You must be wondering how a g4 move in the Najdorf can be surprising, but there are some cases when it is.
The year 2005 was a great year for me. At the end of it I made my first visit to Russia. In total I spent one month in Russia, divided between a tournament in Saratov and a stay in Moscow.
The tournament I played in Saratov was the first of the Aratovsky Memorials that became so strong in the following years. Back then it was a relatively unknown tournament, though very strong nevertheless.
In Round 5 of the tournament I was White against FM Isajevsky. He played the Najdorf and I had a chance to use a rare idea I discovered while analysing a previous game of mine.
This position arose from the positional line 6 Be3 e5 7 Nf3, after 7…Qc7 8 a4 Be7 9 Be2 0-0 10 0-0 Nbd7 11 Nd2 b6.
Black’s treatment of the line was sub-optimal, as White has achieved the ideal set-up: he can continie with 12 Bc4 followed by Bg5, obtaining strong control over the d5-square, which coupled with Black’s inability to push …b5 leaves White firmly in control.
That would have been the typical treatment of the line from White’s side. However, while analysing my game against Gunnarsson from that year’s European Club Cup I discovered a surprising idea.
That idea was the move 12 g4. It was quite shocking for my opponent and understandably so – White is not supposed to attack on the kingside in this line!
The game was tense, it continued with 12…h6 13 h4 Qd8 14 g5 hg 15 hg Nh7 16 g6 fg 17 Nc4, which was very promising for White. My opponent blundered and lost only 4 moves later. This game didn’t make it into the databases (none of the Saratov tournament did) and even checking now I can only find 3 games with the 12 g4 idea, the latest one from 2015 when Wei Yi used it to beat Sevian.
These types of ideas, when a positional line is suddenly turned into a dynamic one, have become more common nowadays, with the modern engines coming up with such moves on regular basis. Still, it felt good to spark such a surprise back in 2005!