerous.
Taking on a5 immediately with 35 ... Nxa5? would have been premature as it allows White’s rook
counterplay on the seventh rank after 36 Rxh3 e4 37 Rh7+.
36 Nf1 Nxa5 37 b4 Nc4 38 Rxh3 Kg6 39 Rh4 b6 0-1
This game featured some of the main strategic ideas of quiet positions in the 6 Be2 variation.
Expanding on the kingside with ... h6, ... Nh7, and ... Bg5 is a strong idea to gain control of the dark
squares. Another strategy which compliments this plan is ... Re8, ... Nf8, and ... Ng6, which targets the
h4- and f4-squares. However, Black should always be on the lookout for an opportunity to play ... b5,
as this is his most active source of counterplay. Often Black gets an ideal opportunity to do this when
White moves the b3-knight away (see the 14 ... b5 variation after White played 14 Nc1).
Chapter Five
The Fianchetto: 6 g3
6 g3 aims to keep an eye on the d5-square while retaining the option of aggressive expansion on the
kingside. We recommend answering with 6 ... e5, which weakens the d5-square but gives Black more
space and activity in the centre. At this point, both sides become locked in a struggle to control d5;
whether this battle is positional or combative depends on the line White chooses to play.
Game 26 examines 7 Nb3, which has the idea of playing Nd2-f1-e3 in order for the knight to lock
down d5. Black has various methods to neutralize this plan, depending on what White plays on the 10th
move. If White chooses 10 a4, Black can go for a set-up with ... Qb8 and ... Bd8, with the goal of
bringing the bishop to a5. From here, the bishop threatens White’s c3-knight, weakening his control
over d5. Meanwhile, if White plays 10 Re1, Black throws in ... Bg4 before White can bring his knight
to e3. This nudges White to play f3, which blocks in the g2-bishop and nullifies its influence over d5. If
White later unblocks the bishop with f4, the e4-pawn will be a weakness due to its lack of pawn
support.
The rest of the games in the chapter continue with 7 Nde2 Be7. From e2, the knight may go to g3
(if White pushes his g-pawn to g4), or it could go to c3 (if White moves his c3-knight to d5).
Game 27 analyses 8 a4, which rather prematurely clamps down on the b5-square, opening up the
b4-square for business. Black is able to swiftly establish a knight on b4, which gives him dominance
over the d5-square. White can try to drive the knight away with b3 and Ba3, but Black can protect it
with ... a5. Later in the game, Black will endeavour to play ... d5 but, ideally, only after placing his
pieces (especially his rooks) on their optimal squares.
We now move on to 8 Bg2 b5, which is the subject of Games 28 and 29.
Game 28 examines White’s major 9th move sidelines (9 0-0, 9 h3, 9 a4). 9 a4 is likely to lead to a
closed up Maróczy structure where Black has no problems, largely thanks to how well his knights will
thrive in the manoeuvring game. 9 0-0 and 9 h3 are similar in that both usually aim to push the g-pawn,
gaining space on the kingside and possibly attacking Black’s f6-knight with g5 (which would give
White’s c3-knight control over d5). To counter this plan, Black should push ... b4 when White’s g-
pawn reaches g4, which leads to favourable exchanges after White plays Nd5. If White stops ... b4 by
playing a3, Black’s other minor pieces should quickly control d5, making it acceptable for Black’s f6-
knight to be chased away if White pushes g5.
Finally, the fashionable main line (9 Nd5) is analysed in Game 29. In this variation White tries to
dominate d5 before Black has a chance to get organized. However, Black is able to neutralize White’s
aggression with 9 ... Nbd7 and 10 ... Nb6, immediately challenging White’s d5-knight. When this
happens, White usually plays 11 Nxe7, allowing him to pin the f6-knight after Black’s queen recaptures
on e7. This pin can either lead to Black sacrificing a pawn and receiving very good compensation, or to
an interesting endgame where Black gets good play along the c-file. In either case, Black is doing very
well theoretically and enjoys comfortable equality.

Game 26
A.Naiditsch-M.Carlsen
GRENKE Classic, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 g3 e5


Visually, a counter-intuitive move since White’s set-up with g3 looks poised to capitalize on the
weak d5-square. In practice though, Black can keep the square under adequate control while gaining an
active position.
6 ... e6 is also quite popular, but in some lines White can build up a powerful kingside initiative.
Without accurate play, Black can end up in a passive state.
7 Nb3

The idea behind this move is to eventually play Nd2-f1-e3, trying to lockdown d5. The plan makes
strategic sense but, at the same time, it’s very one-dimensional.
7 ... Be7 8 Bg2
8 a4 is too early since Black has not yet committed his bishop to e6. This is significant because
Black can still play ... Nc6 (aiming at the weakened b4-square), as if White replies with Nd5, then
Black can take with ... Nxd5 (as there’s no fork if White recaptures with exd5). After 8 ... 0-0 9 Bg2
Bg4! (9 ... Nc6 immediately is also absolutely fine), White has a few tries:
a) 10 f3 Be6 11 Nd5 (11 f4 Nc6 is fine for Black, since the tension in the centre makes it harder for
White to quietly concentrate on d5; also, White’s e4-pawn is now a weakness) 11 ... Nxd5 12 exd5 Bf5
was slightly more pleasant to play as Black in N.Malmdin-C.Vinas Guerrero, Gibraltar 2007.
b) 10 Qd2 Nc6 11 0-0 Rc8 leaves White’s queen obstructing the important Nd2-f1-e3 manoeuvre.
An immediate Qd3 is answered with ... Nb4!, so White should go for 12 Nd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Nb8 with a
roughly equal position.
c) 10 Qd3 is how White normally prefers to counter Black’s ... Bg4, but here it doesn’t work so
well due to 10 ... Nc6, which sees Black’s knight about to leap to b4 and attack the queen. Since
White’s a-pawn cannot help on a4, the only way to stop ... Nb4 is 11 Nd5,and here V.Atlas-R.Forster,
Swiss League 2017, continued with 11 ... Rc8 12 Bd2 (12 0-0 should also be answered with 12 ... Nxd5
13 exd5 Nb8) 12 ... Nxd5 13 exd5, when the simple 13 ... Nb8! would have given Black the better
game.
8 ... 0-0 9 0-0
9 a4 Bg4! transposes to the 8 a4 variation above.
9 ... Be6
Question: What is the point of this move and what is Black trying to do
right now?

Answer: 9 ... Be6 simply aims to control the d5-square, while retaining the possibility of playing ...
Bg4 at an opportune moment. All Black wants to do is develop normally while waiting to see what
White does. If White plays a4, Black can adopt an interesting plan with ... Qb8 (as seen in the 10 a4
variation); otherwise, Black will play ... b5 after his queenside pieces are fully developed.
Note that 9 ... Bg4!? is playable here but doesn’t have that strong of an effect against 10 Qd3! since
Black’s b8-knight can’t reach b4 to attack White’s queen (White can play a3 after ... Nc6).
10 Re1
White decides to immediately play the Nd2-f1-e3 plan. While this gives him the benefit of speed, it
does allow Black to get easy activity with ... b5.
10 a4 is the most frequently seen move, emphasizing prophylaxis. On 10 ... Nbd7, 11 a5 lets Black
get some good queenside play after 11 ... Qc7 12 Re1 Rfc8 13 h3 h6 (the point of this move is to stop
Bg5, since after Black plays ... b5 and ... Nxb6 the f6-knight will no longer be defended by its
compatriot) 14 Be3 b5 15 axb6 Nxb6 16 Na5 Nc4, which was equal in P.Leko-V.Topalov, Wijk aan
Zee 2006. Instead, 11 Re1 is White’s best try; his a4-pawn sufficiently restrains Black’s queenside, so
now is a good time for the Nd2-f1-e3 manoeuvre. However, Black can deploy a very interesting plan
with his e7-bishop after 11 ... Qb8! 12 Nd2 Bd8.
Now the bishop is planning to relocate to a5, indirectly weakening White’s control over d5 by
attacking the c3-knight. Also, notice how Black is ready to play ... b5 the moment White’s a1-rook is
no longer x-raying Black’s a8-rook. Now:
a) 13 a5 b5 leads to rich positions; for example:
a1) 14 Nf1 b4 15 Nd5 Bxd5 16 exd5 Qb5! 17 Nd2 Rc8 is balanced; White has the two bishops, but
he will constantly have to defend his weaknesses on a5 and d5. Black can also go for 17 ... Bxa5 18 Bf1
Qxd5 19 Bg2 Qb5 20 Bf1 Qd5, which leads to a draw by repetition.
a2) 14 axb6 Bxb6 15 Nf1 (15 h3 Bd4! was dynamically equal in A.Predke-A.Giri, Sochi 2017) 15
... a5 16 Ne3 Re8 (preventing a white knight from landing on e7) 17 Ncd5 a4! sees Black restraining
White’s queenside and developing good play there.
However, White also has some ideas such as expanding on the kingside by playing g4. So, overall,
the chances are level. Notice how it’s best to refrain from playing ... Bd4 immediately, as White can
push c3; the b6-bishop already fulfils an important role by attacking White’s e3-knight and putting
pressure on the g1-a7 diagonal.
b) 13 Nd5 tries to be active in the centre but releases control over b5, allowing Black to play 13 ...
b5! 14 a5 (14 axb5 axb5 15 Rxa8 Qxa8 16 Nf1 Nxd5 17 exd5 Bf5 is also fine for Black) 14 ... Nxd5 15
exd5 Bf5 with a comfortable position in S.Maze-A.Indjic, Hersonissos 2017.
c) 13 Nf1 Ba5 14 Bd2 (14 Ne3 Bxc3 15 bxc3 Qc7 is equal) 14 ... Qc7 15 Ne3 was played in E.Van
den Doel-B.Bok, Amsterdam 2016. Here Black could have slightly improved with 15 ... Nb6!,
continuing the strategy of focusing on the d5-square. Following 16 Ncd5 Nbxd5 17 exd5 Bd7 18 Bxa5
(18 c3 avoids the exchange of bishops, but after 18 ... b5 19 axb5 axb5 20 Nc2 Bb6 Black’s dark-
squared bishop is more active than White’s) 18 ... Qxa5 19 c3!, we see White starting to expand on the
queenside, but Black can neutralize this plan with 19 ... Qb6 20 b4 a5!, aiming to create a dark-squared
blockade on the queenside. Notice that the tactical scuffle following 21 Nc4!? Qc7 22 Nxa5 Qxc3 23
Nxb7 Bxa4! gives both sides equal chances.
10 ... Nbd7 11 Nd2
11 a4 transposes to the 10 a4 variation.
11 ... b5 12 Nf1 Bg4!

Question: What is Black hoping to accomplish with this move?

Answer: This interesting move aims to induce White into playing f3. The pawn will then block the
g2-bishop, weakening White’s control over the d5-square. If White later reactivates his bishop by
playing f4 (as happened in the game), his e4-pawn will be a weakness since it lacks pawn support.
13 f3
13 Qd2 is more uncompromising, as it keeps d5 under control of the g2-bishop. However, Black
can cause White’s queen to waste a few tempi with 13 ... b4! 14 Nd5 (14 Na4 a5 15 Ne3 Be6 16 c4
bxc3 17 Nxc3 Nb6 is equal) 14 ... Nxd5 15 Qxd5 Be6 16 Qd1, and now 16 ... a5 17 Ne3 Qc7 18 a3 (18
Nf5 Nf6! steals control of d5 away from White) 18 ... Rfb8 gives Black good queenside play.
13 ... Be6 14 Ne3 Rc8 15 a3 Nb6 16 f4
Trying to avoid pushing f4 with 16 Qe2 Qc7 17 Rd1 Rfd8 just leaves Black with an excellent
position. He will soon play ... d5, while White lacks an active plan.
16 ... Re8!
X-raying the e4-pawn and nudging White to push f5 (which would resolve all the tension in the
centre and allow Black to focus on attacking e4).
17 Kh1?!
17 f5 is a move White doesn’t want to make, but it is necessary for him to close the centre
immediately.

Exercise: How can Black generate an overwhelming advantage in the centre.

17 ... Bf8?!
Missing his chance.
Answer: 17 ... exf4! looks very odd since it gives White control of the centre. However, after 18
gxf4 Bf8 (at this point White experiences difficulties finding a constructive move) 19 f5 Bd7, Black is
about to play ... Bc6 and it is unpleasant for White to defend the e4-pawn. For example, 20 Bd2 Bc6 21
Ned5 Nfxd5 22 Nxd5 Bxd5 23 exd5 Qf6 leaves White with untenable pawns on f5 and d5, especially
given the passive state of his pieces.
18 f5 Bd7 19 Qd3 h6
Prophylaxis against any Bg5 plans White may be contemplating. Also, 19 ... h6 gives Black the
possibility of playing ... Bg5, exchanging his bad dark-squared bishop for White’s good one.
20 b3 Bc6 21 Bd2 Qc7 22 Rac1 Qb7
Black has methodically built up the pressure on the e4-pawn, and now White is practically forced to
relieve the attack by moving a knight to d5.
23 Ned5
Exercise: Find the best way for Black to take on d5.

Answer: 23 ... Bxd5!


It is best to trade off the bishop since it is too inactive to be useful in this closed position. In this
case, keeping the bishop with 23 ... Nbxd5?! 24 exd5 Bd7 is a mistake since White’s f5-pawn blocks it
in making it extremely passive.
24 exd5
24 Nxd5!? Nbxd5 25 exd5 Be7 26 c4 sees White expanding on the queenside, but now Black can
gain the upper hand with 26 ... bxc4 27 bxc4 Nd7!, when the knight is headed to the wonderful c5-
outpost and Black’s bad bishop is ready to be exchanged on g5.
24 ... Nbd7 25 Nd1!?
Welcoming Black to play ... e4, after which White may find some counterplay in the opened up
position.
Instead, 25 Ne4 gives Black’s passive bishop a chance to enter the game after 25 ... Be7! 26 Nxf6+
Bxf6, and now the bishop can move to g5, or even go to b6 via d8.
25 ... e4!?
Accepting the challenge! The quieter 25 ... Be7 should give Black an easy game after 26 Nf2 Bd8,
when White lacks a good plan and Black’s bishop is about to become a very powerful piece on b6.
26 Qd4 Ne5!
A strong follow-up. Suddenly Black is threatening to exchange off White’s key g2-bishop with ...
Nf3, and it’s tough for White to find the best reply.
26 ... Qxd5 27 Qxd5 Nxd5 28 Bxe4 probably wasn’t the type of position Black had in mind when
he played the double-edged 25 ... e4. Black has some temporary activity here, but if White manages to
untangle, his two bishops will exert lasting pressure.
27 Nf2?!
Connecting the rooks and attacking Black’s e4-pawn, but Nf2 doesn’t have much concrete value
after Black’s next move. Instead:
a) 27 Bxe4?! Nxe4 28 Qxe4 Nc4 29 Qg2 Nxd2 30 Rxe8 Rxe8 31 Qxd2 Be7! leaves Black with
more than enough compensation for the pawn. His bishop has easy access to the c1-h6 and g1-a7
diagonals, while his rook and queen will attack White’s weak f5- and d5-pawns.
b) 27 Nc3! was White’s best try, since it provides support to the d5-pawn. This means that after 27
... Nf3 28 Bxf3 exf3 White has time to immediately round up Black’s f3-pawn with 29 Qd3, giving him
good chances to hold the balance.
27 ... Nf3 28 Bxf3 exf3 29 c4 bxc4 30 bxc4

Exercise: Find a strong move for Black.

Answer: 30 ... Re5!


Threatening to capture the f5-pawn and presenting White with some interesting problems. Notice
how Black is fine with White taking on e5 since it will release the dormant f8-bishop.
30 ... Nd7! is an equally acceptable answer. Black’s knight is ready to move to e5 (protecting the
f3-pawn) or to c5 (where it might jump to b3 and fork White’s pieces).
31 Re3
The idea behind 30 ... Re5 is revealed after 31 Rxe5? dxe5 32 Qxe5 Bxa3, which is winning for
Black. After moving, White’s rook cannot protect both the c4-pawn and the back rank.
Others:
a) 31 Qd3 would have protected the f5-pawn, but now the queen no longer controls b2. This lets
Black play 31 ... Rxe1+ 32 Rxe1 Qb2! with the initiative.
b) 31 Nd3! was possibly White’s best, leading to simplifications after 31 ... Rxe1+ (31 ... Rxf5?!
runs into 32 g4!) 32 Bxe1, although Black still retains an edge after 32 ... Qe7!.
31 ... Rxe3
Or 31 ... Rxf5, since Black keeps his extra pawn following 32 Qd3 Re5 33 Rxf3 Nxd5!.
32 Qxe3 Qb2 33 Nd3
33 Kg1 hangs on to the a3-pawn, but 33 ... Qa2! (forcing White’s queen on to the passive d3-
square) 34 Qd3 Re8 is clearly much better for Black.
33 ... Qxa3 34 Qxf3 Qa2 35 Bc3
35 Be1 doesn’t try to get counterplay and, after 35 ... a5, it’s unclear how White is supposed to stop
Black’s runaway a-pawn.
35 ... Rxc4
Black has won a pawn and White is still in a difficult position. Over the next few moves, Carlsen
precisely converts his advantage into a win.
36 Ra1 Qb3 37 Bxf6 gxf6 38 Kg2 Rc3 39 Rd1 h5 40 Kh3 Bh6 41 Re1 Rxd3 42 Qxh5 Re3 0-1
After 9 ... Be6, White’s two main moves are 10 a4 and 10 Re1. Against 10 a4, Black’s set-up with
... Qb8 and ... Bd8 gives him good play on the dark squares. Nevertheless, make sure to review the
analysis on 10 a4 carefully, since in some lines Black must be precise.
In the 10 Re1 system, Carlsen showed that 12 ... Bg4! gives Black an easy game. The main thing to
understand here is that if White moves his f3-pawn to f4, Black should focus his efforts on attacking
the weakened e4-pawn.

Game 27
C.Lupulescu-R.Wojtaszek
European Championship, Gjakova 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 g3 e5 7 Nde2 Be7


The idea behind this move is to develop the bishop and prepare to play ... b5.
It is also possible to play 7 ... b5 before White has the chance to prevent it with 8 a4. However, the
pawn push appears somewhat premature since Black has only developed one piece. This is seen after 8
Nd5!? Nbd7 9 Nec3, when Black is missing his bishop on e7, which prevents him from playing ... Nb6
immediately (since if White plays Nxf6, he’ll have to take back with the queen). If Black tries to catch
up with 9 ... Be7, then White can attack with 10 a4! before Black gets ... Nb6 in. Black should still be
equal, but it seems more pleasant to play White.
8 a4!?
Preventing Black’s plans with ... b5, but creating a major hole on the b4-square.
8 Bg2 0-0 9 a4 Nc6 10 0-0 Nb4 was the actual move order of this game. Note that after 8 Bg2, we
recommend playing 8 ... b5, which is the subject of the next game in this chapter.
8 ... Nc6
Black’s knight immediately adapts to White’s last move.
9 Bg2
9 Nd5? stops ... Nb4, but runs into serious trouble against 9 ... Bg4!, after which White can stop the
bishop’s penetration to f3 with 10 Nxf6+ (10 Bg2?? loses to 10 ... Nd4) 10 ... Bxf6 11 Qd3, but then 11
... d5! is very strong for Black.

Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

Answer: 9 ... Nb4!


The knight eagerly seizes its chance to settle on the b4-square before White can prevent this. Now
the knight fights for control of d5 and gives Black the ability to push ... d5 sometime in the future.
9 ... 0-0 gives White the option of playing 10 Nd5!?, and now ... Nb4 is no longer a possibility for
Black. The game remains equal after 10 ... Nxd5 11 exd5 Nb8, but why give White the choice of
whether he wants to go into this line or not? Better is for Black to dictate the play with 9 ... Nb4.
10 0-0 0-0 11 b3
Question: What is White planning to do here and how should Black react?

Answer: White wants to play Ba3 and pester Black’s b4-knight. However, since Black can protect
the knight with ... a5, there is no need to panic. He can just keep developing normally.
Others:
a) 11 Bg5 fights for d5, but 11 ... Be6 keeps the square under Black’s control. Then 12 Qd2 Rc8 13
a5 transposes to D.H.Fernandez-V.Hamitevici, British League 2015, and here Black could have
improved with 13 ... b6! 14 axb6 Qxb6, gaining good play along the c- and b-files.
b) 11 h3 prepares a possible g4, while waiting to see what Black plays. After 11 ... Be6, White can
try to expand on the kingside with 12 g4 (12 Nd5?! Nfxd5! 13 exd5 Bf5 14 c3 Nd3 saw Black in
control in B.Radkov-A.Zubritskiy, St. Petersburg 2017), but 12 ... d5! 13 exd5 Nfxd5 was already a tad
better for Black in R.Sakir-L.Guliev, Malatya 2015.
c) The aggressive 11 f4 is met with 11 ... Qb6+! 12 Kh1 Ng4 13 a5 (13 Qd2 loses the exchange to
13 ... Nf2+ 14 Rxf2 Qxf2 15 Nd1 Qb6; although White has some compensation after 16 c3 Nc6 17 b4,
it is not enough for him to claim equality against Black’s extra material) 13 ... Nf2+ 14 Kg1 Nxd1+ 15
axb6 Nxc3 16 bxc3 Nc6 and Black’s superior pawn structure hands him an edge (16 ... Nxc2??
blunders the knight to 17 Ra2).
11 ... Be6 12 Ba3 a5!
Giving up the b5-square, but cementing the black knight on b4. The fine point here is that if
White’s knight decides to jump to the b5-outpost, it no longer controls d5. This often allows Black to
immediately answer with ... d5!.
13 Qd2
Case in point: 13 Nb5 threatens to push c3 so 13 ... d5 is practically forced, but Black shouldn’t
mind! Play can continue 14 exd5 (14 c3 Nc6 15 Bxe7 Nxe7 16 exd5 Bxd5 17 Bxd5 Nfxd5 is equal) 14
... Bxd5 15 Bxd5 Nfxd5 16 c4 (16 c3 Nc6 17 Bxe7 Ndxe7 is plainly even) 16 ... Nf6 with an equal
position. White has some light square control, but Black has a central majority that should not be
underestimated. Also, while White’s bishop is technically “good” and Black’s is “bad”, we would
argue Black’s bishop is more active (as it can hop onto the g1-a7 diagonal via c5).
Note that 13 Rc1 Re8 14 Qd2 (14 Nb5 d5 works well for Black) 14 ... Rc8 transposes to the game.
13 ... Rc8
A useful move, x-raying the c2-pawn in anticipation of the impending ... d5 break.
14 Rac1

Exercise: Black wants to play ... d5 before long, but if he does so now then one
of his pieces will be a bit vulnerable. Find the move that fixes this problem.

Answer: 14 ... Re8!


Wise prophylaxis; after the ... d5 break it’s likely that White’s a3-bishop and Black’s e7-bishop will
cross swords. So, it’s useful to supply the e7-bishop with some extra protection. This frees up Black’s
other pieces from having to defend the bishop, allowing them to contribute actively to the struggle.
15 h3!
White also plays the prophylactic game, stopping any unpleasant ... Ng4 and ... Bg5 ideas.
15 ... d5!
All Black’s pieces are optimally placed, so now is the perfect time for this break. Notice how Black
wasn’t in a hurry to play ... d5 over the last few moves; White wasn’t forcing his hand, so why rush?
16 exd5 Nfxd5 17 Nxd5 Nxd5 18 Bxe7 Rxe7
The point of Black’s 14th move reveals itself!

Exercise: Find how to give White some counterplay.

19 Rfd1
A fine move under normal circumstances, but here White needs to play more energetically in order
to prevent Black from gaining an initiative.
Answer: 19 c4! irrevocably weakens the queenside dark squares but gives White some good
activity following 19 ... Nb4 20 Qe3 Rcc7 21 Rfd1 Rcd7 with a balanced game. Black will find it
difficult to attack White’s backward b3-pawn, while dealing with the centre tension and White’s queen
and bishop aimed towards the b7-pawn.
19 ... Rd7 20 Qe1 Nb4 21 Bxb7
21 Nc3 would have avoided complications, but it looks very impractical to maintain a knight on c3
without any pawn support.
21 ... Rcc7 22 Bg2?!
22 Be4! was more accurate. If White can hang on to his c2-pawn, his entire queenside pawn chain
will remain on the board. This makes the game very double-edged after 22 ... Bxh3 23 Nc3 (threatening
to play Nb5 and attack Black’s c7-rook) 23 ... Bg4 24 Rxd7 Rxd7 25 Qe3, when it’s tough to say if
Black’s dynamic pieces can overwhelm White before the three queenside pawns become extremely
dangerous.
22 ... Nxc2
Now Black has a clear target on b3 to attack, as well as the more active pieces. These two factors
make White’s defence difficult.
23 Rxd7 Rxd7 24 Qc3 Nb4 25 Qe3 f6 26 f4
Question: How would you assess this move and what should be Black’s
reaction to it?

Answer: 26 f4 is an interesting move with both positive and negative points. It gives White some
counterplay by putting pressure on Black’s centre. At the same time, pushing the f-pawn exposes
White’s king, making it a target for Black’s pieces. Black should react by immediately pressuring the
kingside, while making sure White doesn’t win the e5-pawn or get any play on the eighth rank. Note
that if Black plays it safe by only concentrating on defence, White will have a chance to give his own
king better protection.
26 Kh2 was more prudent, removing any ... Rd1+ threats and hoping for Black to overextend
himself somewhere.
26 ... Rd3 27 Qc5
27 Qa7! was more threatening, since the queen attacks the a5-pawn and prepares to play Rc7 at the
right moment.
27 ... Rd2 28 Qb5 h6!
The prelude before the final act. Black’s queen is about to enter the stage, and so the king is given
luft in case things get heated on the eighth rank.
28 ... Nd3! immediately was also possible, creating complications after 29 Rc3 exf4 (29 ... Rxe2??
30 Rxd3 hands White the initiative for free; Black’s e2-rook is suddenly out of the game) 30 Qc6! (30
gxf4? g6! leaves White with too many weaknesses) 30 ... Bf5!, when White’s knight is in big trouble. If
it moves, such as with 31 Nxf4, then 31 ... Nxf4 32 gxf4 Qd4+ gives Black too much play against
White’s king.
29 fxe5 Nd3 30 Rc3 Nxe5 31 Re3 Rb2!
Exposing White’s two weaknesses. The rook holds down the b3-pawn (the first weakness) while x-
raying White’s kingside (the second weakness). This incapacitates White’s pieces and leaves them
stuck in defence.
32 Kh2?
After this Black has a winning advantage. 32 Nf4! is extremely dangerous since it opens up the
second rank, but this was White’s last real chance to get counterplay. 32 ... Qd1+! 33 Kh2 (now
White’s bishop is pinned, preventing it from helping in an attack) 33 ... Bf7 leaves Black in control
since White’s b3-pawn and kingside seem on the verge of collapse, but White may have a few tricks at
his disposal with his active queen and knight.
32 ... Bc4 33 bxc4 Rxb5 34 cxb5 Qd2 35 Re4 Qb2

The material is close to even and White’s b-pawn has been transformed into a strength. However,
Black’s queen, knight, and kingside pawn majority are too great a force. This is mainly because at least
one of White’s pieces will be constantly occupied providing the king with shelter from Black’s queen.
To make things even worse for White, the a4-pawn will need constant protection, or else Black will
take it and gain a dangerous passed a-pawn.
36 Nd4 h5 37 Kg1 g5 38 Nf3 Qb1+ 39 Ne1 Nd3!
The start of a nice combination which concludes in two moves.
40 Kf1 Nc5 41 Rc4 Nxa4
The point! Black wins the a-pawn, making the rest of the game straightforward.
42 Rc8+ Kg7 43 Rb8 Qf5+ 44 Kg1 Qc5+ 45 Kh2 Nb6 46 Rb7+ Kf8 47 Nf3 a4 48 Nd2 a3 49 Ne4
Qd4 50 Ra7 Qb2 0-1
By playing 8 a4, White allows Black to immediately establish a knight on b4. If White tries to drive
away the knight with b3 and Ba3, Black can simply protect it with ... a5!. The knight allows Black to
push ... d5 early on in the game but, if possible, it is best for Black to prepare this push carefully.
Black’s 13 ... Rc8 and 14 ... Re8 moves from the game are good examples of how to do this. Of course,
if White becomes aggressive by threatening to drive the b4-knight away with a c3 push, Black should
try to play ... d5 immediately (see the 13 Nb5 variation).

Game 28
H.Contreras-Yu Yangyi
Millionaire Open, Las Vegas 2015

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 g3 e5 7 Nde2 Be7 8 Bg2 b5


The actual move order of the game was 8 ... 0-0 9 0-0 Be6 10 h3 b5 11 a3 Nbd7 12 g4 Nb6.
9 0-0

White decides to castle before embarking on any plans.


Others:
a) 9 h3 is similar to 9 0-0 except that in some lines White chooses to push g4 and g5 before castling
(saving a tempo). Thus, the general rule of thumb we’ll follow is that Black should also delay castling
in order not to fall behind a move in the struggle to control d5. Once one of the following two events
happens, then it is usually “permissible” for Black to castle:
1) White castles, since now Black won’t be a tempo down.
2) Black gets d5 under sufficient control with his other minor pieces, taking the sting out of White’s
g4-g5 plan. Since Black would then be fine in the centre, he has time to castle.
After 9 ... Nbd7, White has three main moves:
a1) 10 0-0 0-0 transposes to the 10 h3 variation of the main game.
a2) 10 a3 stops ... b4 and prepares to resume the g4-g5 plan. Since the f6-knight may be driven
away soon, Black’s other minor pieces should protect d5 with 10 ... Nb6 11 g4 (11 Bg5 was played in
A.Olsson-J.Lautier, European Cup, Saint Vincent 2005, when 11 ... Be6 or the game’s 11 ... Bb7 works
well) 11 ... Be6 and now:
a21) 12 0-0 0-0 transposes to move 12 of the main game.
a22) 12 f4 exf4 13 Bxf4 0-0 14 0-0 Rc8 transposes to the 13 f4 variation of the main game.
a23) 12 g5 seems rather premature, and Black is doing fine following 12 ... Nfd7 13 h4 Rc8.
a24) 12 Ng3 0-0 13 g5 Nfd7 14 h4 g6 is equal since Black has d5 under sufficient control and
White’s g3-knight is unable to leap forward on the kingside; notice too how White’s overextended
kingside pawns prevent his king from safely castling short. Instead, 13 Nf5 gives Black the opportunity
to break through in the centre with 13 ... d5! 14 exd5 Bxf5 15 gxf5 Ra7! 16 0-0 Rd7, when he is about
to regain the d-pawn, achieving at least an equal game.
a3) 10 g4 should be sharply countered with 10 ... b4! 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 exd5 and here 12 ... Nf8!
gives Black very good chances to seize control of the kingside dark squares and develop an initiative
(12 ... a5 is another good move which can also be played and it is recommended by Georgiev and
Kolev in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012; Black’s main idea is to play ... Ba6, using the bishop to exert
pressure down the f1-a6 diagonal).

