In Gufeld's book, after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5!,

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5!

he writes: "In this way White solves three problems: he prevents ...e5, " but he shows nothing to support the statement. Why is ...e5 so bad for black? Gerard

  • I was about to ask this question myself. There are so many systems in the Open Sicilian where Black plays e7-e5 allowing the occupation of d5 and also the doubling of pawns f7,f6 and is still OK. My books don't cover this subject. I have been living with this question for 25 years now. It was asked here two years ago but received no satisfactory answer. May 26, 2016 at 12:13
  • Could someone please specify which one of Gufeld's books is Gerard referring to?
    – Zvonimir
    May 26, 2016 at 14:02
  • I was able to get my hands on a more up to date book on the Sicilian. To keep this comment short: all of the conclusions from my answer stand. White will have tremendous initiative thanks to his development advantage, strong grip on the light squares and opposite colored bishops. Also please notice that Black will have problems finding the safe place for his king. May 26, 2016 at 14:55
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  • But Black should answer 7.Bxf6 with 7...gxf6 rather than capturing with the queen and hope for a good version of the Sveshnikov situation. May 28, 2016 at 13:58

4 Answers 4


The lines presented below are from the Chess Informant ECO 1984, but I doubt the assessments have changed since:

[fen ""]
[White "Sicilian defense"]
[Black "Najdorf variation"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e5?! 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 ( 7...gxf6 8.Nf5! Bxf5 9.exf5+/- ) 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nf5 Bxf5 ( 9...Be6 10.Bc4 Nd7 11.O-O Rc8 12.Bb3 Nc5 13.Qf3 Nxb3 14.Qxb3 Rc5 15.Rad1 Rb5 16.Qg3!+/- ) 10.exf5 Be7 11.c4+/- 

Although my edition of the ECO is old, I doubt anything has changed here.

In the main line Black has no counter-play-his only plan of attack-b5 is useless as White will take with the bishop thus eliminating every Black's counter-play.

White has strong grip on the light squares, and presence of the bishops of the opposite color increases his advantage-remember this rule:

Presence of the opposite colored bishops favors the side with the initiative. Although they may end up as a draw in the endgame, in the middle-game side that has an attack usually wins.

In the first sideline, Black tried to generate some counter-play with f5 but White's Qh5 keeps advantage. If Black continues with passive play then White keeps advantage due to the initiative and presence of the opposite colored bishops.

Black's last sideline features Be6 trying to ignore Whites plan, but we see that White develops strong pressure again.

I am not an 1.e4 player, so I was unable to find more concrete lines but these illustrate well enough why e5 is dubious move for Black. If you need better coverage then try to find some repertoire books-at this point I can not recommend any.

Best regards.


In comments, it was suggested that 7...gxf6 is playable, by applying the ideas from the Sveshnikov sicilian.

I am not an e4 player but let me try to explain why the above is not true.

First, let us see what the actual plans behind the Sveshnikov are. In order to preserve space and provide minimal yet sufficient info, I will quote Wikipedia article:

8...b5! was Sveshnikov's innovation, controlling c4 and threatening ...b4 forking White's knights. Previously, Black played 8...Be6 (the Bird Variation), which allowed the a3-knight to return to life with 9.Nc4.

These are the compensations Black gets, which are important to mention here, that eventually help him equalize:

White's powerful knight on d5 and Black's shattered kingside pawn structure are compensated by Black's bishop pair and White's offside knight on a3. Also, Black has the plan of playing 10...f5, followed by ...fxe4 and ...f5 with the second f-pawn, which would give them good control of the centre. An alternative plan is to play 10...Bg7 followed by ...Ne7 to immediately trade off White's powerful knight;

OK, this is enough for us to see why the line in the OP is bad for Black. Before we continue let us do a quick summary for the Sveshnikov:

