Playing The Najdorf – Repertoire Overview

We recently announced David Vigorito as the author of the hotly anticipated Playing the Najdorf. Since there have been lots of questions and speculation about which lines will be recommended for Black, we decided to provide blog readers with a quick summary of what you can expect from the book.

First, a brief quote from the Introduction to give an idea of how the author regards the Sicilian Najdorf:

“I have been playing the Najdorf for about twenty-five years and teaching it for about a decade. Despite the fact that it has a reputation for being fantastically complicated and theoretical, I believe that at its heart it is a strategic opening, and that players of different styles can enjoy playing it and improve their chess while doing do. I have found that positional players adopting the Najdorf improve their tactical ability and feel for the initiative. Conversely, tactical players can develop their strategic play because there are so many recurring themes that arise from the typical pawn structures that one must master in order to successfully play the Najdorf.”

Repertoire Choices

I guess this is the part that some of you have really been waiting for. Without further ado, here is a brief summary of the recommendations against White’s main options:

6.Be2 will be met by 6…e5. Sorry to the Scheveningen lovers but the author prefers the characteristic Najdorf way of playing, and he makes a convincing case for Black.

6.Be3 will also be met by 6…e5, maintaining the theme of playing …e5 whenever possible. Against the English Attack with 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3, the modern 8…h5 is our choice.

6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 is the traditional main line and Negi’s recommendation. Vigorito opines that the Poisoned Pawn with 7…Qb6 may be ‘best’, but it is not the most practical choice for most players. Therefore he prefers 7…Be7 when there is still some theory to learn of course, but it’s more digestible and generally easier to understand than the Poisoned Pawn. Naturally he has paid close attention to Negi’s ideas and found suitable answers for Black.

6.Bc4 is met by 6…e6 7.Bb3 Nc6!? which is a little unusual, but the author argues convincingly for it.

Finally, the book deals with all kinds of miscellaneous tries from White. 6.h3, 6.g3, 6.f4 and 6.a4 are all met by 6…e5, which is consistent with the author’s ethos of playing this traditional Najdorf move whenever possible. Other quirky moves such as 6.Nb3!?, 6.Rg1!? and others will all be given their due attention as well.

89 thoughts on “Playing The Najdorf – Repertoire Overview”

  1. If this book is as good as his book “Challenging the Nimzo-Indian”, it should be well worth buying. Whilst theory moves on rapidly, his ability to clearly explain the strategic themes and concepts is marked.

  2. Alright, David! Super nice guy.

    Other quirky moves, by the way, include 6.h4?!?!! which, until last year, I had never heard of before. Even more surprising was being told that it is a close cousin of 6.Nb3. White waits for …e5 in order to play Bg5 in one go.

  3. I’m really looking forward to the chapters on 6 Bg5 & 6 Bc4 as they have not been recommended much in previous literature. I’m a bit less excited by 6 f4, 6 Be3 & 6 Be2 as I usually prefer 6…e6. I’ll still buy it and maybe will persuade me to play 6…e5 more often! ?. Still think a Scheveningen book would be a great to compliment this book. ?

  4. @The Doctor

    The Taimanov is OK , but as it is mentionned in the book, there are many possibilities to transpose into the Scheveningen lines, so i do also

    “..Still think a Scheveningen book would be a great to compliment this book.”

  5. Looks great from both White and black perspectives as Najdorf is such a major opening. Opening simulator to go with the …e5 theme or does David include some strategic tips rather than pure variations?
    Also presume he plays …e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 after 6. f3 for an easy life or does he exploit the early f3 with a different set up?

  6. @Michael
    On the internet I actually get the Sveshnikov on the board quite often. I don’t have much expericnce yet with this opening in OTB-play. I’m starting this season with playing it. By the way, I don’t mind playing against the Rossolimo. Black has plenty of possibilities for an interesting game, as shown by Carlsen himself.

  7. wanting to play your favorite sicilian ? good… but first you got to work hard on Rossolimo, Alapin, Bb5+ ( Moscow ?) , closed system and some various gambit ( Morra, wing-G,..)
    You will play almost one of each before getting into your preferred lines. !

  8. @RYV
    But that´s also true for other openings. My main defence against 1.e4 is 1…e5 and I very rarely face the Ruy Lopez. Not to speak of all the Queen´s Pawn Openings that avoid my Nimzo-Indian. 🙁

  9. @Tom Tidom
    Very true, try to play the Marshall gambit or the Meran, for example… If you want to get ‘your’ opening on the board every time, you should play openings such as the Alekhine or the Scandinavian. But these are rare for a reason :-).

  10. @The Doctor
    There is no Scheveningen book in the works at present, though I guess we may consider it in the future if we find a suitable author.

    @Leon Trotsky
    There are no guarantees, but that’s the timetable we are working towards.