Now:
a31) 13 a3 is probably White’s most aggressive response, since it aims to remove the b4-pawn.
Why this plan is dangerous is seen after 13 ... bxa3 14 Rxa3 Ng6 15 c4!, when White’s c-pawn wants to
run to c5 and then to c6 (15 0-0 0-0 16 f4 exf4 17 Nxf4 Bf6 transposes to the 13 0-0 variation above).
However, Black can develop a powerful attack following 15 ... 0-0 16 c5 (16 0-0 is more prudent,
trying to protect the king before playing c5; while Black could still play ... f5, it is better to stop
White’s c5 threat with 16 ... Rb8 and now Black is just better; his plan is to exchange dark-squared
bishops with ... Bg5 and play ... f5 when the moment is right) 16 ... Nh4! 17 Be4 Bg5 18 c6 Bxc1 19
Qxc1 f5, when White’s king will spend the game under heavy fire regardless of whether it stays in the
centre or castles kingside. White’s only asset is his protected passed c-pawn, but it is of little value in
this specific position. Black is objectively better and it is far easier to play his side of the board.
a32) 13 Ng3 tries to control the light squares on the kingside, which is the mirror idea of Black’s
plan. After 13 ... Ng6 14 Be4 0-0, Black has two main methods to proceed on the kingside:
1) Play ... Nh4, followed by ... f5.
2) Play ... Nf4, since on Bxf4 exf4, White’s g3-knight will be driven away, allowing Black to push
... f5.
In any case, Black enjoys a pleasant advantage since White’s dark squares are much weaker than
Black’s light squares. White also has the problem of deciding where to put his king, as there doesn’t
seem to be adequate shelter for it anywhere (other than the queenside, but castling long will take him
some time to accomplish).
c3) 13 0-0 Ng6 14 f4 is White’s most principled approach, as he has castled his king and is fighting
for the centre. However, after 14 ... exf4 15 Nxf4 0-0 16 a3 bxa3 17 Rxa3 Bf6!, Black has a slight edge
thanks to all the weak dark squares that he can control with moves like ... Be5, ... Qb6+, etc. He can
also develop some play on the b-file with ... Rb8 to keep White’s forces occupied on the queenside.
b) 9 a4 b4 10 Nd5 a5! sees White’s e2-knight unable to go to c3 and support its compatriot on d5.

Thus, White’s only real way to continue controlling d5 is by playing c4 and entering a Maróczy
structure. Now:
b1) 11 c3 tries to remove the b4-pawn, but it is well met with 11 ... Na6!, protecting the pawn and
keeping White’s e2-knight from reaching c3.
b2) After 11 Be3 Nbd7 Black intends to play ... Nxd5, meeting Qxd5 with ... Rb8. Thus, White
should go for 12 Nxe7 Qxe7 13 c4 Nc5 14 f3 0-0 with an equal game.
b3) 11 c4 Nxd5 12 Qxd5 (12 exd5 Nd7 is a good pawn structure for Black, and after 13 0-0 0-0 14
Be3 Bg5! 15 f4 Bf6 his dark-squared bishop is about to be activated along the a1-h8 diagonal) 12 ...
Ra6! (the rook does a good job of protecting the d6-pawn from here) 13 0-0 0-0 14 Be3 Nd7 15 b3 Nc5
gives Black a slight edge. White’s e4- and b3-pawns are weak, and Black can attack the former with ...
Bb7. Playing ... Bg5 is also an interesting idea with the threat of exchanging dark-squared bishops. If
White blocks the exchange with f4, then the e4-pawn lacks pawn support and becomes even weaker.
b4) 11 Nxe7 looks dubious since it exchanges off Black’s bad bishop. However, Black now doesn’t
have any ... Bg5 ideas (with the goal of exchanging off White’s good bishop). After 11 ... Qxe7 12 c4
Na6 13 0-0 0-0 14 b3 Nc5 15 f3 Bb7, the game is balanced. White’s dark-squared bishop gives him
some control over that colour complex, but Black’s knights thrive in this closed position. Black’s plan
at this point is to transfer the f6-knight to e6, possibly by playing ... Nh5, ... g6, ... Ng7, ... Ne6. Then,
he may go for a ... f5 push soon after.
9 ... Nbd7 10 a3

Question: What is the purpose of this move and what should be Black’s
plan now?

Answer: 10 a3 stops Black from dislodging White’s c3-knight with a ... b4 push. This means that if
White manages to play h3, g4, and g5, Black’s f6-knight will have to move and White’s c3-knight will
gain firm control over the d5-square. So, Black’s plan is to use his other minor pieces to control d5 as
well. If he can do this in time, White’s g5 push will lose nearly all its point because it’s fine if Black’s
f6-knight gets chased away.
Others:
a) 10 h3 is the main move here. White immediately gets down to business by pushing his g-pawn to
g5. However, Black can easily thwart White’s strategy with a timely ... b4 push as we will soon see.
After 10 ... 0-0 11 g4 (11 a3 Nb6 transposes to move 11 of the main game) 11 ... b4 (it is important
Black plays this before White gets g5 in, as this ensures White doesn’t get control over d5) 12 Nd5
Nxd5 13 exd5 (13 Qxd5 was played in M.Heidenfeld-M.Amanov, Dresden Olympiad 2008, and here
Black should have played 13 ... Rb8!, preparing to chase White’s queen away with ... Bb7; for example,
after 14 Be3 Bb7 15 Qd2 Nc5, Black already has a slight pull since White’s e4-pawn is a constant
weakness and if he plays f3, then the g2-bishop will be boxed in) 13 ... f5! 14 gxf5 Rxf5 15 a3 Rb8!,
we have reached O.Noroozi-P.Darini, Nakhchivan 2015. Black is getting play on both sides of the
board and the game is dynamically balanced.
b) 10 a4 tries to stir up some action in the centre following 10 ... b4 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 exd5 (12
Qxd5 Rb8 13 Be3 0-0 is better for Black, as seen in R.Dzierzak-H.Raja, Warsaw 2016; Black will
chase White’s queen away with ... Bb7 and gain good play along the c-file with ... Qc7), but 12 ... a5! is
pleasant for Black; his bishop will be active on a6 and White’s queenside majority is very passive.
C.Deepan-L.Bruzon Batista, Dubai 2016, saw White try to become active on the queenside with 13 c3,
but after 13 ... Rb8! 14 Be3 (14 cxb4 was a better try, th0ugh Black is still slightly better after 14 ...
Rxb4 15 b3 0-0 16 Ba3 Rb8, as it is not trivial for White to constantly defend his weaknesses on b3 and
d5) 14 ... Ba6, Black had successfully locked down the b4-square and was exerting some nice pressure
with his a6-bishop.
10 ... Nb6!
Immediately following the plan of guarding d5.
11 h3 0-0 12 g4 Be6
Black has no problems. With the e6-bishop and b6-knight defending the d5-square, Black doesn’t
need to fear his f6-knight being driven away if White pushes g5.
13 Ng3

13 g5? runs into 13 ... Nfd7, when Black still has d5 under control and now White’s g-pawn is a
major burden for him to defend.
13 f4 is combative, but Black can meet it with 13 ... exf4 14 Bxf4 Rc8!, moving the rook off the
long diagonal in preparation for pushing ... d5 on the next move; this plan gives Black at least equal
chances.

Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

Answer: 13 ... d5!


Countering White’s wing attack with a strong break in the centre. Note that over the last few moves
it seemed as if Black was just trying to keep White from dominating d5. But in fact, Black can also use
the square for his own aggressive purposes.
14 Nf5
14 exd5 Nfxd5 15 Nxd5 Nxd5 gives Black comfortable equality. The d5-knight is active in the
centre and controls the weak f4-square.
14 ... Nxe4
14 ... d4 was also good, keeping White’s g2-bishop locked in. After 15 Ne2 the reply 15 ... Nfd7! is
strong, opening the possibility of exchanging dark-squared bishops with ... Bg5 again.
15 Nxe7+?!
A subtle inaccuracy. White gives Black a chance to connect his rooks which will allow him to
quickly dominate the centre. 15 Nxe4 was necessary, and the position following 15 ... dxe4 16 Bxe4
Rc8 is level.
15 ... Qxe7 16 Nxe4 dxe4 17 Bxe4 Rac8 18 Re1?!

Giving Black a chance to develop a powerful attack.


18 Qf3! was better, defending the kingside. However, since the queen stops the e4-bishop from
retreating to g2, Black can go for 18 ... Nc4! 19 Re1 Nd6, threatening to take the bishop and practically
forcing it off the long diagonal.

Exercise: How should Black continue in order to form this attack?

18 ... Rfd8?!
Missing his chance, although on its own this move isn’t bad.
Answer: 18 ... f5! 19 gxf5 Bxf5 would have torn open the white king’s defences and greatly
activated Black’s pieces.
19 Qe2 Qc7 20 Bd2 Na4 21 b3 Nc5 22 Bg2 Bd5

Exercise: Should White exchange bishops?

23 f3?
Closing off the g2-bishop and making it a very poor piece. From this point on Black enjoys a
permanent advantage.
Answer: Yes, he should exchange bishops since avoiding the exchange just weakens the g2-bishop.
After 23 Bxd5 Rxd5 24 Rad1, the game is balanced. White’s kingside is a tad weak; on the other hand,
he has decent chances to create a passed pawn on the c-file.
23 ... f6 24 Be3 Ne6 25 Rec1 Qc3 26 a4 b4 27 a5 Bb7 28 Kf2
28 Rd1 would have taken some of the sting out of ... Nd4, but Black still gets an edge after 28 ...
Nd4 29 Bxd4 Rxd4, since he has an iron grip over the dark squares. In addition, White’s weaknesses on
a5, c2, and f3 must be constantly defended.
28 ... Nd4 29 Bxd4 Rxd4 30 Rd1 Rcd8 31 Kg3 Rd2 32 Rxd2 Rxd2 33 Qf1
33 Qc4+ was the lesser evil, though the endgame after 33 ... Qxc4 34 bxc4 Rxc2 is also easily
winning for Black.
33 ... Qxc2 34 Qc4+ Qxc4 35 bxc4 b3 36 Ra3
36 ... Rd3
36 ... b2 was a more direct method to win the endgame, since after 37 Rb3 Bc6 White’s king and
bishop are unable to break free. Note that 38 Bf1 immediately drops the bishop to 38 ... Rd1 39 Bd3
Rxd3.
37 Ra4 Bxf3 38 Bxf3 e4 39 Kf4 exf3 40 Kg3 f2+ 41 Kxf2 Rxh3 42 Rb4 b2 43 Kg2 Rc3 44 Rxb2
Rxc4 45 Rb6 Rxg4+ 46 Kh3 Ra4 47 Rxa6 h5 48 Ra8+ Kh7 49 a6 Kg6 50 Kg3 h4+ 51 Kh3 Kg5 52
a7 Ra3+ 53 Kg2 Kg4 0-1
In the lines discussed in this game, White usually employs one of two plans. Either he pushes his g-
pawn without playing a3, or he does the g-pawn push with a3. In the first scenario, Black is able to
neutralize White’s plans by playing ... b4 just before White is able to push g5. This usually results in a
structure where White has a pawn on d5 (due to Nd5, ... Nxd5, exd5), and Black is comfortable here. In
the second scenario (where White plays a3), Black’s other minor pieces should control the d5-square in
anticipation of the f6-knight being driven away. Doing this takes the sting out of the g5 push and
sometimes ends up even allowing Black to push ... d5 himself.

Game 29
S.Karjakin-M.Vachier Lagrave
Stavanger 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 g3 e5 7 Nde2 Be7 8 Bg2 b5 9 Nd5


The most fashionable move, which has enjoyed a significant spike in popularity over the past few
years. White immediately seizes control of d5 before Black has time to develop his queenside pieces.
As we will see though, Black is able to take back this square with a few precise moves.
9 ... Nbd7 10 Nec3
Exercise: Find the best way for Black to fight for control of d5.

Answer: 10 ... Nb6!


A key move, immediately contesting the d5-square and forcing White to decide what to do with his
d5-knight.
10 ... Bb7 has also been played, but we don’t think it is as strong. The b7-bishop’s attack on the d5-
knight only really matters if Black is actually willing to play ... Bxd5 at some point. This exchange
seems less than ideal, since Black’s light-squared bishop is his good bishop. If he exchanges it off,
White will have decent chances to dominate the light squares. As a final point, playing 10 ... Bb7 also
commits the bishop rather prematurely to b7. In some lines, the bishop may be better suited somewhere
along the h3-c8 diagonal (such as on e6).
11 Nxe7
Practically yielding the fight for d5 in order to pin Black’s f6-knight to the queen.
Other tries:
a) 11 0-0 tries to just ignore the situation and Black gets what he wants after 11 ... Nbxd5 12 Nxd5
Nxd5 13 Qxd5 Be6 14 Qd1 (14 Qc6+ Bd7 15 Qd5 tries to go for a draw by repetition; Black can either
take it with 15 ... Be6, or play on with 15 ... 0-0 16 Be3 Qc7 17 Qd3 Rfc8, reaching a balanced
position) 14 ... 0-0, when Black has d5 under control and the game is equal.
b) 11 Nxb6 Qxb6 and now:
b1) 12 0-0 0-0 13 Bg5 Bb7 14 Bxf6 Bxf6 15 Nd5 Bxd5 16 Qxd5 b4! is level.

Black’s only weakness is the d6-pawn, which he can easily protect with ... Be7. Meanwhile, the b4-
pawn restrains White’s c-pawn, making it a nice target for Black’s major pieces to attack along the c-
file.
b2) 12 Bg5?? is refuted by 12 ... Ng4!.
b3) 12 a4 b4 13 a5!? (13 Nd5 Nxd5 14 Qxd5 Qb7 leaves Black with no problems) 13 ... Qc7 14
Na2 was played in J.L.Hammer-M.Ragger, Norwegian League 2016, and here Black could have
slightly improved with 14 ... Rb8!, protecting the b4-pawn and leaving White with a weak a5-pawn (the
immediate 14 ... Qxa5 was played in the game, but after 15 Bd2 White was able to take Black’s b4-
pawn, getting a roughly equal game). Note that 15 Bd2? can now be answered with 15 ... d5!, since on
16 exd5 Bg4 17 f3 (17 Qb1?! Qc4 is very dangerous for White’s king, which is trapped in the centre)
17 ... Bf5, White will lose either his c2- or d5-pawn, leaving Black with a much better position.
11 ... Qxe7 12 Bg5
Alternatives are:
a) 12 Be3 declines the opportunity for the pin and just leads to an equal middlegame, as seen in
I.Salgado Lopez-H.Asis Gargatagli, Linares 2015, which continued with 12 ... Rb8 13 0-0 0-0 14 b3,
and here Black could have created pressure on the c-file with 14 ... Qc7! 15 Qd3 Be6 16 Rac1 Rfc8!,
resulting in a position that is dynamically balanced. The b8-rook doesn’t do much at the moment, but if
White ever pushes c4, the rook will become very active on the open b-file.
b) 12 a4 b4 13 a5!? is an interesting but slightly dubious idea that was tried in V.Anand-
A.Grischuk, Leuven (rapid) 2018. Black quickly obtained a better position following 13 ... bxc3 14
axb6 cxb2 15 Bxb2 Rb8 as the b6-pawn was indefensible.
12 ... 0-0 13 Qf3
White decides to use the pin to give Black doubled pawns. As we will see though, this gives the
first player no advantage.
D.Navara-R.Wojtaszek, Shamkir 2018, saw 13 0-0 h6 14 Bxf6 Qxf6 15 a4! b4 (15 ... bxa4!? 16
Nxa4 Qd8 is a reasonable alternative for those not wanting to sacrifice a pawn) 16 Nd5 Nxd5 17 Qxd5
Be6! 18 Qxd6 a5, when White’s extra pawn was not felt that much.

Black’s rooks are about to control the c-file, which will keep the c-pawn at bay and cause it to
require constant defence. In addition, all of Black’s pieces are superior to their counterparts (White’s
queen looks active, but will be driven away soon). Here are a few sample lines which show some useful
themes:
a) 19 Rfd1 is a natural move that just tries to control the d-file. After 19 ... Rac8 20 Qd2 Rfd8 21
Qe2 Rc5 22 Rd2 (22 Rxd8+ runs into 22 ... Qxd8 23 Rd1 Qc7 24 Rd2 b3!, isolating White’s a4-pawn
which Black will pick up in a couple of moves) 22 ... Bc4! (in order to move the queen to c6) 23 Qe3
Rxd2 24 Qxd2 Qc6 25 c3 (25 b3?! Be6 26 Ra2 leaves White’s rook in a very poor spot) 25 ... bxc3 26
bxc3 Kh7, Black is pressuring White’s a4- and c3-pawns. The only way for White to defend both is by
putting his rook on a3, but it has no future there. Needless to say, White has no way of making progress
and if anyone can press it is Black.
b) 19 c3 aims to make something of the c-pawn before it’s too late, but Black shuts down White’s
plans with 19 ... bxc3 20 bxc3 Rfc8 21 Rfc1 Rab8 (threatening ... Rb2!) 22 Rc2 Rb3 23 Rac1 Bc4 24
Qxf6 gxf6 which leads to a drawn endgame, as White’s rooks can’t protect both the a- and c-pawns.
c) 19 Rac1 allows Black to develop good activity on the second rank following 19 ... Rfd8 20 Qb6
Rd2 21 Rfd1 Rad8 22 Rxd2 Rxd2 23 Qe3 Qd8, when Black has full control of the d-file and White’s
rook is stuck defending the c-pawn. A few of Black’s ideas include ... Rd1+ and ... b3 (isolating
White’s a4-pawn), which he may employ as soon as the next move.
d) 19 Qb6 is the move Navara played in the game, with the idea of tying Black’s a8-rook down to
defending the a5-pawn. The game continued 19 ... Rfc8 20 Rfc1 Qe7 21 Qe3 Rc5 22 Bf1 Rac8 with
equality. White’s c-pawn is a big weakness for him to defend and his a1-rook is stuck in the corner.
The game was drawn by repetition following 23 Ba6 R8c6 24 Bb5 Rc8 25 Ba6 R8c6 26 Bb5 Rc8 27
Ba6.
13 ... Be6 14 Bxf6 Qxf6 15 Qxf6 gxf6

Question: How would you assess this position and what is Black’s main plan?
Answer: Positionally speaking, it looks as if White is better because of Black’s weak pawns (d6,
f6, h7). However, things are not so simple for two reasons. First, Black’s e6-bishop is a very good piece
as it controls an array of important light squares. Second, Black is often able to quickly double his
rooks on the c-file, which will give him excellent play. Thus, the position is dynamically balanced.
Black’s main plan involves the second point (i.e. doubling rooks on the c-file). He may also play moves
such as ... b4 and ... a5, depending on circumstances.
16 0-0-0
Others:
a) 16 a3 stops ... b4 and keeps the knight stable on c3, for now. The “for now” is made clear after
16 ... Rfc8 17 0-0-0 Rc6 18 Rd2 (18 Rd3 allows Black to play 18 ... a5!, since 19 Nxb5 is met with 19
... Bc4, forking White’s rook and knight, while following 19 Rhd1 b4 20 Nd5 Bxd5 21 exd5 Rc5, the
game is about equal, though Black seems to be pressing; alternatively 18 f4 Rac8 19 f5 Bc4 sees Black
about to push ... a5 and ... b4, and if White stops him with 20 Bf1 then 20 ... Bxf1 21 Rhxf1 Na4 is just
good for Black) 18 ... Rac8 19 Rhd1 Nc4! 20 Rd3 a5, when Black is threatening to drive away White’s
knight with ... b4 and attack the exposed c2-pawn.
Complications arise after 21 Nxb5!? (21 Nd5 Bxd5 22 exd5 Rc5 leads to a position that seems
easier to play as Black; the c-file is completely under his control, and it’s very unlikely the d5-pawn
will ever get pawn support) 21 ... Nxb2! 22 Kxb2 Rxc2+ 23 Kb1 (23 Ka1?? runs into 23 ... Ra2+ 24
Kb1 Rb8, which is winning for Black) 23 ... Ba2+ 24 Ka1 Bc4 25 Nxd6 (25 Rc3 Bxb5 26 Rxc8+ Rxc8
is close to level, but Black may have a slight pull here, mainly due to White’s bad and passive bishop)
25 ... Ra2+ 26 Kb1 Rb8+ 27 Kc1, and here 27 ... Bxd3 28 Rxd3 Rbb2 gives Black slightly better
chances.
b) 16 f4 gives Black a good game following 16 ... b4 17 Nd1 Rac8 18 f5 Bd7 19 Ne3 d5! 20 exd5
Nc4 21 Nxc4 Rxc4, as either White’s f5- or c2-pawn is dropping.
16 ... b4!
Question: What is the point of this move?

Answer: 16 ... b4 forces White to either move his knight to d5 or retreat. The former allows Black
to capture on d5 and create a favourable pawn structure. The latter gives Black more control over d5
since White’s knight no longer observes the square.
17 Nd5?!
Allowing the creation of a pawn structure that gives Black an advantage.
Retreating with 17 Ne2 is White’s best try, and on 17 ... Rfd8 18 b3 Black should aim to arrange his
pieces as follows:
1) Bring the king to e7, where it will protect the d6-pawn.
2) Play ... a5, possibly in order to play ... a4 later on, but mostly to enable Step 3.
3) Transfer the bishop to a6 via c8, where it will exert some nice pressure on the f1-a6 diagonal.
This plan is demonstrated after 18 ... Kf8 19 Rd2 Ke7 20 f4 a5 21 f5 Bc8 22 Rhd1 Ba6, when Black’s
pieces are ideally placed and the game is balanced.
17 ... Nxd5 18 exd5 Bf5 19 f4!?
While this move essentially makes the e5-pawn a protected passed pawn, it does put some pressure
on Black’s centre. This makes any plans Black has with ... f5 more difficult to carry out.
After 19 Rhe1 a5 (there is not much point in attacking the c2-pawn with 19 ... Rac8 since White has
20 Be4) 20 Be4 tries to exchange bishops, but after 20 ... Bd7! Black avoids the exchange and threatens
... f5!. If White prevents this with 21 g4, then 21 ... Kg7 sees Black’s rooks ready to attack on the c-file.
More interestingly, Black can also play ... Rh8 and ... h5, gaining good play on the h-file. By
combining these two plans, White’s defence will be spread across the board, making it difficult for him.
19 ... Rfc8 20 Rd2 Rc5 21 Re1 a5 22 Rf2 Rac8 23 Be4 Bxe4 24 Rxe4
Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

24 ... Rxd5?
Up to this point MVL had played a virtually flawless game, but now he gives White’s rooks
counterplay, allowing him to secure a draw.
Answer: 24 ... f5! is best, since 25 Re3 e4 is very pleasant for Black. He can spend a long time
pressing for the win because White’s d5- and c2-pawns need constant protection. If Black needs to
create more weaknesses, he may be able to stir something up with ... h5 or ... a4.
25 fxe5 fxe5 26 Rg4+ Kf8 27 Rh4 Kg7 28 Rg4+ Kf8 29 Rh4 Kg7 30 Rg4+ Kf8 ½-½
This game showed that Black is doing well theoretically in the most topical line of the g3 Najdorf
(i.e. 9 Nd5). Make sure to study the ending of this game carefully, in order to understand Black’s main
plans (such as doubling rooks on the c-file and playing ... b4 if possible). Also, spend some time going
through the analysis on the 13 0-0 variation, with the goal of simply getting a feel for the kinds of ideas
that Black has. The game D.Navara-R.Wojtaszek, Shamkir 2018, showed that in this line (13 0-0)
Black is able to give up the d6-pawn, and in return gain ample compensation for it with comfortable
equality.
Chapter Six
Patient Prophylaxis: 6 a4
There are two main goals behind 6 a4. The first is to employ prophylaxis against Black’s ... b5 push.
The second is to wait and see what Black does before committing to any particular set-up.
We recommend countering with 6 ... g6, since this is an opportunity for Black to play the
formidable Dragon structure without having to worry about White castling long (since his pawn on a4
will give Black too much play against the king). Another good reason for playing 6 ... g6 is that many
of the resultant positions are quite unbalanced. This gives Black good chances to play for the win,
while possibly throwing White out of his comfort zone (since many players who employ 6 a4 are
looking for a safer game).

Game 30 considers White’s 7th move sidelines (7 g3, 7 Bc4, 7 f4, 7 Be3). 7 g3 is given the most
attention since White’s other three moves usually give Black an easy game, although one of the lines
after 7 f4 can transpose to a major variation covered in Game 31. With 7 g3, White plays strategically
and aims to tighten his grip on the e4-pawn and d5-square, allowing him to play Nd5 in the
middlegame. On the 10th move of the game we outline a plan for Black that, if carried out properly,
allows him to gain good queenside play and drives away White’s d5-knight. Because of the fairly static
nature of the 7 g3 system, this plan can usually be carried out to fruition against most lines that White
can play.
Game 31 examines the main line, where White plays 7 Be2. The type of game that will be reached
is indeterminate until the 10th move, when White’s main choices are going for the aggressive 10 f4 or
the quieter 10 Qd2. With 10 f4, White has some dangerous plans creating a kingside pawn storm, so it
is important that Black develops some activity on the queenside or in the centre before White’s attack
becomes too strong. The move we recommend (10 ... Qc7) shows Black being successful doing this and
gaining a good game. Meanwhile, 10 Qd2 allows Black to achieve a comfortable set-up with 10 ... Bd7
and 11 ... Rc8, threatening to get good play on the c-file by transferring the c6-knight to c4 via a5.
White can exchange off Black’s knight with Nxc6, but this helps relieve some pressure and, after Black
recaptures with ... Bxc6, enables Black to activate his g7-bishop with ... Nd7.

Game 30
S.Zivkovic-G.Todorovic
Belgrade 2008

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4
The actual move order of the game was 3 ... Nf6 4 Nc3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 g3 g6 7 Nde2 Bg7 8
Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Rb8 10 a4 a6.
4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 a4 g6
Going for a Dragon structure since White has already played a4. The a4-pawn ruins the idea of
castling long (since the king would be far too exposed and Black could quickly blast open the
queenside with ... b5), which is White’s only real critical test against the Dragon. Now Black gets a
normal middlegame position with a robust Sicilian structure.
7 g3

A quiet option that aims to place the bishop on g2 where it will protect the e4-pawn and control d5.
This enables White’s c3-knight to jump to d5, which is White’s main plan in this system. Others:
a) 7 Bc4 is a questionable move since the bishop will become an easy target or tempo-gainer for
Black’s b8-knight (once it reaches e5). After 7 ... Bg7 8 0-0 0-0:
a1) 9 h3 prepares to protect the d4-knight with Be3 (since ... Ng4 is now impossible), but runs into
9 ... Nxe4! 10 Bxf7+ (10 Nxe4? d5 11 Qe2 dxc4 leaves White struggling to regain the c4-pawn, and
even if he does Black’s position seems preferable) 10 ... Rxf7 11 Nxe4 h6 and Black is just slightly
better, thanks to his bishop pair and centre pawns.
a2) 9 Re1 Nc6 10 Nb3 (10 Be3? is rebuked by 10 ... Ng4!) 10 ... Bg4 (a useful intermezzo, causing
White’s f-pawn to commit itself to f3) 11 f3 Ne5 12 Bf1 Be6.

Black’s plans are fairly straightforward:


1) Play ... Qc7 and ... Rac8 (or ... Rfc8) in order to apply pressure on the c-file.
2) Play ... Nfd7, opening up the Dragon bishop to breathe fire along the long diagonal (after the e5-
knight moves).
3) Play ... Nc4, attacking the b2-pawn which protects the c3-knight. At this point, Black would have
his queen, rook, and g7-bishop all aiming at the c3-knight, making the situation unpleasant for White.
Of course, White may interrupt Black’s plans, in which case Black must adapt.
Now:
a21) 13 Nd5 is probably White’s best way to interfere with Black’s plans, but B.Vega Gutierrez-
G.Jones, La Laguna 2007, saw 13 ... Bxd5 14 exd5 b5! 15 axb5 axb5 16 Rxa8 Qxa8 17 Bxb5 Nxd5 18
f4 Nc7 19 Be2 Nc6, when Black is at least equal due to his central majority, which could become
mobile at any moment. Meanwhile, White’s queenside pawns do not look dangerous.
a22) 13 f4 causes Black to regroup his e5-knight and change plans, but now White’s e4-pawn is less
protected. While the e4- and f4-pawn duo seems strong, White’s pieces are in no position to use them
aggressively. After 13 ... Nc6 14 h3, Black can start generating activity in the centre with 14 ... Bxb3!
15 cxb3 e6 16 Be3 d5, already gaining a slight edge due to the d-pawn, which will damage White’s
coordination once it reaches the d4-square.
a23) 13 Be3 Qc7 14 Nd4 Bc4 15 Bd3 Rac8 sees Black successfully carrying out the plan discussed
earlier with a few small modifications (i.e. playing ... Bc4 instead of ... Nc4 and not having time to play
... Nfd7 yet). Already it seems easier to play Black’s side of the position because he has actual pressure
on the queenside, whereas White has nothing similar.
b) 7 f4 is coolly met by 7 ... Bg7 and now:
b1) 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 Nc6 transposes to the 9 f4 variation in the next game.
b2) 8 Bd3 Nc6 9 Nf3 Qb6 just transposes into the 8 Nf3 variation below.
b3) 8 Nf3 lets Black create trouble along the g1-a7 diagonal after 8 ... Nc6 9 Bd3 Qb6! 10 Qe2
Bg4!, and here White decided to immediately relieve the black queen’s pressure with 11 Qf2 in
L.Lederman-V.Ivanchuk, Gibraltar 2014 (instead, 11 Rb1 0-0 12 Be3 Qa5 13 0-0 e6 is slightly
favourable for Black, as he will be playing ... d5 soon and gaining some initiative in the centre; while
11 h3 Nd4 12 Qf2 Nxf3+ 13 gxf3 Qxf2+ 14 Kxf2 was a level endgame in K.Decsey-L.Barczay,
Zalakaros 1994). The game continued 11 ... Qxf2+ 12 Kxf2 Rc8 with a pleasant position for Black. He
has ... Nd7 and ... Nb4 ideas in store, increasing the pressure on White’s queenside.
For illustrative purposes, if White castles queenside after 7 Be3 Bg7 8 f3 0-0 9 Qd2 Nc6 10 0-0-0,
then 10 ... Bd7 11 h4 h5 12 Nxc6 (12 Nd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Nxd4 14 Bxd4 Bxd4 15 Qxd4 Qa5 is
completely fine for Black) 12 ... Bxc6 13 g4 b5! clearly shows Black’s attack being faster and more
dangerous. At this point he already has an appreciable advantage.
7 ... Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0

9 0-0
9 h3 Nc6 10 Be3 sees White’s bishop protecting his d4-knight, allowing it to remain in the centre.
However, the bishop has been prematurely committed to e3 and would be an easy target for a black
knight on c4. Thus, Black’s plan should be to develop pressure along the c-file with his queen and rook
and then transfer the c6-knight to c4. This plan works especially well since White is behind in
development, making it tougher for him to thwart the plan.
After 10 ... Bd7 11 0-0 Rc8 12 Nde2 (12 Qd2 Qc7 13 Nxc6 exchanges off Black’s knight before it
gets the chance to relocate to c4, but now the game is simply equal following 13 ... Bxc6 14 a5 Nd7 15
Rfd1 b6! 16 axb6 Nxb6, when White has slightly better pawns, but Black is developing strong
queenside play) 12 ... Qc7, Black’s plan is going according to schedule, and so White’s best is to start
attacking with 13 g4!, as played in I.Cavajda-P.Eiben, correspondence 2016. The game continued 13 ...
e6! (controlling the d5-square and f5-square, in anticipation of White pushing his f-pawn to f5) 14 f4
Na5 15 Bf2 Rfd8 16 f5 h6! (stopping White from pushing g5) 17 fxg6 fxg6 with a balanced position.
9 ... Nc6
Immediately challenging White’s authority in the centre and forcing him to decide what to do with
his d4-knight.
10 Nde2
The most popular way to retreat the knight. Here it is out of the way and may go to c3 or back to d4
sometime in the future.
The alternative 10 Nb3 doesn’t shelter the white queen, giving Black the opportunity to throw in 10
... Bg4!, after which White must push his f-pawn (blocking in the g2-bishop) or move the queen to a
suboptimal location (such as d2 or d3). Y.Shvayger-M.Illingworth, Douglas 2015, saw White choose
the latter by playing 11 Qd2 (11 f3 Be6 12 f4 unblocks the g2-bishop and establishes more control over
the centre, but makes the e4-pawn much weaker since it no longer has pawn support; after 12 ... Na5 13
Nxa5 Qxa5, Black can continue developing pressure along the c-file with moves such as ... Rac8 and ...
Qc5+, and may even play ... b5 when the time is right; all of these moves work towards destabilizing
White’s c3-knight, which will make the e4-pawn even weaker), and after 11 ... Qd7 12 f4 Bh3, Black
was already a bit better since he is about to exchange off White’s g2-bishop. Without this bishop,
White’s king and e4-pawn will be noticeably more vulnerable.
10 ... Rb8

Question: What are some of Black’s main ideas in this middlegame? Assume
that White will play Nd5 soon, since his set-up revolves around that move.
Answer: Black’s main ideas are:
1) To push ... b5.
2) When White plays Nd5, respond with ... Nd7, opening up the g7-bishop and preparing to use the
knight on the queenside.
3) If possible, chase White’s d5-knight away with ... e6. If ... e6 can’t be played immediately
(usually because White has a bishop on g5, pinning it to the black queen), work towards gradually
playing this move.
4) Play moves to expand on the queenside (i.e. ... b4 and ... Nc5).
The ideal culmination of these ideas is Black having queenside pressure while White doesn’t have
much to show in the centre. Another good feature of this plan is that Black can carry it out in most
lines. To see these concepts in action throughout the rest of the game, this plan will be referred to as the
“main plan”.
11 Nd5
Wasting no time establishing the knight on d5. The alternative 11 h3 protects g4 and possibly
prepares to play Be3. Black should continue following the main plan with 11 ... b5 12 axb5 axb5 and
now:
a) 13 Bg5 is an inaccurate way to get the bishop to g5, since White doesn’t have a knight on d5
threatening to take Black’s f6-knight. Thus, since Bg5 is not with tempo, Black has time to drive it
away with 13 ... h6!, and J.Polgar-R.Mamedov, Konya 2012, saw 14 Be3 b4 15 Nd5 Nd7 16 Qc1 Kh7
17 Rd1, when Black should have carried out Step 3 of the main plan by playing 17 ... e6!.

