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So in the last 2 or 3 games I've played, I've used the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian. It's worked alright in the games, and I was wondering if you guys have any tips that I could use to improve my effectiveness with the Sicilian.

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    You should post a couple of the games for review, or have a program analyze them to see if you're making any tactical errors, or if the problem is elsewhere. – Herb Wolfe Nov 13 '16 at 2:43
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Two or three games is very little to say much. You will not even have encountered all of the main lines after ....a6. Generally the Najdorf Sicilian is rather tactical and opening mistakes can quickly lead to a loss. In some lines white has a very straightforward plan of pushing its h and g pawns and checkmating black.

Practising tactics and studying the opening thoroughly is essential. For more useful advice it would help to know your playing strength and to see one of your games

  • "In some lines white has a very straightforward plan of pushing its h and g pawns and checkmating black." that is a bit too much, I would say. Perhaps you refer to the Amsterdam variation 6. f4-e5 7. g4 ? – gented Nov 13 '16 at 18:24
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    I was thinking of the English attack (6. Be3 ... 7. f3) which can get quite dangerous if black doesn't know how to respond to it. – user1583209 Nov 13 '16 at 22:55
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My tip would be to study the games of the best specialists of the Najdorf, notably Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov in old times, or Maxime Vachier-Lagrave today. You will improve fast your effectiveness with the Sicilian.

ChessGames.com offers a collection of classical Najdorf games. But I will go for the best: Garry Kasparov on How to play the Najdorf. Brilliant!

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With the Najdorf, there are A LOT of ideas available to both players. Just after 5.. a6, White has a number of main lines: 6. Be2, Bc4, Be3, Bg5, f4, g3, Rg1, just to name a few.

The important thing to learn is the themes within the opening itself. What is Black trying to achieve, and what is White trying to achieve? Black aims for a Queenside advance of his a and b pawns (called a Minority attack). A common weakness for White is the c-file, so aiming to place a Rook on c8 is very nice.

However, it is important to understand the weaknesses in your own setup. Your d-pawn will be very weak, and you will be aiming to create a breakthrough with d5 as soon as possible in order to trade it. Common ways you can support this advance include

  • Bb7 (after playing b5)
  • Nbd7-b6 (not always. You might want Nc5 for your Minority attack.),
  • Nf6 (if it is never booted from this square).
  • Qd8 (on it's home square)

Remember, in the Najdorf it is Black who has the solid centre with the 2 centre pawns, but you need to flank around the Queenside in order to prove this.

Of course, the best way to practice this is by playing different lines each game! I've never been a fan of memorising opening theory because it makes the game less fun. Many of the ideas are still shared in each setup, but the exact circumstances change. Most of the time, you will still be aiming for a Minority attack, a semi-open c-file, d5-pawn break against the e4-pawn and trying to prove your strong centre makes up for your slower development.

Best of luck :)

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Experiment with it. I would recommend, ironically, to not study it or analyze to games. You have to see its strengths and weaknesses for yourself, so that then later you can appreciate ideas ad maneuvers. To me initially every move in Sicilian was arbitrary. "Why N goes to d7 here but to c6 there?! When do I ply b5 and put my bishop on b7, and when it lives on d7?" I have started to play it in my online games and I am beginning to see things!

So, be bold and accept catastrophes, and you'll be weathered soon :)

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