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Sicilian, Najdorf (B97)
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bg5 e6
7 f4 Qb6

Number of games in database: 1914
Years covered: 1954 to 2023
Overall record:
   White wins 31.1%
   Black wins 30.5%
   Draws 38.4%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Jan Timman  16 games
Thomas Luther  15 games
Igor-Alexandre Nataf  13 games
Miguel Quinteros  23 games
Igor Novikov  23 games
Slavoljub Marjanovic  19 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
Spassky vs Fischer, 1972
Tal vs Tolush, 1956
R Byrne vs Evans, 1965
G Tringov vs Fischer, 1965
Fischer vs Geller, 1967
V Gashimov vs Grischuk, 2010
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 page 1 of 77; games 1-25 of 1,914  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. R Nezhmetdinov vs V Shcherbakov  ½-½6019542nd Soviet Team CupB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
2. E Joppen vs Bronstein 0-1401954BelgradeB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
3. Vasiukov vs V Shcherbakov  0-1341955URS-ch sf MoscowB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
4. Keres vs Panno 1-0311955Gothenburg InterzonalB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
5. Keres vs A Fuderer 1-0181955Gothenburg InterzonalB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
6. J Domanski vs S Gawlikowski  1-0371955Polish ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
7. Y Neishtadt vs Petrosian  0-1441956Moscow ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
8. Tal vs Tolush 1-0311956USSR ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
9. R Dworzynski vs E Walther  0-1351956Moscow Olympiad qual-1B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
10. J M Boey vs O'Kelly 0-1221957Belgian ChB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
11. A Matanovic vs Barcza  1-0471957HUN-YUGB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
12. A Bannik vs Tolush  ½-½511957USSR ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
13. Keres vs Tolush 1-0291957USSR ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
14. C H Alexander vs E Walther  1-0371957Dublin ZonalB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
15. A Conrady vs A Giustolisi  0-1311957Dublin ZonalB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
16. J Mangini vs R Sanguineti  0-1671957Rio de Janeiro ZonalB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
17. A Matanovic vs K Darga  ½-½611957EUR-chT (Men) 1stB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
18. R Grabczewski vs W Matkowski  1-0211957Polish ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
19. E Stoliar vs Krogius  ½-½231957URS-ch sf LeningradB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
20. Y Nikolaevsky vs V Mikenas  0-1381957URS-ch sf KievB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
21. H Seidman vs J Sherwin  ½-½391957United States Championship 1957/58B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
22. Siciliaans vs A Giustolisi 1-0191958SN65/10B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
23. A Zaitsev vs V Shcherbakov  ½-½201958Ch Russia (1/2 final)B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
24. J Tamosiunas vs V Mikenas  0-1361958LTU-chB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
25. Korchnoi vs Tolush 0-1391958USSR ChampionshipB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
 page 1 of 77; games 1-25 of 1,914  PGN Download
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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Feb-18-04  Calchexas: Excuse my ingorance, but why is this opening called the Poisoned Pawn? Which pawn is "poisoned?" (Being about a 1450 player, I don't usually get to see this playing against my friends at school.)
Feb-18-04  Bears092: white rarely ever makes an attempt to defend the b2 pawn. instead, he plays Qd2 and gets compensation by either gaining time on the queen, or leaving the queen there and attacking on the kingside where the queen won't be able to help defend.
Feb-18-04  Resignation Trap: Calchexas, the Poison Pawn variation goes like this: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qxb2. There is an old cliche that states "Never take the b-Pawn with your Queen!" Here, Black defiantly ignores this "rule", and does it anyway!

White gets compensation for his Pawn after 9. Rb1 or 9. Nb3, but whether it is enough or not has been the subject of debate for over 40 years.

The best-known game with this line is undoubtedly:

Spassky vs Fischer, 1972

Mar-23-04  ruylopez900: <The most "popular" opening played in the Opening Explorer is a Sicilian Najdorf, Poisoned Pawn> I determined this by clicking on the most often played option every time. It goes 19.5 moves deep (39 ply).

BTW does anyone know a response to the Najdorf other then Bg5?

Mar-23-04  Benjamin Lau: Shadout, I like your 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Nb3 line. There isn't much point to kicking the queen with a rook move cause that will allow black to recenter the piece. Nb3 sort of "smothers" the queen's power.
Mar-23-04  BiLL RobeRTiE: <ruylopez> I like the 6. Be3 (English Attack) line and know the basic ideas fairly well, though my knowledge of concrete lines in it is nil. I think there is some discussion on it at the B90 page.
Mar-23-04  PinkPanther: <Calchexas>
Like the others said, the poisoned pawn in this variation is the b2 pawn. The pawn is said to be poisoned because in taking the pawn with the queen, black takes his queen out of the game for some time to come. The same thing happens in the poisoned pawn variation of the Winawer French.
Jun-01-05  Backward Development: Some interesting lines...
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Nfd7 12.Bc4 Bb4 13.Nxe6!?<an enterprising move, but not the best. Nevertheless, the text leads to monsterous complications. For now, let's suppose black didn't know his theory and plays>13...Bxc3?<hard to believe such a move deserves a question mark?>14.Nc7+!!<14.Nxg7+ leads only to perpetual check, although that line has more pitfalls for black. the main line is 14...Kf8 15.0-0! Qc5+ 16.Be3 Qxc4 17.Qd6+ Kxg7 18.Qh6+ Kg8 19.Qg5+ => 14...Kf8 15.0-0! Qc5+ 16.Qe3!! Qxc4 17.e6! Bd4<17...Qxc7 18.Rxf7 Kg8 19.Rbf1 Bf6 20.R1xf6! gxf6 21.Bh6 >18.e7+ Kg8 19.e8=Q Nf8 20.Qxc8 Bxe3 21.Bxe3 Nbd7 22.Qxa8 Qxc7 23.Rxb7 Qe5 24.Bf2

btw, the remedy for 13.Nxe6 is 13...fxe6 14.Rxb4 Qxb4 15.Bxe6 h6! 16.Bf7+ Kxf7 17.e6+ Kg8 18.exd7 Bxd7