This drives White’s d5-knight away and gains the advantage.


b) 13 Nd5 is immediately rebuked by 13 ... Nd7 14 c3 e6!, and after 15 Ne3 Nc5 Black is about to
play ... b4 with some initiative. For example, P.Potapov-E.Krivoborodov, Herceg Novi 2005, continued
16 Nd4 (16 b4 stops ... b4, but weakens the c3-pawn, and after 16 ... Na4 17 Ra3 Qc7, Black is
preparing to move the c6-knight and open up the queen to attack the c3-pawn) 16 ... Bd7 17 Bd2 b4!
and Black was better.
c) 13 Be3 is the logical follow-up to 11 h3 but doesn’t do anything to help White’s c3-knight find a
secure home on d5. This is clear after 13 ... b4 14 Nd5 Nd7 15 Ra2 e6!, when White’s endeavour in the
centre is being shut down and Black’s queenside operations are progressing like clockwork. Wan
Yunguo-Wang Shuai, Chongqing 2011, saw 16 Ndf4 Nc5 17 b3 and, having gained enough space on
the queenside, Black turned his attention to White’s e4-pawn with 17 ... Ne5! 18 g4 Bb7, gaining a
small edge.
11 ... b5
Completing step one of the main plan and beginning to develop queenside play. Note that it is not
necessary for Black to play ... Nd7 immediately, since Nxf6 isn’t a threat.
Nevertheless 11 ... Nd7, strictly adhering to step two of the main plan is playable, (i.e. play ... Nd7
after White plays Nd5). On 12 c3 b5 13 axb5 axb5 14 Nd4 Nxd4 15 cxd4 Bb7, the game is roughly
level. Black’s idea is to play ... Bxd5, giving White doubled pawns on the d-file.
12 axb5 axb5 13 Bg5!

Question: What is White trying to do here?

Answer: 13 Bg5 develops the bishop with tempo (since now Nxf6+ is threatened, doubling Black’s
pawns), preventing Black from immediately driving it away with 13 ... h6. The bishop is a very useful
piece on g5 because it will pin Black’s e-pawn to his queen after Black plays ... Nd7. This prevents
Black from easily driving White’s d5-knight away with ... e6.
Instead, 13 c3 prepares to play Nd4, so Black’s best strategy is to keep his f6-knight on its square,
where the threat of playing ... Nxd5 will soon come in handy. After 13 ... b4 (13 ... Nd7 transposes to
the 11 ... Nd7 variation of the main game) 14 Nd4 Nxd4 15 Nxf6+ (15 cxd4? runs into 15 ... Nxd5) 15
... exf6 16 cxd4 f5! 17 exf5 Bxf5, the game was equal in O.Karpeshov-P.Smirnov, Kazan 2016.
13 ... Nd7 14 Qc1
Preventing ... h6 and securing the position of the g5-bishop. While this stops Black from playing ...
e6 for now, eventually Black will be able to move his queen to enable the pawn push.
Here 14 c3!? has an interesting idea in mind, which is seen after 14 ... h6 15 Be3 e6 16 Nb4 Nxb4
17 cxb4, when White has doubled b-pawns but in return gets open lines on the queenside and some
pressure against Black’s d6-pawn. The best reply is 17 ... Ne5, threatening to play ... Nc4, when the
knight and g7-bishop will coordinate well against the b2-pawn. After 18 Bd4 (18 b3 stops ... Nc4 but
doesn’t play in the centre, and D.Dimitrov-C.Koepke, Sunny Beach 2011, saw Black break through
with 18 ... Bb7 19 Qd2 d5!, when the game was equal), Black can play the rather unexpected 18 ...
Nc6! and suddenly White’s b4-pawn is being attacked. M.Munoz Pantoja-E.Martinez Ramirez,
Barcelona 2012, continued with 19 Bxg7 Kxg7 20 Rc1, and now Black could have played 20 ... Bb7
with a balanced game.
14 ... Re8!
Allowing Black to play ... Bh8 if White tries to exchange with Bh6.
15 Rd1 b4 16 Ra2
Preparing to play b3, in order to halt Black’s b-pawn.
Others:
a) 16 Bh6 doesn’t help White’s cause, as after 16 ... Bh8 it is much easier for Black to play ... e6
when the right moment arises, since the e-pawn is no longer pinned.
b) 16 c3 tries to fight back on the queenside, but after 16 ... bxc3 17 Nexc3?! (17 bxc3 Nc5 is also
good for Black, since his rook enjoys the open b-file and the c3-pawn is weak) 17 ... Nc5, White’s b2-
pawn and b3-square are major weaknesses, giving Black the advantage in V.Onischuk-E.Can, Kocaeli
2014.
c) 16 h3 employs prophylaxis against any ... Bg4 ideas Black has after playing ... Nc5. After 16 ...
Nc5 17 Be3, Black’s plan is to move his queen off the d-file so that playing ... e6 is safe. Black
accomplished this in F.Cuijpers-S.Tiviakov, Amsterdam 2006, after 17 ... Bd7 18 Nd4 Ne5 19 b3 Qc8
20 Kh2 e6, gaining a good game.
16 ... Nc5 17 Be3
If we refer to the main plan outlined for Black on move 10, we see that he has fulfilled the
requirements for step four (expanding on the queenside). Now Black should try to drive White’s d5-
knight away with ... e6 and, in order to do this, Black must move his queen off the d8-square or
somehow divert White’s rook from the d-file.
For White, 17 b3 immediately was better, nipping any ... b3 themes in the bud. The game is
balanced after 17 ... Ba6 18 Qd2 Qc8, when Black is on the verge of being able to push ... e6, but can’t
at the moment since it will allow Nf6+. In the meantime, controlling d4 is another viable plan,
especially since White’s dark-squared bishop is on g5 (not on e3, controlling d4). For example, after 19
h3 Ne6 20 Be3 Bxe2 21 Qxe2 Ned4 22 Qc4 e6, Black has accomplished his goal and enjoys
comfortable equality.

Exercise: How should Black proceed here?

17 ... Bg4
Answer: While Black has met the minimum requirements for the “expanding on the queenside”
task, there’s no reason he can’t exceed expectations! A better move was 17 ... Ba6!, and after 18 Qd2
b3! Black is developing a serious queenside initiative. There’s no hurry to push White’s d5-knight
away since it’s not doing much at the moment.
18 f3 Bd7 19 b3 Qc8 20 Qd2
A more active try was 20 Bh6 Bh8 21 Qg5!, but after 21 ... Ne6 22 Qe3 Qb7 the game seems about
level. The moment he has the chance, Black will gladly play ... Ned4, ideally followed up with ... e6. In
the meantime, contesting the a-file with ... Ra8 is a productive use of his time.

Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

20 ... Bh3?!
Black turns his attention to the kingside just when he was on the verge of succeeding in the centre.
Answer: Now was an opportune moment to play the desired 20 ... e6! push. Note that after 21 Ndf4
Rd8, White cannot win the d6-pawn with 22 Qxd6?? due to 22 ... Be8, skewering the queen to the d1-
rook.
21 Nd4 Bxg2?!
Missing his chance to save the b4-pawn and level the game. 21 ... Nxd4 22 Bxd4 Bxd4+ 23 Qxd4
Be6 would have maintained the balance since 24 Nxb4? runs into a tactical combination: 24 ... Bxb3!
25 cxb3 Nxb3 26 Qe3 Rxb4 and Black is just a pawn up.
22 Kxg2 Ne5 23 Bg5 Qb7 24 Ra5 Nxf3!?
While objectively this move is losing, it gives Black good practical chances to make a comeback
from a much worse position.
25 Kxf3 f5 26 Rxc5! fxe4+ 27 Kg2 dxc5 28 Ne6 Bd4 29 Nxd4?!
A subtle mistake. Although it doesn’t lose material, it allows Black’s pieces to unwind. 29 Ne3!
would have eliminated Black’s counterplay, leaving White with a much better position.
29 ... e3!?
As with Black’s 24th move, this gives White a chance to be much better, but the path is difficult
(especially if the players were in time trouble).
29 ... Qxd5 was the safe move, and after 30 Ne2 Qxd2 31 Rxd2 Rbd8 32 Rxd8 Rxd8, the endgame
is roughly equal thanks to Black’s active rook. White may be able to press a bit, which could be why
Black chose to avoid this line.
30 Qxe3?
Probably the move Black was hoping for. 30 Qd3! cxd4 31 Qe4 is very counter-intuitive as White is
letting Black have a connected passed pawn on e3. However, the lack of activity in Black’s forces gives
White an edge.
30 ... Qxd5+ 31 Nf3 Qxd1 32 Qe6+ Kg7 0-1
In the 7 g3 system, the main plan outlined for Black on the 10th move works very well. In most
instances, Black is able to carry it out and achieve a desirable position. Perhaps the most notable cases
where the game changes flavour (causing Black to switch from the main plan) are when White plays a
fairly early c3, which happens in the 13 c3 and 14 c3 variations. They’re worth a quick look, since it’s
important to know what to do if White switches things up.
On the subject of White’s other 7th moves: 7 Bc4 allows Black to generate easy play on the
queenside and sometimes even in the centre. Meanwhile, after 7 f4 the best White can get is a
transposition into the 9 f4 variation of the next game covered in this chapter. Finally, 7 Be3 (where
White castles long) gives Black very good queenside play thanks to White’s loose a4-pawn.

Game 31
Z.Efimenko-A.Kovchan
Ukrainian Championship, Rivne 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 a4 g6 7 Be2


White’s main 7th move, aiming to go for a standard set-up.
7 ... Bg7 8 0-0
8 Be3 first is also possible but is likely to transpose to the game after 8 ... Nc6 9 0-0 0-0.
8 ... 0-0 9 Be3

Instead, 9 f4 Nc6 10 Nb3 retreats the knight from the centre immediately (10 Be3 transposes to the
10 f4 variation of the main game), allowing Black to play 10 ... Be6!, and then if 11 Be3 Rc8 (note that
11 ... Qc7 again transposes to the 10 f4 variation of the main game and could be played for the sake of
simplicity) 12 Bf3 (12 Kh1 Na5! 13 f5 Nc4 14 Bd4 Bd7 was comfortable for Black in L.Esquivel-
J.Cueto, Tromsø 2014) 12 ... Nd7!, Black is ready to employ a number of ideas such as:
1) Playing ... Nb6 and ... Nc4.
2) Playing ... Na5 with the goal of bringing the knight to c4, and if White plays Nxa5, then Black’s
queen gets activated after ... Qxa5. Also, ... Na5 opens up the c-file for the c8-rook.
3) In some instances, capturing White’s b3-knight with ... Bxb3 and capitalizing on the weakened
b4-square with moves such as ... Nb4 and ... Qa5.
White’s best way to try to prevent most of these ideas is by playing 13 a5, but now 13 ... b5! 14
axb6 Nxb6 gives Black good play on the queenside and the game is dynamically balanced. Note that 15
Rxa6? fails to 15 ... Nc4 16 Bc1 Nb4! 17 Ra1 Qb6+ 18 Kh1 Nxb2 19 Bxb2 Bxb3 20 cxb3 Bxc3 21
Bxc3 Rxc3, when Black is much better due to White’s extremely weak b3-pawn.
9 ... Nc6 10 Qd2
10 f4 is an aggressive approach which aims to dominate most of the central squares. It is important
that Black keeps an eye on the e5-square since White would like to push e5 if he could get away with it.
Here we recommend playing 10 ... Qc7! for three reasons:
1) The queen helps to protect the important e5-square.
2) Black prepares to play ... Na5 and ... Nc4.
3) Black leaves the c8-bishop untouched (for now) so that if White decides to move his knight from
d4, the bishop can go to e6 in one move. Note that playing ... Be6 immediately is bad for Black due to
Nxe6. Now we have:
a) 11 Kh1 Na5! 12 Qd3 Bd7 sees Black about to move a rook to c8 and play ... Nc4, developing a
good initiative along the c-file. White’s most dangerous approach is to attack on the kingside with 13 f5
(13 Nb3 exchanges off Black’s knight after 13 ... Rac8 14 Nxa5 Qxa5, but Black clearly has no
problems here and the game is just equal) 13 ... Rfc8 14 g4!? (14 Bg5 threatens Bxf6 followed by Nd5,
so Black should respond with 14 ... Qc5, planning to play ... Nc4, break with ... b5, or possibly even
play ... Nxe4!? if White doesn’t give his d4-knight more protection), and tactics ensue after 14 ... Nc4
15 g5 Nxb2 16 gxf6 Qxc3 17 Qxc3 Rxc3 18 Bd2 Rc4! 19 fxg6 hxg6 20 Bxc4 (20 fxg7 Rxd4 21 Bc3
Rc4! threatens ... Rxc2 if White plays Bxb2, and 22 Bxc4 Nxc4 23 Rf3 f6 24 a5 Kxg7 sees the material
balance even, but Black has a far superior pawn structure as every one of White’s pawns are weak; this
gives Black a nearly winning position) 20 ... Nxc4 21 Bg5 exf6 22 Bxf6, and here 22 ... Bh6! 23 Rfe1
Re8 24 Rab1 b6 gives Black the slightly better game. While he is down the exchange for a pawn,
White’s a4- and e4-pawns are extremely weak. In addition, Black’s h6-bishop has good chances to
wreak havoc along the c1-h6 diagonal.
b) 11 Nb3 stops ... Na5, but allows Black to play 11 ... Be6, obtaining a comfortable set-up. White
has a few options:
b1) 12 Nd5?! Bxd5 13 exd5 Nb4 14 c4 was seen in B.Grachev-G.Grecescu, Oropesa del Mar 2001,
and now Black should have tried 14 ... b5!, undermining White’s c4/d5 pawn chain and gaining a nice
advantage.
b2) 12 Bf3 Bc4 13 Re1 e5! was seen in C.Malureanu-M.Iskandarov, Albena 2011, when Black was
beginning to gain a very active influence in the centre.
b3) 12 g4 (A.Shevelev-E.Postny, Ramat Aviv 2004) seems to be White’s most critical continuation.
Since White’s kingside pawn storm is becoming dangerous, Black should go for 12 ... Bxb3 13 cxb3
e6!.

Black prepares to fight back in the centre by pushing ... d5. White’s best way to combat this plan is
14 Rc1! (14 g5 Nd7 15 f5 Be5! is fine for Black as his bishop is active on e5 and influences important
central dark squares, and note that 16 b4 Nxb4 17 Qb3 a5 18 fxe6 fxe6 19 Qxe6+ Kh8 is just equal;
meanwhile 14 f5 d5! 15 g5 Nxe4 16 Nxe4 dxe4 17 f6 Rfd8! 18 Qc2 Bf8 19 Qxe4 Nd4! gives Black an
edge due to White’s weak b3-pawn, overextended g5-pawn, and vulnerable king) 14 ... d5 15 e5 (15
exd5 Rad8 gives Black an edge) 15 ... Nd7 16 b4, but after 16 ... Qd8 17 b5 axb5 18 axb5 Ne7 19 Qd2
f6! the game is equal.
b4) 12 f5 chases the e6-bishop away at the cost of giving up control of e5. After 12 ... Bxb3 13 cxb3
Qa5 the game is balanced. Black has ideas such as ... Qe5 and ... Ne5 in mind and attacking the b3-
pawn is also possible. L.Morales Mendoza-K.Zapata, Lima 2004, continued 14 Qe1 (14 g4 is swiftly
countered by 14 ... Qe5 15 Qd3 d5!, with equality), and now Black should have played 14 ... Rae8!,
threatening to push ... e6 (14 ... Qb4?! was what Black actually played, when White could have boxed
in Black’s queen with 15 a5!). If White stops this plan by attacking the d6-pawn with 15 Rd1, then
Black can play 15 ... Qb4, since he doesn’t have to fear any a5 ideas from White.
Note that 10 Nb3 Be6 11 f4 Rc8 transposes to the 9 f4 variation of the main game, or alternatively
11 ... Qc7 transposes to the 10 f4 variation.
10 ... Bd7
Question: What is Black’s plan here?

Answer: Black’s plan is to play ... Rc8 and, if possible, bring the c6-knight to c4 via e5 or a5.
White could stop this plan by exchanging on c6 (as he did in the game), but this is fine with Black since
it removes White’s strong d4-knight from the board. Also, Black’s d7-bishop will be able to take back
on c6 where it will enjoy a more active post.
11 Rfd1
Others:
a) 11 f3 Rc8 12 Nxc6 Bxc6 13 Rfd1 was the actual move order of the game and it is fine to follow
in the event of the opponent playing 11 f3.
b) 11 f4 Rc8 12 Nxc6 (12 Nb3 Na5 13 Nxa5 Qxa5 gives Black good queenside activity and White’s
centre doesn’t look very threatening; W.Medina-T.Gara, Jakarta 2014, continued 14 Bd3 Ng4 15 Nd5
Qxd2 16 Nxe7+ Kh8 17 Bxd2 Rce8 18 Nd5 Bxb2 with an equal position) 12 ... Bxc6 13 Bf3 Nd7 14 a5
(14 Bd4 e5! was fine for Black, as seen in W.Wittmann-D. Ludwig, Budapest 2009, and R.Sezdbekov-
S.Ter Sahakyan, Moscow 2016) 14 ... Nc5 saw Black putting good pressure on White’s e4-pawn in
A.Fishbein-S.Sevian, Rockville 2017.
11 ... Rc8 12 Nxc6
12 f3 allows Black to carry out his plan of moving the c6-knight to c4 with 12 ... Na5, but after 13
Nd5 (13 Nb3 Nc4 14 Bxc4 Rxc4 15 a5 Qc7 was balanced in J.Kyas-E.Iturrizaga, Gibraltar 2012) 13 ...
Nxd5 14 exd5 we have reached V.Jansa-M.Tazbir, Czech League 2011. Since White wants to play
Bh6, Black should have put the ... Nc4 plan on hold and instead exchanged queens with 14 ... Qc7! 15
b3 (15 Bh6? doesn’t work now, since 15 ... Nc4 16 Bxc4 Qxc4 17 Bxg7 Kxg7 leaves White’s d5-pawn
in serious trouble due to Black’s active queen on c4) 15 ... Qc3 16 Qxc3 Rxc3 with a level game. Black
will probably push his e-pawn soon in an effort to flex his central majority.
12 ... Bxc6 13 f3 Nd7!
An important (and also standard) move, opening up the g7-bishop and allowing it to attack White’s
c3-knight. One of the ways this is useful is that it makes it more problematic for White to expand on the
queenside by pushing his b-pawn.
14 a5 Qc7 15 Ra3!

Question: What is the purpose of this move?

Answer: 15 Ra3 protects the c3-knight and prepares to push the b-pawn. This is probably White’s
most precise way of developing activity on the queenside.
15 Bd4 also has the goal of neutralizing the pressure from the g7-bishop, but this makes many
compromises. White is exchanging his good bishop (arguably his best piece) for Black’s bishop (which
hadn’t seen the light of day before 13 ... Nd7). Q.Ducarmon-A.Indjic, Pune 2014, and Zhang Xiaowen-
Xu Tong, Jiangsu Wuxi 2008, both saw 15 ... Bxd4+ 16 Qxd4 Nf6 17 Rd2 and in both games Black
could have played the strong 17 ... Kg7!, since if White plays 18 Nd5 (18 Qb4 moves the queen away
from being attacked by ... e5, while keeping an eye on the d6-pawn; however, after 18 ... Rfd8 19 Nd5
Bxd5 20 exd5, Black can force White to take on c5 with 20 ... Qc5+ 21 Qxc5 dxc5, leading to a
balanced endgame since Black can double his rooks against White’s d5-pawn and possibly play ... e6
soon after), then 18 ... e5! works very nicely. White has no Nxf6+ here (due to 17 ... Kg7) and, after 19
Qe3 (19 Nxc7 exd4 20 Nxa6 bxa6 21 Bxa6 Rb8 22 b3 Rb4! leads to an endgame where Black enjoys
an edge) 19 ... Bxd5 20 exd5 Nd7, the game is balanced. If it weren’t for 18 ... e5, Black’s e-pawn
would still be on e7 giving White a target to attack.

Exercise: What should Black play?


Answer: 15 ... Be5!
A strong move that is key to Black improving his position. He wants to move his knight back to f6
(where it will control the important d5-square), but doing so immediately blocks in the bishop. Thus,
Black takes a moment to place the bishop in the centre, where it will be unhindered along the a1-h8 and
h2-b8 diagonals. Also, note how White cannot drive Black’s bishop away with f4, since then Black can
play ... Bxc3 and pick up the loose e4-pawn.
16 b4
Expanding on the queenside, but notice how White’s light squares suddenly appear weaker.
16 ... Nf6 17 Bb6 Qd7 18 Rb3 Bxc3

Question: What is Black hoping to accomplish by exchanging his mighty


centralized bishop for White’s c3-knight?

Answer: Black’s idea is to eliminate the c3-knight so that he can control the b5-square. This will
allow Black to play ... Bb5, exchanging light-squared bishops and gaining control of the queenside light
squares.
18 ... Nh5 was also interesting, targeting the kingside dark squares and prompting White to play 19
g3, after which the f3-pawn and h3-square become annoying weaknesses.
19 Rxc3 Bb5 20 Bd4 Bxe2 21 Qxe2 Rxc3 22 Bxc3 Rc8!
A precise assessment of the situation! Black knows that White’s bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal is
more powerful than the f6-knight. So, Black invites White to exchange with Bxf6. Even though this
will weaken Black’s pawn structure, Black’s queen will be able to jump to a4, where it will attack
White’s b4- and c2-pawns. This allows Black to maintain the material balance. For example, 23 Bxf6
exf6 24 Qd3 Qa4 25 Qxd6 Qxc2 is level.
23 Be1 Qe6 24 Qd3 Nd7 25 c3 Ne5 26 Qd5 Qxd5 27 Rxd5
The endgame is roughly equal, but it seems easier to play Black. The c3-pawn is a major weakness
for White, whereas Black has no weaknesses (other than the b7-pawn, but that cannot be easily
attacked).
27 ... Nc4 28 Kf2 e6 29 Rd1 f5 30 Ke2 Kf7 31 exf5 gxf5 32 Rd4 e5 33 Rh4 Kg6 34 f4?!
Possibly trying to construct a blockade, but fixing a pawn on the same colour as the bishop isn’t the
best way to do it. Now Black has more weaknesses to press against.
34 g4! is better, and after 34 ... f4 35 Rh5 White has established a fairly good blockade, given his
rook a nice outpost from which to pressure Black’s h7- and e5-pawns, and now his bishop may be able
to get some activity along the h4-d8 diagonal later on.
34 ... h5 35 Bf2 Rc7 36 Kd3 e4+ 37 Ke2 Kh6 38 Bd4 Rc8 39 Bf6 Kg6 40 Bd4 Rg8 41 Kf2 Kh6
42 Ba7 Rc8 43 Rh3 Nb2 44 Bd4 Rg8 45 Rh4 Nd3+ 46 Kf1 Kg6 47 Ke2 Rc8 48 Kd2 Kh6 49 Bf6
Rg8 50 Bg5+ Kg6 51 Rh3 Nb2 52 Rg3 Nc4+ 53 Ke2 Kf7 54 Rh3 Rh8 55 Rg3
Exercise: Find a way for Black to transfer his knight to d5 where it will
attack White’s c3- and f4-pawns.

Answer: 55 ... b6!


Finally breaking through! Now when White captures on b6, Black can play ... Nxb6 and then bring
the knight to d5.
56 axb6 Nxb6 57 Bh4 Nd5?!
Unnecessarily allowing White’s rook counterplay. 57 ... Rg8! was more accurate, leading to an
exchange of rooks following 58 Rxg8 Kxg8, when Black’s king and knight can work as a great
attacking team against White’s pawns (especially the c3-pawn).
58 Rg5 Ke6 59 c4 Nxb4 60 Rg6+ Kd7 61 Rg7+?!
All this does is allow the king to advance up a rank for free. While this is a subtle point, it gives
Black’s king the opportunity to break through.
61 ... Kc6 62 Rf7 Rg8 63 g3 Nc2?!
Indirectly protecting the f5-pawn, but missing a chance to march the king forward. This is where
the black king could have broken through with 63 ... Kc5! 64 Rxf5+ Kxc4, and suddenly Black has
three passed pawns, with his king, knight, and rook all available to help shepherd them forward.
64 Bf6?
A completely natural move, but due to the concrete nature of this position it hands Black the win.
This bishop move blocks White’s rook from attacking the f5-pawn and also gives time for Black’s rook
to start invading along the b-file.
It was imperative for White to play 64 Kd2! Na3 65 Kc3 at once, when the king protects the c4-
pawn and is ready to occupy the key d4-square.
64 ... Rb8 65 Kd2 Na3 66 Kc3 a5 67 Ra7 e3! 68 Re7
68 Ra6+ Kb7 69 Rxd6 Re8 70 Rd7+ Kc6 71 Re7 Rxe7 72 Bxe7 Nxc4 is also winning.
68 ... a4 69 Kd3 Rb3+ 70 Ke2 Nxc4 71 Ra7 a3 72 Ra4 d5 73 Bd4 Rb8 74 Ra7 Rb2+ 0-1
In this game we saw that White can choose between two major systems, 10 f4 and 10 Qd2. With 10
f4, Black’s 10 ... Qc7 move either ends up seeing him play the ... Na5 plan (on 11 Kh1) or being able to
develop the c8-bishop to e6 (on 11 Nb3). In both cases, White’s most critical continuations are often
linked to early g4 pushes, so it is important to carefully study the lines where White pushes g4. Black is
doing well theoretically in these lines, but some accuracy is required.
10 Qd2 is a lot milder and Black’s set-up with 10 ... Bd7 and 11 ... Rc8 gives him a comfortable
game. If White wants to stop Black’s c6-knight from going to a5 (where it would be ready to hop in to
c4), he has to play 12 Nxc6, which is what happened in the game. Then 13 ... Nd7 and 15 ... Be5 moves
are important to remember, since they enable Black to activate his g7-bishop and gain influence across
the board.
Chapter Seven
Early Skirmish: 6 f4
6 f4 is an aggressive attempt to begin playing in the centre at once. White’s plan on the kingside has
three simple components: gain space, develop quickly, and attack. The line we recommend, 6 ... e5, is
Black’s main way to fight White for control of the centre. Because of Black’s early thrusts in the centre
(and sometimes on the queenside), White is often unable to gain any momentum for an effective
kingside attack. This can sometimes cause the game to develop a positional character, where Black
retains good play.
Following 6 ... e5 7 Nf3 Nbd7 we reach the diagram position, the focus for this chapter.

In Game 32, we consider a couple of rarer options for White, besides the standard 8 a4. The
obvious downside of these lines is that Black will be able to gain space on the queenside with ... b5.
White typically pins his hopes on a quick kingside attack, but we will see in this game that Black has
adequate defensive resources to nullify White’s ambitions.
In Game 33, we examine the 8 a4 followed by 9 Bc4 line, which looks active for White due to the
bishop being on the a2-g8 diagonal and White’s queen on the open d-file. However, in the game Black
was able to exploit the vulnerability of the c4-bishop by playing an early ... Qa5. The 9 ... Qa5 move is
one of the main reasons 9 Bc4 isn’t very popular, as this queen move initiates quick play on the
queenside, preventing White from focusing any energy on his desired kingside attack.
Games 34 and 35 are devoted to the main line where White plays 9 Bd3 after 8 a4. Even though
these lines do not have such a concrete nature, they still may contain aggressive themes.
In Game 34, White plays 13 Be3 and tries to control the queenside dark squares with b4 and a5.
Black’s best plan is to begin playing actively in the centre. For example, when White played b4 in the
game, Black moved his c5-knight back to d7. After that, he transferred the knight to e5, causing White
to switch his attention from the queenside to the centre.
Game 35 examines 13 Qd2 where White’s main plan is to play Nd4 followed by Nf5. Black’s best
response is to strike in the centre as soon as possible, after the necessary preparatory moves (i.e. ... Bh5
and ... Bg6). By following this plan, White is not fast enough to firmly establish his knight on f5, and
Black gains a good position. In the game, quite a few intriguing and strategic ideas are shown, such as
how Black turned his isolated d-pawn into a strength.

