As title above, is the Poisoned Pawn variation of the Najdorf considered some sort of refutation of 6.Bg5, and the reason why 6.Bg5 is rarely seen at top level these days?

  • The basic answer is no, it is not considered a refutation, and I don't know that I agree with the comment that it is rarely seen at the top -- Caruana vs Nakamura just played it. It may not be the trend to play Bg5 because Be3 had great success! It is just a trend thing, lately they played with h3, and now they are copying Carlsens Knight retreat to f3 instead of b3 after e5...
    – Ywapom
    Oct 21, 2017 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


The problem with Bg5 is mainly that black will usually be better prepared than white in the messy poisoned pawn. He either doesn't play it or he knows it. On the other hand imagine Be3. There black is quite predictable as not following the main lines is too dangerous. White has a lot of good systems to try so he has much easier life. Objective quality is not that important part of decision process what to play as Be3 Najdorf, Bg5 Najdorf as well as Queen's Indian end virtually always in draw in correspondence games. To me Be3 Najdorf seems so unpractical for black that I would prefer dragon, Sveshnikov or classical over it. Knowing that with white, who would try so hardly to get the Bg5 mess against well prepared opponent?

  • Yea, back in the '80s it seemed (at least from the books) that 6. Bg5 was the only real attempt at fighting for an advantage in the opening in the Najdorf (I won't call it "refuting") but it seems that things have changed since then Oct 21, 2017 at 6:57
  • I don't see why 6.Bg5 automatically implies that "black will usually be better prepared than white": if you study an opening than you are better prepared, if you don't than you aren't, be it the poisoned pawn, the English attack or any other line.
    – gented
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:37
  • @GennaroTedesco It's not automatically. It's just my opinion. Why better preparation is not that easy? Imagine game where you have only one good move always while your opponent has always two good moves. You must be very well prepared against plenty of lines not to get into big problems with white immediately in Bg5. If somebody goes for bungee jump, he's probably quite prepared for that. And here that's black.
    – hoacin
    Oct 22, 2017 at 6:11

The poisoned pawn

It is somehow true that the 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxd2 has been extensively looked at and thoroughly studied, with the conclusion that at best play White cannot get a significative advantage out of the opening within, say, the first 20 moves; although this does not necessarily mean that no further resources for White can be found, probably White players at high level moved to other openings where it is more clear that White stands at least slightly better in the opening. An example of possible theoretical continuations for the Poisoned pawn may be:

[fen "rnb1kb1r/1p3ppp/pq1ppn2/6B1/3NPP2/2N5/PPPQ2PP/R3KB1R b KQkq - 0 1"]

1... Qxb2 2. Rb1 (2. Nb3 Qa3 3. Bxf6 gxf6 4. Be2 Nc6 5. f5) 2... Qa3 { White has three pieces already developed in the centre. } 3. f5 { the main line } (3. Rb3 Qa5 (3... Qc5? 4. Bxf6 gxf6 5. Nd5))  (3. e5 dxe5 4. fxe5 Nfd7 (4... h6 5. Bh4 Nfd7) 5. Ne4 h6 6. Bb5!? hxg5 (6... axb5 7. Nxb5 hxg5 (7... Qxa2 8. Nc7#) 8. Nxa3 Rxa3) 7. Rb3 Qxa2 8. Qc3) 3... Nc6 4. fxe6 fxe6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 (6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Rb3 Qc5+ (8... Qa5? 9. Nd5 Qd8) 9. Be3 Qe5 10. Bd4 Qa5) 6... dxe5 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4 (8. Be2? { "...the whole point of Black's strategy is to prevent Black's Queen returning to the centre and this is much more important than forcing Black's King to move" (J. Nunn) } 8... Qd6 9. Qe3 Qc5! 10. Bh5+ Kd7 11. Qd3+ Kc7 12. Ne4 Qd4 13. Qxd4 exd4 14. Nxf6 Be7 $17) 8... Qxa2 (8... Be7 9. Be2 h5 { to avoid Bh5+ } 10. Rb3 (10. Bf3 Ra7 11. Rb8 Rc7) 10... Qa4 11. Nxf6+ Bxf6 12. c4 Bh4+ 13. g3 Be7 14. O-O) 9. Nxf6+ Kf7 10. Rd1 Qb2 { preparing Bb4 } (10... Kxf6? 11. Bd3 { with a super dangerous attack }) 11. Ne4 Bb4 12. c3 Qxd2+ 13. Rxd2 Be7 *

which can be found in John Nunn: The Complete Najdorf 6.Bg5

This said, Georgiev-Kolev show that there was one game (see below) where White did make some progress in the above lines, in particular

[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[Event "II Rapid"]
[Site "Canada de Calatrava ESP"]
[Date "2007.04.07"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Shirov,A"]
[Black "Guliyev,N"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2715"]
[BlackElo "2545"]
[ECO "B97"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nfd7 13.Ne4 Qxa2 14.Rd1 Qd5 15.Qe3 Qxe5 16.Be2 Bc5 17.Bg3 Bxd4 18.Rxd4 Qa5+ 19.Rd2 O-O 20.Bd6 Nc6 21.O-O f5 22.Bxf8 Nxf8 23.Nd6 b5 24.Bf3 Bd7 25.Nxf5 exf5 26.Rxd7 Nxd7 27.Bxc6 Rd8 28.Bxd7 1-0

and according to their analysis the position after 21. 0-0! gives White the upper edge.

Poisoned pawn declined

Given the above, Black can refute the poisoned pawn by playing 8...Nc6, that can be followed by either 9. 0-0-0 (allowing the trade of Queens) or else by, say, 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nb3, and play continues with Black trying to make use of the central dark squares left weak by the absence of White dark-squared Bishop.

Every other move except 8.Qd2

White must not necessarily go into the poisoned pawn variation after having played 6.Bg5 and can as well choose to deviate themselves with 8.a3, 8.Nb3, 8.Qd3 (other moves are considered inferior by the theory), each of which turns the game into a completely different fashion again.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.