Trying Out New Openings

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Mar 8, 2010

Some of you might be playing in the vote chess game against me at If so, then you probably know that the Opocensky variation of the Sicilian Najdorf goes the following way: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2.

This is a quiet variation aimed at outmaneuvering one's opponents and accumulating small advantages step by step. It's hard to win quickly, but the game flows so logically and smoothly that some of the encounters are decided in White's favor "by hand", without much thinking.

I have employed this variation for the first time at the Chess Olympiad '08 in Dresden against a relatively weak opponent. The attempt proved successful:

This opening seemed quite nice to me, so I decided to use it more often. Here is another example: a last round win against IM Marina Romanko which secured me the 1st place at the Moscow Open '09 in the women's event. It was a bit more sophisticated due to the higher class of the opponent (in comparison to the 1st game):

As a reminder: one of the classic ways to study openings is to look at the moves first, then memorize how to place pieces in this opening (which one goes where, not "move-by-move" senseless threads) and the main plans for both sides. Then learn from masters by watching their games and trying to understand why they have played that way. Finally, here comes practice: blitz and rapid games against a partner of your strength (or higher) with extensive post-mortem analysis. You might lose a few games at home, but gain rating points at tournaments due to avoiding the mistakes you have made while training. However, sometimes we don't have the luxury of preparing that seriously, and have to play something from scratch. Smile

And after goes Qb7, we will be pushing that pawn. Understand, Mum?

My husband has expressed interest in the Pogonina vs match and is following the game quite closely, mastering the opening along the way. He usually prefers other continuations in the Najdorf. However, when recently a young candidate master played 5...a6 in a classical time control FIDE tournament against him, he thought: "Why not 6.Be2?" Here's what happened next:

In my opinion, that is a good illustration of how one should learn from other masters' games.

P.S. Congratulations to all Bobby Fischer fans! We were born on the same day - March, 9th. Smile


  • 2 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 5 years ago


    WinkHow about trying out a totally new(well maybe not altogether) way of opening a game of chess -  Free Form Style!  SmileRead my blog posted entries on this unusual & even phenomenal terrific way to open a game of chess!  This method(if it can be called a method at all!) is not for whimps, but for clear minded creative thinkers who are looking for a real challenge in over-the-board game play!  Remember, chess is a mind game!  SurprisedThis completely Free Form way of opening a game of chess can be both stimulating and exciting when compared to other ways of opening a game!  Try it out and see for yourself!  -  ChessPaladin2009Cool  

  • 6 years ago


    Money mouthhapp y happy birt day to you nataliaLaughingSurprisedSealed

  • 6 years ago


    happy birthday!

  • 6 years ago


    Happy Late birthday , thanks for the posts!

  • 6 years ago


    Natalia, thanks for the wonderful ideas. I was away for a while so I will have to find your vote game and do my bit. Always happy to hear from you.

  • 6 years ago


    Happy birthday, Grand Master. I would be glad if you share your time and playing a quick game with me.

  • 6 years ago


    Wish you many more Happy returns of this day Natalia :)

    And happy to note that a few great chess players were born on my birthday eve :)

  • 6 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Thanks for all the congratulations and kind words! :-)

    BearerOfBadNews I am not trying to promote this very opening, or claim that it allows White to get serious advantage. The point was to demonstrate how to work on opening preparation, not advocate a particular line as an universal cure against the Sicilian.

    NM GreenLaser That trick is too old to fall for it. There's even a joke in Russia:

    Karpov is playing Kasparov, and is totally lost. He looks out of the window, points at a dg and asks "Whose dog is that?" Kasparov grudgingly responds with "Nichya" ("nichya" means both "nobody's" and "draw" in Russian). Karpov instantly shakes his hand: "Agreed!!!"

  • 6 years ago


    Very good article. But what if black wants to play the sveshnikov, classical, dragon, kalashnikov, kan or other variations beside the najdorf? It seems like one has to be prepared to learn all of those variations! Not an easy task. One has to hope that black does play the najdorf; otherwise, you need to have a line against all of the other variations in the Sicilian.

  • 6 years ago


    It was my birthday too!  Happy Birthday!  It's good to know I was born on the same day as the great hero bobby fischer.  Did you know he once went to middle earth with johnny unitas and elvis?

  • 6 years ago


    Happy Birthday!

    I like it how you post long articles(unlike some people...)and have pictures here and there.

    Another great article!

  • 6 years ago



    However, I don't like the way you cheat.

  • 6 years ago


    GM Natalia! You are cheating in the Vote Chess game! Your baby is telling you which moves to play! I knew the moves were too good to be you! Laughing

  • 6 years ago


    Happy Birthday from Canada.



  • 6 years ago


    happy birthday!!!

  • 6 years ago


    Have a Great Birthday!!

    Thanks for giving of your time and expertise....



  • 6 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    In the second game, after 36...Be7, the comment is, "He offered a draw, what a disgrace!" The draw plea offers a trap. If White had answered with the word "draw" said in the inflection of surprise, there is a precedent. In a game between M. Najdorf and I.A. Horowitz, that Horowitz was winning, the following conversation took place using one word with different punctuation showing inflection:

    Najdorf, "Draw?"

    Horowitz, "Draw!"

    Arbiter, "Draw."

    Another player, "Draw?!"

    The game was ruled a draw. The offer of a draw can be a trap, just as the handshake can be.

  • 6 years ago


    Happy Birthday Natalia, and thanks for the article and adorable picture!

  • 6 years ago


    Happy birthday!

    Smile  Cool

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