Sicilian Taimanov: One Omission, One Correction

It has been about six weeks since the latest addition to our Grandmaster Repertoire series, The Sicilian Taimanov, by Antonios Pavlidis, was published. Since then, the great majority of feedback has been positive – but as with every book, we have become aware of a few imperfections. The purpose of this short blog post is to acknowledge those shortcomings to make readers fully aware of those areas which need patching up.

After the opening moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7, there are two ‘holes’ of which we are aware:

1) Firstly in the Fianchetto Variation (Chapter 8), after 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0–0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 10.Bf4 d6 11.Qd2 h6 12.Rad1 e5 13.Be3, Pavlidis offers a choice for Black:

First he covers the traditional 13…Be6, although he does mention on page 149 that it is not his preferred option – and it appears that his instinct was correct. The critical continuation is 14.Bxc5 dxc5 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Qd6 17.f4 0–0 18.fxe5 Qxe5 19.d6 Qxb2, and now the problem line is:


The much more common options of 20.c4 and 20.Rb1 are analysed on page 151. The text move is stronger though, and has scored 3½/4 so far according to my database.


20…Rfd8 21.Bh3 occurred in the stem game, Purgar – Puuska, Heraklion 2017. It seems better to keep a rook on f8 to help defend the kingside, but Black still has problems.


This has occurred in three games, with White’s most recent win coming in Idani – D. Nguyen, Xingtai 2019. Plenty of play remains, but the mighty pawn on d7 makes White the clear favourite. Another important point is that the Rxf6 exchange sacrifice could be nasty, in the event that Black’s queen takes a wrong step. The engine evaluation is unremarkable at this stage, but it shifts in White’s favour as you play more moves and increase the search depth.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix available. Obviously you are welcome to re-examine this whole line – maybe there is some earlier improvement that makes life easier for Black. But of course the ready-made solution is to abandon 13…Be6 in favour of 13…Bb4!? (page 155), which was the author’s preference anyway.

2) Secondly, thanks to “The Doctor” for pointing out on the blog that 6.Be3 a6 7.f4 is not mentioned in the book. 7.f4 is pretty rare compared to the main lines which have been covered – but still, with more than 600 games in the database, it should have been included. The authors and editors worked hard on this book and many things were added and expanded along the way, but we missed this one. A glance at the database indicates that 7…b5 is overwhelmingly the most popular choice among the highest-rated players, which serves as a strong hint. Beyond that, I won’t offer definitive recommendations against the different moves White might try: I’m no Taimanov expert and I’m too busy editing the next book to be able to spend time analysing such things. So if you feel you need to put together a repertoire against this line, I recommend doing your own research using a combination of database, engines and any other books and resources as you see fit.

28 thoughts on “Sicilian Taimanov: One Omission, One Correction”

  1. I remember when, a few years ago, I switched to the Taimanov because it was so flexible and black had so many choices against each of white systems… Now I see so many bottlenecks, may be its time to reconsider my repertoire as I like to be a moving target.
    But I’m still facinated by the book. 🙂

  2. diagram error page 360 section B1)10.g4
    white has already castle Q-side so white king should stand on c1 & Q-rook on d1.
    Black bishop should be on b4 instead of f8

    apart from a few imperfections already mentionned, it is a good book with lots of personnal work and comments from the author. Deep analysis on selected lines are great… but it must be complementd by other books/sources to get a better overall view of the whole Taimanov system.

  3. Don’t know if this is the right place to mention this, but I’ve been looking at the Scheveningen lines given in GM Rep 6 and The Cutting Edge Sicilian Najdorf 6 Be3.

    I would be a real shame if the new GM Rep 6b didn’t build on these lines and simply went over ground covered already in Thinkers Chess Sicilian Najdorf nd Everyman’s Opening Repertoire The Sicilian Najdorf.

    I think that GM Rep was I believe the first Black GM Rep book, and I thought whilst could have been a lot better in places, there is some excellent analysis too. I know you won’t say much but I think it would be a MASSIVE lost opportunity if the new GM Rep 6b simply went over 6…e5 lines covered already elsewhere!

