Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Najdorf Sicilian 6.Bg5 and 16.Rg1

In an article published in the Fall 2000 issue of Empire Chess, I analyzed a position in the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian defense that occurs after the opening moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.O-O-O Nbd7 10.g4 b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.g5 Nd7 13.f5 Nc5 14.f6 gxf6 15.gxf6 Bf8 16.Rg1 (16.Bh3 b4 17.Nd5 exd5 18.exd5 Bxh3 19.Rhe1+ Kd8 20.Qxh3 Qd7 21.Nc6+ Kc7 22.Qh4 a5 23.Kb1 Rg8 24.Rd2 Qg4 25.Qxh7 Qg6 26.Qh4 Qg4 27.Qh7 Qg6 28.Qh3 Qg4 29.Qf1 Rg5 30.Qb5 Qd7 31.c4 bxc3 32.Rde2 c2+ 33.Kxc2 Qf5+ 34.Kc3 Qxf6+ 35.Nd4 Ra6 36.Re8 Rb6 37.Qxa5 Rxd5 38.R1e7+ Bxe7 39.Rxe7+ Qxe7 40.Nb5+ Kc6 41.Qa8+ Kxb5, 0-1, Dragan Milovanovic (USCF 2258) - Jim West (USCF 2216), Hamilton Quad 11/2003).

GM John Nunn regards Perenyi's 16.Rg1 as the main line in his book The Complete Najdorf 6.Bg5. A critical position is reached after 16...b4 17.Nd5 exd5 18.exd5 Bd7 19.Rg7 (19.Re1+ Kd8 20.Rg7 Qa5 21.Nc6+ Bxc6 22.dxc6 b3 23.Re3 bxa2 24.c7+ Kxc7 25.Rxf7+ Kb6 26.Rb3+ Qb5! 27.Ra3 Bh6+ 28.Kd1 a1=Q+ 29.Rxa1 Qxb2 30.Rxa6+ Rxa6 31.Bxa6 Qa1+ 32.Ke2 Qxa6+ 33.Kf2 Qc4 34.Re7 Qxc2+ 35.Re2 Nd3+ 36.Kg3 Rg8+ 37.Kh4 Bg5+ 38.Kh3 Qxe2, 0-1, Dmitro Kedyk (USCF 2364) - Jim West (USCF 2202), Marshall Chess Club 11/2003)

O-O-O 20.Rxf7 Bh6+ 21.Kb1 Rdf8

My game against NM Ed Allen at the Toms River Futurity in 1986 saw the continuation 22.Re7 Bg5 23.Rxd7 Nxd7 24.Ne6 Qb6!? [24...Qa7 25.Nxg5 Rxf6 26.Qg4 Rg8 27.Bd3 h5 28.Qxh5 Nc5 29.Be2 Rf2 30.Re1 Qg7 31.h4 Kb8 32.Qg4 Ka8 33.Qg3 Rgf8 34.Qe3 Qe5 35.Qxe5 dxe5 =, Barten-Neumann, correspondence 1990; 24...Qb7 25.Nxg5 Rxf6 26.Qd3 Kb8 27.Qxa6 Qxa6 28.Bxa6 Nc5 29.Bc4 Rf2, Schmidt-Scuderi, correspondence 1987, when according to Nunn "Black is at least equal"] 25.Nxf8?! (better 25.Nxg5) Rxf8 26.f7 Bf6 27.Qe4 Be5 28.Qxh7 Kb7 29.Bh3 Nc5 30.Be6 Na4! 31.c4 bxc3 32.b3 c2+ 33.Qxc2 Nc3+ 34.Kc1 Qe3+ 35.Kb2 Nxd1+ 36.Ka3, and White resigned.

In the key subvariation 22.Rxf8+ Rxf8 23.Ne6, Nunn gives 23...Nxe6 24.dxe6 Bxe6 25.Bh3! Qd7 26.Qa8+ Kc7 27.Qa7+ Kc8 28.Qxa6+ Kc7 29.Qa5+ Kc8 30.Rd4! Bxh3 31.Rc4+ Kb7 32.Rxb4+ Kc8 33.Qa6+! Kd8 34.Rb8+ Qc8 35.Qxd6+ Bd7 36.Qb6+ Ke8 37.Qc5 Kf7 38.Rxc8 Bxc8 39.Qh5+ "with a decisive advantage for White."

Nunn's analysis led me to explore 23...Qb6!? 24.Bh3 Kb8 (24...Rf7 25.Qh5) 25.Nxf8 (25.Nxc5 dxc5 26.Qg3+ Qc7 27.Bxd7 Qxg3 28.hxg3 Rxf6, followed by ...Bf8 and ...Bd6) Bxf8 26.Bxd7 Nxd7 27.Qf5 Qd8 28.Rf1 h6.

At first glance, White's rook and two pawns seem far superior to Black's two minor pieces. In fact, a grandmaster at the Marshall Chess Club told me as much, claiming a win for White, not long after my Empire Chess article came out. But the more I studied the position, the more I realized the many difficulties facing White. If the rook leaves the back rank in order to promote the f-pawn, White's king becomes susceptible to mating possibilities which can be met in three ways. First, White can advance one of the queenside pawns, but this creates weaknesses in the king position. Second, the white king can march toward the center of the board, but this allows perpetual check chances by Black's queen along the g1-a7 diagonal. Finally, White can swap queens, but the resulting endgame may be tenable for Black especially in light of White's weak d5 pawn.

I finally had the opportunity to test this line in the final round of a game/30 tournament at the Marshall Chess Club on 5/29/04 against Dmitro Kedyk (USCF 2403). He was trying to avenge his above loss against me from six months earlier. Here are the concluding moves: 29.b3 a5 30.h4 Qe8 31.Qe6 Qc8 32.Rg1 Qc5 33.Rg4 Ne5 34.Qe8+ Qc8 35.Qb5+ Qb7 36.Qxb7+ Kxb7 37.Rg7+ Kb6 38.Re7 h5 39.Rh7 Kc5 40.Rh8 Nd7 41.Rxh5 Nxf6 42.Rf5 Be7 43.h5 Nxd5 44.h6 Bf6 45.h7 Bg7 46.Rg5 Bf6 47.Rg8 Nc3+ 48.Kb2 Ne2+ 49.Kb1 Nc3+ 50.Kc1 Nxa2+ 51.Kd2 Bc3+ 52.Kd1 Bd4 53.h8=Q Bxh8 54.Rxh8 a4 55.bxa4 Nc3+ 56.Kd2 Nxa4 57.Rc8+ Kb5 58.Kd3 Nb2+ 59.Kd4 Na4 60.Kd3 Nc5+ 61.Kd4 b3 62.Rb8+ Ka4 63.Kc4 d5+ 64.Kc3 bxc2 65.Kxc2 d4 66.Rd8 d3+ 67.Kc3 Kb5 68.Rd5 Kc6 69.Kc4 Ne6 70.Rxd3 Nc5, and drawn in 123 moves.

Final Position (Drawn by 50-move rule)

{This article originally appeared in the Fall 2004 issue of Atlantic Chess News}