Jun-16-05  bomb the bishop: <Helloween> I like your 8. a3 line, but maybe 10. ♕f3 is better than 10.♕d2
then black can play 10..h6, followed by:
11. ♗xf6, ♗xf6 12.0-0-0, ♕c7 and 13.h4
with an equal game
May-19-06  you vs yourself: 15/0 game on FICS. It's the poison pawn variation. We followed this game S Petronic vs Wang Yue, 2001 until move 12.

Then my opponent came up with 13.Bc4

click for larger view

Then I played 13...Bh6 14.Qd3? Ne5 15.Qh3 Nxc4 16.Rb3 Qc1+ and it's all over.

Oct-25-07  labralege: why not Rb1?
Nov-20-07  Timeline: Actually, 8.Qd2 Qxb2 is in poor status these days after 9.Rb1. I wouldn't be surprised if it makes a comeback in a near future though. The line goes 9...Qa3 10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nfd7 13.Ne4 Qxa2 14.Rd1 Qd5 15.Qe3 Qxe5 16.Be2 Bc5 17.Bg3 Bxd4 18.Rxd4 Qa5+ 19.Rd2 O-O 20.Bd6 Rc6 21.O-O. After few more moves, the best black can do is to get an inferior endgame.
Nov-21-07  labralege: I mean 8.Rb1
Sep-26-08  mohawk3484: i'm new to E4 so would anyone care to enlighten me what's the best response to sicilian najdorf?
Sep-26-08  hrvyklly: <mohawk3484> There's no *best* response, although 6.Be3 is the most popular with the elite nowadays. It depends on your style and taste, 6.Be3, 6.Be2, 6.Bg5, 6.g3, 6.Bc4, 6.f4 all have their pluses and minuses.
Dec-02-08  zoren: I read somewhere in the WCC page that Kramnik avoided the Poisoned Pawn Variation because of the obvious drawing lines. Unfortunately the annotators (Malcom Pein, et al) have not elucidated any of these lines, which are supposed to be "obvious".

Maybe I misread somewhere, but if someone knows of these lines, I would like to be enlightened.

Dec-03-08  euripides: <zoren> I don't know this line at all well, but this game and the kibitzes on it give some idea:

Vallejo-Pons vs Kasparov, 2004

In aggregate, this line draws 38% of the time in this database - a fairly normal ratio - so these theoretical possibilities may not be too much of a practical problem at most levels.

Jul-28-09  randomsacrifice: Helloween, after 8.a3 the game is completely equal according to Fritz
Jul-28-09  parisattack: What a thrill it was to watch this variation unfold in the 1960s. A new shot alomost every day, it seemed. Zuckerman had some great articles on it in Chess Life.

It was more fun before Fritz/Rybka and the rest of the silicon beasts, IMHO.

Dec-21-09  lefthandsketch: labralege- i have the same question- i have studied this line pretty deeply, the move 8Rb1 hasn't been played, it's not covered or explained in my books, and HIARCS thinks it's perfectly what gives. Can the chess gods tell me and labralege why 8Rb1 is no good for white?
Aug-25-11  Robert Hill: This is my favorite opening being white. But the Bishop is on d2 and the a pawn is on rank 3. After Queen takes b2 then Na4 and it is game over for black.
Aug-29-15  The Last Straw: I still don't understand this opening. Black is willing to let such a huge attack for white just for only -one- pawn?!?
Aug-30-15  NeverAgain: It's not about just a pawn. The idea behind The Poisoned Pawn is not to grab a pawn, weather the onslaught and convert the extra pawn in the endgame. Although there are some lines of more positional nature (e.g. those that arise after 10.Bxf6) the vast majority are tactical fests, with White typically sacrificing a piece or even two for the attack. In such lines a single misstep for either side will result in an instant debacle, and that's part of this variation's appeal for both sides.

In other words, if White misplays the attack, Black won't have to grind out a one-pawn-up endgame; more likely it will be an easily won position with an extra piece (or more).

Aug-30-15  Nerwal: <I still don't understand this opening. Black is willing to let such a huge attack for white just for only -one- pawn?!?>

The position isn't as simple as it looks. Black is undevelopped but his position is robust and resilient thanks to the sound pawn structure (otherwise the Sicilian as a whole would be simply unplayable), whereas White has a lead in development but his position is full of weaknesses, especially on the dark squares (f4+♗g5 played weakening the g1/a7 diagonal and the missing pawn on b2 creates further weaknesses on a3/c3). White doesn't have a full development either : 0-0-0 is ruled out, 0-0 costs two more moves and would put the king on that weakened diagonal, so with ♔h1 that's three moves to bring the king into safety, which is a lot of time when trying to attack in an half-open position.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: I think one of the reasons the opening has a decent reputation is that Fischer and Kasparov had so much success with the Black side. I think many "ordinary" GMs might not want anything to do with the Black side of this opening.

Kasparov stopped playing the Tarrasch defense when Karpov defeated him twice in their first match - that may have said more about Karpov than the Tarrasch.

Karpov stopped playing 1 e4 because he had trouble against Kasparov's Sicilian - nethertheless Karpov played many great games with White against the Sicilian against very strong GMs.

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