Najdorf 6.Bd3 & High Initial Rating

Najdorf 6.Bd3 & High Initial Rating

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Stefan asked:

6.Bd3 in the Sicilian Najdorf is a line that’s very rarely seen at the top level (at least, as far as I’m concerned). When I check my database, I see this line has been played by Magnus Carlsen, Judith Polgar, and a few other big names (although not very often), so it should be playable. Do you have any particular insights to offer as to why this line isn’t played more often?


Dear Stefan,

Opening theory is largely a matter of fashion, with the top players setting the trend and everyone else following like sheep. At the moment, the English Attack (6.Be3 followed by f2-f3) is the rage, 6.h3 is making a bit of a comeback and is quite dangerous, while attacking moves like 6.Bg5 and 6.Bc4 and the positional 6.Be2 will always be common. Thus 6.Bd3 is listed in “other tries” along with 6.a4, 6.Rg1, etc.


Nevertheless, I have close to 1,500 games with 6.Bd3 in my database, and a litany of very strong players have given it a go over the years: Ponomariov, Jansa, Navara, Carlsen, Chandler, Adams, Judit Polgar, Bent Larsen, Van der Wiel, Kholmov, Shaposhnikov, Wang Yu, Kamsky, Gurgenidze, Tseshkovsky, Mitkov, and many, many more.

So clearly, the move is very playable and in fact quite dangerous. It might catch on at some point in the future, or it might continue to be a solid anti-Najdorf choice for players who find its flexibility appealing.

Black has many replies, though his main ones are: 6…e5 (the pure Najdorf answer), 6…e6 (which often transposes into a Scheveningen), 6…Nc6, 6…g6 (very logical, leading to what should be a good Dragon), 6…Nbd7, and 6…b5.

Many lines of 6.Bd3 lead to more positional games (compared to the raw berserker attacks that occur after most of the main choices), though White can also generate kingside chances in a variety of ways (Nd4-e2-g3 followed by f2-f4 is one common setup). Here are two smooth positional wins for White that show 6.Bd3 in a good light.

Bent Larsen – Lajos Portisch, London 1986

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bd3!? e5 7.Nde2 Be7 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Be3 b5 10.Ng3 g6 11.b4! Bb7 12.a4 bxa4 13.Rxa4 Nb6 14.Ra5 Qc8 15.Bxb6 Qxc3 16.Qa1! Qc6 17.Be3 0-0 18.Bh6 Rfb8 19.h3 Bd8 20.Ra3 Nd7 21.Rc3 Qb6 22.Qa4! Bc8 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Qxd7 Bh4 25.Qg4 Be7 26.Bd2 Kf8 27.Ra1 h5 28.Qe2, 1-0. I should add that Larsen is one of my chess heroes (and one of the greatest chess writers of all time). Anyone that hasn’t made a serious study of his games is really missing out.


A.Dgebuadze (2547) – X.Wemmers (2366), Belgium 2004

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nxc6 (the popular alternative is Nde2, Ng3, and f2-f4) 7…bxc6 8.0-0 e5 9.b3 (Another popular setup. White contains black’s center with Na4 and c2-c4) 9…Be7 10.Bb2 0-0 11.Na4 Be6 (11...Re8 12.c4 Bf8 13.Qc2 c5 14.Nc3 Bb7 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.cxd5 Qg5 17.Rae1 was += in R.Skrobek – Z.Szymczak, Polanica Zdroj 1981.) 12.Qe2 (Targeting a6) 12…Qc7 13.c4 Nd7 14.c5! dxc5 15.Bxa6 Rfb8 16.Rfc1 Nf8 17.Bd3 Ng6 18.g3 h5 19.Rc2 Rd8 20.Nxc5 Bg4 21.Qe3 Qb6 22.Bf1 Rd1 23.Na4 Qxe3 24.fxe3 Bg5 25.Kf2 Rad8 26.Rxd1 Bxd1 27.Rxc6 Bg4 28.Bc1 Rd1 29.Nb2 Rd8 30.Be2 Ne7 31.Rc2 Rd6 32.Bxg4 hxg4 33.Nc4 Rf6+ 34.Kg2 Nc6 35.a3 Re6 36.b4 Na7 37.a4 Ra6 38.Nb2 Bf6 39.b5 Rd6 40.Nc4 Rd3 41.b6 Nc6 42.Nb2 Rd6 43.b7 Nb8 44.Rc8+ Rd8 45.Bd2, 1-0. Dgebuadze has successfully played this line for many years.