Game 32
P.Ponkratov-D.Kokarev
Voronezh 2010

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 f4 e5 7 Nf3


Besides this natural retreat, White has two other knight moves:
a) 7 Nf5 Nc6! is simple and probably best (trying to take advantage of White’s last move
immediately with 7 ... Nxe4!? is interesting, but after 8 Nxg7+ Bxg7 9 Nxe4 d5 10 Ng3 0-0 the position
is very complicated); a sample line is 8 Bc4 g6 9 Ng3 Bg4 10 Be2 Bxe2 11 Qxe2 Bg7 with a pleasant
position for Black.
b) 7 Nb3 Nbd7 8 a4 prevents ... b5 (if White tries to attack directly with 8 g4 Black counters with 8
... d5! 9 exd5 Nb6, which provides him with excellent play), and after 8 ... Be7 9 f5 (9 Be3 is harmless,
and 9 ... exf4 10 Bxf4 Ne5 gives Black a good position) 9 ... b6, Black is preparing ... Bb7 and ... d5. If
White attacks with 10 g4?! now, Black can defend calmly by playing 10 ... h6 11 h4 Bb7 12 Bg2 Nh7!
(an important defensive idea to remember) and White’s attack won’t be making any progress.
7 ... Nbd7 8 Bd3
With this move, White intends to castle quickly and attack Black on the kingside. By deviating
from the standard 8 a4, White believes the extra tempo will allow him to have enough attacking play.
However, the downside is that Black will be able to expand on the queenside with ... b5 and
immediately put pressure on White’s vulnerable centre. In this game, we will see how Black achieves
this with ... Bb7 and ... Nc5 and how White was unable to create a fast enough attack.
The standard 8 a4 will be looked at in the next games.
White can also try 8 Bc4 Be7 9 0-0?! (preventing ... b5 with 9 a4 would be White’s best option,
transposing to the next game in this chapter), which Black should meet with 9 ... b5! 10 Bd5 (10 Bb3
Bb7 was comfortable for Black in V.Poliakov-M.Bedia, Stanitsa-Luganskaya 2010) 10 ... Rb8! and the
white bishop is left on d5. Black will only capture it once he is fully developed and ready to attack
White’s centre. After ... 0-0 and ... Qc7, Black will begin expanding on the queenside and have little to
worry about.
8 ... Be7
Black could also start expanding on the queenside immediately with 8 ... b5, which likely
transposes to the game after 9 0-0 Be7 10 Kh1 0-0.
9 0-0
White’s best would be 9 a4, transposing to the main lines.
9 ... 0-0
Again, playing 9 ... b5 immediately was also possible.
10 Kh1
White decides to play this move now, otherwise he may run into trouble with ... Qb6+ or ... Bc5+ in
the future. Instead, 10 Qe1 b5 11 fxe5 dxe5 12 Qg3 (12 Bg5 Bb7 was fine for Black in A.Kapengut-
D.Vigorito, US Chess League 2011) 12 ... Bb7 13 a3 Nh5! prevents all of White’s play on the kingside,
and 14 Qf2 Qc7 gives Black a very comfortable position.
10 ... b5 11 a4!?
Not White’s most popular choice in this line. White decides to allow Black to play ... b4 and
manoeuvre his c3-knight to the kingside. However, we will see that this idea is quite slow and allows
Black to quickly pressure White’s centre. More common is either 11 a3 or 11 Qe1, both preparing to
attack on the kingside with Qe1-g3. If Black is aware of the various defensive resources he has here, he
should have no trouble dealing with White’s plans:
a) 11 a3 Bb7 and now White has a few options:
a1) 12 Qe1 prepares to capture on e5 and follow up with Qg3. Black should play 12 ... Re8!, using
the rook to reinforce the e5-pawn by x-raying it. The idea behind this move is seen after 13 fxe5 dxe5
14 Qg3, when Black can play 14 ... Nc5!, attacking White’s e4-pawn, and 15 Nxe5? fails because of 15
... Bd6.
a2) L.Guliev-R.Padmini, Balaguer 2007, saw 12 Nh4?!, which Black should have countered with
12 ... d5!.
a3) The combative 12 fxe5 dxe5 13 Nh4 g6! (winning a pawn with 13 ... Nxe4?! gives White
excellent compensation after 14 Nxe4 Bxh4 15 Nd6 Bc6 16 Qg4!, followed by Bh6; this is very
dangerous for Black) 14 Bh6 Re8 15 Qf3 Bf8 16 Bg5 Bg7 ends in White’s play on the kingside being
extinguished, allowing Black to continue with ... Rc8 and ... Qb6, gaining a nice advantage.
b) 11 Qe1 Bb7 12 fxe5 (12 Qg3 immediately ran into 12 ... Nh5! in A.Voge-J.Koscielski, Essen
2004) 12 ... dxe5 13 Qg3 shows why White should have played a3 earlier, as now Black has 13 ... b4!
and White will struggle to maintain equality. A sample line is 14 Nd5 Nxd5 15 exd5 and after 15 ...
Nc5! (the natural 15 ... Bxd5 is slightly better for Black as well) 16 Nxe5 Bh4! White will be under
serious pressure.
11 ... b4 12 Ne2 Bb7
Slightly more accurate is 12 ... Qc7!?, because after 13 Ng3 Nc5 Black is using his queen to protect
his e5-pawn and White is unable to simplify the game. A sample line is 14 fxe5 dxe5 15 Qe2 Be6 with
a comfortable position for Black.
13 Ng3 Nc5!
Black decides to put pressure on White’s centre.
Striking in the centre immediately with 13 ... d5!? was also possible. However, Black may have
preferred to avoid the simplifications after 14 Qe2 (the natural 14 exd5 gives Black good chances for an
advantage after 14 ... exf4 15 Bxf4 Nxd5 16 Bd2 Nc5) 14 ... dxe4 15 Nxe4 Nxe4 16 Bxe4 Bxe4 17
Qxe4 exf4 18 Bxf4 with a roughly level game.
14 fxe5 Nfxe4 15 Nf5
White’s best was likely 15 Nxe4, and after 15 ... Bxe4 16 Bxe4 Nxe4 17 Qd5 Nc5 18 Bd2 a5 Black
would have a very slightly better position. However, this would be far preferable for White than the
game continuation.
15 ... dxe5 16 Nxe5 Bf6
Question: Why does Black play ... Bf6 first and then ... Bg5 on the next move?

Answer: If Black played 16 ... Bg5?! immediately, White has 17 Qg4! with an attack against
Black’s king. By playing 16 ... Bf6 first, Black was able to sidestep White’s counterplay because the
e5-knight moved to g4, taking this square away from the queen.
Nevertheless, Black’s strongest continuation was likely 16 ... Nxd3!, and after 17 Nxd3 Bf6 Black’s
bishops are dominating the two long diagonals. Black will probably follow up with ... Qc7 and then ...
Rfd8 and ... Rac8, controlling the d- and c-files.
17 Ng4 Bg5!
Now this move is safe because White doesn’t have the Qg4 idea at his disposal.
18 Be3
Exercise: How can Black take advantage of White’s misplaced pieces?

Answer: 18 ... h5!


Not only does this move force White to retreat his knight, it also begins an attack against the king.
We will see later in this game how Black’s continuous pressure on the kingside and in the centre
becomes too much for White to handle.
The simple 18 ... Bxe3 gives Black an advantage as well. However, 18 ... h5! creates the potential
threat of ... h4 and ... h3 to create an attack along the h1-a8 diagonal against White’s king.
19 Nf2 Nxf2+ 20 Rxf2 Bxe3
Black decides to exchange off two pairs of minor pieces. The idea behind this is seen in Black’s
next few moves where his major pieces come into the game rapidly.
21 Nxe3 Qg5!
Black activates his queen and puts pressure on the g2-pawn. Black is also preparing to place his
rooks on the d- and e-files. The problem with White’s position is that he is tied down to defending his
kingside and has to worry about numerous threats from Black.
22 Qd2
White’s best was probably 22 Nf5, and now Black could try 22 ... h4!?, when the threat of ... h3 is
difficult for White to deal with.
22 ... Nxd3 23 cxd3 Rad8
Black could have tried forcing the endgame with 23 ... Rfe8 24 Nc2 Qxd2 25 Rxd2 a5, obtaining
good winning chances. However, Kokarev preferred to keep the queens on and bring his rooks into the
game.
24 Kg1!
This move, if followed up correctly, will give White chances to hold the game.
24 ... Rfe8
In view of White’s opportunity on the next move, protecting the b4-pawn with 24 ... a5 makes a lot
of sense. After 25 Re1 Rd7!, Black prepares either ... Qd8 or ... Rfd8 to put pressure on White’s d3-
pawn.
25 Nc4
Grabbing Black’s b4-pawn with 25 Qxb4! had to be tried. The point of 24 Kg1! is seen after 25 ...
Qxe3?! (25 ... Ba8! would be best, when Black retains a slight edge due to his pressure on the a8-h1
diagonal and White’s weak d3-pawn; nevertheless, this would be better for White than the game
continuation) 26 Qxb7 and here the rook on f2 is protected by the king on g1, allowing White back into
the game.
25 ... Qc5 26 b3 Re6
The first rook lift; Black prepares ... Rg6, attacking on the kingside.
27 Rd1 Rd4!
The second rook lift; Black prepares to bring this rook to g4.
28 Ne3 a5 29 Nf5 Rg4
Black’s immediate threat is ... Rxg2, which forces White’s next move.
30 d4 Qd5!
Black’s queen is excellently placed here as it targets two of White’s weaknesses, the b3- and g2-
pawns.
31 Ne3?
White’s best option was 31 h3, trying to limit Black’s kingside pressure. However, after 31 ... Rge4,
it is unlikely White would be able to hold this due to Black’s control of the e-file and the weak d4- and
b3-pawns.

Exercise: How can Black finish off the game?

Answer: 31 ... Rxe3!


Removing one of White’s important kingside defenders.
32 Qxe3 Rxg2+ 33 Kf1 Rg6
With threats such as ... Ba6 and ... Re6, White is unable to defend this position.
34 Qe8+ Kh7 35 Rd3 Qh1+ 0-1
And with ... Re6 to come next, White resigned.
In this game we looked at a couple of White’s less popular options where he delays playing an early
a4. This allows Black to gain space on the queenside quickly with ... b5. To make up for this, White
must try to attack Black quickly on the kingside. In this game, White was unable to create enough play
and Black developed a lot of pressure against White’s centre – and, later, on the kingside as well. White
eventually capitulated under this continuous pressure and his decisive mistake was on move 31, which
allowed Black to finish off the game by breaking into White’s king position.

Game 33
J.P.Gomez-I.Khairullin
World Junior Championships, Yerevan 2006

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 d6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 a6 6 f4 e5 7 Nf3 Nbd7 8 a4 Be7 9 Bc4


A sensible-looking idea. White believes the bishop will be well placed on the open a2-f7 diagonal.
However, with his next move, Black is able to take advantage of the unprotected bishop. The main line
with 9 Bd3 will be looked at in the next couple of games.
9 ... Qa5!

Question: What are two of Black’s main ideas behind this move?

Answer:
1) Black prepares ... b5!, when White is unable to take the pawn because of the unprotected rook on
a1.
2) The queen on a5 prevents White from castling due to the hanging c4-bishop (i.e. ... Qc5+).
Normal development with 9 ... 0-0 is fine as well. However, after 10 0-0 exf4 11 Bxf4 Nc5 12 Qe2,
White has the open d-file and some chances for an edge. Black can try to exchange off White’s bishop
with 12 ... Be6, but after 13 Bxe6 fxe6 14 e5 Black’s position was slightly unpleasant (though
completely playable) in I.Smirin-R.Wojtaszek, Poikovsky 2016.
10 Qe2
White prepares to castle by first protecting his bishop on c4.
Also possible is 10 Bd2, but this should hardly worry Black, and after 10 ... exf4 11 Bxf4 Ne5
Black has a comfortable position.
10 ... 0-0 11 0-0 b5!?
Black energetically seizes space on the queenside.
The solid 11 ... exf4 was tried in P.Leko-G.Kasparov, Sarajevo 1999. After 12 Bxf4 Ne5! 13 Nd5
(if 13 Bb3 Black has a solid position after 13 ... Bg4) 13 ... Nxd5 14 Bxd5 Be6 15 Bxe6 Nxf3+ 16 Qxf3
fxe6, Black achieved equality and a draw was agreed 10 moves later.
12 Nd5
12 Ba2 b4 13 Nd5 Nxd5 14 Bxd5 has been played several times before; for example, M.Sulashvili-
R.Ibrahimov, Baku 2006, and M.Solleveld-A.Delchev, Andorra 2004. In all of these games, Black
continued with 14 ... Bb7!, as after 15 Bxb7 Qb6+ Black regains the bishop and has comfortable
equality.
12 ... bxc4!?
A very interesting decision, Black decides to sacrifice a pawn to temporarily misplace White’s d5-
knight and gain queenside play.
Instead, our main recommendation is 12 ... Nxd5 13 Bxd5 Rb8, providing Black with a solid and
equal position.
13 Nxe7+ Kh8 14 Qxc4 Qb6+ 15 Kh1

Exercise: What is the best way for Black to deal with White’s Ng5 threat?

Answer: 15 ... a5!


Black prepares to activate his queen or bishop along the a6-f1 diagonal.
Others:
a) 15 ... h6?! seems to prevent White’s knight from coming to g5, but this is not the case, as after 16
Ng5! hxg5 17 fxg5 White has a powerful attack.
b) 15 ... Bb7 is playable for Black. However, after 16 Ng5 Qc5 17 Nxf7+ Rxf7 18 Qxf7 Bxe4 19
Ra3!, White prepares to bring the a3-rook into the attack and Black’s position requires some accuracy
to defend.
16 Nxc8
Others:
a) White’s best option was likely 16 Ng5. Black can meet this with 16 ... Qa6! (note that the natural
16 ... Ba6? runs into 17 Qxf7!! and White’s queen is immune due to Nxf7 mate!; if Black continues
with 17 ... Bxf1? White brings another piece into the attack with 18 Ra3!!, followed by Ng6+ and Rh3)
17 Qxa6 Rxa6, when a complicated endgame arises where Black has enough compensation for the
pawn, but both sides must play accurately.
b) 16 Re1 Ba6 17 Qc3 Bb7 18 Ng5 gives White some attacking chances and Georgiev and Kolev,
in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012, recommend avoiding this line. However, 18 ... h6 (or 18 ... Qa6,
threatening ... Nxe4 since the e1-rook must defend against ... Qf1 mate, gives Black decent chances as
well) 19 Qh3 exf4 20 Bxf4 Ne5 sees Black holding off White’s attack.
16 ... Raxc8 17 Qb5

Question: Why doesn’t White hold on to his extra pawn with 17 Qd3 - ?

Answer: After 17 Qd3 Black can continue putting pressure on White’s position with 17 ... Rfe8!
and, due to the threats of playing ... exf4 or ... Nc5, White will not remain a pawn up for much longer.
17 ... Qc7
Immediately winning the sacrificed pawn back with 17 ... Rxc2 was also completely fine. However,
by not allowing the exchange of queens, Black is able to maintain the pressure on White’s position.
18 fxe5 dxe5
With the dual threats of ... Qxc2 and ... Nxe4; White has no choice but to return his extra pawn.
19 Bd2 Qxc2
Black could defend his a-pawn first with 19 ... Ra8, but then White has 20 Bc3! and after the forced
line 20 ... Nxe4 21 Bxe5 Nxe5 22 Qxe5 Qxc2, Black likely decided that it would be too difficult to pose
White any serious problems in this position.
20 Rac1?!
A slight inaccuracy, as White shouldn’t allow Black to create a powerful central majority. Holding
onto the e4-pawn with 20 Rfe1 would be much more solid. Play may continue 20 ... Rc5 21 Rac1 Qxc1
22 Rxc1 Rxb5 23 axb5 Nxe4 24 Bxa5 with a complicated endgame where White is slightly better.
20 ... Qxe4 21 Ng5 Qg6 22 Qxa5
The position has turned into a battle between White’s queenside passed pawns and Black’s central
majority. Both sides have to find a balance between advancing these pawns and preventing the
opponent’s counterplay. In the game, Black is more successful and is able to restrain White’s pieces.
22 ... h6
Another option was 22 ... Ra8!? 23 Qb4 Rfe8 with ... e4 next.
23 Nf3 Qd3 24 Bc3!
White doesn’t allow Black to play ... e4 so easily.
24 ... Rc5
Now 24 ... e4 runs into 25 Ne5! Nxe5 26 Qxe5 and Black’s knight on f6 may soon come under
pressure.
25 Qa7
White could have tried 25 Nxe5!? Rxa5 26 Nxd3 Rxa4 27 b4 with a roughly equal endgame.
25 ... Ne4 26 Bb4 Rxc1 27 Rxc1 Re8 28 Re1 f5! 29 a5!
Both sides begin to advance their pawn majorities.
29 ... Kh7!
An excellent idea, Black simply improves his position while White doesn’t have many useful
moves. By putting the king on h7, Black prepares to move his e8-rook away from the eighth rank (for
example, ... Rc8-c2) without having to worry about any queen checks.
30 h3
If 30 a6, Black has 30 ... Re6!, which will allow him either to launch a powerful attack against
White’s king or pick up the a6-pawn. For example, 31 Ra1 is met by 31 ... Rg6! with excellent
attacking chances.
30 ... Ndf6
30 ... Re6 would also have been strong. Black prevents White from pushing his passed pawns and
prepares to bring the rook to g6.
31 Kh2 Qb5 32 Ba3 Rc8
Exercise: What is the best way for White to create counterplay?

33 Qf7?
White threatens Nh4, but Black can simply take the pawn on a5, attacking White’s e1-rook.
Answer: 33 Nh4! forces Black to be accurate with 33 ... Qe8! (if Black plays 33 ... f4 instead,
White will have 34 Qf7! with a number of threats, the most immediate one being Qg6 followed by
Rxe4; bringing another piece into the attack with Be7 is another idea). Black prepares to meet 34 Nxf5
with 34 ... Qg6!, and here White can try 35 Qxg7+ Qxg7 36 Nxg7 Kxg7 37 b4, reaching a dynamically
balanced endgame.
33 a6!? would be possible as well, and after 33 ... Qd5 Black prepares ... Ra8 or ... Rc2 with an
unclear position.
33 ... Qxa5 34 Qe6 Re8 35 Qf7
35 Qxf5+? loses to 35 ... g6! and White’s queen is trapped.
35 ... Qd5?!
This allows White to have some drawing chances in the endgame. 35 ... Ng5! was more accurate.
After 36 Nxg5+ hxg5 Black will continue pushing his pawns in the centre while White will be unable
to create counterplay.
36 Qc7?
White declines the ending, giving Black the opportunity to achieve a winning position. After 36
Qxd5 Nxd5 37 b4 g5 38 Bb2 Black stands better but White has good chances to hold.
36 ... Kg8
Here 36 ... Nf2!, with the threat of ... e4, is the most dangerous for White. If White grabs the pawn
on e5 with 37 Nxe5?, Black has 37 ... Rxe5! 38 Rxe5 N6g4+ 39 hxg4 Nxg4+ 40 Kh3 Qd3+ and White
will be mated quickly.
37 Nh4 Qe6 38 Rc1!
A good attempt to create counterplay. White prepares Rc6, as well as going after Black’s f5-pawn.
38 ... f4 39 Qb7 Qd5
39 ... Ng3!, intending ... e4, was the most direct way to win.
40 Qa7 Ra8 41 Qe7 Ng3 42 Rc7 Nfh5 43 Rd7 Qe4 44 Rd1 Qe2?
Allowing White’s queen to come to g6 is a serious mistake and gives White an opportunity to hold
his position together. Playing 44 ... Kh7! first was winning for Black. Then 45 Qe6 can be met by 45 ...
Nf6 and White lacks any serious counterplay.
45 Qe6+ Kh7 46 Qg6+ Kh8
Exercise: How can White hold his position together?

47 Qg4?
White decides to go for the endgame, but Black should be able to win this without any serious
problems.
Answer: 47 Rb1! is correct. The rook is best placed on b1 where it holds onto the b2-pawn and is
protected by White’s queen. If Black tries to advance his passed pawn with 47 ... e4 White has 48 Bd6!,
creating serious counterplay against Black’s f4-pawn. The immediate threat is Bxf4, undermining
Black’s knight on g3.
47 Rg1?! was also possible but not as effective because after 47 ... e4!, then 48 Bd6 would drop the
b2-pawn to 48 ... Qxb2 and Black has a clear advantage.
47 ... Qxg4 48 hxg4 Nf6 49 Ng6+ Kh7 50 Nxe5
Exercise: What is Black’s most accurate way to take advantage of White’s
knight on e5?

50 ... Re8
Answer: 50 ... Ra5! is stronger than 50 ... Re8, because 51 Bd6 is now met by 51 ... Nxg4+! 52
Nxg4 Rh5+ 53 Kg1 Rh1+ 54 Kf2 Rxd1 and Black wins the exchange.
51 Bd6 Nge4 52 Bc7 Re7 53 Rc1 Nd5 54 Re1 Nef6 55 Bd6 Re6 56 Bb8 Rb6 57 Ba7 Rxb2 58
Kh3 Rb3+ 59 Nf3 g5!
Black threatens ... h5, taking advantage of White’s pinned knight.
60 Re5 Rb1 61 Bg1 Kg6 62 Rf5 Ne3 63 Re5 Nfxg4 64 Re6+ Kf7 65 Ra6 Nf2+ 66 Bxf2 Rh1+ 67
Nh2 g4+ 0-1
In this game we looked at 9 Bc4. One of the main reasons this move isn’t as popular as 9 Bd3 is
because of 9 ... Qa5!, a very useful idea that takes advantage of White’s unprotected c4-bishop and a1-
rook. This game also featured two very important strategic concepts in the middlegame:
1) Black’s pawn sacrifice for compensation on the queenside and in the centre.
2) The balance between Black’s central majority and White’s queenside majority. Black was able to
expand in the centre and restrict White’s pieces while sidestepping dangerous counterplay.

Game 34
S.Tiviakov-J.Smeets
Dutch Championship, Hilversum 2008

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 Nf6 4 Nc3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 a6 6 f4 e5 7 Nf3 Nbd7 8 a4 Be7 9 Bd3 0-0 10 0-0 exf4
The actual move order of this game was 10 ... Nc5 11 Kh1 exf4.
11 Kh1
11 Bxf4 is less popular, since it allows Black to play 11 ... Qb6+ and win the b2-pawn. However,
this is risky and we don’t recommend it. Safer is to play akin to the game with 11 ... Nc5 12 a5!? (12
Kh1 just transposes to the game; 12 Qe1 doesn’t have a concrete plan, as after 12 ... Be6 White cannot
play 13 Qg3?? due to 13 ... Nh5) 12 ... b5! (12 ... Be6 is also possible; 12 ... Bg4 was played in
A.Puranik-U.Bajarani, Pune 2014, and is fine too) 13 axb6 Qxb6 and Black has an active position.
Notice how the queen enjoys a stable outpost on b6, which wouldn’t have been the case if Black
hurried with 11 ... Qb6+, due to the presence of the a4-pawn.
11 ... Nc5 12 Bxf4 Bg4
Black’s immediate plan is to manoeuvre the light-squared bishop to g6 via h5, where it will defend
the king and attack the e4-pawn. After accomplishing this, Black will seek active play on the dark
squares and continue pressurizing White’s lone centre pawn.
13 Be3!?

Question: What is White planning with this move?

Answer: This sly retreat hopes to station the bishop on d4 where it will be active on both wings.
Then White may begin a queenside assault with moves such as b4 and a5, as happens in the game. To
counter this plan, Black should begin playing in the centre at once, as per the plan discussed on the
previous move.
13 Qd2 is the main move, which is covered in the next game.
The direct 13 Qe1 doesn’t cause Black problems, since after 13 ... Rc8 14 Qg3 (14 Rd1 Qb6 gave
Black decent queenside activity in A.Sokolov-T.Gharamian, Cappelle la Grande 2007) 14 ... Bh5, the
bishop will move to g6 on the next move, blocking all of the white queen’s pressure on the g-file. Then
Black’s threat of ... Nh5 (forking White’s queen and f4-bishop) will be slightly unpleasant for White to
deal with.
13 ... Rc8 14 Bd4
14 Qd2 Nxd3 15 Qxd3 (15 cxd3?! d5! is mentioned by Georgiev and Kolev and provided Black
with an initiative in the centre in T.Warakomski-I.Nyzhnyk, Warsaw rapid 2012) 15 ... Re8 16 Nd4 (16
Rad1 exerts more pressure on the d5-square; Black should respond to this with 16 ... Be6, threatening ...
Bc4 and defending d5) 16 ... d5! was played in E.Semenova-M.Cerveny, Pardubice 2014, and gave
Black good play in the centre.
14 ... Bh5 15 Qd2
15 Qe1!? is interesting, with the plan of playing Nh4-f5. Black can counter by gaining control of
the dark squares with 15 ... Re8 16 Nh4 Ng4! (16 ... Nfxe4!? is also playable, after which a forcing line
may ensue: 17 Nf5 Bf6 18 Nxe4 Nxe4 19 Bxe4 Bxd4 20 Nxd4 d5 21 Bxh7+ Kxh7 which is level;
White has a powerful knight and chances for a kingside attack, but Black’s central control and long-
range bishop guarantee him an equal game) 17 Nf5 Bf6 18 Nd5 Bxd4 19 Nxd4 Bg6, when Black’s
kingside fortifications are sufficient to repel White’s immediate attack. Meanwhile, Black’s dark square
control and piece coordination give him excellent chances for an advantage.
15 ... Bg6 16 Rae1 Re8!
A simple move, but one worth remembering. Black prepares to attack the e4-pawn with his rook
after playing ... Bf8. The rook is also useful on e8 because it controls the e5-square, which may allow a
knight to hop there in the future.
17 b4!
Trying to control d5 with 17 Bxf6? Bxf6 18 Nd5 drops a pawn to 18 ... Bxb2.

White begins to dominate the queenside dark squares. This is the correct plan since he has an edge
in this sector of the board (mainly due to the d4-bishop being on the g1-a7 diagonal). In response,
Black should immediately begin playing on the dark squares in the centre and kingside in order to gain
counterplay.
Exercise: Should Black retreat the knight to d7 or e6?

Answer: 17 ... Ncd7!


Creating a link between the two knights is very important. Now White is unable to gain control of
the d5-square by playing Bxf6. As a result, the c3-knight is left without a good outpost.
The short-sighted 17 ... Ne6?! allows White to gain full control of d5 with 18 Bxf6! Bxf6 19 Nd5,
when Black’s dark square control is not enough to offset White’s initiative.
18 a5
18 Nh4!? is an attempt to take advantage of Black’s temporary passivity, but 18 ... Nxe4 19 Bxe4
Bxh4 20 Re3 Bxe4 21 Nxe4 Re6 holds the position together; White has some compensation for the
pawn, but definitely not more.

Exercise: White is beginning to squeeze Black on the queenside and may


soon play Nd5 and c4. How can Black actively strike back in the centre?

18 ... Bf8?!
Retreating the bishop right after moving the knight back to d7 seems too passive.
Answer: 18 ... Ne5! is the best way to fight back, exploiting White’s undefended b4-pawn. On 19
Qf2 (19 Nxe5? dxe5 20 Bxe5?? Bxb4 ends up losing a piece for White) 19 ... Qd7, Black has a
comfortable game. Notice how 20 Nd5 doesn’t work due to 20 ... Nxd5 21 exd5 Nxd3 22 cxd3 Bxd3.
19 Qf4?!
This apparently active move begins to lose the thread. White had invested significant time
expanding on the queenside, so it made more sense to continue playing there. Instead, 19 Nd5! would
have continued playing in the centre and queenside where White is strongest. The idea behind this is to
prevent the d6-pawn from moving, which will keep the f8-bishop temporarily buried. After 19 ... Nxd5
20 exd5 Be7 21 c4! White’s queenside play is beginning to show promising returns.
19 ... Ne5! 20 Qg3
20 Na4! looks odd, but the idea is to capitalize on the now undefended b6-square. White retains a
slight edge following 20 ... Nfd7 21 Nh4! and, despite Black’s solid position, White is beginning to
squeeze.
20 ... Nh5!?

The start of a series of knight manoeuvres intended to disrupt White’s kingside attack. While this
idea seems strong in theory, it is in fact dubious. Black is encouraging White to play on the queenside,
where White is much stronger. A better strategy would be to court battle on the kingside, where Black’s
defences are more than capable of repelling anything White throws at him. Over the next few moves,
White has multiple opportunities to switch over to the queenside, but he misses them.
20 ... Be7! was better, bringing the dormant bishop back into the game. The knight on e5 is taboo
due to White’s hanging b4-pawn and vulnerable knight on c3.
21 Qf2 Ng4?!
Keeping with the aforementioned plan, which isn’t fully correct. Instead, 21 ... Nf4! would have
justified Black’s 20th move by switching back to the centre, and 22 Qd2 Nfxd3 23 cxd3 f6 sees
White’s centre pawns becoming more of an obstacle than a strength. The d-pawn blocks in White’s
pieces (especially the queen) and if White pushes this pawn, then Black’s knight gets the c4-square.
22 Qd2
Going into an endgame with 22 Qh4! probably wasn’t what White had in mind, but it appears best.
Following 22 ... Qxh4 23 Nxh4 Be7 24 Nxg6 hxg6 25 Nd5, White’s knight has an excellent outpost on
d5, as Black lacks a light-squared bishop to defend the square. This was one of White’s opportunities to
play aggressively on the queenside.
22 ... Nhf6
More or less forced, or else White will play Nd5!.
23 h3?!
Allowing Black to fully regroup in the centre, which eliminates any chances White had of a
successful queenside assault. The purpose of 23 h3 is to restart White’s kingside attack, but this
approach is not justified since White has no advantage in this sector.
Playing 23 Nd5 seems more aggressive, with the now-familiar idea of focusing the play on the
queenside. After 23 ... Nxd5 24 exd5 Bxd3 25 Qxd3 Rxe1 (25 ... f6?! is too slow and 26 c4 gives White
a sizable advantage) 26 Rxe1 Ne5! 27 Nxe5 dxe5 28 Bxe5 Bxb4 29 Re4!, White now switches back to
the kingside since Black’s forces are occupied in the centre and on the queenside. The storm brewing
around Black’s kingside is difficult to repel, especially as White also has a passed d-pawn.
23 ... Ne5 24 Qf2 Be7 25 g4!

A strong strategic move with the goal of driving away the f6-knight so that the c3-knight can jump
to d5.

Exercise: What should Black play to counter White’s g4 plan?

Answer: 25 ... Rc6!


A combative response! Black wants to move his queen to the c-file and force the c3-knight away
from its post. If Black manages to do this before White plays g5, White will be unable to play Nd5.
26 Qg3
26 g5!? would have accomplished White’s goal of controlling d5, at a price of giving up the two
bishops. Following 26 ... Nfd7 27 h4 (27 Nd5? Nxf3 28 Qxf3 Bxg5 just gives Black an extra pawn) 27
... Nxd3 28 cxd3 Ne5 29 Bxe5 dxe5 30 Nd5 f6, White’s knight is very powerful, but the game is
beginning to open up. In the long run, Black’s bishops will thrive in an open position. The question is
whether White can make something of his temporary activity before this happens.
26 ... Qc8 27 Nd5 Nxd5 28 Nxe5
28 exd5? would have irrevocably weakened White’s pawn structure after 28 ... Nxd3 29 cxd3 (29
dxc6? Nxe1 30 Rxe1 Qxc6 gives Black a free pawn and an open game for his bishops) 29 ... Rc2, when
Black enjoys a pleasant edge. White does not have enough activity to make up for the doubled and
isolated d-pawns.
28 ... Nxb4!?
Giving up the exchange for a pawn in order to constrict White’s rooks and bishops.
28 ... dxe5 was another possibility, and the position arising from 29 exd5 Bxb4 30 Rxe5 Rxe5 31
Qxe5 f6 at first appears doubtful for Black due to White’s two centre pawns. However, these pawns, as
well as White’s king, are rather vulnerable. As a result, Black has at least an equal game after 32 Qf4
Bd6 33 Qe3 Bxd3 34 cxd3 Rc2.
29 Nxc6 Nxc6 30 Bc3 Qd8!
A strong move which plans to reorganize Black’s pieces. 30 ... Ne5 is also possible, forcing White
to part with one of his bishops. Whether either white bishop is stronger than Black’s knight is open to
debate.
31 Rb1 Bh4 32 Qf3 Re7 33 Rb6 Qe8
Black’s rook protects the f7- and b7-pawns, while also working with the e8-queen and g6-bishop to
target the e4-pawn. Meanwhile, Black’s bishop on h4 surveys the dark squares, limiting the freedom of
White’s queen.