    Any thoughts would be greatly welcome 🙂

  4. @The Doctor

    I’m wondering if it’s more about popularity in current theory….if so, a book with lines based around the solid …e5 centre rather than the flexible …e6 would suggest itself.

    With Najdorf theory developing by the day I also don’t think it matters that there are other books using similar lines out there as a good book on popular lines in the Najdorf is likely to sell regardless.

  5. If the book is good it doesnt matter so much if it will cover e6 or e5. Theory moves fast these days. I think they will stick to 6.Bg5, Nbd7 and skip the Browne variation 6. Bg5, e6 7. f4, h6 8.Bh4, Be7.

    My wish is that they will cover the Gelfand 7.- Nbd7 or Kasparov 7.-Qc7 variations.

  6. @Bebbe
    Yeah I’ve played 7…Qc7, it’s a nice option v 6 Bg5 for a club player like me!
    It was given in Emms book ‘Play the Najdorf: Scheveningen Style. Still my favourite book (purely because it’s my repertoire rather than it being a well written book, which I think it is by the way).

  7. @The Doctor

    Yes I have also played 7.- Qc7 based on an old book by Curtacci and the book by Emms.
    I agree that the book by Emms is good.

    I stopped playing 7.- Qc7 13 years ago after I faced 8.Bxf6,gxf6 9. Be2, Nc6 10. Nxc6, bxc6 11.0-0 which I think is better for white. What is your opinion?

    In the rauzer structures I like the setup with Nd7 better, for instance:

    9.Qd2, b5 10. 0-0-0, Nd7

    However efter 9.Be2 this is hardly possible.

  8. @Bebbe
    I played 7…Qc7 many times in the mid 2000’s but I agree I wasn’t keen on the positions i was getting. I can’t remember facing the line you state as players nearly always went for 8 Qf3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6.

    One line I was pretty successful with was in the Old Main Line with 10 g4 where Black played 13…0-0 (I think some Chinese female GM played it a few times). But it’s pretty scary.

    For me it’s trying to find a way to get in Scheveningen positions I am happy with, the issue is it’s not that easy, as the Najdorf move orders run into 6 Bg5, the normal move order runs into the Keres, the Kan means you have to learn those Marcozy positions after White plays an early c4, which is why I’ve been playing the Taimanov where you can use this move order to get a Scheveningen, such in the 6 Be2 and 6 g3 lines.I’ll be honest the 6 Be3 a6 7 Qf3 lines scare me a lot! Usually I try and ‘play the man’ but not so easy in tournament or correspondence games.

  9. too many lines ( as W and as B) in the Sicilian Najdorf -> 500//600 pages at least just for the mostcommon lines.
    .So i figured i book will deal with a few selected variations only… or 2+ volumes to cover the full Spectrum of white choices ( g3, Be2, Bc4, Bg5, Be3, h3…) and black choice ( e6 /e5 , poisonned p., Nc6/Nd7…)

  10. @The Doctor

    I understand why you play the Taimanov moveorder. I have had similar moveorder issues. 6.Bg5 is really hard to meet as black in the Najdorf. 13…0-0 in the old mainline is indeed scary.

    After running into trouble after 7.-Qc7 I have only played the poisoned pawn 7.-Qb6 which is strong but very theorethical. If I want to be lazy there is 8.Qd2, Sc6.

    I would be happy if som antidotes were found for black after 7.-Qc7. Then I will switch back. Or if something reliable were found against the Keres attack.

  11. @Steve

    I think 6.Be3, Nf6 7.f4, Be7 8. Qf3 is strong here. Black has allready comited the knight to c6 when he would rather have it on d7 against the White setup. In the najdorf moverorder 6. Be3, e6 7.f4, b5 8. Qf3, Bb7 9. Bd3, Nbd7 is possible

  12. Grünfeld player

    As with other books on the Taimanov, I am puzzled why, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be2 a6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bb4, the move 9.f3 (instead of 9.Na4) isn’t treeated properly. In this book, it isn’t even mentioned. OK, it’s a GM repertoire, but still … And while it’s also clear that 9…d5 is a good answer to 9.f3, it would nevertheless be interesting to learn a bit about the datails.
    Anyway, a good book.