To sum up, I think 6.Bd3 is an excellent choice for someone that wants to avoid the hyper-complex main lines while retaining chances of an opening advantage. The ideas and setups can be learned in one evening with a good database, and many of the positions that regularly occur after 6.Bd3 are far less explored than the ones found in its heavily theoretical kin.


Pete asked:

Do you think it is possible, given the extra tools available to online players, for a non-officially rated player to achieve a high rating? I ask this as someone who is tired of being labeled as an engine cheat because in the 50 odd years I have played this game I have never had the time to commit to the tournaments required to get an official rating.

I feel if someone of your caliber could stand up and say yes, it is possible, then the accusations by inference would be lessened. I would add that I am seriously considering leaving online chess altogether because of these unfounded allegations.


Dear Pete,

Sorry to hear about that you might succumb to the ubiquitous “engine cheat paranoia” disease. Rest assured that you’re not the only person to hit his head on this wall.

I play on a couple of sites (1 to 3 minute chess, usually between 1 and 4 in the morning) under an assumed name (with no rating). I find it relaxing and, though my flag often falls when I’m several pieces ahead (I’m slower than molasses with that mouse!), it’s an enjoyable way to kill a bit of time and prepare for sleep. I always get a rush out of someone screaming about his greatness after he wins on the clock with one pawn vs. my whole army – it’s a guaranteed laugh since it vividly demonstrates the human desire to feel successful at something, even if that feeling calls for a heaping dose of delusion.

When I’m playing online blitz, every time I uncork a basic class C level (1400-1599) combination (something that any of my students would easily find), I get the following message sent to me: “Nice computer you have there!”

At first I got upset that anyone would think I was actually cheating (all the more so since I feel that I usually play 1 minute like a slow motion imbecile), but once you realize that a mix of paranoia and raw ignorance is at play, you simply can’t take it seriously. However the, “You’re a cheater!” comments continue night after night. And, on several occasions after dismembering a guy only to forfeit on time right before I can administer mate in one, I get the following kind of conversation (okay, I also get this type of give and take even if I win):

Self-Described Chess God: “I’m a much better player than you are.”

Me: “I guess you are.”

Self-Described Chess God: “You really are awful.”

Me: “Think so?”

Self-Described Chess God: “Yeah, I’m a good judge of chess strength, and it’s clear you suck.”

Me: “Well, we don’t all have your obvious talent.”

Self-Described Chess God: “You know, I teach chess. I could give you lessons for an excellent rate.”

Me: “That’s very kind of you, but I’ll just continue to muddle through as best I can. Bye.”

The point of all this is to convince you to not pay attention to the egomaniacs who worship themselves and their conquest of the local puddle. And, due to the Internet’s ability to keep identities hidden, these people feel free to say any kind of vicious nonsense. The best reaction is to smile and be polite in the face of all their garbage.

On the off-chance that you actually attach a name and address to a series of rude comments, you might be tempted to pay that person a visit, strip them nude and hang them upside down on the front of their trailer, spray-paint some fun message on them, gag them so they don’t wake the neighbors, and leave them there so everyone can view them in their natural habitat in the morning. Don’t give in to that temptation! Don’t! But, in case you do (and I’m officially begging you not to), make sure you (don’t!) take lots of photos and mass mail them to every site the jerk visits. Don’t do it!

To answer your question about whether or not an older unrated player can achieve a high rating if he starts so late, the answer is a resounding yes! If you have the skills, the rating will follow. So let’s make it official: Yes, it IS possible! No doubt about it.

Let me finish with an example: When I was a very young Silman in San Diego, there was a guy in his late 70s that had never played a tournament game and, as a result, never had a rating. Then, one day for reasons I’m not privy to, he entered an event and found himself with a 1900 rating! And (this is a 100% true story!) he got that rating by thinking Bishops were better than Rooks (he refused to listen to anyone that told him differently)! Believe it or not, he would sacrifice his Rooks for enemy Bishops every chance he got, and he still remained in the 1900 range (he was an amazing attacking player, and put so much heat on the board that most of his opponents simply couldn’t handle it).

So Pete, you can easily get a high rating in your first ever event (no matter what your age), and you should not quit online events due to the hazing of a bunch of fools who don’t have lives and live in their mother’s basement.

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