I played this game recently at a tournament, and lost pretty decisively. I thought about it a bit, and I think it's representative of something that happens somewhat often in my games when I play the Najdorf: I get really cramped and white launches a successful Kingside attack.

More concretely:

  1. Is my assessment correct - that misplaying the Najdorf and not creating enough space led to my loss?
  2. Are there any particular moves that stand out as blunders?
  3. How could I have played this differently?

Game as follows:

[fen ""]
1. e4 c5 
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Be3 e6 {I don't know any theory past this point.}
7. f3 Be7 
8. Qd2 Bd7 {Premonitions of a Kingside attack, but I feel safe at the moment}
9. Bc4 O-O
10. O-O-O Ne8 {I was trying to launch a Kingside attack myself, and get my knight to a better square eventually}
11. g4 Nc7
12. h4 Bxh4 {Maybe I was too greedy here - it ended up allowing him to clear out some clutter and really get his pieces working together}
13. g5 Bg3
14. f4 e5
15. Nf5 Bxf5
16. exf5 exf4
17. Bxf4 Bxf4
18. Qxf4 Re8
19. g6 hxg6
20. fxg6 1-0

I resigned here.

  • 2
    Also Bd7 cramps yourself even further. A normal bishop development for this type of sicilian is b5 with tempo on c4 and Bb7.
    – Isac
    Sep 4, 2018 at 14:03
  • @Isac I never know what to do with my dark square bishop in the sicilian. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:23

6 Answers 6


Let's forget for a moment that it's a Najdorf.

You were cramped because you never gave yourself space. Instead, you spent a lot of time wandering around with your knight and bishop and opening lines against your own king. You didn't develop. You didn't counter-attack.

When White castled on the opposite side to you, they were making a simple declaration: I will checkmate you unless you checkmate me first. This is absolutely typical in the Najdorf and it requires Black to carefully balance counter-attack and defence. Attacking on the queenside usually requires ...b5 (kicking the bishop with tempo), ...b4 (kicking the knight with tempo) and ...Rc8 (aiming at the king).

There's a good lecture by Jonathan Schrantz at the St Louis Chess Club that covers a lot of the Najdorf-specific ideas. ...b5 and ...d5 are the big breaks that you need to try to get in.

  • 1
    Great answer, thanks. And I love those lectures by the SLCC. Will definitely give this one a thorough study. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:25

One of the main themes in the Najdorf is: White attacks on the King side and Black attacks on the Queen side. You never started you attack on the Queens side.

Here is an example of Kasparov game with successful Queen side attack.

[fen ""]
[Event "Linares"]
[Site "Linares ESP"]
[Date "2005.03.08"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "12"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Michael Adams"]
[Black "Garry Kasparov"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "52"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.Be2
Qc7 8.Qd2 b5 9.a3 Bb7 10.f3 Nc6 11.O-O-O b4 12.axb4 Nxb4 13.g4
Be7 14.g5 Nd7 15.h4 Nc5 16.Kb1 Rb8 17.h5 O-O 18.g6 Bf6 19.Rdg1
Ba8 20.Bg5 Be5 21.gxh7+ Kxh7 22.Nb3 Nxc2 23.Nxc5 Na3+ 24.Ka2
Qxc5 25.Na4 Nc2 26.Kb1 Qa3 0-1
  • Wow - what a game. Very instructive. And your bolded principle was completely unknown to me, but makes a lot of sense. Thanks. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:24

My observations. 12. ...Bxh4. The flood gate of h file is opened in opposite side castling. Knight on b8 is not activated. Unclear plan of ...Ne8 ...e5 looks weak as Bishop on c4 becomes very active. ...Re8 again looks week. ... hxg6 looks weak as the h file becomes open. ... h6 could have closed the file and cramped the position which becomes difficult for White to attack. Even when Rook is on f8, if for g6 Black can play h6 and if gxf7+ Black can play ...Kh8 and the position is still closed.

  • 4
    Yes, Bh4 is completely suicidal. Sep 3, 2018 at 10:43
  • Yep - at the time I hesitated briefly since it seemed dubious, but I couldn't work out the lines that showed how bad it was. In hindsight, it was a terrible move. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:28

My first thought is that "10...Ne8: I was trying to launch a Kingside attack myself, and get my knight to a better square eventually," is the key mistake. White has just castled Queenside and is very much in a better position on the Kingside (nevermind that you just had to reduce the activity of one of your pieces before you even began). Encouraging activity there is just asking for white to checkmate you quicker.