    Yes, he does a good job of explaining plans/motifs to accompany the variations.
    I haven’t actually got to the 6.f3 part yet but I’m fairly certain the recommendation will be 6…e5 leading to normal positions, rather than trying anything fancy.

  11. @Tom Tidom
    I completely agree,you could say that for any opening, another example is QC did two books on the French Winawer… don’t tend to get that to much either!

  12. Leon Trotsky :
    Playing the Pirc or Modern, you are almost guaranteed to play your favourite setup no matter what White does.

    On the flip side, you are almost guaranteed to end up in a Pirc or Modern.

  13. Leon Trotsky :@Seth Sounds like a good deal to me. After all, there is a Pirc book by Marin and a Modern book by Hillarp-Persson.

    Sounds good to me too! I’ll take White! 16 of Black’s 20 legal responses to 1.e4 are inferior. Only moves Black should play are 1…e5, 1…e6, 1…c5, and 1…c6. I primarily play 1…e6 with 1…e5 as my backup, but I will never argue against someone that plays 1…c5 or 1…c6.

  14. @Patrick
    I agree. I play a lot of chess both correspondence and OTB. I think the Pirc is difficult and Black struggles to equalise (this using Marin’s Pirc book too). I nearly always play the Sicilian which holds up well (whether it be I play the Najdorf, Taimanov or Dragon).

  15. @The Doctor
    Ojectively speaking that may be right, but I doubt whether other considerations aren’t important in an OTB game. For instance, Hillarp-Persson has a good score with ‘his’ Modern, even against well-prepared opponents. In the end chess is a game and not a science.

  16. @Ray

    I agree that other considerations are important OTB. To know yourself is important .

    I dislike symmetrical postions and that is why I dont play french, slav or 1.e4,e5. There is nothing objectively wrong with these openings, but for me they are not right.
    Exchange french or exchange slav are boring.

    I play assymmetrical pawn structures: sicilian (Classical, Najdorf), Caro-Kann, KID, Grunfeld, Leningrad Dutch.

  17. @Franck Steenbekkers

    If you go to the Ftacnik book in the shop section on this site it says that that book will be replaced by Kotronias’s book on the anti sicilians plus this new book by Vigorito.

    (Wesley) So (sorry, I couldn’t help it!), that means that the answer to your question is yes, but not quite. This book will only cover the positions after 5..a6 (I believe).

  18. I know that the Ftaçnik book was discussed about certain lines for Black not being to others’ tastes. But why exactly it it not available anymore ¿ This is one of the few books on the book list that says “sold out”. Are all copies discontinued or something ¿

  19. @Leon Trotsky
    I think the problem with the Ftacnik book is that his repertoire was a mixture of Najdorf and Scheveningen lines. Really what you need is a book on the pure Najdorf AND a book on the pure (Classical) Scheveningen. With the Ftacknik book it was always going to be tough to please everyone IMHO. Also many lines were not analysed in enough detail or were missed out completely. This is was I think no more were printed after the original batch was sold.

    Shame because I think potentially it could have been really good (and fit my repertoire really well), as it was it was not one of the best in the GM Rep series!

  20. @The Doctor
    The Scheveningen with …e6 via Najdorf was used to avoid the Keres Attack. But nowadays I think that the Keres Attack is not as dangerous as it once was. It probably is less dangerous than 6. Ag5 in the Najdorf. If a Scheveningen book is published, it should use the pure Scheveningen move order with 5…e6, keeping Najdorf books only with the …e5 plan.

    One very good point about the Ftaçnik book was that 6. Ag5 Cbd7, which was unknown in 2010, is now one of the big main lines in the entire Najdorf. The book probably single-handedly made this move popular.

  21. Leon Trotsky :
    @The Doctor
    The Scheveningen with …e6 via Najdorf was used to avoid the Keres Attack. But nowadays I think that the Keres Attack is not as dangerous as it once was. It probably is less dangerous than 6. Ag5 in the Najdorf. If a Scheveningen book is published, it should use the pure Scheveningen move order with 5…e6, keeping Najdorf books only with the …e5 plan.

    100% agree
    I really hope a Scheveningen book will be published to compliment the Najdorf & Taimanov books

  22. Adian :
    Probably they had dispute with Ftacnik.
    Why on earth they would not launch second edition?
    Ftacnik book was selling like mad…

    No, that’s a bad guess – no dispute. We were and are on very friendly terms with Lubo Ftacnik. Another edition of the book didn’t happen because Lubo was too busy with other work commitments.

  23. I agree with the fact that a book about the Scheveningen Sicilian is long overdue. There are many good lines to be analysed specially after after 6 g4 or 6 Be3 Nc6 7 f3 Be7 8 Qd2 0-0 with d5 to follow after 9 g4 or 9 0-0-0

  24. Jérôme :
    I agree with the fact that a book about the Scheveningen Sicilian is long overdue.

    Right after the Classical (Rauzer/Sozin), which is much more interesting.

