Daniel King: New ideas in the Najdorf

by Glenn Mitchell
1/24/2014 – According to Glenn Mitchell "Daniel King’s presentation doesn’t involve too much theory but instead remains focused like a laser beam on understanding the strategies involved for Black." He had watched Power Play 18 back in 2012 when it was released, and New Ideas in the Najdorf was a welcome refresher for many of the strategic themes covered in the earlier DVD. Review.

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Daniel King: New ideas in the Najdorf

Review by Glenn Mitchell

GM Daniel King has now produced two videos on the Sicilian Najdorf for ChessBase. The first is a five hour DVD that’s part of his Power Play series Volume 18: The Sicilian Najdorf. The other is New Ideas in the Najdorf in 60 Minutes. While you can watch the latter DVD without the earlier, the New Ideas in the Najdorf is intended to update and expand the discussion in the earlier DVD. Together, the two DVDs offer viewers a stable repertoire as black against each of the critical variations in the Najdorf.

Daniel King’s presentation doesn’t involve too much theory but instead remains focused like a laser beam on understanding the strategies involved for Black. I’ll start with the earlier and more comprehensive Power Play video.

The very first example stresses the positional nature of the Najdorf with the game Averbakh v. Petrosian, USSR Championship, Tblisi (1959). Daniel King spends nearly thirty minutes analyzing this game. What you get is a mini-course in the strategic ideas of the Najdorf that could serve as a standalone “Strategic Ideas in the Najdorf in 30 Minutes.” The instructive value is truly that good!

He stresses the healthy pawn structure of the Najdorf throughout the DVD. At one point, he even quips he’s going to “put it on a loop.” A lot of discussion in Power Play 18 focuses on when Black should play play e5 early, when e6, and even when to leave it home and instead play g6 followed by Bg7. Below is a diagram of a Najdorf pawn structure from Averbakh v. Petrosian. Daniel King stresses that it’s Black’s kingside pawn structure that’s more flexible. If White decides to support the e4 pawn with f3, then a wonderful long diagonal opens. Black’s king, in contrast, remains safe in the corner.

Throughout the DVD there is a lot of discussion about the timing for a possible d5 advance and strategic ideas for pressuring the pawn on e5 and bolstering the black pawn on d6 as white builds up pressure on the d-file. There is also considerable discussion on the handling of the QB. For example, when to play it to e6 behind the e5 pawn push. Also, the handling of the QN. For example, when is it advantageous to play it to d7 and be ready to reload a knight on f6. Or, when black might want to delay developing the knight (as in the English Attack). All of this is practical instruction for intermediate to advanced club and tournament players.

GM King does an excellent explaining how Petrosian handles the motif of plunking a knight on d5 after exchanging bishop for knight on f6. As he notes, Petrosian “plays around this knight” masterfully. What we witness, with Daniel King’s assistance, is the combination of position (a knight on d5) and the associated maneuvers that neutralize the influence of that knight. In the end, Averbakh withdraws the knight, since it is accomplishing little on d5. This, by the way, is what the Russian chess writers mean by a priyome. If intermediate and advanced club players are going to adopt the Najdorf as black, they need to know how to handle this position, since they’re going to face a knight on d5 often enough. Daniel King provides plenty of instruction on just this sort of strategic idea, and it’s his ability to explain such ideas so clearly that makes his Power Play DVDs such wonderful training tools for the self-motivated chess student.

A similar strategic idea for Black is what happens when white retreats the knight from d5 and builds up pressure on d6. Again, Black is going to see this a lot and needs to know how to handle it. As GM King notes repeatedly, Black doesn’t need to panic. In fact, the lack of a need to panic is a familiar refrain throughout both DVDs. Armed with his practical advice and his step-by-step presentation and being sure to get out a chessboard and work through the examples on both DVDs, black’s anxiety should remain manageable in any of the well-known variations of the Najdorf.

Contrast this with GM King’s reaction to the idea of cracking open the f-file when Averbakh plays Bf3. Here he offers a strong warning. Lots of intermediate and advanced players will be tempted to throw the f-pawn forward and Daniel King explains why that’s a bad idea.