Instead, you want to be attacking on the Queenside to try and checkmate white first. The usual plan involves playing ...b5 and ...b4 (possibly getting tempo each time!) gaining space aimed at white's castled position. That space might look less useful because it's away from the centre, but your pieces will still feel freer because they can head towards a useful target and accomplish something. With a sensible development of the Queenside knight, your Queen developing on the Queenside (Qa5, maybe? There are some tactics associated with this that you have to watch out for but it's still a great place to have her) and bringing the Kingside rook to the c-file to assist as well, that'll bring enough force aimed at white's king to make white nervous and give you a good game.

This isn't a surefire win, of course, and it'll take a lot of practice games to get an intuition for how black's attack is supposed to develop. But you won't get that intuition from a game like yours where the Queenside attack never started at all.


I am by no means an expert on the Najdorf (my experience is entirely on the white side, and some time ago), but it looks like you lacked the urgency and dynamism that such a double-edged line requires, and didn't know what your plan should be (no, Black should not be attacking on the kingside after white plays O-O-O) or even how to inconvenience White at all.

A few moves jump out at me as being either inaccurate or outright wrong:

8...Bd7. Maybe theory knows better than me, but this looks like it just gets in the way on d7. That bishop wants to go on b7 if you ask me. I'd want d7 for the knight (which noticeably stays on b8 for the whole game).

10...Ne8. This is an odd move, and the strategic plan behind it is wrong - Black is never attacking on the kingside in this type of position. That knight is covering the d5 break and eyeing e4 (making it harder for white to throw the f-pawn up the board, which he later does with impunity). You shouldn't be moving it away until White's g-pawn gets rolling, and then d7 would be preferable to e8 (another reason not to put the bishop there).

And, as others have mentioned, 12...Bxh4 is a suicidal move that just opens up lines against your own king. The pawn is worthless - this is not a position for pawn-counting. Someone is getting checkmated before move 35.

Really, you needed to get some kind of counterplay on the queenside and centre, for instance, at some point pushing b5-b4 to kick the Nc3 away and playing ...d5. Black's central strike is often the antidote to white's kingside shenanigans in the open sicilian. You never played ...b5 at any point, even though the presence of a bishop on c4 makes it basically a free move.

I'm not sure what to suggest, really. Everything about this game suggests that the Najdorf is really not the opening you should be playing, and I'd recommend you take up 1.e4 e5 instead. At least, get a basic primer on the sicilian, such as "Mastering the Sicilian" by Danny Kopec. This covers the basic ideas in open sicilian positions without getting bogged down in theory.

And study some master games. The problem isn't that you played one or two wrong moves in this particular game, the problem is that you don't appear to understand at all how the Sicilian is played.

  • Sir, also I can recommend Sicilian Dragon where it is easy to understand the theory at each move. The player can do king side castling very early and slowly continue to the middle game with a fighting logical moves, developing moves without much errors. Sep 4, 2018 at 16:00
  • Thank you for the detailed answer - in fact your first paragraph pretty much nails it. Edit: and your last. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:31

Control of the center allows you to conduct your kingside attack easier. (Pick up Nimzowitsch's My System for examples.)

You're worried about a kingside attack but you never fought for the center.

6...e6? allows the knight to stay on d4, a central square. White's position is therefore easier (he threatens Nd4-Nf5.)

  • Thanks for the answer. I thought about 6...e6 a bit before playing it since as noted in the game, it's past my theory knowledge. In the past, I've played e5, but I thought it weakens d5 a bit. I'm not sure if that's valid though. Sep 5, 2018 at 12:30
  • 1
    @DerekAllums 6...e5 7.Nb3 Be6 and d5 is covered just fine. Sep 5, 2018 at 21:40
  • 1
    There is nothing wrong with 6...e6, and it is absolutely NOT a ? move. It is a normal theoretical move (transposing to the Scheveningen) that has been played hundreds of times by many strong grandmasters.
    – foiwofjwej
    Sep 6, 2018 at 15:35

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