Sicilian Najdorf

Sicilian Najdorf (also called Najdorf Variation) is a deep theoretical chess opening famous for its complex and long lines. It starts with the Sicilian Defense (1.e4 and 1…c5), where both sides rapidly develop their pieces (2.Nf3 d6, 3.d4 cxd4, and 4.Nxd4 transitions to classic open variation). Then, 4…Nf6 puts pressure on the e4-pawn, replied by 5.Nc3 (guarding the assaulted pawn). Once Bb5 is prevented by 5…a6, the Najdorf variations begin.

Sicilian Najdorf

Sicilian Najdorf originated from a Polish grandmaster of the same name in the 1900s. Although it was used before then as a noble weapon, it was only recognized by the elite class after its debut at the high level. Most lines offer high fighting opportunities due to their sharp and decisive nature.

Winning Percentage on Both Sides

As one of the most studied variations, Najdorf generally gives on-par outcomes for both sides.

Master Games Statistics

Results Rate
Victory for White 28%
Draw 49%
Victory for Black 22%

Statistics from 16 Million Amateur Games

Results Rate
Victory for White 47%
Draw 5%
Victory for Black 48%

Main ideas of the Sicilian Najdorf

Sicilian Najdorf Variation allows both sides to often castle in opposite directions. This typically leads to very intense and tactical scenes and requires precise calculations.

White often wants to target the weak backward d6 pawn by stacking heavy pieces on the d-file in positional games. They can also choose a sharp route and castle on the long side. This allows the f-g-h pawns to march up to the opposing King and open files to create vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, Black often seeks to strike in the long side by utilizing a and b pawns. This minority attack can be utilized by placing heavy pieces on the c-file. They often castle on the short side and try to avoid playing on the Kingside.

Sicilian Najdorf Theory

The Main Line allows both sides to create imbalances on opposite sides of the board. White often wants to oppress the enemy on the short side by castling the Queen side. The rival continually seeks to do the opposite by castling in the short side.

The English Attack is a flexible approach to waiting for the opponent to commit to something. These games can be very sharp after decisive attempts or very strategic after several exchanges.

Opocensky Variation is a solid attempt to limit the possible tactical sequences. These games can last a long time and require positional understanding.

Other options, such as committal 6.f4, could be utilized for a rapid assault on the enemy King. Instead, 6.f3 can be chosen to have a flexible approach.

Main Line: 6. Bg5

It starts after 6.Bg5 is chosen to put pressure on the f6-Knight. Most lines require White to put their King into safety on the long side. By doing that, the Rook automatically enters d1 to oppress that file. Also, the reply to Bg5 is crucial since there are only a bunch of logical attempts.

Najdorf Variation - Main Line

6…e6 is the most common choice to avoid a ruined pawn structure after Bxf6. Then, White increases the tension by moving the pawn forward to f4 (7.f4). This protects the g5-Bishop and allows the d1-Queen to place on f3 without blocking the f-pawn.

Then, the rival has to make a critical choice. This decision often shapes the game. One candidate move is going for an offense and playing 7…Qb6 (assaulting to d4 and b2 simultaneously). Other options are 7…h6 (kicking the g5-Bishop), 7…Be7 (guarding the f6-Knight to release the Queen’s protection), and 7…Nbd7 (same idea as Be7).

If Qb6 is chosen, White typically sacrifices a pawn after 8.Bxf6 gxf6, 9.Qd2 (guarding c3 and d4 Knight) 9…Qxb2 and 10.Rb1. This gives a ruined pawn structure to Black in the part where the King is supposed to be safe. The b1-Rook is also active on the b-file, and the rival Queen is misplaced. These positions lead to many complications where the White side claims they have enough compensation for the pawn. White launches an assault after playing Be2 and short castle (putting the King into safety first). At the same time, the Black side tries to consolidate the extra pawn they have and aims to exchange pieces to go for an endgame.

In most of the other variations, such as 7…Be7, White swiftly goes for 8.Qf3 to clear the back rank for the long castle. This also guards b2 and avoids Qb6 ideas. Then, White can push the pawn army (g4-h4-h5) to hunt the enemy King. Or they can play positionally and target the d6 pawn by doubling Rooks on the d-file. Meanwhile, the Black side castles short, plays b5, Nbd7, and Bb7, and places the Rooks on the c-file to harass the enemy in the Queenside.

The English Attack: 6. Be3

This line starts after White prefers a flexible option and plays 6.Be3. It is quite common nowadays at the highest level because it does not commit and shows the card to the enemy.