  • White has horrible knight on a3 that Black harrasses with ...b5. This move prevents Nc4 and Bc4, indirectly fighting for the light squares and giving Black time to finish development/organize counterplay, since White is forced to reposition Na3 to a better square (not to mention Black threatens to win a piece by forking the knights with ...b4).
  • Black has bishop pair, which is good asset for the endgame
  • Black can destroy White center and establish himself there, with moves ...f5 + fxe4 + f5
[Title "Black to move"]
[StartFlipped "0"]
[fen "rn1qkb1r/1p3p1p/p2p1p2/4pP2/8/2N5/PPP2PPP/R2QKB1R b KQkq - 0 1"]

In the above position the only thing identical to the Sveshnikov is the Black pawn structure with everything else different, and that matters as we shall see!

  • White has no Na3 which means that thematic ...b5 simply wastes a tempo and has no real strength as in Sveshnikov.
  • Without Na3 and ...b5, White really has no coordination problems (no fork threats, all of white pieces are idealy placed) as in Sveshnikov, which makes his development and slight space advantage more dangerous.
  • Black has no way to establish central dominance as in Sveshnikov, because ...f5 + fxe4 + f5 plan is stopped by White pawn on f5
  • Black has no bishop pair, as in Sveshnikov
  • Black can not play d5, because he is late with ...Nc6 + Ne7, which leaves Bf8 passive since d6 + e5 chain is hindering him
  • Black will have problems finding safe place for the king
  • Black queenside play with ...b5 + Rc8 is weak, it lacks the effect it has in other lines of the Sicilian
  • White has no weaknesses, apart from f5 pawn, which can be sacrificed in some lines but also easily defended as well

White can find an effective plan here, simple computer analysis will do. I have no access to an engine here, but I believe that g3 + Bg2 plan is very strong here. White can attack everywhere. Any minor piece duel is advantageous for White ( Nc3 vs Bf8, Bf1 vs Bf8 if heavy pieces stay on the board which is very likely, Bf1 vs Nb8, even Nc3 vs Nb8). White also has advantage in heavy pieces only middlegames. White has better pawn structure and faster development.

Meanwhile, Black's only good piece could be Nb8, because it can swiftly go to d4. Still, White can consider exchange sacrifice and still end up better! Black really has nothing to attack, nor we can envision any plan that achieves any meaningful, long-term counterplay.

To conclude, after ...gxf6 Black gets worse version of the Sveshnikov, painful "fight-for-a-draw" position without any counterplay.

  • Why not capture with the pawn on f6 and play something like the Sveshnikov variation? There should be an easy argument which compares the two systems and shows that it is better for White to have the knight on b3 rather than on a3 as usual in this kind of position. Barring that the question needs a more concrete answer. May 28, 2016 at 14:01
  • @user3456: I am not an e4 player, can you provide a link to the line you have in mind? I need concrete position so I can compare it with the one from the OP in order to improve on my existing answer... May 28, 2016 at 14:44
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    My ECO is really old, it seems that 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e5 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8.Nf5! Bxf5 9.exf5 with g3 + Bg2 plan is stronger. I have looked through the moves for Black in online database and found no satisfying continuation. Black simply has no counterplay here, it is hard to find a plan... After 8.Nf5! your problems are not gone: you still have no development, you are horribly weak on light squares, you have no safe place for the king and White has no weaknesses that you can attack. May 29, 2016 at 9:34
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    @user3456: I think I finally get where your problem lies: you think Black can get a good version of the Sveshnikov, but simply isn't true. See my updated answer why I think you actually get worse line of the Sveshnikov! I hope it will help! Jun 1, 2016 at 12:02
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    In your main line I'm not so sure about 11.c4: It's never been played in practice; and our prime advantage in this position is the good light-square bishop vs. the bad dark-square one, but this c-pawn interferes with our own bishop. I guess the point of the move is to slow down ...b5 , but that's not a dangerous move anyway in this particular position. In practice, 11.g3 seemed good, placing the bishop on a strong diagonal, so that if Black plays Nd7-f6 , we replace the strong knight with a strong bishop.
    – M.M
    Jun 10, 2016 at 4:48

