In the latest issue of the New In Chess Yearbook (#104), there's a survey by Cuban IM Jose Vilela on the variation 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.Bd3 b5 11.Rhe1 Bb7 12.Qg3 b4 13.Nd5 exd5 14.exd5 Kd8 15.Nc6+ Bxc6 16.dxc6, and now the main move is 16...Nc5.
I don't play either side of this line, but as I was a huge fan of the 6.Bg5 Najdorf (with both sides) as a youngster* I started going through the survey with interest. I always wanted the 6.Bg5 Najdorf to win, if only because White's position is so aesthetically pleasing - especially in this line after 11.Rhe1. If White can put all his pieces on such beautiful squares, have a lead in development and an advantage in space and still not win, then something is wrong with chess! Now when I look at the position it's not so clear. It's not just that I know more; even then I knew that Black always wound up okay. The difference is that the harmoniousness of Black's setup is more apparent to me now, deep in my bones. There are many dangers facing Black, but now White's position doesn't look quite as beautiful and Black's feels more powerful and threatening than it used to.
But back to the variation. While replaying the games in the survey, I recalled seeing a blitz game between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Mesgen Amanov at the 2009 U.S. Open in Indianapolis in this same variation. I saw the game in person and thought I blogged about it, but as I don't have the game in my "blog" database I may not have. At any rate Kosteniuk has a video of the game, with her own voiceover commentary, so I was able to check my memory of the game and compare it to the NICY survey.
The main move in the position above, and the only one covered in the survey, is 17.Bh4, threatening to take on g7. Kosteniuk chose a subtler move, 17.Bc4, which had been tried in only one high-profile game up to that point (and still, if you exclude this blitz game). It's no better than the usual move and may even be slightly worse, in the sense that the burden is more on White than on Black to prove equality. But it was a good practical choice, and Kosteniuk won pretty easily. To see that game, with my notes, along with a bit of the 17.Bh4 material, have a look here.
* There's an old expression in politics, at least in the U.S., that if you're not a liberal when you're young you don't have a heart, and if you're not a conservative when you're older you don't have a head. Something roughly similar could be said about playing lines like the Najdorf or the Dragon. Or as Bent Larsen once said, if you play the Caro-Kann when you're young, what are you going to play when you're older?