Exercise: How can White divert the h4-bishop away in order to give his
queen some breathing room?

34 Rfb1?
Answer: 34 g5! would have disrupted Black’s plans, causing the game to temporarily erupt into
chaos after 34 ... Bxg5 35 Qg3 f6 36 Qxd6 Rd7 37 Qg3 Bxe4+ 38 Bxe4 Qxe4+ 39 Qg2, when the
chances appear equal. Black has restored the material balance by winning another pawn, but most of his
kingside attack has dissipated as he is missing his light-squared bishop.
34 ... Rxe4?
Leaving the light-squared bishops on favours White, since ... Re3 does not fork the f3-queen and
c3-bishop. 34 ... Bxe4! was more accurate, preventing White from taking on b7 due to 35 Bxe4 Rxe4
36 Rxb7? Re3 37 Rb8 Bd8! and Black will pick up either the b8-rook or c3-bishop.
35 Rxb7
Setting a crafty trap that neither player saw in the game.
35 ... h6?
A mistake. 35 ... Re3 was necessary, removing the rook from attack. The chances remain level after
36 Rb8 Nd8. Instead, 36 ... Nxb8?? runs into 37 Qxe3 and now:
a) 37 ... Qf8 38 Qb6 Nd7 39 Qxa6 is winning for White due to the passed a-pawn which will soon
promote.
b) 37 ... Qc8 38 Qd4! Bf6 39 Qxd6 Nd7 40 Bxf6 gxf6 also wins for White who is up the exchange,
all of Black’s pawns are weak, and the black pieces are faring no better.
c) 37 ... Qd8 38 Qb6 Nd7 39 Qxd8+ Bxd8 40 Bxa6 leaves Black in a hopeless situation. His minor
pieces are unable to stop the advance of the a-pawn.

36 Bd2?
Missing the chance.

Exercise: Find the winning tactic for White.

Answer: 36 Rxf7! is a nice shot, and after 36 ... Qxf7 37 Bxe4 Bxe4 38 Qxe4 White is a clear
exchange up and Black’s initiative has vanished.
36 ... d5 37 Bf4 Kh7 38 Rf1?!
A natural move, but one which relinquishes control of the b4-square, allowing Black’s knight to
hop in and eliminate the d3-bishop. Without this bishop, White is unable to mount a successful attack
on the light squares.
38 Qf1! is a very strong multipurpose move, as the queen stops ... Re1+ and pressurizes the a6-
pawn. Playing this position as Black wouldn’t be easy.
38 ... Nb4 39 Bg3?

An effort to get some play, but this move lines up the f3-queen and g3-bishop for a skewer.
39 ... Nxd3 40 Bxh4
40 cxd3 is no better as 40 ... Re3 41 Bxh4 Rxf3 42 Rxf3 Qe2 43 Rf2 Qxd3 leaves White’s scattered
pieces helpless against Black’s queen and bishop combo.
40 ... Rf4
Slightly more accurate was 40 ... Re3!, preventing White from retorting with Re7.
41 Qd1
41 Re7! would have given some drawing chances after 41 ... Rxf3 42 Rxe8 Rxf1+ 43 Kg2 Ra1 44
cxd3 Bxd3, though Black should still be winning. It is extremely difficult for White to defend his a5-
pawn while also preventing Black’s extra two pawns from advancing.
41 ... Qe3 42 Kh2 Nf2 0-1
This game featured an interesting line where White places his bishop on the g1-a7 diagonal and
begins playing on the queenside. Black does best to continue carrying out the ... Bg4-h5-g6 manoeuvre,
as well as to develop his rooks with ... Rc8 and ... Re8. If White starts making headway in the
middlegame on the queenside with moves such as b4 and a5, Black must immediately begin active
operations in the centre (see the 18 ... Ne5 variation). If Black doesn’t do this and continues slowly
manoeuvring, he risks being overwhelmed by White’s queenside pressure (see the 19 Nd5 variation).
Game 35
S.Bilguun-C.Sandipan
Chengdu 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 f4 e5 7 Nf3 Nbd7 8 a4 Be7 9 Bd3 0-0 10 0-0 exf4
11 Kh1 Nc5 12 Bxf4 Bg4 13 Qd2
The main move. The idea behind Qd2 is to connect the rooks and get out of the pin from the g4-
bishop. This will allow White the option of Nd4.
13 ... Bh5 14 Nd4

Question: What is White trying to do here and how should Black counter
White’s plan?

Answer: White wants to play Nf5, allowing him to attack easily in the centre and on the kingside.
In response, Black should put pressure on the f5-square with ... Bg6 and then quickly play ... d5. This
will overload the e4-pawn.
Instead of 14 Nd4, White has two alternatives:
a) 14 Rae1 has been played, but it is rather slow. After 14 ... Bg6 White has two options:
a1) 15 Nd4 d5! and White is already a bit worse. For example, 16 exd5 (16 e5?! simply yields the
bishop pair to 16 ... Nfe4 17 Bxe4 Nxe4 18 Nxe4 Bxe4, as seen in M.Al Sayed-W.Spoelman,
Amsterdam 2004) 16 ... Nxd3 17 cxd3 Nxd5 18 Nxd5 Qxd5 19 Rxe7 Qxd4 gives Black a small edge
due to his active pieces. The black rooks will come into the game via the e- and d-files.
a2) 15 b4 Nxd3 16 cxd3 d5! 17 e5 Ng4 reaches a very concrete position.
Black has two threats. The first is playing ... Bxb4 followed by ... d4, winning White’s c3-knight.
The second is playing ... d4 immediately, followed by ... Ne3.
Now:
a21) White can prevent both of Black’s threats with 18 Ne2!?, but then Black can strike with 18 ...
a5! 19 bxa5 d4! 20 Nfxd4 Qxa5 21 Qxa5 Rxa5 and White will lose one of the e5-, d3-, or a4-pawns. In
any case, White will be left with two remaining weak pawns, which become easy targets for Black’s
pieces.
a22) 18 h3 d4 19 Ne4 Ne3 20 Bxe3 dxe3 21 Rxe3 Rc8 is good for Black. Despite outward
appearances, White’s pawns are quite weak. The b4-pawn constantly needs protection and Black’s
major pieces will soon be piling in on the d-pawn. To make matters worse for White, Black is in firm
control of the c-file and White is too busy defending pawns to contest it. All in all, this position is
objectively equal, but it is easier for Black to play.
17 ... Ne8 is a more solid choice if the reader prefers not to enter into the complications ensuing
after 17 ... Ng4. Here is a sample continuation: 18 Bg5 Nc7 19 Bxe7 Qxe7 20 Ne2 Ne6 and the game is
equal. Notice how White must expend some energy defending his vulnerable queenside pawns.
b) 14 b4 doesn’t work well with Black’s bishop still on h5, as after 14 ... Nxd3 15 cxd3 d5 16 e5
Ne8 White is unable to exchange off Black’s good dark-squared bishop with 17 Bg5? due to 17 ... Bxf3
18 Bxe7 Qxe7 19 Rxf3 Qxe5 when Black is simply a pawn up. Instead, O.Moreno del Pozo-R.Garcia
Matos, Santa Clara 2011, saw 17 Ne2 Nc7 18 Ned4, and here Black should have immediately played
18 ... Ne6, fighting for central control and preventing White from exchanging bishops with Bg5.
14 ... Bg6 15 Nf5
15 Rae1 d5! transposes to the 15 Nd4 sub-variation (note ‘a1’) in the 14 Rae1 line discussed above.
15 ... Re8?!
Giving White time to properly protect the f5-knight. Playing 15 ... Bxf5! at once is stronger, as it
doesn’t give White time to support the knight with the f1-rook. Play may continue 16 exf5 d5 17 Be5
Re8 (17 ... Ncd7 18 Bd4 Bc5 led to balanced play in a few games, such as K.Van der Weide-
S.Savchenko, Senden 2002, and S.Tatai-M.Roeder, Lido Estensi 2002) 18 Bd4 Qd7, when Black is
ready to move a knight to e4 and then control the newly opened d-file with ... Rad8.

Also, notice how White’s rooks are somewhat tied down, since they both protect a pawn on their
file. A final idea behind 18 ... Qd7 is that Black can play ... Qc6 if needed, in order to exert extra
control over the e4-square.
16 Rae1?!
Missing his chance. 16 Be3! discourages Black from capturing on f5 because White can take back
with his rook. After 16 ... Rc8 17 Bd4 White is putting a great deal of pressure on Black’s position. The
e7-bishop and f6-knight are the main targets, but White will soon play Rad1 and eye Black’s d6-pawn
as well.
16 ... Bxf5! 17 exf5 d5
Question: Black has given up the two bishops and acquired an isolated pawn.
What benefits has he gained in return?

Answer: By removing White’s e4-pawn, Black was able to play ... d5 and gain control of the
important e4-square. This will allow him to move a knight there at an opportune moment. Also,
White’s f5-pawn is a weakness that Black can attack by playing ... Qd7. Finally, it’s debatable whether
two bishops are better than two knights in this position. White’s d3-bishop has no immediate prospects,
whereas Black’s knights are fighting for control of the centre.
18 Be5 d4
A double-edged move. Playing ... d4 gives Black more space and forces White either to exchange
off some pieces or retreat the knight. However, the d3-bishop now has more scope since the c4- and e4-
squares are no longer tightly controlled.
18 ... Qd7 was also good, with the idea of connecting the rooks before the e-file is opened. White
has no time to play Bd4 immediately since Black is threatening to take the a4-pawn, and so after 19 a5
Qc6 Black’s pieces are working very harmoniously together. The queen, two knights, and d5-pawn are
all coordinating to control the e4-square and a black knight may soon arrive there. Meanwhile, Black’s
connected rooks are ready to contest the important e-file.
19 Bxf6
19 Nd1 backfires due to 19 ... Ng4!, when White’s e5-bishop is suddenly a target.
19 ... Bxf6 20 Rxe8+ Qxe8 21 Nd5 Qc6 22 Nxf6+ Qxf6
The dust has settled and an equal position has arisen.

Question: What are the main plans for White and Black here?

Answer: White’s plan is to attempt to round up the d4-pawn with his queen and rook, while using
the bishop to hold the position together. White may also target Black’s queenside pawns, which are on
light squares (the same colour complex as White’s bishop). Meanwhile, Black will concentrate on
defending his pawns and perhaps launching an attack on White’s king, should White’s major pieces
wander off too far.
23 Qb4
23 a5!? fixes Black’s queenside pawns on light squares, and since they’re now targets for White’s
bishop, Black should play 23 ... Nxd3 24 Qxd3 Re8 and the game remains equal. Black’s d4- and b7-
pawns are no weaker than White’s f5- and a5-pawns.
23 ... Rc8
Black could essentially have forced a draw with 23 ... Nxd3 24 Qxb7 Re8 25 cxd3 Qxf5 26 Kg1
Qe6, when White would have no chance of pushing his queenside pawns without landing in a perpetual
check (or getting mated if he’s not careful).
24 h3 b6!?
Black wants to play ... a5 and place his pawns on dark squares, after which White’s bishop will
seem like a ghost.
25 Rf4!
The idea is to divert Black’s rook to the d-file so that ... Nxd3 followed by ... Rc2 is no longer a
threat.
25 ... Rd8 26 a5 Nxd3
26 ... g5!? 27 Rf3 Nxd3 28 Rxd3 bxa5 29 Qxa5 also fizzles out to a very drawish position.
27 cxd3 bxa5 28 Qxa5 h5 29 Qc5

Exercise: Find the move that opens up another route for the black king to
reach the centre (other than f8-e7).

Answer: 29 ... g5!


A strong move, opening the g7-f6-e5 route for Black’s king. To make it even better this advance
comes with tempo.
30 Re4 Rb8 31 Qxd4?!
White is too eager to simplify into an endgame and as a result Black gets some practical winning
chances (though objectively the game remains equal). 31 b4! would have been more uncompromising
as the endgame arising after 31 ... Rb5 32 Qxd4 Qxd4 33 Rxd4 Rxf5 is easily drawn. White’s passed
pawn is too close to Black’s king to pose a real threat, while Black’s kingside majority is not significant
enough to offer any winning chances.
31 ... Qxd4 32 Rxd4 Rxb2
While this endgame is drawish, White must still be careful. Black has the outside passed pawn and
his king can easily enter the game via g7 and f6. White’s best plan is to seek counterplay on the
kingside at once. This will give his king an avenue to come into the game and will also lead to
simplifying pawn exchanges.
33 Ra4 Rb6 34 h4!
Wasting no time in adopting the aforementioned plan.
34 ... gxh4
34 ... g4 was another option, though after 35 Kh2 Kg7 36 Kg3 Kf6 37 Kf4, White’s king has
become even more active than Black’s. This fact secures the first player a comfortable draw.
35 Kh2 Kg7 36 Kh3 Kf6 37 Kxh4 Kxf5 38 Kxh5
Now with most of the kingside pawns liquidated, White’s defensive task has become much easier.
38 ... Ke5 39 Kg4 Rd6
Running to the queenside with 39 ... Kd5 seems better, but it gives White too much central
influence after 40 Kf5 Kc5 41 d4+ Kb5 42 Ra2 a5 (42 ... Kc4 is met with the cool 43 Ra4+, when
Black must repeat the position or retreat his king back to the central d5-square) 43 d5, and now it’s
unrealistic that Black will promote his a-pawn while also restraining White’s active king and passed d-
pawn.
40 Re4+ Kd5 41 Rf4 Ke6
41 ... Rd7! was more challenging, when White’s best drawing plan is to bring his king all the way
over to the queenside with 42 Ra4 Ra7 43 Kf4 a5 44 Ke3! Kc5 45 Kd2 Kb5 46 Rc4 a4 47 Kc2 a3 48
Kb1 and White saves the day. Black’s king cannot cross the fourth rank to help, and if Black’s rook
leaves the a-file, then White’s king takes the a3-pawn.
42 Ra4 Kd7 43 Kf4 Kc7
Exercise: Find at least one plan for White to draw.

Answer: 44 Ke3
White brings his king to the queenside in order to defend against the advance of the black a-pawn.
This is one of the many paths to a draw.
Alternatively, 44 d4 seeks counterplay in the centre and is also a valid answer. Following 44 ... Kb6
45 Ke5 Re6+ 46 Kd5, White’s pieces are even more active than Black’s, although the position is of
course still a draw.
44 ... Kb6 45 Kd2 Rc6 46 Rf4!
Correctly keeping the rook close to the g-pawn, before temporarily closing the fourth rank with d4.
46 ... f6 47 d4 a5 48 d5 Rd6 49 Kc3 Kc5 50 Rf5
And finally, the draw is secured; Black is unable to push his a-pawn while protecting the f-pawn
and dealing with White’s central passer.
50 ... a4 51 g4 Rxd5 ½-½
In the 13 Qd2 line, Black should play ... Bg6 followed by ... d5 as soon as possible. This pawn push
gives Black an initiative because many of his pieces control the e4-square and are well primed for an
opened game. After 13 ... Bh5 14 Nd4 Bg6, White often plays Nf5 before Black gets in ... d5. In this
case, Black should immediately play ... Bxf5, forcing White to take back with his e-pawn. Then Black
is free to play ... d5 on the next move.
Chapter Eight
The Adams Attack: 6 h3
6 h3 initiates the Adams Attack, a line that has rapidly gained popularity over the last few years.
White’s idea is simple – to expand on the kingside with g4 followed by g5. The line we recommend
with 6 ... e6 7 g4 Be7 leads to a dynamic game featuring play on opposite flanks. White’s play is based
on a kingside pawn storm with either h4-h5 or f4-f5. Meanwhile, Black is able to create play by
opening up the queenside and targeting White’s centre.
In Game 36, we look at one of White’s main continuations, the natural 8 Bg2. Most of these lines
aren’t all that challenging for Black and, in the game, White quickly fell prey to a vicious attack on the
queenside. However, readers should be aware of the theory after 10 h4! as this variation prepares
threats on the kingside and requires a degree of accuracy from Black.
Game 37 moves on to the critical 8 g5!, which is a much more direct and aggressive way to play
against Black’s set-up. The key position for this variation occurs after 8 ... Nfd7 9 h4 b5 10 Be3 Bb7 11
a3 Nc6.

From here, White has many different attacking plans to choose from. The less common options
include 12 Rg1, 12 f4, 12 Qe2, and 12 Nxc6. Black is able to gain adequate counterplay against all of
these moves but should know how to respond to White’s kingside play. This is typically achieved by
pressurizing White’s centre and playing ... b4 to open up the queenside at the right moment. We will
discuss these lines in Game 37 and also look at the various resources Black has at his disposal.
White’s most popular choice, 12 Qd2, is the subject of Game 38. This line had given White good
results but, as we will see, the fresh idea involving ... Nc5, ... Rb8, and an eventual ... b4 poses new and
dangerous problems for White.

Game 36
A.Pichot-A.Salem
Gibraltar 2015

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3 e6 7 g4 Be7 8 Bg2

The critical 8 g5 will be considered in the next two games. 8 Be3 has little independent value as 8 ...
Nfd7 9 g5 (if instead 9 Bg2, then 9 ... Nc6 reaches the present game) 9 ... b5 transposes into the next
two games.
8 ... Nfd7 9 Be3
Others:
a) 9 Nce2!? has the idea of supporting the knight on d4 by playing c3 and then advancing on the
kingside. The direct attempt 9 ... h5!? tries to take advantage of White’s slow play and may be Black’s
best option (9 ... Nc6 10 c3 0-0 11 0-0 Nde5 12 f4 Ng6 13 Be3 Nh4! takes advantage of White’s weak
dark squares; play can continue 14 Bh1 Nxd4 15 cxd4 Bd7 and White’s extra space in the centre
doesn’t promise any advantage). White should respond 10 gxh5 (10 Nf4!? attacks the h5- and e6-
pawns; however, following 10 ... hxg4 11 Ndxe6 fxe6 12 Nxe6 Qb6 13 Nxg7+ Kf7 14 Nf5 Ne5, Black
is doing well in this dynamically balanced position) 10 ... Qa5+ 11 Qd2 (11 c3 Qxh5 12 Be3 Ne5 gave
Black excellent play in D.Marczuk-M.Freitag, Graz 2018), but Black’s position is fine after 11 ... Qxh5
12 b3 Nc6 13 Nxc6 bxc6. Now 14 Ba3 pressurizes the d6-pawn, but Black has 14 ... Qe5!, which holds
the position together. For example, 15 Rd1 can be met by 15 ... c5 and Black has a solid position.
b) 9 g5 is also playable but leads to a slightly worse version of the lines we will be seeing in the
next two games. This is because White usually prefers to leave his light-squared bishop on f1. Black
should continue 9 ... b5! 10 h4 (10 e5 was tried in S.Karjakin-A.Grischuk, Leuven blitz 2018, but Black
achieved a good position after 10 ... d5 11 f4 b4 12 Nce2 a5 13 Be3 Ba6) 10 ... Bb7 11 a3 Nc6 12 f4 0-
0 13 Be3 Nb6, obtaining good queenside counterplay.
9 ... Nc6 10 Qe2

White’s most popular choice, but not the most threatening. On e2, White’s queen opens up the d-
file for the a1-rook to control (after castling queenside). However, the downside to this move is that
once Black plays ... b5-b4, White’s c3-knight is deprived of its usual retreat square on e2.
Others:
a) 10 h4! begins play on the kingside immediately and has been a very popular option recently. The
most accurate way for Black to respond is 10 ... Nde5 11 g5 0-0! (it’s worth noting that 11 ... Bd7?! 12
Nxc6 Bxc6 13 Qd4! gives White an advantage, as in S.Sethuraman-A.Giri, Tbilisi 2017; 11 ... Nc4?! is
also good for White, since after 12 Bc1 0-0 13 b3 the c1-bishop will be able to exert pressure on
Black’s kingside from b2) 12 Qe2 Nxd4 13 Bxd4 Nc6 14 Be3 Bd7!, leading to dynamic play.
White will be able to gain further space on the kingside, but Black is not without his own resources.
Play may continue 15 f4 (15 0-0-0 Rc8 16 Kb1 Na5, followed by ... Nc4 and ... Qa5, also gives Black
good play) 15 ... Na5 16 f5 (16 0-0-0 Rc8 17 h5 is another attacking idea, but Black can continue with
the typical ... Nc4 and ... Qa5 plan; i.e. 17 ... Nc4 18 g6 Qa5, simply ignoring White’s kingside attack
and causing him problems on the queenside) 16 ... Rc8 17 0-0-0 Nc4 18 Bd4 Qa5! (bringing the queen
into play on the queenside and vacating d8 for the bishop) 19 f6 and now the strong intermediate move
19 ... e5! is essential. After 20 fxe7 Rfe8 21 Qf2 Be6, Black had adequate counterplay in K.Stalmach-
D.Szczepankiewicz, correspondence 2014.
b) 10 0-0 0-0 gives White many playable moves, but in most lines Black will typically play ... Nde5
followed by ... Ng6, taking advantage of White’s weak dark squares. Now:
b1) 11 a4 Nde5 12 b3 Ng6 13 Nce2 Nh4! gives Black good play.
b2) 11 Qd2 Nde5 12 b3 Nxd4 13 Bxd4 Ng6 was seen in D.Howell-M.Carlsen, London 2010, and
White had some dark square weaknesses on the kingside.
b3) 11 Nce2 is played with the same idea as the line we saw on the 9th move (9 Nce2), except that
here Black can’t play ... h5!. Still, Black has nothing to worry about following 11 ... Nde5 12 b3 Ng6,
when White has tried two moves:
b31) 13 c3!?, to support the d4-knight before advancing on the kingside, makes sense; Black’s best
is 13 ... Nxd4 14 Nxd4 (14 cxd4?! gives Black an excellent game after 14 ... d5!) 14 ... Nh4 15 Bh1
Bd7, followed by ... Rc8, giving him a good position.
b32) 13 f4 Nxd4 14 Nxd4 e5! was seen in Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son-A.Salem, Abu Dhabi 2016,
and gave Black strong play in the centre.
b4) 11 f4 is White’s most popular, but this allows Black to play the typical idea 11 ... Nxd4 12
Qxd4 e5!. In C.Deepan-B.Adhiban, Kolkata 2014, Black obtained an excellent position after 13 Qd2
exf4 14 Bxf4 Ne5 15 Nd5 Be6 16 Nxe7+ Qxe7 17 Rad1 Rfd8, as Black’s knight controlled the
powerful outpost on e5.
c) 10 Qd2 leads to similar play as we will see in the game. Black has a comfortable position after 10
... Nxd4 11 Bxd4 0-0 12 0-0-0 b5 13 e5 (this idea to close up the centre is also seen in the game after 10
Qe2) 13 ... d5 14 f4 Bb7 15 h4 b4 16 Ne2 Qc7 with attacking chances for both sides, but we slightly
prefer Black’s play.
10 ... 0-0 11 0-0-0 Nxd4 12 Bxd4 b5 13 e5
13 f4 allows 13 ... Qa5!, when the threat of ... b4 quickly becomes dangerous for White.
13 ... d5 14 f4

White begins his kingside expansion but, as we will see in this game, Black’s queenside play is
much more powerful. This is mainly because Black is able to use the open c-file to his advantage.
14 ... Bb7

Question: Why doesn’t Black play ... b4 immediately?

Answer: 14 ... b4!? is possible, but then White obtains dangerous play after 15 Nxd5! exd5 16
Bxd5 Rb8 17 e6! with an unclear position.
15 Qe3
Now 15 ... b4 was a real threat, so White prepares to meet it with Ne2.
Others:
a) 15 a3 allows Black to start opening up the queenside with 15 ... b4! 16 axb4 Bxb4 followed by ...
Qa5, giving him excellent play.
b) Ignoring Black’s ... b4 threat and playing 15 f5?! immediately was tried in S.Fedorchuk-
O.Korneev, Tashkent 2013. White quickly ran into trouble after 15 ... b4 16 Nb1 a5 17 Nd2 a4 18 Kb1
Ba6 19 Qf3 Bc5! and Black had activated his pieces while preventing White’s kingside play.
15 ... b4 16 Ne2 a5 17 h4?!
A natural move to gain space on the kingside, but at this point White needed to be more direct.
The best attacking attempt was 17 f5! which targets the e6-pawn. However, Black is able to meet
this with 17 ... Bg5! (placing White in an unpleasant pin; 17 ... Rc8 is also fine; for example, 18 Nf4
Qc7 19 Rd2 Bg5 20 h4 Bxf4 21 Qxf4 f6! gave Black equal chances in A.Shirov-E.Karavade, Gibraltar
2013) 18 Nf4 Qc7 19 h4 Bxf4 20 Qxf4 a4 (Black continues advancing his queenside pawns and
threatens ... b3) 21 Kb1 exf5 22 Qxf5 Nc5, followed by either ... b3 or ... Ne6, giving Black good play.
17 ... a4 18 Kb1 b3!

19 cxb3
19 h5 continues play on the kingside but allows 19 ... Qa5!, which brings another piece into the
attack, giving White serious problems.
19 ... axb3 20 a3
Closing lines on the queenside makes sense. However, if Black prepares properly, he will be able to
take advantage of this weakness on a3.
Instead, 20 Qxb3 could be met by 20 ... Ba6, followed by ... Qa5 and ... Rfb8 with excellent play.
20 ... Ba6!
20 ... Bxa3?! is slightly premature and gives White enough defensive resources after 21 bxa3 Rxa3
22 Bb2! Qa5 23 Qd2.
21 f5 Bc4 22 g5
Exercise: How can Black create play on the queenside?

Answer: 22 ... Bxa3!


With the bishop on c4 supporting the b3-pawn, Black is fully prepared for this breakthrough.
23 bxa3 Rxa3 24 Bb2 Qa5!
24 ... Ra2, followed by ... Qa5, would also have given Black an overwhelming position.
25 Bxa3
25 Qd2 would be met by 25 ... Bxe2 26 Qxe2 Ra2, followed by ... Ra8, and White is unable to
defend his queenside.
25 ... Qxa3
An interesting position; Black is down a rook for two pawns but already has a completely winning
position, because White is unable to defend against the queenside threats.
26 Nc1 Nc5 27 Rh3 Rc8 28 Qc3
28 Qd2 gives Black the opportunity to play 28 ... Qa8!!, and the threat of opening up the b-file with
... b2 followed by ... Rb8 is winning. For example, 29 Bf1 b2 30 Qxb2 Rb8 31 Bxc4 Rxb2+ 32 Kxb2
dxc4, and White’s pieces are too uncoordinated to be able to have any chances of saving the game.
28 ... Na4 29 Qd2 d4
30 Be4

Question: Why couldn’t White take the pawn on d4?

Answer: If 30 Qxd4, Black has 30 ... Bd3+! 31 Rhxd3 Rxc1+ 32 Rxc1 Qa2 mate.
30 ... Bd5 31 Bxd5 Nc3+ 0-1
White’s 8 Bg2 in the Adams Attack isn’t the most threatening line for Black, even if there are a few
lines that Black needs to be careful with (the 10 h4! line in particular). However, as we saw in this
game, Black is theoretically fine in all of these lines and, with slow play from the opponent, he can
easily develop excellent queenside play.

Game 37
O.Aharon-A.Volokitin
European Championship, Yerevan 2014

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3 e6 7 g4 Be7 8 g5!


Energetically seizing space on the kingside, and this is the most critical line for Black to face.
8 ... Nfd7 9 h4
9 Be3 is another common move order for White. Play will likely transpose back to 9 h4 following 9
... b5 10 a3 Bb7 11 h4. Note that 9 ... Bxg5?! here or on the next move is dubious because of 10 Nxe6
fxe6 11 Qh5+! g6 12, Qxg5 which leads to a pleasant endgame for White.
9 ... b5 10 a3
White needs to play this to prevent Black’s ... b4 idea and it makes sense to do so now. 10 Be3 Bb7
11 Bg2 is possible (11 a3 simply transposes to the game), but Black has good play after 11 ... Nb6!
(taking advantage of the weak c4-square) 12 f4 0-0 13 h5 N8d7.
10 ... Bb7 11 Be3 Nc6
12 Nxc6
A very popular approach from White, usually played with the idea of bringing the queen to the d4-
square. However, Black has scored excellently after this because of the play he is able to obtain on the
queenside.
The main line with 12 Qd2 will be the subject of the next game.
Others:
a) 12 Rg1 Nc5! (creating pressure against White’s centre; 12 ... 0-0?! is too slow and runs into
White’s idea: 13 h5! with a powerful attack) and now:
a1) If White now tries advancing his h-pawn immediately, Black is able to cause problems due to
the weak e4-pawn. For example, 13 h5 Nxd4 14 Qxd4 e5! and White is forced to play 15 Qb4 in order
to protect the e-pawn. White’s queen is out of play and Black is completely fine after 15 ... Ne6.
a2) 13 f4 Rc8 14 Nxc6 (14 h5 overextends White’s kingside pawns and Black can play 14 ... h6! to
break them up) 14 ... Bxc6 15 Bg2 a5 16 b4! is White’s best option, hoping to prevent Black’s
queenside play. Here Black should continue with 16 ... Nd7 17 Bf3 0-0 18 h5 axb4 19 axb4 d5, gaining
a promising position.
a3) 13 f3 0-0 leads to another decision for White:
a31) 14 Qd2 Rb8 15 h5 Qc7 16 Qh2!? Nxd4 17 Bxd4 was tried in Ding Liren-S.Vidit, Khanty-
Mansiysk 2017, and here 17 ... f5! is an improvement for Black, giving him an excellent position
because much of White’s kingside play has been neutralized. Instead, 16 0-0-0 is actually a
transposition to our next game in the note to White’s 16th move (16 h5). The main idea is that Black
has 16 ... b4 17 axb4 Nxb4 followed by ... Ba8 or ... Qa5 to create queenside play, but see the next
game for a deeper analysis of these positions.
a32) 14 h5 was played in Y.Quesada Perez-Li Ruifeng, Philadelphia 2017, and Black can improve
on the game with 14 ... Qc7, when White has nothing better than 15 Qd2 Rab8 16 0-0-0 b4!, again
transposing to our next game in the note to White’s 16th move (16 h5).
b) 12 f4 gains space on the kingside and, after Black plays 12 ... 0-0, White has several options:
b1) 13 Qd2 Nc5 14 Bg2 Nxd4 15 Bxd4 a5! gives Black a comfortable position (starting with 15 ...
Rc8 isn’t bad either, and after 16 f5 a5 17 b4 Na4! Black has good play). Note that the b5-pawn doesn’t
need to be protected; for example, 16 Bxc5 (or 16 Nxb5 Bxe4) 16 ... dxc5 17 Qxd8 Raxd8 18 Nxb5
Bc6 19 Nc3 f6 and Black has more than enough compensation for the pawn in this endgame.
b2) 13 h5 continues advancing the kingside pawns, but this can be dealt with fairly easily. White’s
pawns become targets after 13 ... Nxd4 (13 ... Nc5!?, putting pressure on the e4-pawn, seems to work as
well) 14 Qxd4 e5 15 Qd2 Nc5, when Black has useful pressure against White’s centre. White can
defend the e4-pawn with 16 Bg2, but then 16 ... exf4 17 Bxf4 Ne6 threatens the bishop on f4 and the
g5-pawn.
b3) 13 Rh3!? was an interesting idea tried in A.Grischuk-L.Dominguez Perez, Baku 2014.

