Games: Chess

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Devotees of the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence have been having a miserable time recently. This is not because of any particularly venomous new anti-Najdorf weapon, but because of the increasing popularity of systems that sidestep the variation entirely.

During the world championship, Anand and others had great success as White by adopting lines that avoided the usual 3.d4 after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6. Anand several times continued 3.c3 Nf6 4.Be2 g6 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Bb5+, followed by Re1 and d4, while the more direct 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0-0 Nf6 6.Re1 also secured good results. The idea in both cases is to play c3 and d4, but only initiating the plan when White is ready to defend his e-pawn with Re1. Neither system is as overtly aggressive as 3.d4, but they have the advantage of forcing Najdorf worshippers away from their home ground.

The following game from Hastings shows another successful experiment in side-stepping the Najdorf. White's 3.Qxd4 has the disadvantage of exposing White's queen to attack, which leads to White's having to exchange bishop for knight, but in compensation, he is able to set up a central bind with 7.c4 that Black never succeeded in breaking.

Black's 12...Ng4?! turned out badly after White avoided all tactical tricks with the careful 13.Qd2. The knight had to return home to f6, and White's grip on the game increased. Towards the end, as all of Black's pieces became tied to the defence of d6, he was slowly squeezed until he practically ran out of moves.

White: Edouard Rozentalis

Black: Igor Rausis

Hastings 1997-98

1 e4 c5 20 Bb2 Ne8

2 Nf3 d6 21 Rac1 Bh6

3 d4 cxd4 22 Rb1 Bg7

4 Qxd4 Nc6 23 Na4 Rxb5

5 Bb5 Bd7 24 Ba3 Bf8

6 Bxc6 Bxc6 25 Rbc1 f5

7 c4 Nf6 26 Rc6 Be7

8 Nc3 g6 27 Nb2 Rb6

9 0-0 Bg7 28 Rc2 Kf7

10 Qd3 0-0 29 Nc4 Rc6

11 Nd4 Qb6 30 Rcd2 Rd8

12 Rd1 Ng4 31 Bb4 Kf8

13 Qd2 e6 32 a3 Ra6

14 b3 Nf6 33 g4 fxe4

15 Nxc6 Qxc6 34 fxe4 Kg7

16 f3 b5 35 Rd3 Rc6

17 cxb5 Qc5+ 36 e5 Rd7

18 Qe3 Rfc8 37 exd6 Bf6

19 Qxc5 Rxc5 38 g5 resigns