  13. @Grünfeld player

    Emms covers it in his move by move book on the Taimanov….he feels it’s passive and of not much theoretical interest although he does give it a full game. Delchev simply gives it a ?! with very little further comment.

  14. @Jacob Aagaard

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @Grünfeld player
    We cannot cover all moves. The book is already pretty big!

    you dont need to cover all moves in details, specially when those moves had already been cover elsewhere and if Nothing new happened since… but it is usefull for the reader that you mention the reference ( for example : see book XXX pages 100-120 for 9.f3 and just add your comment on why the move do not deserve to be treated) that’s why there is a bibliography section .

  15. @RYV
    The bibliography is there to inform the reader as to which sources the author and editor checked. Referring readers to other sources to check this or that move would be lazy, not to mention frustrating for readers who don’t own the source being referred to.
    In the case of this 9.f3 move, with hindsight it would have been worth mentioning it in a note, but it doesn’t take much effort to figure out that 9…d5 gives Black a pleasant game, so we won’t lose sleep over this omission.

  16. I stand by the point that 9.f3 is bad chess and in no way critical and does not fit into this type of book. Whenever I look through things there are always extra questions I get that I go over with an engine or similar. I would recommend that.

    But relating to 9.f3. If we had to cover this, we had to cover everything. And this is not the type of book for that.

  17. Grünfeld player

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I agree, for sure.
    But sometimes one simply wonders which things are covered and which are not. E.g., Boris Avrukh, in his (very good) book on the Grünfeld, has covered 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Qc2. Now I have played the Grünfeld for decades, but never ever have I encountered 3.Qc2, neither in classical games, nor in rapid games, nor in what must be thousands of blitz games. On the other hand, Avrukh did not cover 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.f4. Again, this is rare, maybe bad chess, but still I have met it a surprisingly number of times, and I seem to recall a young Peter Leko once having difficulty winning against it.
    9.f3 in the Taimanov is of similar ilk. It may be bad chess, but I have encountered it quite often. But OK, I can do my own research or switch on my engine, no problem.

  18. @Grünfeld player

    If the book had been titled Playing the Taimanov Sicilian you may have had a point regarding 9 f3. But this is a GM Repertoire book which aims at providing a repertoire for elite tournaments and which is also suitable for your club championships.

    9 f3 has long since been dispatched theory as second rate so Taimanov players should already know how to deal with it. Therefore including it in a book pitched at this level would have (IMO) been a waste of paper.

    I think GM Pavlidis has done a fantastic job in helping to develop what is current Taimanov theory and we should be acknowledging him for this and not worrying about an old line that is of little or no significance nowadays.

  19. @Grünfeld player
    With all due respect. Turning on the engine to be sure that 9. f3 is fine for Black is not even necessary. Just looking at it with no analysis, with 9. f3 d5 White looks like he wants to willingly destroy himself in a very bad English Attack.

    9. f3 looks like a move that someone who knows very little or no theory tries to play, imitating the Engilsh Attack.

  20. @Grünfeld player
    7.f4 followed by decent moves should not lose? I have never seen either moves.

    If your argument is that sometimes choices could be different, how can I disagree?

    I remember once there was this line not in the Mihail Marin 1.e4 e5 book which had been played in two games. The Internet was screaming omission! Tony Kosten weighed in and said he considered it dangerous. I found it rather amusing. Yeah, it could have been included, but so was 1000s of other things. You cannot cover everything.

    I was playing a tournament and the next day Emanuel Berg (Mr French Defence) surprised me with 1…e5. I was blank and thought, hey, I could play that nonsense. Maybe he is following Marin and then at least I can get him out of the opening. I got that line and outplayed him, only to miss the win later.
    Obviously the Internet did not see this as them inspiring me, but as TRAVESTY, we had omitted the deadly sideline of the rubbish opening in order to use it ourselves… If I at least had won the game…

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