White wants to move his rook away from the h1-a8 diagonal in order to push his f4-pawn to f5. The
rook on h3 can also help White to protect his c3-knight. The game continued 13 ... Rc8 14 f5 Nxd4 (14
... Nde5!? 15 Qd2 b4! 16 axb4 Nxb4 is another try to gain counterplay and looks like a decent
alternative) 15 Qxd4 Nc5 and now:
b31) 16 Rg3 is White’s best option, but 16 ... f6! gives Black decent play. For example, 17 fxe6
Nxe6 18 Qd2 and now either 18 ... fxg5 or 18 ... Nc5 is fine for Black.
b32) 16 Bd2 was played in the aforementioned game, and now 16 ... f6! is a major improvement for
Black. White can win the e6-pawn with 17 b4 fxg5 18 hxg5 Nd7 19 fxe6, but after 19 ... Ne5, Black
takes complete control of the e5-outpost which compensates for the pawn.
c) 12 Qe2!? aims to castle queenside but, compared to 12 Qd2, White wants to keep the d-file open
for the rook. However, the downside of this move is that the c4-square can be controlled by Black as
White’s bishop on f1 no longer covers this important square. In S.Sethuraman-Yu Yangyi, Chengdu
2017, Black responded accurately with 12 ... Nde5 13 0-0-0 Nc4 14 Nxc6 Bxc6 15 Bd4 and now the
game continuation 15 ... 0-0 (15 ... e5 16 Be3 Rb8, followed by ... a5 or first trading off White’s good
bishop on e3, is fine for Black as well) 16 Rg1 Rb8 promised Black good play.
d) 12 Bh3 was tried in J.Duda-I.Kovalenko, Katowice 2017. After 12 ... Nde5 (taking advantage of
the weakened c4-square) 13 Qe2, the move 13 ... Nc4! is a strong improvement for Black and forces
White to think about trying to equalize. For example, 14 0-0-0 Nxe3 15 Qxe3 Qb6, followed by ...
Nxd4 or advancing on the queenside with ... a5, poses White serious problems.
12 ... Bxc6 13 Qd4
13 Qd2 could also be tried. We think Black’s best is 13 ... Qb8!, leaving the rook on a8, which
discourages White’s pawn push to b4 because Black could simply take and the rook on a1 would be
under a pin. Following 14 f3 Ne5 15 Be2 a5, Black prepares ... b4, making White’s position difficult.
Instead, the natural 13 ... Rb8 gave White a good position in Lu Shanglei-A.Salem, Doha (blitz)
2016, following 14 Be2 a5 15 b4! – this advance prevents most of Black’s queenside counterplay,
especially as White plans on castling kingside.
13 ... 0-0 14 0-0-0 Rb8!

Black protects his b5-pawn in preparation for pushing ... a5.


15 f4?!
White continues his kingside expansion but, with Black’s actively placed pieces and the hook on
a3, Black’s attack is much more powerful. Instead, White needed to play faster in order to create threats
on the kingside before Black’s play became too dangerous.
In several other games 15 h5 was preferred, and now 15 ... Nc5! pressurizes White’s e4-pawn and
was tried in E.Barbosa-S.Mareco, Montevideo 2015 (15 ... e5?! 16 Qd2 f5!? was seen in E.Bacrot-
D.Navara, Biel 2017; here White could have improved with 17 f4!, giving Black some problems in the
centre). If White tries to attack immediately with 16 g6, then 16 ... e5! is a good reply and White’s
centre begins to fall apart. The game continuation 16 h6 e5 17 Qd2 g6 18 f3 a5 promised Black a good
position as well. 16 f4 may be White’s best, but Black has nothing to worry about after 16 ... Qc7!,
threatening ... e5 followed by advancing the queenside pawns.
15 ... a5 16 h5
16 b4!? would have slowed down Black’s attack, but Black can dominate on the a-file after 16 ...
axb4 17 axb4 e5 18 Qd2 Ra8 and White’s king isn’t well protected.

16 ... e5

Question: Why didn’t Black play ... b4 immediately?

Answer: 16 ... b4?! is inaccurate and allows White to maintain the balance after 17 h6! e5 18 Qc4,
threatening the bishop on c6. This would give White too much counterplay.
17 Qd2 b4 18 axb4 axb4 19 Nd5 Bxd5
There is nothing wrong with the immediate 19 ... Ra8, but Black prefers to trade off a couple of
White’s pieces first.
20 Qxd5 exf4 21 Bxf4 Ra8
Black takes advantage of the open a-file and forces White’s king into the centre of the board.
22 g6
22 Kb1 prevents ... Ra1, but Black can simply put more pressure on the a-file by playing 22 ... Qc7!
and ... Qa7 next, which is decisive.
22 ... Ra1+ 23 Kd2
Exercise: How should Black continue the attack?

Answer: 23 ... Ra5!


Black needs to play actively to take advantage of White’s centralized king.
23 ... Rxd1+? is too slow and loses momentum. For example, after 24 Kxd1 Nf6 25 gxf7+ Rxf7 26
Qe6, Black is unable to create any serious threats against the king.
24 Qb3
24 Qd4 may have put up more resistance. Still, Black has excellent winning chances in the endgame
arising after 24 ... Bg5 25 Bxg5 Qxg5+ 26 Qe3 fxg6 27 Qxg5 Rxg5.
24 ... Nc5!
Black brings another piece into the attack with tempo. By playing energetically, he creates serious
problems for White’s king. These problems are increased once Black starts to open the files in the
centre.
25 gxh7+ Kh8 26 Qf3 f5!
The final link in the attacking chain. Black opens up the f-file and White’s king has nowhere to run.
Opening up the d-file by playing 26 ... d5!? 27 exd5 Ne6!, with the threat of ... Rxd5, was also winning.
27 Rg1 Nxe4+ 28 Ke2 0-1
And White resigned since once Black plays a move like 28 ... Bf6, followed by creating pressure on
the e-file with ... Re8, the king on e2 is unable to safely escape the centre of the board.
White can choose from many different attacking plans in the sharp 8 g5! variation. We saw that in
most of these cases, Black is able to obtain good play on the queenside with ... a5 and ... b4. The game
we looked at was an excellent example of this, where Black was able to open up the a-file and force
White’s king into the centre before White was able to create serious threats on the kingside.
Game 38
V.Anand-A.Giri
London Chess Classic 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3 e6 7 g4 Be7 8 g5 Nfd7 9 h4 b5 10 a3 Bb7 11


Be3 Nc6 12 Qd2

This position has become a major tabiya at the top level in recent years.
12 ... 0-0 13 0-0-0
Others:
a) The direct attacking attempt 13 g6?! can be met by 13 ... Nxd4 (13 ... hxg6 14 h5!, with some
attacking chances, is White’s idea) 14 Bxd4 fxg6! and Black has nothing to worry about.
b) 13 f4 gains space on the kingside, but Black has several good ways to counter. We recommend
13 ... Nxd4 (13 ... Nc5, pressurizing White’s centre, is a good alternative as well) 14 Bxd4 Rc8 (14 ...
e5 was played in M.De Mie-V.Borovikov, Paderborn 2016, but White was slightly better after 15 Be3
exf4 16 Bxf4 as the d6-pawn was a weakness) 15 0-0-0 Nc5 16 Qe3 Qc7, preparing ... e5 and a
queenside attack.
c) 13 h5 seems natural, trying to start a quick kingside attack. However, Black has 13 ... Nxd4 14
Qxd4 Bxg5!, winning a pawn, and White doesn’t have enough compensation after 15 0-0-0 Nc5.
13 ... Nc5!
Anish Giri’s new idea at the time, and this option still remains powerful. One of Black’s ideas is to
pressurize the e4-pawn at once, slowing down White’s pawn storm on the kingside. Previously, Black
had usually chosen the less effective 13 ... Rc8. By playing 13 ... Nc5 instead, Black retains the option
of playing ... Rb8 or ... Qb8, followed by a quick queenside expansion.
13 ... Rc8 14 Nxc6! Rxc6 15 Kb1 Ne5 allows 16 Rh3!, when White’s rook prepares to defend the
queenside. This was played in I.Nepomniachtchi-A.Grischuk, Sochi 2016, and White had the better
position following 16 ... Nc4 17 Qe1 Nxe3 18 Rxe3 Qc8 19 f4! because of his extra space and Black’s
delayed queenside expansion.
14 f3
14 Nxc6 Bxc6 15 f3 Qb8! is a perfect example of the ... Qb8 idea followed by a queenside attack.
White is in serious trouble as the attack is nearly impossible to stop. This is seen after 16 h5 a5 17 g6
(17 Nb1? was tried in M.Hansen-S.Sethuraman, Hastings 2017, but 17 ... Rc8, with the threat of ...
Bxe4 and ... Nb3+!, is devastating for White) 17 ... b4 18 Nb1 d5! and Black breaks open the centre
with an overwhelming position.
14 ... Rb8!

Question: What is the purpose of this move?

Answer: While 14 ... Rb8 may seem slow, it is one of the key moves in this line. Black is preparing
to open the b-file with ... b4! and exploit the weakness that White created by playing a3.
Note that 14 ... Qb8 is not nearly as effective as 14 ... Rb8 because the queen needs to remain on d8
to pressurize the g5-pawn. For example, Black would like to meet 15 h5 with 15 ... Nxd4 followed by
... Bxg5, but White has enough pieces defending the g5-pawn. After 16 Bxd4 Bc6 17 g6 h6 18 Rg1,
Black is in trouble on the kingside.
15 Rg1
As well as this move, preparing the advance of the h-pawn, White has several alternatives:
a) 15 Nxc6 Bxc6 16 b4 has been the usual path for White since the present game. However, Black
has scored excellently from this position. White’s idea is to kick back Black’s active knight and prevent
the ... b4 advance. The downside to this move is seen after 16 ... Nd7 17 h5 a5!.
Black switches from trying to open the b-file to the a-file which gives White serious problems. Play
may continue:
a1) 18 f4 axb4 19 axb4 Qc7 20 Be2 (20 g6 is a possible improvement for White, but Black can
defend his kingside by playing 20 ... Nf6!) 20 ... Rfc8 21 Rhg1, and now opening up the c-file with 21
... Ba8! gave Black a nearly winning position in S.Ganguly-V.Potkin, Fufeng (rapid) 2017.
a2) 18 g6 axb4 19 axb4 and now Black has tried several moves, but we believe 19 ... Ra8! is best
which prepares to play on the open a-file, as seen in D.Harika-M.Yilmaz, Reykjavik 2017. After the
game’s 20 Rg1, best for Black is 20 ... hxg6 (20 ... Bf6!? wouldn’t be a bad alternative either) 21 hxg6
Ne5 and Black has successfully defended against White’s threats on the kingside.
b) 15 h5 hangs a pawn to 15 ... Nxd4 16 Qxd4 Bxg5 and Black has a pleasant position. White can
still try 17 h6! to prove compensation for the pawn, but after 17 ... e5 18 Bxg5 Qxg5+ 19 Qd2 Qxd2+
20 Rxd2 Rbd8, Black is fine in the resulting endgame.
c) 15 Kb1 gives Black two decent options:
c1) 15 ... Nxd4 was played in the only game where White tried 15 Kb1. White can recapture either
way:
c11) 16 Bxd4 Bc6! prepares ... a5 followed by ... b4, taking advantage of the a3 hook. 17 Bh3 (17
Qh2!? was given by de la Villa and Illingworth in Dismantling the Sicilian – New & Updated Edition;
but 17 ... Qc8 gives Black a playable position with dynamic chances for both sides) 17 ... a5 18 b4 axb4
19 axb4 was played in P.Harikrishna-I.Nepomniachtchi, Geneva 2017, and now 19 ... Ra8! would have
been best for Black, not worrying about the attacked knight on c5. For example, 20 bxc5 (20 Kb2 is
stronger, but Black will has a powerful initiative after 20 ... Qc7) 20 ... dxc5, followed by ... Qa5, is
already completely winning for Black.

c12) 16 Qxd4! is likely an improvement for White. Play may continue 16 ... Bc6 (preparing a
queenside pawn attack with ... a5 and ... b4) 17 b4 (17 h5 a5 18 Na2 Qc7 gives balanced chances) 17 ...
Nd7 18 h5 Bxg5 19 h6 Bf6 20 Qxd6 Ne5 21 Qc5!, when White has a slight edge, but Black’s position
is still completely playable.
c2) 15 ... Qc7! has never been played before, but the threat of ... b4 gives Black an excellent
position and a dangerous attack on White’s king. Following 16 h5 b4 17 axb4 Nxb4 18 Rg1! (the
immediate 18 g6 is best met by 18 ... Bf6!, holding the kingside together, and if White targets the e6-
pawn with 19 Bh3, Black can play 19 ... Bc8! followed by ... Qb7, attacking on the b-file), White
threatens g6 and forces Black to respond quickly. Black should meet this with 18 ... Ba8!.

Opening the b-file and preparing for an attack. From a8, the bishop also keeps an eye on White’s
e4-pawn. Black must then meet 19 g6 with 19 ... Bf6!, which is a very important defensive idea to
remember, and it works excellently in this situation. Instead of capturing the g6-pawn and exposing his
kingside, Black uses his bishop to hold the kingside together. White has some problems to solve as he
won’t be able to continue his attack easily.
Some sample lines are:
c21) 20 Bc4 runs into 20 ... Nxe4! 21 Nxe4 Bxe4! 22 fxe4 Qxc4, picking up a pawn.
c22) 20 gxf7+ can be met by 20 ... Rxf7 21 Bh3 Qa5 with an excellent queenside attack.
c23) 20 Bh3 targets the e6-pawn, but this gives Black no problems after the accurate 20 ... Nc6!.
15 ... Qc7
15 ... b4!? opens up the b-file immediately and was a good alternative to the game. White’s most
challenging reply is 16 Nxc6 (16 axb4 Nxb4 17 Kb1 Ba8!? gives Black powerful pressure along the b-
file) 16 ... Bxc6 17 axb4 and now Black must play 17 ... Qb6! with sufficient counterplay (not 17 ...
Rxb4?! as White has 18 Nd5!).
16 b4?!
Anand realizes how dangerous Black’s attack will become once the queenside pawns start rolling
and he takes drastic measures to prevent it.
Alternatives are:
a) 16 Kb1 b4 17 Nxc6 (17 axb4 Nxb4 18 h5 Ba8! transposes to the positions we saw in the 15 Rg1
line) 17 ... Bxc6 18 axb4 Rxb4 shows how much more effective Black’s play on the queenside has been
than White’s kingside play. Now it may seem that White has the trick 19 Nd5, which looks like it is
winning the exchange, but Black can fight back energetically with 19 ... Rxb2+! 20 Kxb2 exd5 21 exd5
Rb8+ 22 Ka1 Qb6 and Black’s play on the b-file is extremely dangerous. For example, 23 Qc3 Bxd5!
24 Be2 Qc6! unleashes threats such as ... Nb3 and ... Qa4.
b) 16 h5 b4 17 axb4 Nxb4 18 g6 Bf6! (Black simply holds up the kingside attack) 19 Qg2 Ba8!
again sees this very strong idea and White is already in serious trouble. An instructive sample line is 20
Kb1 Qb6 21 Nb3, and now Black can breakthrough by playing the powerful 21 ... Nxc2! with a much
better position.
16 ... Nd7 17 Ndxb5?
A mistake that gives Black a nearly winning position, though White’s position was already very
difficult to play. Instead, 17 Nxc6 Qxc6 18 f4 Rbc8 19 Kb2 Nb6 is better for Black, but White can
fight.
17 ... axb5 18 Nxb5 Qc8 19 Nxd6 Bxd6 20 Qxd6 Rd8
20 ... Nce5!?, with the threat of ... Qc3, was another good option for Black.
21 b5 Nde5 22 Qc5 Rxd1+ 23 Kxd1 Nxf3 24 bxc6 Bxc6 25 Rg3
Exercise: What is the most accurate way for Black to convert his advantage?

25 ... Rb1+?!
Up until this point, Black had done well to keep his advantage. Instead of the game continuation,
Black has a more accurate method.
Answer: 25 ... Qd8+ (preparing to play ... Bxe4 and not allowing White to exchange queens) 26
Bd3 Bxe4 27 Ke2 Bxd3+ 28 cxd3 Nxh4 and Black should be able to win this without too much
difficulty.
26 Ke2 Qa6+ 27 Kxf3 Qxf1+
At this point Black doesn’t have serious chances to win the game and it quickly fizzles out to a
draw.
28 Bf2 Qh1+ 29 Ke3 Qc1+ 30 Kf3 Qd1+ 31 Ke3 Qc1+ 32 Kf3 Qh1+ 33 Ke3 Qxe4+ 34 Kd2
Qf4+ 35 Kc3 Rb8 36 Rd3 Rc8 37 Kb2 h5 ½-½
In this game we looked at a powerful new concept for Black that involves opening up the b-file to
create an attack against White’s king. Many of the ideas we saw throughout the game and in several of
the variations are useful to remember. This includes playing ... Bf6 to meet a g6 push, as well as ... Ba8
in order to open up the b8-rook. We also saw how the “hook” created by the pawn on a3 gives White
serious problems in many lines and makes his defensive task extremely difficult.
Chapter Nine
Offbeat Trails: 6 Qf3, 6 Rg1, 6 Bd3, 6 Nb3
This chapter focuses on White’s offbeat 6th moves. The good thing about these lines (from Black’s
perspective) is that there are often many acceptable ways to respond. We’ve taken advantage of this and
recommended systems that tend to give Black decent chances to play for a win. At the same time, we
don’t compromise Black’s ability to secure equality. The structure of this chapter (with the exception of
Game 39) is organized so that each game covers one of White’s 6th move sidelines.
Game 39 deals with 6 Rg1, 6 Qf3, and 6 Bd3. Against 6 Rg1 we recommend seizing the initiative
on the queenside with 6 ... b5, immediately unbalancing the play. In almost all variations Black
achieves a good game early on but the theory in the main line (after 10 g5) requires some study. 6 Qf3
prematurely develops the queen before Black has decided on a set-up, and Black’s best response is to
go for a Dragon structure with 6 ... g6. This will cause White’s queen to get in the way more than
anything else. Finally, against 6 Bd3 we recommend responding with 6 ... Nbd7. The positions that
arise are also usually in a Dragon structure where White has castled kingside. Often, Black’s plan in the
early middlegame is to play ... Nc5 and generate activity on the queenside (with ... b5 if possible).
Game 40 considers 6 Nb3, which prevents the knight from being attacked in the centre. Since White
is playing slowly and isn’t fighting for the centre, we recommend a set-up with 6 ... Nbd7, which aims
to expand quickly on the queenside with ... b5. White’s most challenging way to combat this plan is by
launching a fast pawn storm on the kingside, which is featured in the game. With some precision, Black
can mitigate White’s aggressive efforts and succeed in the arising dynamic positions.
6 a3 is examined in Game 41 and is primarily a waiting move. Black’s best (and most principled)
reaction is to play in the centre with 6 ... e5, after which White can retreat his knight with 7 Nf3 or play
the interesting 7 Nf5. The second consecutive quiet move 7 Nf3 is quite insipid. Thus, Black is justified
in playing on the queenside at once with 7 ... b5!. Meanwhile, 7 Nf5 allows Black to break in the centre
with 7 ... d5, which reaches a structure where Black gets doubled f-pawns but, in return, has a nice
pawn wedge in the centre and good activity.
Finally, Game 42 analyses the wild 6 h4, which gains space on the kingside in the hope of starting a
pawn storm. We recommend 6 ... e5 followed by 7 ... Be7, which takes the sting out of White’s plans
(especially the f4 push). This typically allows Black to develop comfortably without being forced into a
confrontation at once. The game covers White’s main response to our recommendation, which is
moving his dark-squared bishop to g5 and capturing on f6. This exchange gives White more control
over the d5-square, but at the same time it increases Black’s influence over the dark squares. From this
point, White can castle kingside or queenside; the former option leads to positional play, while the
latter induces a sharper struggle. In either scenario, Black is doing well and the arising positions tend to
be more enjoyable to play from his side of the board.

Game 39
A.Escobar Forero-A.Shirov
Leon (rapid) 2008

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bd3


Quietly developing the bishop and preparing to play Nde2 if Black pushes ... e5. However, for the
moment, White’s d3-bishop and d4-knight are somewhat vulnerable.
The actual move order of the game was 6 f4 Nbd7 7 Bd3 g6 8 Nf3 Bg7 9 0-0.
Alternatives are:
a) 6 Rg1 aims to push the g-pawn, similar to the Adams Attack. However, White now has no option
of castling kingside. Here we recommend seizing the opportunity to expand on the queenside with 6 ...
b5 7 g4 Bb7.

Now:
a1) 8 g5!? sacrifices a pawn for activity following 8 ... Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Bxe4 10 Qg4, but Black can
secure a slight edge with 10 ... d5!, as seen in both B.Nadj Hedjesi-A.Milosevic, Kragujevac 2016, and
N.Todorovic-U.Sadikhov, Albena 2011. Black should try to quickly develop his f8-bishop and castle
and he may soon have the opportunity to play strong moves such as ... Qd7 and ... e5.
a2) 8 f3 bolsters the e4-pawn but doesn’t give support for White to play Nd5. Black can take
advantage of this with 8 ... b4!, and after 9 Na4 (9 g5 bxc3 10 gxf6 gxf6 11 bxc3 d5 is dynamically
balanced) 9 ... Qa5 10 b3 g6 Black is preparing to place his dark-squared bishop on g7, where it will be
very powerful on the a1-h8 diagonal (largely thanks to White’s b-pawn being on b3). Note that if White
plays 11 Qd2, aiming to win the pinned b4-pawn with a3, Black can switch plans and go for 11 ... e5!
12 Ne2 h6, since now 13 a3?! is met with 13 ... d5, opening up the f8-bishop to protect the b-pawn.
a3) 8 Bg2 sees White about to play g5, so Black should act with 8 ... e5! (8 ... b4 is slightly
inaccurate since, after 9 Nd5, it isn’t ideal for Black to play ... Nxd5 immediately as the e7-pawn will
be weak; however, 8 ... Nfd7 9 Be3 e6 is a good alternative, reaching a position similar to the Bg2 lines
of the Adams Attack, except that White is unable to castle kingside). Now after 9 Nf5 b4 10 g5 (10 Nd5
Nxd5 11 exd5 g6 12 Ng3 Nd7 13 a3 a5 was slightly preferable for Black in A.Pridorozhni-M.Oganian,
Sochi 2016; notice how White’s king lacks optimal shelter on either wing of the board) 10 ... bxc3 11
gxf6 Qxf6 12 Rb1 (another move order is 12 bxc3 g6 13 Rb1, which just transposes) 12 ... g6 13 bxc3
Bc6 14 Ne3 Nd7 15 Nd5 (15 Bh3 should transpose to 15 Nd5 after 15 ... Qd8 16 Nd5; instead, 15 Ba3
tries to take advantage of Black’s d6-pawn, but 15 ... Be7 16 Nc4?! 0-0 17 Bxd6 Rfd8 gives Black a
clear advantage because of his active pieces which will target White’s king in the centre), we have
reached a position from A.Kovtunenko-A.Pak, Moscow 2014, and here 15 ... Qd8 improves on the
game continuation. Following 16 Bh3 Be7, White has two main moves:
a31) 17 Bxd7+ Qxd7 18 Bh6 Bd8, followed by ... f5 and ... Kf7, gives Black a decent position. Note
that 18 Nb6?! tries to win the exchange, but 18 ... Qb7 pins White’s knight to the b1-rook and thwarts
White’s plan.
a32) 17 Bh6 Rb8 fights for the b-file, and after 18 Rb4 Nc5 19 f3 Ne6 Black obtains good play.
b) 6 Qf3 is a rather premature development of the queen and doesn’t pose much of a challenge to
Black.

Since the queen could create pressure on the g-file by moving to g3, it’s best for Black to create a
buffer with 6 ... g6! (6 ... e5?! runs into 7 Nf5, when the knight is protected by White’s queen,
preventing the standard ... d5 push from working), and suddenly the Dragon structure makes the queen
look clumsy on f3. After 7 h3 Bg7, White has two acceptable ways to develop his dark-squared bishop:
b1) 8 Bg5 creates the possibility of playing Qe3 followed by Bh6, which Black should not allow.
Thus, 8 ... Qa5! is best, immediately attacking the bishop and pinning White’s c3-knight. After 9 Be3
(9 Qe3?! runs into 9 ... Nxe4! and now 10 Bxe7!? is perhaps White’s trickiest move, but 10 ... Nxc3! 11
Bxd6+ Ne4+ is an important resource, and 12 c3 Qd5 13 Bxb8 0-0 14 Bf4 Re8 leaves Black with a
clear advantage as he has tremendous compensation for the pawn) 9 ... 0-0 10 0-0-0 Nc6, we have
reached a version of the 8 Be3 variation where Black has his queen developed to a5 for free. So, it is
possible that White will play Nb3 soon in order to prevent Black’s queen from becoming too active on
the queenside. Therefore, Black shouldn’t protect his c6-knight with ... Bd7 (in order to push ... b5)
since this would be unnecessary if White’s d4-knight moves away. Instead, he should develop the
bishop to the more active e6-square. F.Vallejo Pons-V.Topalov, Leon 2012, continued 11 Kb1, and
now Black should have played 11 ... Be6!. Here White has:
b11) 12 Nxe6 fxe6 13 Bd2 Qc7 14 Qe3 Rac8 sees Black ready to play ... Ne5 or ... Na5, giving his
queen and c8-rook good play on the c-file, and note that 15 Bc4 can be met with 15 ... Nd4!. (Georgiev
and Kolev, in The Sharpest Sicilian 2012, consider 14 ... b5, which is also good, but we prefer
immediately increasing Black’s firepower on the c-file.)
b12) 12 Nb3 Qc7 13 g4 and the game has transposed into J.Moussard-F.Rakotomaharo, Paris 2015.
Black played the strong 13 ... Rfc8!, preparing to put pressure on the c-file with ... Ne5 or ... Nb4. In
addition, Black has the ... b5 and ... a5 pushes at his disposal, which are useful in driving away White’s
knights. Overall, Black has a comfortable advantage.
b2) 8 Be3 is the main move, and after 8 ... 0-0 9 0-0-0 Nc6

White has a few options:


b21) 10 Nxc6?! bxc6 11 e5 is a dubious attempt to create play in the centre, and after 11 ... Nd5 12
Nxd5 cxd5 13 exd6 (13 Qxd5 Be6 14 Qd2 Qb8! sees Black’s queen and two bishops pointed at the
white king, giving Black a much better position) 13 ... Rb8! 14 c3 e6!, Black had an edge in
D.Radovanovic-T.Henrichs, Skopje 2014. Once Black plays ... Qa5, his queen, g7-bishop, and b8-rook
will be an extremely powerful attacking force.
b22) 10 Nd5 was tried in A.Salem-Wei Yi, Tagaytay City 2013. The move aims to exchange
knights, but this seems slightly more favourable for Black since his g7-bishop will be opened up. Black
should therefore have played 10 ... Nxd5! and, following 11 exd5 Ne5 12 Qe2 b5, he enjoys an
advantage. The pawn structure where White has a d5-pawn and Black has an e7-pawn is often good for
White, but that is not the case here. One of the main reasons is that White’s d5-pawn isn’t securely
protected and Black can attack it with ... Bb7 and ... e6.
b23) 10 g4 starts a kingside pawn storm, but it is fairly slow. Black should begin his own queenside
attack with ... b5, as seen after 10 ... Bd7 11 Qg2 b5!, gaining good play. M.Van Delft-T.Burg, Leiden
2008, continued 12 Nxc6 (12 f4 b4 13 Nd5 was seen in G.Goncharenko-A.Kazoks, correspondence
2012, and now Black could have improved with 13 ... a5!, reinforcing the b4-pawn and opening the
possibility of playing ... a4 in the near future; if White supports his d5-knight with 14 Bc4, then 14 ...
Rc8 works well, making the bishop vulnerable on c4, and Black is slightly better) 12 ... Bxc6 13 h4?
(13 Kb1 was better, protecting the a2-pawn from attacks, but on 13 ... b4 14 Nd5 e6 15 Nxf6+ Qxf6 16
Bd4 Qf4 17 Bxg7 Kxg7, Black enjoys an edge thanks to his control of the dark squares; he will aim to
push ... d5 soon, and advancing the a-pawn to a3 is another good plan) 13 ... Qa5! 14 Kb1 Nxe4 15
Nxe4 Qb4 16 Bc1 Qxe4 17 Qxe4 Bxe4, which saw Black a pawn up and enjoying a much better
endgame.
6 ... Nbd7

Question: What’s the point of Black’s set-up?

Answer: 6 ... Nbd7 goes for an interesting set-up to exploit White’s pieces on d3 and d4, by
planning the following:
1) Black’s knight can jump to c5, where it will attack the d3-bishop. White could retreat the bishop
to f1 (as seen in the 8 Re1 variation of this game), but then it is quite passive and Black’s knight will
still enjoy a fine outpost on c5.
2) Black will most likely fianchetto his f8-bishop on g7, where it x-rays White’s d4-knight. Thanks
to White’s last move, the knight is currently undefended and a good target.
7 0-0
Others:
a) 7 Bg5 immediately develops the dark-squared bishop, but Black can still play the standard
kingside fianchetto with 7 ... g6. Now:
a1) 8 f4 tries to go for a kind of 6 Bg5 line, but since White has played slowly with Bd3, Black
immediately gets a comfortable game following 8 ... Bg7 9 Qf3 h6 10 Bxf6 (10 Bh4 e5! gives Black an
initiative) 10 ... Nxf6 11 f5 Qb6 12 Nb3 0-0, when Black’s control over the dark squares give him the
upper hand in the centre; also, without his dark-squared bishop, it is difficult for White to create a
dangerous kingside attack.
a2) 8 0-0 Bg7 and now:
a21) 9 Re1 0-0 10 Qd2 (10 Bf1 also transposes to the 8 Re1 variation) 10 ... Nc5 11 Bf1 transposes
to the 8 Re1 variation of the main game.
a22) 9 Qd2 is too early since Black’s rook is still on h8, allowing him to kick White’s g5-bishop off
the c1-h8 diagonal with 9 ... h6!, and after 10 Bh4 (10 Be3 refuses to leave the diagonal, but after 10 ...
Ng4 11 Rad1 Nxe3 12 Qxe3 0-0 Black has eliminated the bishop, giving him an easier game on the
dark squares) 10 ... 0-0 11 Rad1 Nc5, Black is fine. He should consider pushing ... g5 and/or ... b5 in
the near future.
a23) 9 Kh1 0-0 10 f4 was tried in M.Chlost-P.Balcerak, Polanica Zdroj 2001, and since f5 is a move
White can play at any moment, Black should have thrown in 10 ... h6! at once, the point being that after
something along the lines of 11 Bh4 Qc7 12 a4 b6 13 f5, Black can answer with 13 ... g5!, repelling
White’s kingside ambitions. Black can now resume his attack on the e4-pawn with ... Bb7 and ... Nc5,
or even use the e5-square to his advantage by playing ... Ne5.
b) 7 f4 g6 8 g4 was tried in M.Bartel-G.Gajewski, Karpacz 2008 (instead, 8 Nf3 Bg7 9 0-0 0-0
transposes to the main game; while 8 a4 Bg7 9 Nf3 0-0 10 0-0 transposes to the 10 a4 variation), when
Black should have met White’s early kingside aggression with the strong 8 ... e5!, and following 9 Nb3
exf4 10 Bxf4 Ne5 11 h3 (11 g5 Nh5 12 Be3 h6 is better for Black, as the g5-pawn has been turned into
a major flaw in White’s position) 11 ... b5, Black is comfortable. He will be able to castle soon and has
easy play against White’s e4-pawn with moves like ... Bb7 and ... b4.
7 ... g6 8 f4

Question: With this move, what general plans have been drawn for both sides?