  25. Leon Trotsky :
    Maybe I can write a Scheveningen book. The only doubt is if people would buy it ?

    Hmm …..Chessable great for amateurs to publish their own books. I’m up for adding my own book to the QC stable too. After the ‘GM repertoire’ and ‘Playing …’ sets I think you should start a new line titled ‘Best Quality I can manage with my limited ability’ . Could do a decent job on the Scotch Gambit or Triangle System to complement Trotsky’s Scheveningen tome ?

  26. I’m a little surprised to see 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Nc6 given as “!?” etc. …I mean, it just reaches a major position in the Sozin.

  27. @Adian
    No conflict at all. After some time I talked to Lubomir and expressed that we thought the lack of progress was a sign the book was not to be and he thanked us for cancelling it. It was not meant to be. We are on very good terms with Lubo.

  28. although Daniel King also recommended this approach to 7.Bb3 on his dvd. I don‘t mean to be a wiseguy here, but it seems to me some people appear to be a bit pushy for this or that book as if there is no option of creating files of your own. That said, a qualitychess book is always a worthwhile and very inzeresting exposition of a thene or opening @Andrew Greet

  29. QC only seem to release older books on chessable. Opening books date as soon as they are published so not got high hopes. Maybe the cut from chessable is less than the books …but can’t see the point in training a repertoire that is out of date.

  30. @Chucky
    Isn’t the size the main problem?

    Chessable is meant for training all the variations of a repertoire. I don’t know how many lines this book would translate to, but I am certain it would be too many to be practical for the current move trainer.

    There is talk of a new version, but unless it allows the user to easily pick and choose exactly the lines to practice the end result will always be that the number of lines is too high to be practical. At the very least there should be a way to select the level of detail you want to study, from a ‘core repertoire’ something around 100 lines to the ‘full repertoire’

  31. @till
    I see your point in that eg Negi may be just too dense but Mayhem in the Morra is over 300 pages. I remember Jacob saying if you learned the bold variations you would be prepared for almost anyone except professional players so maybe this could be the core repertoire you can choose to learn

  32. Interested about how much overlap with the Andriasyan Najdorf book as he has the same …e5 against everything except…e6 against Bc4. That book is only 6 years old and doesn’t seem so dated

  33. I’ll @JB
    From what Andrew gave away in the blog, there are major differences as the New in Chess book you refer to recommends the PP v 6 Bg5, Nd7 lines v 6 Bc4, the …a5 line v Be3. Not got enough info on this new book to compare other lines, but guessing they’ll be very little overlap.

  34. Andriasyan also chose the line against the English attack with …a5 that John thinks is refuted (personally seems no fun for black but not lost). We will see how John’s suggestion against the early …h5 line is tackled in the new book.

  35. I was hoping for a pdf sample on the last Friday of the month (i.e. today). There are still a few hours of office time this afternoon for me to see what happens today….


  36. As you will all know, we are not world champions at predicting dates. In this case, the work load was simply more than we had anticipated. We are on solid track for a December release. The only thing that could go wrong would be Christmas catalogues, but it appears not to be a problem at the moment, so I feel fine about that.

  37. I’m curious about the recommendation against the Fischer-Sozin, as it seems to transpose into the Velimirovic Attack of the Classical Sicilian with an early …a6. If I remember correctly, Velimirovic Attack expert GM Jaan Ehlvest claimed an early …a6 to be inaccurate because the f4 and Qf3 variations gain power, allowing White to obtain an advantage (or a bigger than normal initiative). Source: ‘Grandmaster Opening Preparation’ by Jaan Ehlvest (Quality Chess)

  38. @Elijah Logozar
    I wonder if he had anything to say (I looked at the book briefly once and don’t recall anything) regarding 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 Nc6 8.Be3 Be7 9.f4 O-O 10.Qf3 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5. Old theory basically considered that as leading to equal or unclear positions (incidentally with Ehlvest-Mednis as one of the relevant games).

  39. @JB
    I can highly recommend the Morra, been playing it ever since publication of Mayhem and have lots of fun with it and excellent results also. It also changes your perception on the value of material in other situations, meaning, if you can score decent with a pawn less starting the game with the Morra, then in other positions you can make use of this experience as well.

  40. @Indra Polak
    Glad to hear you’re doing well with the Morra. I play it at rapid and blitz but have found that most people decline it with 3…Nf6. (These people are the “schemers”, as Marc calls them.) Still, I’ve had decent results with the 5.Qxd4 variation which is recommended in the book.