To further emphasize that the Najdorf can be played in a more positional nature and not just a sharp, attacking opening, GM King begins with the 6.e2 variation, the Geller-Karpov System. While Kasparov tended to prefer 6…e6 in response to 6.Be2 and transpose to a Scheveningen pawn structure, Daniel King recommends that Black react with the ”classical Najdorf move” and instead play 6.e5, gaining space in the center of the board. He plays through the entire game Nevostrujev v. Efimenko from the 2004 Chigorin Memorial. He goes through every move to emphasize the strategic ideas, because as Daniel King notes, to really play an opening, you need to understand the big picture, and that means thoroughly understanding the strategy involved. After reviewing the entire game without jumping ahead several moves here and there, he goes back and looks at some of the strategic ideas in detail. The result for me was a very understandable presentation of all of the relevant ideas. The major idea in this clip is the d5 break, when and how to manage it. As Daniel Kings says, “If you get the chance to break with d5, do it . . . because it just opens up the position for black’s pieces.”

I already mentioned the idea of priyome. This second clip emphasizes that while pawn structure is important, you also need to know what to do with that structure. Being able to put together structure and function is what we chess improvers need to take our game to a higher level. Without that knowledge, we might get a desirable structure and still end up in a passive position (or worse) because we lack a plan for where to go with that structure.

I’m not going to run through all thirty clips in turn from Power Play 18. What’s important is that the important strategic elements in the Najdorf are emphasized and reemphasized throughout the DVD. Daniel King has so much experience as a presenter that the telling and retelling (and retelling yet again) doesn’t become monotonous. Theme and variation, at least for me, is an important aid for understanding.

The major variations of the Najdorf are all covered (not in this particular order) on Power Play 18:

  • 6.Be2
  • 6.Be3, the English Attack
  • 6.Bc4, the Fischer-Sozin Attack
  • 6.Bg5
  • 6.g3
  • 6.h3
  • 6.f4
  • 6.a4

In each case, Daniel King begins by explaining white’ strategic ideas in the particular variation before moving on to explore different lines and how different players have initiated attacks, posed problems for their opponents, and the like. For example, in the brief screenshot below, he explains that White intended to exploit the pin on the d-file when Black played a4 by playing Nc5, a square where it would be somewhat annoying while it threatens both a4 and b7.

New Ideas in the Najdorf in 60 Minutes is, in the main a reaction to questions and comments from viewers of Power Play 18. It appears that some viewer reactions were rather panicked, since Daniel King repeats throughout the video that Black doesn’t need to panic in reply to this or that variation. There is one variation included on New Ideas that was not covered by Power Play 18. It’s an anti-Najdorf variation, 5.f3.

I originally watched Power Play 18 back in 2012 when it was released, so New Ideas in the Najdorf was a welcome refresher for many of the strategic themes covered in the earlier DVD. Including the 5.f3 anti-Najdorf was interesting. For my own game experience, the added coverage of 6.h3 was the most practical. As Daniel King notes, the 6.h3 line is being seen more frequently in recent months. The advice to react immediately and decisively with 6…e5 and 7…h5 avoids the serious threats that can result when Black isn’t alert and reacts slowly to the threat of g4 followed by Ne2 and then Ng3.

What I’d like to see now is one of the new interactive DVDs from ChessBase where Daniel King challenges the viewer with dozens of strategic and tactical problems from the Najdorf. That would help to really drive home all the information from these two DVDs.

I strong recommend both DVDs for stronger club and tournament players who really want to understand the strategic considerations for black in the Najdorf.

Sample video: Daniel King - New Ideas in the Najdorf in 60 Minutes

New ideas in the Najdorf

by Daniel King

Fritz Trainer 60 Minutes
Delivery: Download
Video running time: 60 min (English)

Price: €9.90 – $13.56

Order this Powerplay Trainer
in the
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Power Play 18: The Sicilian Najdorf

by Daniel King

Fritz Trainer Opening
Video running time: 6 hours
Language: English
Delivery: Download or post

Price: €29.90
€25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU); $34.43 (without VAT).

Order this Powerplay Trainer
in the
ChessBase Shop

Sample video

An avid chess player who has bin dabbling here and there for decades. Though not not a chess teacher "Mitch" recently started a blog, Improving Chess Player to share what’s been working for him and what hasn’t been much of help – hoping to provide help and encouragement for other improving chess players.


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