Answer: White’s main plan is to attack on the kingside with moves such as Qe1-h4 and f5. He
could also consider trying to break through in the centre with e5, so Black should always watch out for
this. The big downside of 8 f4 is that it weakens the e4-pawn which can no longer be supported by a
pawn. Thus, Black’s main plan is to put pressure on it with ... Nc5, ... b5, ... Bb7, etc. If Black can get
away with it, ... e5 would be a nice move to play (fixing the e4-pawn), although White’s 9th move of
this game discourages that.
An alternative is 8 Re1 Bg7 9 Bf1, retreating the bishop to safety and allowing White’s queen to
protect the d4-knight (9 a4 was tried here in A.Motylev-A.Giri, Tbilisi blitz 2017, and after 9 ... 0-0 10
h3 Nc5 11 Bf1 Bd7 12 a5, Black should have played 12 ... b5! at once, gaining useful queenside
activity despite White’s preventive measures with his a-pawn). White is aiming for a relatively quiet
game and this approach shouldn’t worry Black. After 9 ... 0-0 10 Bg5 (10 Nd5 e5! 11 Nxf6+ Nxf6 was
fine for Black in S.Golubov-D.Khismatullin, Jerusalem 2015) 10 ... Nc5 11 Qd2 (11 Nd5 transposed
into S.Vaibhav-M.Dzhumaev, Visakhapatnam 2011, where Black correctly responded with 11 ... Re8!,
nullifying White’s pressure on the e-file, and if White had played 12 Nxf6+?! then he would have lost a
pawn to 12 ... exf6 13 Be3 Nxe4) 11 ... Re8, Black is ready to start play on the queenside with moves
like ... Bd7, ... Qb6, and ... b5. Y.Fleitas Marti-S.Siebrecht, Havana 2007, saw 12 Rad1 and, since it is
inefficient for the rook to move back to b1, Black should have struck with 12 ... Qb6!, creating an
unpleasant attack on the b2-pawn. Following 13 Nb3 Be6 14 Be3 Rac8, the game is balanced.
8 ... Bg7 9 Nf3
Discouraging ... e5 and moving the knight closer to the kingside.
Instead, 9 Be3 allows Black to play 9 ... e5! with tempo, and after 10 Nb3 (10 fxe5 Nxe5 11 h3 0-0
12 Nf3 Nxf3+ 13 Qxf3 Be6 is also absolutely fine for Black) 10 ... exf4 11 Bxf4 0-0 12 Kh1 Ne5, the
game is dynamically balanced. Black’s light-squared bishop will probably move to e6, where it can
monitor important squares on both sides of the board.
9 ... 0-0 10 Qe1
Preparing to move the queen to h4 in order to conduct a kingside attack. Black can discourage this
by quickly pressurizing the e4-pawn, tying White’s queen to its defence.
10 a4 is another approach, spending a tempo to prevent ... b5. This isn’t a big problem, as Black
will likely continue in similar fashion to the game, just with ... b6 instead of ... b5. After 10 ... Nc5:
a) 11 Qe2 was seen via transposition in Y.Dembo-G.Khechumyan, Budapest 2001, and since White
wants to break through in the centre with e5, Black should have changed plans with 11 ... Bg4!,
attacking the f3-knight, which is key in the effort to push e5. Following 12 h3 (12 e5? dxe5 13 fxe5
Nfd7 leaves White’s e-pawn far too weak since the f3-knight can be removed at any moment) 12 ...
Bxf3 13 Qxf3 e6!, Black is at least equal, and will work towards pushing ... d5.
b) 11 Kh1 b6 12 Qe1 Bb7 13 f5 b5! leaves White’s e4-pawn in a precarious state and Black was
gaining a dangerous queenside initiative in Chen Qi-Ding Liren, Chinese Team Championship 2016.
10 ... b5 11 a3
11 Qh4!? tries to create some attacking chances before it’s too late, but after 11 ... b4! 12 Nd1 Nc5
13 Nf2 Bb7, White’s forces are tied down in defence and not in an ideal state to attack Black’s king.
White’s best option to generate some play is 14 f5, but 14 ... gxf5 15 exf5 Bxf3 16 gxf3 Qc8!
(threatening ... Nxd3 followed by ... Qxf5) 17 Qc4 Kh8 sees Black on the verge of playing ... Rg8,
when it’s unclear whose king is really in more danger. Meanwhile, White still has weak doubled f-
pawns, which will be long-term targets for Black’s pieces.
11 ... Bb7 12 Bd2 Nc5
Black has played the opening well and his pressure on White’s e4-pawn gives him a comfortable
edge.
13 Kh1
Exercise: Since White’s queen is tied to defending the e4-pawn, one of his only
active plans is pushing the f-pawn. How can Black discourage this?

13 ... Rc8
Answer: 13 ... e6! creates a central buffer, adding further resistance against White’s f5 push. For
example, 14 f5 exf5 15 exf5 Re8 gives Black’s pieces dominance over the centre squares (especially
e4).
14 Rc1
14 f5! was more active, but 14 ... e6! 15 fxg6 fxg6 takes the sting out of White’s aggression and
leaves Black with the upper hand.
14 ... Qd7 15 b4!?
Forcing Black’s hand but leaving the a3- and b4-pawns fixed on dark squares. This could
potentially be bad for White in an endgame, since his remaining dark-squared bishop would be stuck
defending them.
15 ... Nxd3 16 cxd3 Rc7
16 ... e5! 17 fxe5 dxe5 18 Nxe5 Qd4 19 Bf4 Nh5 sees White’s unorganized pieces struggling to
deal with Black’s sudden burst of activity. White’s best try to pacify things is 20 Nf3 Qxd3 21 Be5, but
Black is clearly better due to White’s weak e4-pawn.
17 Ne2 Rfc8?!
A slight inaccuracy. Black is committing too much firepower on the c-file before knowing if he’ll
be able to use it to launch an invasion. Now was a good time to try to lure White’s queen away from the
kingside with 17 ... Rxc1! 18 Qxc1 (18 Bxc1 keeps the queen near the kingside but leaves the c-file
open and undefended, so 18 ... Rc8 works well), followed by 18 ... Nh5 19 Qc2 f5!, giving Black’s
knight, rook, and b7-bishop sudden activity.
18 Ned4?!
Missing his chance to temporarily restrict Black’s major pieces: 18 Rxc7! Qxc7 19 Bc3 blocks
Black’s queen and rook from making progress, giving White some time to play on the kingside.
18 ... Rxc1 19 Bxc1 Nh5
19 ... e5! was also good, and slightly more accurate since it strikes before White has time to get f5
in.
20 f5!

Exercise: Find a way to practically force White into exchanging off his
strong f-pawn.

Answer: 20 ... e5!


A clever strategy. If White refuses to take Black’s e-pawn en passant, then White’s d4-knight will
have to retreat from the centre. This will leave the f5-pawn without sufficient protection, allowing
Black to win it.
21 fxe6 fxe6 22 Qd1
A better way to carry out White’s idea was 22 Qe2! e5 23 Qa2+, since with the queen on a2, instead
of b3, 23 ... d5 can be met with 24 Nb3! and White’s knight will be a very strong piece once it jumps in
to c5.
22 ... e5!
Beginning to take over the centre. The g7-bishop becomes temporarily blocked but this is a small
price to pay for the initiative.
23 Qb3+ d5 24 Ne2 Kh8
24 ... Qc7! was a useful intermezzo, threatening ... Qc2. If White prevents this with 25 Ne1, then
this knight is very passive on the first rank.
25 Bb2 Re8 26 Nc3
26 d4!? wouldn’t have fully equalized after 26 ... dxe4 27 Nxe5 Qd5 28 Qxd5 Bxd5, but at least
Black’s bishops are both blocked along the long diagonals.
26 ... Nf4
26 ... d4!? looks like a very anti-positional move since it goes for a closed position (when Black’s
bishops prefer an open one). However, after 27 Ne2, note how White’s knights lack good outposts in
the centre and his pieces as a whole aren’t playing towards a clear goal. Meanwhile, Black’s forces
seem primed to conduct a squeeze on the kingside.
27 Nxd5 Nxd5 28 exd5 Bxd5 29 Qc2 Kg8 30 Ng5!
Aiming to activate the knight by bringing it to e4. If the knight reaches this square, it will also
significantly restrict Black’s bishops.
30 ... Qg4!

Immediately putting pressure on the e4-square. White will have a tough time maintaining his knight
once he moves it there.
31 Ne4 Rc8 32 Nc5?!
Opening up Black’s d5-bishop and forcing White to constantly defend against ... Qxg2. Also, now
Black’s queen is opened up along the fourth rank, where it eyes the b4-pawn.
32 Bc3! was more stubborn, even though it feels wrong to move into a pin. After 32 ... h5 33 h3
Qh4, Black is exerting unpleasant pressure on White’s position, although at the moment White is
holding everything together.
32 ... a5!
The b4-pawn is vital to defend the c5-knight, but now the pawn itself has become a target in need of
protection. White’s defensive resources are being stretched thin.
33 Qd2?
Capitulating under the mounting pressure. 33 Bc3 was necessary, but then 33 ... h5 34 Kg1 Bh6
sees Black’s pressure continuing to grow. Even if White defends accurately, Black will enjoy a clear
edge.
33 ... Bh6 34 Qc2?
34 Nd7! puts up more resistance, but after 34 ... Bxd2 35 Nf6+ Kf7 36 Nxg4+ Ke6, Black’s bishops
and rook are just too powerful and White has too many weaknesses to defend. White can continue the
fight, but Black has a winning advantage.
34 ... axb4 35 axb4 Qxb4 0-1
This game looked at three of White’s 6th moves: 6 Rg1, 6 Qf3, and 6 Bd3. After 6 Rg1 most of the
lines are straightforward enough to play. The one exception is the main line discussed with 8 Bg2 and
10 g5, which has some theory to learn due to the concrete nature of the positions.
6 Qf3 is not very challenging and Black gets good play in the early middlegame. In general, the
analysis showed that Black’s queenside play is faster and more effective than White’s kingside
operations. This is largely due to the fact that White’s queen is awkwardly placed on f3.
6 Bd3 can see White pushing his f-pawn to f4 (featured in the main game) or not (as seen in the 8
Re1 variation and in some lines after 7 Bg5). When White pushes his pawn to f4, Black’s main plan is
to focus on attacking White’s e4-pawn, since it lacks pawn support. Doing this can distract White from
conducting an effective kingside attack. Meanwhile, if White doesn’t push his pawn to f4, Black’s plan
is to just develop, play ... Nc5, and seek activity on the queenside. It tends to be straightforward to do
this and Black gets a good game.

Game 40
M.Bartel-D.Swiercz
Polish Championship, Poznan 2016

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Nb3


An interesting move which has been tested at the top level recently. White’s main idea behind the
knight retreat is to prevent Black from playing 6 ... e5 with tempo. If Black still plays 6 ... e5, then
White can immediately reply 7 Bg5, trying to control the d5-square. If Black plays the other standard
move (6 ... e6) then White can reach a Keres Attack type position with 7 g4 (albeit with the knight on
b3). While both 6 ... e5 and 6 ... e6 lead to no objective advantage for White, they provide the kind of
game that he is looking for.
6 ... Nbd7!
We recommend this move which has the goal of quickly developing the queenside. This plan works
well since White is passive in the centre due to his Nb3 retreat, which prevents him from taking
advantage of Black’s early queenside expansions.
7 g4
White’s main move and his most ambitious try. Others:
a) 7 a4 threatens a5, so Black should play 7 ... b6, stopping White’s threat and preparing to play ...
Bb7. White then has a few options:
a1) 8 f3 Bb7 9 Bf4 tries to go for a kind of English Attack set-up now that Black’s queenside is
restrained for the moment, as seen in M.Kanarek-S.Nitin, Panevezys 2016. However, after 9 ... Rc8 10
Qd2 (10 Nd2?! was played in the game, and here Black could have secured a good position by acting in
the centre with 10 ... d5! 11 Nxd5 Nxd5 12 exd5 Nf6!) 10 ... Qc7 11 0-0-0 e5 12 Bg3 (12 Be3 releases
the pressure on the e5-pawn, allowing Black to break with 12 ... d5! 13 Nxd5 Nxd5 14 exd5 Nf6,
gaining nice activity in the centre and on the queenside) 12 ... Be7 13 Kb1 0-0, the game is roughly
balanced and it seems easier to play Black. White’s kingside attack hasn’t even started, while all Black
really has to do is push ... b5. Once this happens, White’s a-pawn will probably have to take on b5,
opening up the a-file for business.
a2) 8 g4 lacks full strength since Black can immediately play 8 ... Bb7! and, after 9 Bg2, he can go
for a comfortable “Dragodorf” structure with 9 ... g6 10 f4 Bg7 11 0-0 Rb8, getting a good position.
Black’s plan is to castle and play ... Nc5, putting pressure on White’s vulnerable e4-pawn. White
can try to force matters with 12 f5 0-0 13 g5, but after 13 ... Nh5 14 Nd4 Rc8 the game is dynamically
balanced. Black has ideas of ... Rc4 or ... Ne5 (possibly followed by ... Nc4), creating pressure against
White’s centre and queenside. Black’s h5-knight is offside, but the price White had to pay was
overextending his pawns and consequently weakening the key e5-square.
b) 7 Be3 resembles the English Attack except White’s knight has retreated to b3 and Black’s knight
is already developed on d7. So, there’s obviously no need to play ... e5 and Black should immediately
attack with 7 ... b5!, and after 8 a4 (8 a3 is not dangerous, as seen after 8 ... e6 9 Bd3 Be7 10 0-0 Bb7,
when Black has a fine Sicilian set-up with nothing to complain about; a good example of how to play
this position was shown in A.Zude-A.Donchenko, Apolda 2017, which continued 11 Qe2 0-0 12 f4 Rc8
13 Kh1 Qc7 14 Bg1 Rfe8 15 Rae1 e5! and Black was doing well) 8 ... b4 9 Nd5 e6 10 Nxf6+ Nxf6
Black is comfortable. Following 11 f3 (11 Qd4 Be7 12 Qxb4 d5 13 Qb6 Qxb6 14 Bxb6 Nxe4 is level)
11 ... Be7 12 Qd2, Black can play in a few different ways:
b1) 12 ... d5 reaches a French structure following 13 e5 Nd7 14 f4 and now Black can swiftly
exchange off his bad bishop with 14 ... a5 15 Bd3 Ba6, gaining a comfortable position.
b2) 12 ... Qc7!? is an interesting alternative, since the endgame after 13 Qxb4 d5 14 Qb6 Qxb6 15
Bxb6 dxe4 16 fxe4 Rb8 17 a5 Nxe4 is dynamically balanced; White’s queenside majority seems
slightly more dangerous, but Black’s centre pawns will also have an influence.
b3) 12 ... Rb8 13 Bd3 0-0 14 0-0 Qc7 gave Black equality in A.Neiksans-R.Van Kampen, Baku
Olympiad 2016.
7 ... h6 8 Bg2

Exercise: What should Black play?

Instead, 8 a4 prevents ... b5 but wastes a precious tempo in a sharp position, so Black can start
generating pressure on the c-file after 8 ... Qc7!. White has two main replies:
a) 9 a5 tries to switch to positional play after having already committed to the aggressive g4; this
approach doesn’t work very well and, after 9 ... b5 10 axb6 Nxb6 11 h3 e6 12 Bg2 Nc4 13 0-0 (13 e5?
is met with 13 ... Bb7) 13 ... Bb7, Black is developing good play both on the queenside and against
White’s e4-pawn, giving him equal chances.
b) 9 Bg2 Ne5 10 h3 threatens to play f4 (10 f3 is just an inferior version of 10 h3 since after 10 ...
Bd7 11 h3 g5, if White ever plays f4, he will have spent two moves getting his f-pawn there), and
Black can respond with 10 ... g5!, as played in M.Bartel-M.Ragger, Dresden 2016. The game continued
11 f4 gxf4 12 Bxf4 Bg7 and Black was fine thanks to his dark square control in the centre and White’s
weak e4-pawn.
Answer: 8 ... b5!
Black must begin attacking on the queenside before White’s kingside pawn storm becomes too
dangerous.
9 h4!
White, in turn, wastes no time in carrying out his kingside operations. Others:
a) 9 e5? just lets Black pick up the pawn with 9 ... Nxe5, since 10 Bxa8? Bxg4 11 Bc6+ (11 f3
Qxa8 wins for Black) 11 ... Nxc6 12 f3 Be6 is nearly winning for Black. Material is even, but White’s
pawns are horrible. His f3-pawn is very weak and he has no pawn mass in the centre. If his king tries to
find safety on the queenside, Black has already started advancing there with ... b5.
b) 9 Qe2 was tried in A.Grischuk-D.Sadzikowski, German League 2017. Since White’s queen
wants to get some action on the open e-file, Black could have improved with 9 ... e5!, closing the e-file
indefinitely. Now:
b1) 10 g5 hxg5 11 Bxg5 Nb6 12 0-0-0 Be7 13 a3 Na4! is pleasant for Black due to his queenside
activity.
b2) 10 h4 can be met by 10 ... b4 11 Nd5 a5!, when Black is about to chase White’s queen away
with ... Ba6, gaining domination over the f1-a6 diagonal. For example, 12 a3 Ba6 13 Qd1 Nxd5 14
exd5 Be7 is a bit better for Black, as White’s king is cut off from castling and Black’s pawn structure
seems slightly preferable.
b3) 10 a3 Nb6 11 g5 (11 h3 is more prudent, but 11 ... Be7 12 0-0 Be6 13 Rd1 Qc7 gives Black a
slight edge as the d5-square is under control and Black will get good play on the c-file with moves like
... Rc8, ... Nc4, etc) 11 ... hxg5 12 Bxg5 Na4 13 Nxa4 (13 Nd5? Nxb2 gives Black a free pawn and
White’s forces aren’t active enough to capitalize on the pinned f6-knight) 13 ... bxa4 14 Nd2 Be6 gives
Black a better position for a few reasons:
1) White’s king will not find ideal shelter on either the kingside or queenside.
2) Black’s a4-pawn restrains White’s queenside, making the b2- and c2-pawns good targets for
Black’s major pieces.
3) White’s g2-bishop lacks a future, being blocked in by the e4-pawn.
9 ... b4 10 Nd5 Nxd5 11 exd5
11 Qxd5?! Nb6 12 Qd3 e5! is favourable for Black.
11 ... Ne5!
An important move, attacking White’s g-pawn and forcing him to deal with the threat.
12 g5!
White’s best response. He must continue attacking or Black will just be better.
The first game from this position (according to my database) was actually on the previous round of
the same tournament! It featured the more reserved 12 f3?! and, after 12 ... g6 13 Be3 Bg7, Black was
much better in M.Kanarek-R.Wojtaszek, Poznan 2016, since White’s kingside attack is not getting
through and Black’s e5-knight cannot be driven away by White’s f-pawn. Black’s plan is simply to
castle and then commence a queenside attack with ... a5.
12 ... hxg5 13 Bxg5 Bg4!

Question: What is the point of this?

Answer: 13 ... Bg4 forces White’s f-pawn to move to f3 (since if White’s queen moves, then Black
has ... Bf3!). With the pawn on f3, it will be pinned to White’s queen, preventing it from marching to f4
and attacking Black’s well-placed e5-knight.
14 f3 Bh5 15 Qe2
15 0-0 gives the f3-pawn added protection from the f1-rook, allowing White’s queen to move to the
powerful d4-square where it can attack the b4-pawn. In anticipation of this, Black should play 15 ... a5
and, after 16 Nd4 (16 Qd4?! has no threat anymore, and on 16 ... f6 17 Bf4 g5! 18 hxg5 Bg7 19 Qe4
fxg5 20 Bxg5 Qb6+ Black’s army of pieces is coming to life and this great activity gives him an
advantage) 16 ... g6, Black is about to play ... Bg7 and castle. White can stop this with 17 c4 (pushing
the f-pawn with 17 Qd2 Bg7 18 f4? fails to 18 ... Nc4 19 Qf2 Qb6) 17 ... bxc3 18 bxc3 Bg7 19 Qa4+
Qd7 20 Qxd7+ Kxd7, but this endgame is just equal.
15 ... Qc7 16 0-0-0 g6 17 Nd4 Bg7 18 Bh3
Exercise: Find the best move for Black.

18 ... Rb8?!
A slight inaccuracy. With the rook on b8, White’s d4-knight may get a chance to jump to c6 with
tempo later on. Also, 18 ... Rb8 gives White’s king time to move to b1, where it will protect the loose
a2-pawn. This seems trivial, but it is in fact very important since the unprotected a2-pawn allows Black
to exchange queens in some lines (as we will see in the 18 ... a5 variation below).
Answer: Black should have wasted no time and played 18 ... a5!, immediately attacking on the
queenside and having ideas such as ... Nc4, ... a4 followed by ... a3, and even ... Qc4. This gives Black
a slight advantage. After 19 Bg4 (Black probably didn’t want to lose castling privileges after 19 Qb5+
Kf8, but the king is actually safe on f8; if Black had castled, his rook would no longer be on h8 and his
king would be on g8; both of these factors would make it far more dangerous if White managed to play
Bg4 and push his h-pawn to h5), White is beginning to remove Black’s h5-bishop, making dangerous
f4 ideas possible. So, Black should simplify with 19 ... Bxg4 20 fxg4 Qc4! (forcing a queen exchange
due to the threat of ... Qxa2) 21 Qxc4 Nxc4, when he is doing well. One good plan for him is to transfer
his a8-rook to c5, where it will create pressure on the c-file and attack the d5-pawn. Then he may push
his a-pawn or even bring his h8-rook to c8 in order to double on the c-file. White’s best way to
interrupt this plan is probably to employ some Nc6 ideas, as seen after 22 b3 (22 Nc6? immediately
drops the b2-pawn to 22 ... Bxb2+) 22 ... Ne5 23 Nc6, but now 23 ... Ra6! 24 Nxe5 (24 Nxe7?? f6 wins
the knight) 24 ... dxe5 is better for Black. He is going to play ... f5 soon, gaining two strong passers in
the centre. Meanwhile, White’s d5-pawn lacks pawn support, making it a long-term target for Black’s
pieces.
19 Kb1 a5 20 Bg4 Qc4
Exercise: Find a way for White to gain an advantage.

21 Qxc4?!
Letting Black off the hook too easily.
Answer: 21 Qg2! was stronger, as ... Qxa2 isn’t a threat. Since White is threatening Bxh5 followed
by f4, Black is inclined to play 21 ... Bxg4, and after 22 fxg4 a4 23 h5, White’s attack is stronger.
21 ... Nxc4 22 Nc6 Rb7 23 Rde1 Bxg4 24 fxg4 Ne5
24 ... f6!? 25 Bf4 Ne5 was also playable, since if White exchanges on e5 then, after recapturing,
Black will get a strong pawn on that square. The downside of course is that the g7-bishop has become
rather passive.
25 Bf4 Kd7
25 ... Rb5 also leads to an equal game following 26 Nxe5 dxe5 27 Bxe5 Bxe5 28 Rxe5 f6 29 Re6!
(temporarily immobilizing Black’s e-pawn) 29 ... Rxd5 30 Rhe1 Rxh4 31 Rxe7+.
26 Bxe5 Bxe5 27 h5 gxh5
A very double-edged position would have arisen from 27 ... Rb5!? 28 Nxe5+ dxe5 29 Rxe5 f6 30
Re3 gxh5 31 gxh5 Rxd5, when Black has two connected passed pawns, but White’s passed h-pawn is
more advanced. Meanwhile, White will probably shortly create a passed pawn on the c-file.
Objectively, the position should be close to equal; however, a draw seems to be the least likely result.
28 Nxe5+ dxe5 29 Rxe5 h4 30 Rh5 Rg8 31 R1xh4 Kd6 32 Kc1 Rc7 33 Rf5 f6 34 g5!
White performs an operation to exchange his g-pawn for Black’s f-pawn. This is the simplest way
to secure a draw, since now Black’s e-pawn will just end up as a lone passer.
34 ... Rxg5 35 Rxg5 fxg5 36 Rg4 Kxd5 37 Rxg5+ e5 38 Kd2 Rh7 39 Rg2 Rh3 40 c3 bxc3+ 41
bxc3 Rf3 42 a3 a4 43 Rg8 Rf2+ 44 Ke3 Ra2 45 Rd8+ Kc4 46 Rc8+ Kb3 47 Kd3 Ra1 48 Rb8+
Kxa3 49 Rb5 Rd1+ 50 Kc2 Re1 51 Kd2 Re4 52 Kd3 Rh4 53 Rxe5 Kb2 54 Rb5+ Kc1 55 Ra5 Rg4
56 Ra8 Rg3+ 57 Kc4 Kc2 58 Rxa4 Rg4+ 59 Kb5 Rxa4 60 Kxa4 Kxc3 ½-½
Black’s plan to perform an early queenside expansion works well against White’s 6 Nb3 system. In
most lines, Black obtains a fine position that’s easy enough to play without having to navigate through
concrete variations. Perhaps the only exception to this is the line White played in the main game (i.e. 12
g5). Here Black must be precise in order to prevent White from pushing his f-pawn, so it is especially
important to study the analysis after White plays 12 g5 in the game.

Game 41
A.Demchenko-A.Areshchenko
FIDE World Cup, Tbilisi 2017

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 a3


Perhaps the de facto waiting move White can play here. It should be noted though that the pawn on
a3 can sometimes be useful for White, such as for preventing Black’s queenside play in certain lines.
6 ... e5
Against other quiet 6th moves, we often recommend foregoing the ... e5 push. However, since 6 a3
does nothing to directly discourage 6 ... e5 (other than waiting, if that can be considered a reason!),
there’s no point to avoid playing it. Sure, in some variations discussed later in the middlegame stage of
this game, the pawn on a3 is of use to White, but that would be the case no matter what 6th move Black
played.
7 Nf5!?

Leading to an interesting scuffle in the centre.


Instead, 7 Nf3 aims to create a set-up with Bc4 and Bg5 in an effort to control d5, and so Black
should opt for 7 ... b5!, preventing Bc4 while beginning to develop queenside activity. Now:
a) 8 a4 wastes no time in trying to exploit Black’s last move but is met well by 8 ... Qa5!, pinning
the pawn to the unprotected a1-rook. White’s best way to continue the struggle is by going for 9 Nd2!
(9 b4 sacrifices a pawn for activity following 9 ... Qxb4 10 Bd2 bxa4 11 Rxa4 Qb7 12 Bc4, but Black
manages to castle after 12 ... Bd7 13 Ra1 Be7 14 0-0 0-0, leaving White with insufficient compensation
for the pawn) 9 ... b4 10 Nc4 Qc7 11 Nd5 Nxd5 12 exd5, with the threat of playing a5 (isolating
Black’s b4- and a6- pawns), but Black can stop this with 12 ... a5!, and after 13 Be3 (13 Ne3 has the
goal of bringing the knight to f5, so Black should play 13 ... g6! and on 14 Bb5+ Nd7, White cannot
prevent Black from developing his f8-bishop and castling, when the game will be roughly level) 13 ...
Nd7 14 Rc1 (14 c3!? bxc3 15 Rc1 cxb2 16 Nxb2 Qd8 17 Bb5 Be7 18 0-0 0-0 19 Nc4 f5 is dynamically
balanced; White has strong queenside pressure and may eventually win the a5-pawn, but Black is
already a pawn up and is starting to generate counterplay in the centre) 14 ... Be7 15 c3 Qb8! 16 cxb4
axb4, Black is comfortable; his plan is to castle, play ... f5 and develop his light-squared bishop to a6
(where it will block White’s passed a-pawn).
b) 8 Bg5 Nbd7 (8 ... Be7 was played P.Harikrishna-A.Giri, Stavanger blitz 2016, and after 9 Bxf6
Bxf6 10 a4 b4 11 Nd5, White has been given control over d5 rather too easily, although the game
should still be close to equal) 9 a4 b4 10 Nd5 sees White trying to seize an initiative in the centre but
leaving the e4-pawn vulnerable. Black can take advantage of this with 10 ... Bb7!, x-raying White’s
centre pawn and pressuring the d5-knight.
Here we have:
b1) 11 Nxb4? runs into 11 ... Qa5! 12 c3 Nxe4 with advantage for Black.
b2) 11 Bc4 Be7 12 0-0 0-0 13 Re1 shows White putting in a lot of effort to maintain his knight on
d5 while protecting the e4-pawn. This isn’t such a good approach, but it’s instructive to see how Black
can neutralize White’s strategy after 13 ... Bxd5! 14 exd5 Nb6 15 Bb3 a5, when Black has a better
pawn structure and White’s light-squared bishop is blocked in on b3.
b3) 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 Nxf6+ Qxf6 (12 ... gxf6!? is an interesting alternative, with ideas like ... f5
and ... d5 in mind) 13 Bd3 Be7 14 0-0 0-0 is just equal since White’s pieces are in no position to lock
down the d5-square. White’s only active plan is playing 15 a5, isolating Black’s b4- and a6-pawns in
order to make them more vulnerable targets. However, Black can now counter in the centre and on the
kingside with 15 ... Qf4 16 Re1 f5!, gaining good activity. It’s important to note that ... f5 also
undermines White’s control over d5 since it will exchange off the e4-pawn. While White could still
occupy d5 with his pieces (such as Bc4+ followed by Bd5), his control over the square is not that
secure without the help of a pawn.
7 ... d5 8 Bg5 d4 9 Bxf6
Exercise: Which way should Black recapture in order to force White’s
c3-knight to retreat?

Answer: 9 ... gxf6!


Refusing to move the queen and foiling the c3-knight’s ambitions to jump to d5 (since if it does so
then ... Bxf5 wins a piece). The c3-knight will instead have to retreat to a relatively passive square,
which often ends up giving Black an active position. While it is true that Black’s f-pawns are quite
weak, the activity he gets for it is worth the price. In some lines Black plays ... Bxf5, causing White to
have doubled f-pawns as well.
9 ... Qxf6 is a playable alternative, but Black was a bit passive after 10 Nd5 Qd8 11 Qg4 Bxf5 12
Qxf5 Bd6 13 h4 in M.Carlsen-R.Wojtaszek, Wijk aan Zee 2017; while White doesn’t have an objective
advantage, it seems easier to play his side of the board due to his long-term kingside pressure.
10 Nb1!
Retreating the knight back to the first rank is White’s most popular move (among the few games in
my database). The idea behind it is that White wants to move his knight to d2, where it could
accomplish a number of things:
1) Relocate to the h4-square via f3, in order to support its fellow knight on f5.
2) Give the f1-bishop support to move to the active c4-square.
3) Jump in on e4 (should the e4-pawn leave its post by recapturing on f5 sometime).
Other knight moves:
a) 10 Nd5?? blunders a piece to 10 ... Bxf5, as White’s e4-pawn is overloaded thanks to the attack
on the d5-knight from the black queen.
b) 10 Na2 is similar to 10 Nb1, as it moves the knight temporarily out of play. Black should react in
similar fashion to the main game by playing 10 ... Bxf5! 11 exf5 Qd5, centralizing the queen and
preparing a possible ... e4 push. After 12 Qd3 (12 Be2!? makes no effort to stop Black from taking
control of the centre and, after 12 ... e4, Black has a good game; the one thing he should focus on is to
castle quickly and both the kingside and queenside are decent destinations) 12 ... Nd7, Black is
preparing to play ... Nc5 and annoy White’s queen. White can stop this by getting a pawn on b4, such
as with 13 Nb4 Bxb4+ 14 axb4, but now White has weakened his pawn structure and Black is just
better after 14 ... 0-0.
c) 10 Ne2 aims to play Ng3 and support the f5-knight, but at the moment White’s development is
hindered since the f1-bishop is blocked in.