  41. I play more games in blitz than in classical and indeed I also encounter decliners a lot there, or responses including an early d5 in a (desparate?) attempt to get the initiative.

    And as black I also play 3…Nf6 as the answer so I know my way around in that position very well, so it is not a big problem. Most of the time you get a (weak) pawn on e5 and more space on the kingside which will always give you some attacking chances, worst case scenario being you will have to sac that pawn on e5; so you can sac a pawn after all :).

  42. Just got this book btw and played my first game with h5 in the Be3 line; opponent used a setup with g3 Rg1 h3 to force through g4 anyway but using an extra 3 tempi which I used on the queenside to get counterplay going. I won a nice game.

  43. As far as I can see an excellent job (although I am a bit sad that my favourite Velimirovic has been finally refuted). The only omission in my humble view is the 5.f3 variation, intending 6.c4. A solid repertoire here would not have been an extravagance, I’d say.

  44. Had this since Monday and on first impressions a very thorough job I agree and up to date (he includes a game of his from August last year)- it’s another QC hernia inducing wedge of a book which begs the question of where the index is?? I’d recently mourned the passing of the ECO style table and now there isn’t even an index to find your way through this particular dense forest of theory.
    As there indeed isn’t an index to help you find it 6. f3 is mentioned but only in passing in the small print on p130- might have been better in the Ch 18 Odds and Ends
    I remember playing the 7… Be7 mainline David champions against Bg5 in the 90s when Nunn’s Complete Najdorf came out but worried I’d be bashed flat with the kingside attack and gave it up. I still struggle to believe that black can survive castling into the f5 g5 pawn storm as it looks like suicide in Ch 10 but having looked at it I’m converted.
    Looking forward to going over the other chapters soon. Great job guys!

  45. Frank – I understand your point about 5.f3 but it’s a Najdorf book; as such, the author was under no obligation to include any Anti-Sicilian material whatsoever. True, in a parallel universe he might discuss 5.f3 in the appendix as well – but the fact that this section even exists at all is a bonus for readers, so we won’t lose sleep over anything missing from it.

    JB – We felt the book was big enough already and using the contents page combined with the chapter cover pages will provide you with the same information as the final variation index would have. I’m glad to hear you’ve been converted to Dave’s recommendation in the 6.Bg5 main line. I was impressed with his work throughout, but especially with this chapter where he had to deal with Negi’s 1.e4 book among other ideas.

  46. I’ve played the 7…Be7 stuff in blitz and correspondence and find that my results are excellent.
    It’s not so easy to mate the king as you’d think if you know what you’re doing!

  47. @The Doctor
    Still somewhat a doubting Thomas for the position after 13. f5 0-0!? even though my database actually gives a positive score for black after this (though it is a very small sample compared to the hundreds of games played with 13…Bxg5 or 13…Nc5 ) – castling just looks a naive move amateurs would make.
    Though Stockfish etc may rate it at 0.00 I don’t have a AlphaZero/Leela/Fat Fritz neural network type engine- would be interested in what win% they give- I suspect it may be higher than other replies to 13. f5 as black is walking a very fine line. I think against humans rather than silicon it would be an even slippier tightrope. Anyone out there set my mind at rest?

  48. @JB
    On the contrary I think 13…0-0 would scare the life out of an amateur and only someone has had studied it in depth realises it’s find for Black!!

  49. Hello Andrew, I don‘t mind that much and the Appendix is a nice bonus indeed. Besides that I think that one can always look for options with a good database yourself and investigate.@Frank

  50. On the Bc4 line: I always try to get a setup with Nbd7 and Nc5 in that variation by delaying Be7 and b5 until the B is on b3 and my Knight is on c5 guarding e6. Only then b5, Bb7 Be7 and 0-0 and you have a very good najdorf I think.

  51. @Thomas: I respectfully disagree. Just switch on any decent engine and you will see (after letting it run a while) that Black is being completely destroyed after either 9…Qa5?! 10.Bd2 or the more resilient 9…Qb6 10.Nd5


    First review by FM Jasper Holtel, Januar 2020 (Niggemann site):

    “Insgesamt kann ich das Buch jedoch jedem empfehlen, der Najdorf spielen möchte oder bereits in seinem Repertoire hat. Ich denke, das Repertoire könnte von der Qualität der Empfehlungen auch problemlos als “Grandmaster Repertoire” verkauft werden…… Von daher kann ich das Repertoire auch bis zu einer sehr hohen Spielstärke nur empfehlen, soweit man sich durch die genannten “Schönheitsfehler” nicht allzusehr gestört fühlt.”

  53. I don’t have any experience playing the classical sicilian. Regarding the Sozin Attack 6.Bc4, the author has skipped straight ahead to 6…e6 7.Bb3 Nc6 8.Be3, not once mentioning the move 7.Bg5/8.Bg5.

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