Najdorf Variation - The English Attack

The most common reply is creating a capture menace to that beautifully placed Bishop on e3. By going 6…Ng4, Black aims to capture it in the next turn. Moving the Bishop is the only positionally logical attempt. 7.Bf4 loses to a fork after 7…e5. Hence, the only rational route is to place the Bishop on g5. It is similar to the main line. However, the Knight is misplaced on g4, and if it goes back to f6, White would be gaining an extra tempo. That’s why this variation is trendy at a high level.
After 7.Bg5, 7…Nf6 is admitting defeat to 8.Bxf6, destroying the Black sides Kingside pawn structure. Hence, the best way is an offense by 7…h6 (assaulting on g5-Bishop). Then, Bishop gets into safety in h4 and gets kicked from the ‘d8-h4’ again by 8…g5. After that, 9.Bg3 is mandatory, and the enemy has to put the Bishop to g7 because the h4-pawn push (Menace on the g5-pawn, h-pawn is pinned since the h8-Rook is unprotected) is a massive threat by White.

After 9…Bg7, White aims to guard c3 and d4 by moving Qd2 or kicks the g4-Knight by playing h3. After 10.h3 (Assaulting the g4-Knight) and Nf6, White aims to move the Queen to a logical location (often f3) and castles long. The enemy castles short side, and both sides strike where the rival King is.

The Opocensky Variation: 6.Be2

This variation starts after 6.Be2 occurs. This move aims to stop the Ng4 ideas discussed in the English Attack. It is considered a solid approach. However, it is not as commonly chosen as the main line or English Attack.

Najdorf Variation - The Opocensky Variation


After Bishop to e2 is chosen, the soundest reply is 6…e5, kicking the d4-Knight for good. This creates a potential target on the d6-square. There are two options; the Knight can jump on b3 or f3. Often, Nb3 transitions to more sharp lines, and Nf3 can be a more positional approach. As a more ambitious move, 7.Nb3 is typically met by Black developing pieces. Be7, Be6, and Nc6 can be played with different move orders to prepare for a safe King.

One sample variation can be 7…Be7 (Clearing the back rank for the short side castle), 8. O-O, 8…O-O, 9.Be3 (improving the Bishop), 9…Be6 (developing attempt), and 10.Qd2 (connecting a battery with Queen and Bishop, also getting ready to put a Rook on d1-Square).

After this, Black aims to go Nbd7 and clear their back rank, then start a minority attack on the long side by advancing the b-pawn to b5. Also, Rc8 with Qc7 are casual attempts to oppress the c-file. Meanwhile, White can play Nd5 and support the Knight with the c-pawn. Also, they can increase the pressure on the d-file by exchanging a couple of the enemy’s defenders.

Other Options

6.f3 Line

This one starts after 6.f3 is chosen. It is played even at the highest level and considered a sideline. Since the e4-pawn is constantly under assault, f3 solves the problem and liberates the c3-Knight for further Nd5 ideas.

Najdorf Variation - 6.f3 Line

After f3, 6…e5 is the most common choice. One drawback of f3 is that the Black side can play a d5-pawn push to equalize the game. After 7.Nb3, 7…Be6 is a typical route to reinforce the d5-pawn push. Then, 8.Be3 can occur to cover the fragile ‘a7-g1’ diagonal. 8…d5 is inevitable, and some trades often happen on d5.

After the exchanges, the White side usually castles on the long side and tries to conquer the d-file. Meanwhile, Black can castle in the short side and advance the a- and b-pawns forward.

6.f4 Line

This one starts after 6.f4 is played. It is less famous than the other lines because the opponent can immediately strike with 6…e5 and equalize.

Najdorf Variation - 6.f4 Line

Taking that e-pawn would be a strategic mistake due to the ruined pawn structure. If 7.fxe5 and 7…dxe5 happens, 8.Nf3 would be met by a Queen trade (8…Qxd1). It would be a worse endgame since the White side has a worse pawn set-up and no activity.

After 6…e5, the best reply is to jump back to f3. These variations often have a fragile nature for White. Black can expand on the long side by the b5-pawn push. The opponent can try to utilize the extra space on the Kingside. Both sides can castle in the short side and play a dynamic game.

Pros and Cons of playing Sicilian Najdorf

Pros Cons
A very valuable tool to increase the pawn structures’ values on positional understanding. Sicilian Najdorf requires profound studies and careful calculations not to fall behind.
Games can transition to both sharp and solid positions. White can overextend with the pawns in some lines.
Pawn structure and piece placements are similar in different variations. Black can end up with a ruined Kingside pawn structure.
Ideas are mostly straightforward. In some variations, White may need to sacrifice a pawn for the long-term positional advantage.


Sicilian Najdorf is one of the most prominent variations in Sicilian Defense.  It has both tactical and positional lines for every level of players. It is a commital opening since both sides often castle in the diverse sides. This creates opportunities to have a one-sided or thrilling match. It can be used as a win-or-lose tool similar to most Sicilian lines.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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Is the Sicilian Najdorf good opening?

Yes, the Sicilian Najdorf is considered a highly reputable and strong opening in chess. It’s favored by many top players for its flexibility and rich tactical possibilities. It suits players who are looking for complex positions and dynamic play.

Is Sicilian Najdorf aggressive?

The Sicilian Najdorf is known for its aggressive and combative nature. It often leads to sharp and unbalanced positions, making it a favorite among players who prefer attacking and tactical styles of play. The opening sets the stage for aggressive pawn structures and active piece play.

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