This gives Black time to get away with 10 ... Qb6!, and after 11 Rb1 (instead, 11 b4?! a5 12 b5 a4
leaves White’s a3- and b5-pawns as vulnerable targets for Black to attack; 11 g3!? sacrifices the b2-
pawn in a bid for activity but White’s forces aren’t developed enough to make this ploy work: after 11
... Qxb2 12 Bg2 Nc6 13 0-0 Be6 14 Rb1 Qxa3 15 Rxb7 Rc8, White’s b7-rook and f5-knight have some
play, but they alone aren’t enough to fully compensate for the pawn) 11 ... Be6 12 Qc1 (12 Neg3!?
sacrifices material after 12 ... Ba2 13 Bd3 – if White moved the rook away he’d lose the b2-pawn,
causing his queenside to fall apart – 13 ... Bxb1 14 Qxb1 Bxa3, when Black clearly has an advantage
since he is up three points and his king will find safety from White’s minor pieces by migrating to the
queenside) 12 ... Nd7 13 Neg3 Nc5 14 f3 Rc8, Black was better in D.Debashis-J.Ashwin, New Delhi
2008, due to the powerful pressure his pieces were exerting on the queenside.
10 ... Bxf5!
Taking the opportunity to strike in the centre while White’s pieces are passive.
11 exf5 Qd5
Planning to push ... e4.
12 Qd3!
Quelling the threat of ... e4 and preparing to bring the knight to d2.
12 ... Qa5+!
Question: What is the purpose of this check?

Answer: 12 ... Qa5+ is a clever move that aims to exchange the bad f8-bishop for White’s knight. If
White blocks the check with Nd2, then Black is able to play ... Bb4 (due to the pin on the a1-rook)
followed by ... Bxd2. Others:
a) 12 ... Nd7 is also playable, but after 13 Nd2 it’s unclear which knight will prove more useful,
considering that White’s knight can work with the f1-bishop to control e4 and c4, while Black’s minor
pieces lack similar camaraderie. However, Black’s knight should not be underestimated. Once it moves
to c5, it could jump to a4 (pressurizing White’s queenside) or just stay on c5 and potentially help push
... e4.
b) 12 ... e4? was played in S.Sargissyan-L.Babukhadia, European Championship, Batumi 2018, and
White refuted it with 13 Nc3!, revealing the purpose behind 12 Qd3, as White’s knight now forks the
e4-pawn and Black’s queen.
13 Nd2
13 c3 stops Black’s plan, but gives him good central activity following 13 ... Nc6 14 Be2 0-0-0,
when White’s control over the central light squares is balanced out by Black’s control of the key d4-
square and the activity of his queen, knight, and d8-rook.
13 ... Bb4 14 0-0-0
14 g3 aims to develop the bishop while waiting for Black to exchange on d2. However, Black now
has time to play 14 ... Nd7 15 0-0-0 (15 Bg2? runs into 15 ... Nc5 16 Qe2 d3! 17 cxd3 Nb3 with a
decisive advantage for Black) 15 ... Nc5!, gaining an active position with tempo. After 16 Qf3 Bxd2+
17 Rxd2 Qc7 18 Kb1 0-0-0, Black is better because he has the clear plan of pushing ... e4. White’s
pieces aren’t sufficiently coordinated to prevent this push and defend the queenside, and White’s queen
appears more likely to get attacked than be able to help. If the queen had more space to operate, then
perhaps it would be a different story.
14 ... Bxd2+ 15 Qxd2 Qxd2+ 16 Rxd2

Exercise: Find the best move for Black. (Hint: try to limit the activity of one
of White’s pieces.)

16 ... Nd7
A natural move, but it lets White’s bishop become active too quickly. While the game is still
objectively equal, playing White now becomes a little easier.
Answer: A slightly stronger move was 16 ... b5!, which prevents White from developing his bishop
to c4. This is important because:
1) The bishop on c4 will attack the f7-pawn, inhibiting Black from castling queenside. While Black
could solve this problem by protecting the pawn with ... Rf8, this just shifts the burden of defence to
another piece, causing the rook to be stuck.
2) Once on c4, the bishop could easily go to d5 (as it did in the game). From here, it is a very active
piece, monitoring both the kingside and queenside.
From this point Black’s plan is fairly straightforward. He will play ... Nd7, castle long, and work
towards playing ... e4 (which may include playing ... Nc5 and ... Rhe8). This plan isn’t rigid, so Black
can take his time accomplishing each step or even switch to another plan if the position calls for it. For
example, in some positions Black’s knight may do better moving to b6, where it can jump to d5 or c4.
Now, White can fight in the centre with 17 Bd3 Nd7 18 Re1 (18 Be4 0-0-0 19 Bd5 temporarily
plants the bishop on d5, but Black chases it away after 19 ... Rhf8 20 c3 Nc5 21 cxd4 exd4 22 Ba2,
when the position is balanced) 18 ... 0-0-0 19 f4 (19 Be2 threatens to attack the f7-pawn by playing
Bh5, but Black can stop this threat with 19 ... h5!, which is a useful idea to keep in mind; instead, 19 a4
bxa4 20 Bxa6+ Kc7 21 Bc4 Nc5! 22 Bxf7 e4 is dynamically balanced but playing Black looks more
enjoyable as his central pawn duo will yield his pieces good activity, while White’s extra pawn is not
felt at the moment), and here Black’s best plan is to slow down for a moment and play the useful
prophylactic move 19 ... Kc7!, which prevents White’s bishop from taking on a6 with check in the
future. (The immediate 19 ... Rhe8?! is weaker on account of 20 a4 bxa4 21 Bxa6+ Kc7 22 Bb5, when
White is able to exchange off his relatively passive bishop for Black’s important knight, which was
about to jump to c5 to protect the a4-pawn and help push ... e4; notice how if 21 Bxa6+ hadn’t been
with check, Black would have had time to prevent the bishop from pinning the knight.) Now Black is
ready to resume the plan with ... Rhe8 and ... Nc5, giving him a promising game. It should be noted
that, as White’s f-pawn has moved to f4, the e3-square is very weak. This means that Black’s knight
has the option to take a different path by playing ... Nb6, followed by ... Nd5, where it will control e3
from a nice central outpost.
17 Bc4!
Seizing his chance.
17 ... Rc8 18 Bd5 Rc7 19 Re1 Kf8!?
An interesting idea. Black plays this instead of castling so that his h8-rook can move to g8, where it
will be active along the g-file. The downside of this plan is that Black’s rook could be cut off from
joining the other pieces on the queenside, as ended up happening in the game for some time.
Castling with 19 ... 0-0 was also good, when the rook may find employment on any of the e8-, d8-,
or c8-squares. This move is a bit safer since the rook is guaranteed not to get cut off from the action.
20 f4!
This is a key move for White to play, or else Black’s centre remains rock solid.
20 ... Rg8 21 Kb1 b5!
Attacking on both flanks; Black’s lone rook on the g-file can’t do everything.
22 g3 a5 23 Rf2!
Question: What is White planning?

Answer: He is preparing to play fxe5 followed by f6, isolating Black’s e5- and f7-pawns, as well as
boxing in Black’s king on f8.
23 ... h6?!
Not adequately preparing for White’s f6 plan and handing the first player the initiative. From this
point, it is perhaps possible for Black to hold with accurate play, but it is not fun to play his position.
It was important for Black to activate his king with 23 ... Rc5! 24 Be4 (24 Bb3 keeps pressuring the
f7-pawn, which stops Black’s king from running to d6; however, White’s bishop will now have trouble
getting back into the game and after 24 ... Kg7 Black is doing well) 24 ... Ke7 25 Bd3 Kd6, and now if
White plays his f6 idea, then after 26 fxe5+ fxe5 27 f6, it is not nearly as strong since Black’s king isn’t
trapped on f8. Also, the e5-pawn isn’t as weak since the king is helping defend it.
24 fxe5 fxe5 25 f6 Rg6 26 Ref1
One major problem with Black’s position is that, due to his immobilized king on f8, the g6-rook
cannot join the d7-knight and c7-rook. Black’s forces are effectively split in two.
26 ... Nb6
In view of what happened later, playing 26 ... b4! would have been a useful prophylactic measure,
since on b4 the pawn cannot be attacked by White’s bishop. Also, pushing the b-pawn makes White’s
king feel a little uncomfortable.
27 Be4 Rg4?!

Trying to get counterplay immediately but this proves too ambitious. Black’s unprotected e5- and
b5-pawns give White an opportunity to secure a significant advantage. 27 ... Rg5 was necessary,
protecting the vulnerable e5-pawn.
28 Bd3 Nc4 29 Re1 Rc5 30 a4 Nd6 31 axb5 e4 32 Be2 Rgg5 33 Rd1 Rgd5 34 Rf4 a4 35 b6 Rc6
36 c4 Nxc4 37 b7 Rb5 38 Rxd4 Rxb2+ 39 Ka1 Kg8 40 Rg4+ 1-0
Of White’s two options on the 7th move, 7 Nf3 has little bite and allows Black to get a comfortable
game without much work. “Theory wise”, the main variation of 7 Nf3 to review is 8 a4, since the
positions tend to be rather concrete for a while before the game settles down.
7 Nf5 is the more critical 7th move choice but, as we saw, playing 9 ... gxf6 gives Black a good
game. After this pawn capture, 10 Ne2 and 10 Na2 are both easy enough to play against and they don’t
require that much study. 10 Nb1 (the move played in the game) leads to a rich endgame which deserves
attention. On the 16th move, Black could have improved with 16 ... b5!, and many of the endgame’s
important ideas are discussed in the notes to that variation.

Game 42
S.Mazur–S.Martinovic
Slovak Team Championship 2018

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h4


A bolt from the blue that has received some recent attention at grandmaster level. However, most of
the credit for this rise in popularity should probably be attributed to the robustness of the Najdorf and
not 6 h4 itself! By pushing the h-pawn, White aims to gain some kingside space, which may come in
handy if he chooses to begin a pawn storm later on.
6 ... e5
Countering White’s aggression on the flank with the standard Najdorf push in the centre.
7 Nb3 Be7!

We believe this is Black’s best (and simplest) move for several reasons:
1) It develops normally and creates the possibility of castling immediately.
2) The e7-bishop x-rays the h4-pawn, which is a small factor that may be of use later on in a tactical
scuffle.
3) Most importantly, by not moving the c8-bishop to e6 yet, White’s f4 push loses much of its
strength.
7 ... Be6 is more popular, but gives White what he wants after 8 f4, when the threat of f5 must be
dealt with. Black’s main way to do this is by playing 8 ... exf4, and after 9 Bxf4 Nc6 10 Qd2 d5 11 0-0-
0, Black has needlessly allowed White to get some initiative in the centre. Nevertheless, the game
should be close to equal after 11 ... Bb4! 12 Bg5 Nxe4, as played in O.Kobo-D.Sarenac, Paracin 2017.
8 Bg5
White switches to positional play since he can’t be very optimistic about his attacking chances on
the kingside.
Others:
a) 8 f4? hasn’t been played in my database, and for good reason. After 8 ... 0-0 9 Be2 b5, Black is
threatening to drive White’s c3-knight away with ... b4, as well as attack the e4-pawn with ... Bb7.
Black has a comfortable set-up and a clear advantage.
b) 8 Be2 prepares a possible g4, while keeping the f4 push in hand should the opportunity arise. It
should be noted though that this is just the 6 Be2 system where White chooses to play h4 on the 8th
move. Black’s best, most “well-rounded” reply is to play 8 ... Nc6!, simply preparing to play ... Be6,
possibly followed by ... d5 (8 ... Be6 was met by 9 f4 in A.Boruchovsky-S.Bogner, Riga 2017; while
Black isn’t worse, the threat of playing f5 at any time gives White some pressure). Now:
b1) 9 g4 h6! reveals the advantage of delaying castling; Black’s h8-rook x-rays White’s h1-rook,
discouraging the g5 push. After 10 Rg1 (10 g5 is still possible, but White won’t be able to recapture
with his h-pawn, and following 10 ... hxg5 11 Bxg5 Be6 12 Qd2 a5!, Black has an advantage, as his
queenside attack is more effective than White’s efforts on the kingside) 10 ... Nh7, White is forced
either to sacrifice a pawn or give up control of the g5-square by playing h5. In either case, Black is
doing well.
b2) 9 Be3 Be6 10 Nd5 (10 f4 normally makes the e6-bishop feel uncomfortable, but since Black is
developed enough in the centre, he can strike back immediately with 10 ... exf4 11 Bxf4 d5!, already
gaining an advantage, partly because White has lost time moving his dark-squared bishop twice) 10 ...
0-0 11 Bf3 sees White clamping down on the d5-square, but now his pieces no longer monitor the b5-
square. Thus, Black should go for 11 ... a5!, beginning to gain a queenside initiative.
8 ... Be6
Question: Why develop the bishop to e6 now? Isn’t f4 still a threat?

Answer: Because of the position of the bishop on g5, the f4 push no longer works since Black can
counter it with ... h6!. This is seen in the 9 f4 variation below.
8 ... Nbd7 is also possible but doesn’t give Black’s c8-bishop as much activity. This could lead to
Black becoming cramped.
9 Bxf6
Other tries are:
a) 9 f4 h6! 10 f5 (10 Bxf6 Bxf6 11 g3 exf4 is horrible for White) 10 ... hxg5 11 fxe6 fxe6 leaves
Black a pawn up and White’s h4-pawn hanging. Since White doesn’t have a dark-squared bishop, the
dark squares on Black’s queenside cannot be easily exploited. This means that Black’s king will soon
be able to find good shelter by castling long.
b) 9 Qd2 holds off playing Bxf6, giving Black time to set up communication between his knights
with 9 ... Nbd7!, making White’s campaign to win the d5-square significantly more difficult. Thus,
White’s best option is to switch to aggressive play with 10 0-0-0 (10 Bxf6?! doesn’t make sense
anymore due to 10 ... Nxf6, when Black still has a knight on f6 guarding the d5-square and White is
missing his key dark-squared bishop; instead, 10 f3 b5 11 0-0-0 transposes to 10 0-0-0; while 10 f4?! is
met by 10 ... h6!, with the same theme as seen in the 9 f4 variation) 10 ... b5 11 f3, trying to get into
some kind of English Attack, but White’s bishop looks misplaced on g5. In addition, Black has not had
to “waste” a move castling yet, allowing him to seize a queenside initiative immediately with 11 ... b4!
12 Nd5 (12 Ne2? a5 could almost be considered losing for White, since Black’s attack is already very
dangerous and White has no threats of his own) 12 ... Bxd5 13 exd5 a5! 14 Bb5 a4, and after 15 Nc5!
(15 Na1 is quite passive and, on 15 ... a3 16 Qxb4 axb2+ 17 Kxb2 0-0, Black has enough compensation
for the pawn to claim at least equal chances, as his major pieces will find play along the a- to c-files,
while Black’s knights may work together to round up the d5-pawn) 15 ... Qa5! 16 Bxd7+ Nxd7 17
Nxd7 Kxd7 18 Bxe7 Kxe7 19 Qg5+ Kf8.

The game is balanced. While Black’s king is temporarily preventing coordination of his rooks, he
has a superior pawn structure and his queenside attack seems slightly more advanced than White’s
kingside ambitions.
9 ... Bxf6 10 g3
Protecting the h4-pawn and allowing White to develop his bishop along the f1-h3 diagonal.
The alternative 10 Nd5 immediately occupies d5, but in a few moves Black will have the
opportunity to calmly remove this knight. At the moment, it is important to focus on development with
10 ... Nd7 11 g3 0-0, and now:
a) 12 Qd3 plans to put a rook on d1 and go after the d6-pawn, so Black should act quickly with 12
... Nb6!, and after 13 0-0-0 (13 Nxf6+?! Qxf6 14 Qxd6?? doesn’t win a free pawn due to 14 ... Qf3!,
which is close to winning for Black) 13 ... Nxd5 14 exd5 Bd7 15 Bh3! Bxh3 16 Rxh3 Qd7!, Black has
a comfortable advantage; if White ever plays f4, then Black’s f6-bishop will become a monster along
the a1-h8 diagonal.
b) 12 Bg2 Rc8, and here Black can work towards driving the d5-knight away by playing ... Be7
followed by ... Nb6 or ... Nf6. For example, 13 0-0 Be7 14 Re1 Nb6 15 Nxe7+ Qxe7 gives Black a
comfortable game. He has clear play on the queenside and could even consider breaking with ... f5 later
on (after making sure White’s g2-bishop won’t become too active).
10 ... 0-0 11 Qd2
Instead, 11 Bh3 is a move that tends to only make sense when Black has already played ... a5. This
is because Black’s b5-square will be weak and, in general, it’s not positionally desirable for him to
exchange his light-squared bishop. Here that’s not the case and Black should force White to exchange
with 11 ... Qd7! 12 Bxe6 fxe6, when Black’s pawn mass gives him control over many central squares,
denying good prospects for White’s knights. After 13 Qd3 Nc6 14 0-0-0 Rad8 15 Kb1 (15 Nc5?! Qe7
leaves White’s knight en prise and forced to retreat) 15 ... Qc7, Black is ready to start attacking on the
queenside with ... b5.
White could still play quietly and castle kingside, such as after 11 Bg2 Be7 (since White’s queen
attacks the d6-pawn, Black’s bishop must protect the pawn to allow ... Nd7 to be played) 12 0-0 Nd7 13
Nd5, but then 13 ... Rc8 just transposes to the 10 Nd5 variation discussed above.

Exercise: Find the move that allows Black to play actively on the queenside
dark squares.

Answer: 11 ... a5!


Threatening to push ... a4. This is an actual threat since White’s b3-knight cannot retreat to the d2-
square due to his having just played 11 Qd2. If White stops this threat by playing a4 (as he does), then
the b4-square is weakened.
If you prefer sticking to a slightly more standard set-up, then 11 ... Be7 12 0-0-0 Nd7 is absolutely
fine. C.Ali Marandi-Z.Andriasian, Minsk 2017, continued 13 Nd5 Bxd5 14 exd5 Rc8 and Black’s plan
should be simply to play ... Nb6 and ... Nc4, followed by pushing the b- and a-pawns.
12 a4
The newly weakened b4-square has two important consequences:
1) It may give Black’s b8-knight a useful outpost in the near future.
2) If Black ever plays ... Bxb3, White will have a backward pawn after recapturing.
Alternatively, 12 Bb5 temporarily prevents ... a4 while not weakening the b4-square, but after 12 ...
Na6 13 0-0-0 Qb6! 14 Kb1 (14 Qxd6? Qxf2 gives Black a clear edge) 14 ... Rfd8, Black has securely
protected the d6-pawn and is ready to play ... Nc7, driving away White’s b5-bishop.
12 ... Na6 13 Bh3!

Question: What is the point of this move and why is it good?

Answer: 13 Bh3 acts to immediately eliminate Black’s strong light-squared bishop. Without this
bishop, Black’s light squares (mainly d5 and b5) will be weakened.
13 0-0-0!? decides to castle before playing Bh3, leaving Black’s e6-bishop intact. Thus, Black
should play 13 ... Qb6!, creating heavy pressure on the b3-knight. White’s best option is to block
Black’s e6-bishop with 14 Nd5, but after 14 ... Bxd5 15 exd5 e4! Black is comfortable since his f6-
bishop is very strong along the long diagonal.
13 ... Bxh3
From a purely positional standpoint, Black shouldn’t want to exchange light-squared bishops.
However, this move is concretely justified due to Black’s ingenious 15th move.
13 ... Bxb3 is a good alternative if you’re not comfortable with going into the pawn sacrifice line as
seen later in the main game. The point of this move is that it will be difficult for White to defend the
d4-square without his b3-knight and a pawn on the c-file. After 14 cxb3 Nc5, Black’s knight is
attacking White’s e4- and b3-pawns and is preparing to move to e6 (where it can jump to d4). White
can solve all these problems with 15 Qd5!, but after 15 ... Qb6! 16 Ra3 (16 Nb5 leaves the e4-pawn
underprotected, allowing 16 ... Qc6!) 16 ... g6 17 0-0 Bg7 18 Rd1 (18 Nb5 is again well met with 18 ...
Qc6) 18 ... Qb4! the game is level. Black’s queen and knight do a good job in pressuring White’s e4-
and b3-pawns, keeping many of his pieces occupied in defence. From this point, Black should secure
the d6-pawn’s safety with ... Rad8 and then attempt to accomplish one of the following:
1) Playing ... Ne6. This will obviously require more reinforcements to control the e6-square due to
White’s bishop and queen.
2) Open up a second front on the kingside with a ... f5 push.
14 Rxh3 Nb4 15 0-0-0

Exercise: Find the way for Black to generate a powerful attack against
White’s king.

Answer: 15 ... b5!


A very strong move that exploits a number of subtle faults in White’s position. Specifically:
1) The hanging h3-rook.
2) The c2-pawn, which is only protected by White’s queen and king.
3) The e4-pawn, which will be undefended if White’s c3-knight moves away.
It should be noted that if Black doesn’t play 15 ... b5, he is just worse since White dominates the
light squares.
16 Nxb5!
This is the best chance since Black’s b5-pawn is far more dangerous than his backward d6-pawn.
Instead:
a) 16 axb5? a4 drives White’s knight back to the awful a1-square, giving Black a big advantage.
b) 16 Qxd6 Qc8 17 Rhh1 bxa4 (exploiting the fact that the c3-knight cannot move since this would
allow ... Qxc2 mate) 18 Nc5 a3! 19 bxa3 Rd8 20 Qb6 Nc6 is balanced if White is accurate but seems
more pleasant to play as Black. White’s knights are tactical targets and his a3-pawn is very loose
(especially if Black’s bishop were to x-ray it with ... Be7). White’s king also lacks proper shelter and
Black may be able to generate good play along the b- and c-files. It is true that White has an extra pawn
on c2, but at the moment all it’s good for is sheltering the white king.
16 ... Qd7!
Connecting the rooks with tempo, preparing possibly to attack White’s e4-pawn with ... Qg4, and x-
raying the a4-pawn.
17 Rdh1?
Now both of White’s rooks are out of the game, giving Black a tremendous initiative in the centre
and on the queenside.
17 Rhh1! is necessary, bringing the rook back into the game along the first rank. Now Black should
play 17 ... Rac8!, pressuring the c2-pawn.

It is important that Black moves this rook to c8, since in some lines the f8-rook needs to move to d8
in order to push ... d5. Now:
a) 18 c3? runs into 18 ... Qe6 19 Nxa5 Qa2 20 Qe2 d5! 21 exd5 Qxa4 22 Nb7 e4!, when Black’s
queen, knight, bishop, and c8-rook have very active play against White’s king, giving Black a
dangerous edge.
b) 18 Nc3 tries to use the knight to block Black’s c8-rook, defend the a4-pawn, and control the d5-
square. However, the knight has too many duties, a fact that Black can exploit with 18 ... d5!, and after
19 Nxd5 (19 exd5? e4 20 Kb1 Rxc3! 21 bxc3 Qxa4 22 cxb4 axb4 is winning for Black; the combined
force of his queen, bishop, and rook – soon to be on a8 – is too strong for White to handle) 19 ... Nxd5
20 exd5 (20 Qxd5 Qxa4 21 Rd3 Qb4 22 Qxa5 Qxe4 is dynamically balanced) 20 ... Qxa4 21 Kb1 Qd7
Black is ready to play ... a4, chasing White’s knight away and exposing the b2-pawn. Black’s major
pieces will then be able to create huge pressure along the b-file, while Black’s bishop can be liberated
at any moment with ... e4. These plans give Black at least enough compensation for the pawn. Note that
White could play 22 Qxa5, but 22 ... Ra8 23 Qb4 Qa7 sees Black’s queen ready to play ... Qa2+ at the
right moment, while targeting White’s vulnerable f2-pawn.

c) 18 Na1 opens the door to the a2-square and Black should waste no time acting on this with 18 ...
Qe6! 19 Qe3 (19 b3?! Rfd8 20 Qe2 d5 21 exd5 Nxd5 gives Black’s pieces good play and his bishop is
about to be activated after ... e4; this compensation makes up for the pawn, and Black has the
advantage) 19 ... Qa2, and after 20 Qa3 Qc4 21 Nxd6 (21 Qb3 Qxb3 22 Nxb3 Rxc2+ 23 Kb1 d5! is
balanced) 21 ... Nxc2 22 Qc3 Qe6 23 Nxc8 Rxc8 24 Rd6 Qe8 25 Qxc8 Qxc8 26 Nxc2 Qc4! Black is
about to win the e4- or a4-pawn, leading to a level game. The player who is able to use their minor
piece more effectively will be an important factor from this point onwards.
17 ... Rac8

Question: What is the advantage of developing this rook to c8, as opposed


to the f8-rook?

Answer: It leaves the option open of moving the f8-rook to d8, where it could support the key ... d5
break. This idea was also seen in the 17 Rhh1 variation above.
18 c3?!
Leaving the e4-pawn unprotected and weakening the d3-square. Black takes advantage of this over
the next few moves.
Alternatives are:
a) 18 Nc3 was best, but on 18 ... d5 19 exd5 e4 Black’s pieces are conducting a coordinated attack
on White’s queenside and Black has an edge.
b) 18 Na1? leaves White’s forces thinly spread (rooks on one side, knights on the other). Black
should capitalize on this by breaking through in the centre with 18 ... Rfd8! 19 Qe2 d5, gaining a
position that could already be considered winning.
18 ... Qg4!
18 ... Qe6?! doesn’t work as well here since the d1-square is empty, allowing White to protect the
b3-knight with 19 Qd1.
19 Na1?!
Aiming to reactivate the knight by moving it to c2, but not doing anything to stop Black’s queen
from getting closer to the white king. Black finishes the rest of the game with precision. Instead:
a) 19 Nxd6?! Rfd8 leaves White’s knight in serious trouble.
b) 19 f3! was a trickier attempt, diverting Black’s queen from g4 (where it protected the c8-rook).
However, following 19 ... Qxf3 20 Nxd6 Na2+! 21 Kb1 Nxc3+ 22 bxc3 Rxc3 23 g4 Rxb3+ 24 Kc2
Qxh3 25 Rxh3 Rxh3, Black is up material and White’s king and knight are nice targets for Black’s
rooks. These two factors give Black a decisive advantage.
19 ... Qxe4 20 Nc2 Nd3+ 21 Kb1 Nxb2
21 ... Rb8 was also good, with the idea that, when Black captures the a4-pawn, White’s knight will
be under heavy fire.
22 Kxb2 Qxa4 23 Nca3 Rc5 24 Rb1 Rxb5+ 25 Nxb5 Qxb5+ 26 Ka1 Qc4 27 Qxd6
Accelerating the end, but there wasn’t much else White could do.
27 ... Qa4+ 28 Kb2 Rd8 0-1
Before the 11th move of this game, the two most important variations to study are 9 Qd2 and 10
Nd5. The former can lead to an English Attack type position that entails a fairly long line when Black
expands on the queenside. The latter variation isn’t theoretically dense, but it’s useful to see how Black
can remove White’s d5-knight.
After the game’s 11 Qd2, the plan with 11 ... a5 and 15 ... b5 works very well. Black gets good play
for the pawn, and White must be accurate in order to hold the balance. Of course, Black must also
know what he’s doing, so make sure to review the analysis after 15 ... b5 (especially the 17 Rhh1
variation, since that’s where White could have improved in the game). If you dislike sacrificing the b-
pawn, then the time to deviate is either on the 11th move with 11 ... Be7 or on the 13th move with 13 ...
Bxb3.
Index of Complete Games
Aharon.O-Volokitin.A, European Championship, Yerevan 2014
Ali.M-Sasikiran.K, Asian Indoor Games, Ashgabat 2017
Anand.V-Giri.A, London Chess Classic 2016
Antipov.M-Ragger.M, European Championship, Gjakova 2016
Areshchenko.A-Dominguez Perez.L, European Club Cup, Eilat 2012
Bartel.M-Swiercz.D, Polish Championship, Poznan 2016
Bilguun.S-Sandipan.C, Chengdu 2017
Caruana.F-Gelfand.B, FIDE Grand Prix, Baku 2014
Contreras.H-Yu Yangyi, Millionaire Open, Las Vegas 2015
Demchenko.A-Areshchenko.A, FIDE World Cup, Tbilisi 2017
Efimenko.Z-Kovchan.A, Ukrainian Championship, Rivne 2016
Escobar Forero.A-Shirov.A, Leon (rapid) 2008
Gabrielian.A-Dominguez Perez.L, Russian Team Championship 2013
Gomez.J.P-Khairullin.I, World Junior Championships, Yerevan 2006
Groetz.H-Vyskocil.N, Austrian League 2008
Hjartarson.J-Vidit.S, Reykjavik 2017
Inarkiev.E-Vachier-Lagrave.M, German League 2017
Jakovenko.D-Sarana.A, European Championship, Batumi 2018
Kantans.T-Van Wely.L, Tal Memorial (rapid), Jurmala 2017
Karjakin.S-Vachier-Lagrave.M, Stavanger 2017
Kasimdzhanov.R-Gelfand.B, FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent 2014
Leko.P-Topalov.V, Wijk aan Zee 2008
Lupulescu.C-Wojtaszek.R, European Championship, Gjakova 2016
Makoli.P-Shirov.A, European Club Cup, Kemer 2007
Mazur.S-Martinovic.S, Slovak Team Championship 2018
Naiditsch.A-Carlsen.M, GRENKE Classic, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018
Naumann.A-Areshchenko.A, European Club Cup, Halkidiki 2002
Onischuk.V-Vachier-Lagrave.M, Bastia (rapid) 2016
Perez Ponsa.F-Mareco.S, Villa Martelli 2017
Perunovic.M-Areshchenko.A, Hungarian Team Championship 2017
Pichot.A-Salem.A, Gibraltar 2015
Ponkratov.P-Kokarev.D, Voronezh 2010
Shirov.A-Volokitin.A, European Club Cup, Eilat 2012
Sidorenko.I-Rodshtein.M, European Club Cup, Novi Sad 2016
Stupavski.Z-Palac.M, Zadar 2007
Tari.A-Ding Liren, European Club Cup, Antalya 2017
Tiviakov.S-Smeets.J, Dutch Championship, Hilversum 2008
Urkedal.F-Shankland.S, Baku Olympiad 2016
Wan Yunguo-Cheparinov.I, Chinese Team Championship 2018
Zherebukh.Y-Xiong.J, St. Louis 2018
Zivkovic.S-Todorovic.G, Belgrade 2008
Zvara.P-Swiercz.D, Czech League 2013