Opening Surveys in ChessBase Magazine 129

by ChessBase
4/24/2009 – The Sicilian Najdorf Variation is hard to tackle, so hard, in fact, that many players simply want to evade it. But most of these avoidance systems do completely without d2-d4 and pose no big challenge for Black. The anti-Najdorf-system presented by Alexey Kuzmin in CBM 129 starts with 2.Ne2, and only after 2...d6 - i.e. the attempt to enter the Najdorf - dispenses with the direct advance of the d-pawn (however, 2...e6 3.d4 or 2...Nc6 3.d4); the continuation is 3.g3, possibly followed by c3 and d4.More opening surveys in CBM 129, buy in online shop Description of the article in the CBM 129 bookletKuzmin: Sicilian with 2.Ne2 d6 3.g3

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The Capablanca-Keres Variation

by Alexey Kuzmin

1.e4 c5 2.Ne2 d6 3.g3

In the 1930s, ex-world champion Jose Raoul Capablanca began regularly to employ the system with 2.Ne2 against the Sicilian Defence, and in the subsequent decades it was taken up by the great Estonian grandmaster, Paul Keres. In our day, it does not exist so much as an independent system in its own right, but merely as an "anti-Najdorf" system. So, after 2…Nc6 or 2…e6 White plays d2-d4, and takes the game back into normal Sicilian lines, since otherwise, after 3.g3, Black can advance d7-d5 in one move. However, after 2…d6  the plan of a fianchetto of the king's bishop makes more sense. This is how the line is played by Vallejo Pons, in whose opening repertoire the system with 2.Ne2 occupies an important place.


The plan of developing the bishop to g7 seems the most logical. Black develops his pieces in the style of the Closed Sicilian, strengthening his pressure against the square d4, and in many variations, preventing White from occupying the centre. It should be noted that the moves g6, Bg7, Nc6, e5, Nge7 or Nf6 can be played in virtually any order. White's play too can be varied considerably. This makes it difficult to classify variations exactly, since one and the same position can arise as a result of many different move orders.

4.Bg2 Bg7 5.c3

If 5.0-0 then Black succeeds in preventing the advance d2-d4. However, in many cases, White deliberately refrains from this advance anyway, placing his hopes on queenside action instead...

The variation 5…Nc6 6.c3 e5 7.a3 Nge7 (7...a5!?) 8.b4 0-0 9.d3

can be seen in the game Motylev,A - Hou Yifan 1-0.

After 5.c3

Black has three main possibilities.

A) 5...e5 6.d4 Nc6

Now White has the choice. He can go into a slightly better ending, although it is hard to generate any real advantage here: 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Qxd8+ Nxd8!? (8...Kxd8) 9.Na3, Magem Badals,J - Mchedlishvili,M ½-½.

Alternatively, he can maintain the tension in the centre by means of 7.Be3 - see the game Vallejo Pons,F - Li,C 1-0. In a complicated middlegame, White has quite good chances of obtaining the advantage.

B) 5...Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.cxd4

Giving up the centre is justified in connection with the plan of 7...e6 8.0-0 Nge7 followed by d6-d5. Other continuations (7...Bg4 8.f3 Bd7; 7...Nf6; 7...Qb6) are less logical, see Bruzon Bautista,L - Abreu Delgado,A 1-0.

C) 5...Nf6 6.d4 0-0 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.h3 Rb8 

A quite original plan. Black's last move is not so much connected with the advance of the b-pawn, as effectively a preparation for developing the pieces rather in the style of Reti's Opening, with reversed colours. After 9.Be3 b6 Black can count on fully adequate play. By transposition, we have reached the game Burmakin,V - Sibilio,M 1-0.

Plans connected with the development of the bishop to e7 seem to me to be less logical, although this approach has been used by such strong grandmasters as J. Polgar, Areshchenko, Dvoirys…

1.e4 c5 2.Ne2 d6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Nc6 (or 4...e5 5.c3 Be7 6.d4 cxd4 7.cxd4 0-0) 5.c3 e5 6.d4 cxd4 7.cxd4 

7...Bg4 (7...Qa5+ and 7...exd4 are not better) and White obtained a small plus in Karjakin,S - Areshchenko,A ½-½.

Another interesting approach for Black is flank action as early as the third move - 3...h5!? 

Now after 4.h3 Black can look for a variation in which the inclusion of the moves h5 and h3 will favour him - maybe after 4…d5.

More principled is 4.d4 cxd4 (4...h4!?) 5.Nxd4 h4 6.gxh4, Romanov,E - Loskutov,O 1-0.

In my opinion, the relatively unpopular 3...d5 is a reply which must be taken very seriously.

After 4.Bg2 dxe4 5.Nbc3 Black should not try to hang on to the extra pawn with 5...f5?! since 6.0-0 Nf6 7.d3 or 6.d3 gives White good compensation, but should simply play either 5…Nf6 - see Vallejo Pons,F - Dunis,A 1-0 - or Khairullin's idea 5...e5!? with excellent chances of solving his opening problems successfully.

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