After Bg5 in the najdorf variation playing e5 would leave black with huge problems in the d5 square, white is ready to take on f6 with his bishop and ocuppy the d5 outpost with a knight or even take advantage of f7 weak spot by playing Bc4


Let's look at the position after

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e5

The downside of e7-e5 is that black loses control over the d5 square (e7-e6 is no longer possible). The upside is that black gets a strong control over the e5 and d4-squares. There are lines where black plays e7-e5 and follows up with h7-h6 to stop the white bishop from going to g5. The reason is because the Bg5 pins the Nf6 to the Qd8 and therefore weakens blacks control over the d5-square (the Nf6 is a vital piece for black in order to control the d5-square).

From the position above, whites plan is to build up a strong control over the d5-square, most probably play Nc3-d5, perhaps followed by c2-c4 and build up the rooks on the c-file. For example

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Nd5 Nbd7 9.f3 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bf2 Nxd5 12.exd5 Bf5 13.c4

Where white should get a nice control over the light squares after exchanging off blacks light squared bishop with Bf1-d3. Also, white has the thematic pawn break h2-h4xg5 to open the h-file. As well as the Nb3-d2-e4 maneuver.

  • 2
    Being an 1.e4 player, I believe you know theory better than I do for this line so I ask you this: Why is Black in a bad position after 8...Bxd5!? in your second diagram? I believe it is playable for Black, meaning he has equal chances. What am I not seeing? What is wrong with my assessment? Thank you. Best regards. Feb 4, 2014 at 6:05
  • 1
    @AlwaysLearningNewStuff After 8...Bxd5 9.exd5, white will get a nice control over the light squares (d5, c6, e6 and g4). Black will surely have no problem to complete the development with e.g. Be7, O-O and Nbd7. Yet, black has to show a more dynamic plan in order to disturb whites strong control in the center. Perhaps black should try an early h6 and kick the bishop on g5, followed by Ne4 and f7-f5. Yet, this does not seem to work right away, and delaying it risks that white has enough time to control the center even better. So I suspect that white will have a slight advantage. Feb 4, 2014 at 14:44

That author sounds like an idiot (unless it was a very old book, of course), because e5 is not a 'problem' in the sicilian najdorf. e6 is equally good to e5 in all positional najdorf systems whether white plays Be2 or Be3 or whatever.

In fact, I believe e6 is better against the English attack. It was kasparov's favorite, and my Komodo 10 fell in love with it too, scoring +0.09 and stuff for white.

The reason it prevents e5 has been answered very well already; it allows the knights to jump into d5 and f5, and black can never push for d5, which is a critical resource against Nf5 in the classical variation of the Najdorf.

The only time black wants to play e5 instead of e6 is in the classical Be2 variation (though black can play e5 with a good position in all systems except Bg5 and Bc4).

For the author to give Bg5 an exclam is outdated and/or absurd. Be3 or even just Be2 is clearly a better system for white against the Najdorf. In fact, I factually believe that Bg5 equalizes for black.

Theres the poisoned pawn variation which is very sharp and is proven to draw with perfect play for both sides.

Then there's the 7...Be7 variation which plays for a win but some very very deep lines get to a double edged, sound, and equal endgame where black has a queen and a rook and a bishop or something, while white has 2 rooks, 2 minors, and an extra pawn. It's considered equal.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Najdorf's original idea in 5...a6 was to prepare 6...e5; and against 6. Be2, the strongest GMs all play 6...e5. While 6...e6 is perfectly fine, I think your answer is a bit biased by personal preference.
    – M.M
    Jun 10, 2016 at 4:54
  • 1
    The Poisoned Pawn is not "proven to draw", it's still very active theoretically in correspondence.
    – M.M
    Jun 10, 2016 at 4:55

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