[Ed: This article was actually written by GM Serper]
Pretty frequently my students complain about how difficult it is to learn new openings. Indeed, modern opening theory is more complicated than ever. You can spend weeks, even months of your life studying some ultra fashionable variation of the Gruenfeld Defense or the Najdorf Sicilian. Some people even suggest to abandon our beloved game and completely switch to Fischer Random chess, which essentially eliminates opening theory.
I think the situation isn't that bad yet. Today I want to share a simple and yet a very useful trick, which will allow you to learn practically any new opening in one hour or less. You don't need opening books, chess playing engines or the latest games played in the opening. All you need is a desire to learn new stuff. So, are you ready? Then get a very good game played in the variation in question by a very good chess player with very good annotations. Oh yeah, one more thing. The game should be preferably old (just like a very expensive wine - 40-50 years or older) and the variation played in the game should be currently out of fashion. As everyone knows, diamonds are forever. Well, chess diamonds (that is, true classical games) are immortal too. And by playing an out of fashion variation you sidestep a possible novelty played in a tournament that finished last month. So, you carefully study the game, analyze all the variations given in the annotations, understand the main ideas of the variation and... Ta-Da! you can play the new variation you have just learned. No books, no memorization! I sense that you are a bit skeptical. Well, lets try together to learn a new opening. And to make things more challenging, we are going to learn one of the most complicated openings on Earth - The Najdorf Sicilian!
We've covered some longer variations in the Najdorf from recent games in past columns. Compare how prepared you were to play the Najdorf after reading those columns to how you feel after studying the one game we are presentin today very carefully.
So let's look at the starting position after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6
Here if you play the main move 7.f4, you enter the Devil's Labyrinth. Black can choose the Poisoned Pawn variation, the Polugaevsky variation, the Goetheborg variation and many other complicated lines. Every single line there is a real minefield where one wrong move can easily spell the end of the game for you.
Now, lets analyse just one game which was played in 1954 by the famous Russian player Rashid Nezhmetdinov. He was a unique person and deserves a separate discussion. I will just mention that despite being just an IM he had a personal score 3:0 against Tal at his prime! So, we follow the game Nezhmetdinov-Paoli, Bucharest, 1954.
Instead of 7. f4 Nezhmetdinov chose 7. Qf3. Let's try to understand the idea of the opening. White moves the Queen to an active position (sometimes he can even play Qg3, especially if Black ever castles 0-0), clears the way for his King to castle to the Queen side and then prepares a typical Sicilian pawn storm on the King side by g2-g4-g5 etc. Simple, huh? Lets see what happened in the game.
You have just learned a devilish trap that White has set up by his innocent looking moves. In the game Black managed to avoid it, so the game continued... (after you solve the tactics at the end of the game, make sure to play through the whole game!)
You've just learned a brilliant game and a very tricky set up which is currently out of fashion and yet extremely poisonous. Now you know the main strategic idea of the opening (just to 'nuke' your opponent on the King's Side by pushing your pawns there). As an additional benefit, you discovered a powerful opening trap there. Now, will it be easy for your opponent (who probably studied the latest games from Super Tournaments but not the games played 50 years ago) to pass the opening unscathed? It depends. If you are playing a 2700+ Grandmaster, then your little opening trick will probably just amuse him. But for an average club player (meaning under ELO 2300), this is a very dangerous weapon to meet.
Try this method. You'll love it