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It's time to look at the Grünfeld Defence again, although technically the first couple of games are classified in the Anti-Grünfeld. This is, of course, closely related if Black continues with ...d5 regardless.

Download PGN of February ’16 Daring Defences games

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Anti-Grünfeld 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 e5 [D70]

In Morchiashvili, B - Maghsoodloo, P White played very aggressively with a quick 0-0-0 followed by h2-h4-h5, the latter of these advances actually sacrificing a pawn:

Although a similar pawn sac has credibility in many lines of the Sicilian Dragon,Yugoslav Attack, here it frankly isn't sound, but only if Black takes the offrand. In the game, Maghsoodloo preferred to decline the offer, but the resulting mess was harder to play for Black and he went down in the complications.

Anti-Grünfeld 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Qd6 [D70]

There has been great interest in the type of position that arose in Sjugirov, S - Kokarev, D as in the following position:

Here both 16.Bf4 and the game move of 16.Bg5 have been tried, where White improves the bishop whilst aiming to provoke some sort of concession from Black.

Kokarev met the threat to his rook with 16...f6, and then, following 17.Bh6, he offered the exchange of queens with 17...Bxh6 18.Qxh6 Qf8. This is new at this point, but has been seen in analogous positions. Sjugirov had to decide whether to trade or not. He valiantly kept the queens on the board (chopping them off is safer), but was outplayed and found himself in trouble. I'm not quite sure of the circumstances at the end of this game, but Black should have won somewhere.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Bg7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 [D80]

Black employed a popular gambit idea in Gorovets, A - Robson, R. In many previous encounters, Black had managed to obtained enough practical chances (better development, bishop pair, more active disposition) for the pawn, but here it didn't quite work out.

Robson tried 11...Bd7 here, but both 11...Bf5 and 11...Qb4 have also been played.

Gorovets managed to consolidate and his higher-rated opponent ran out of things to do. Furthermore, following a few piece exchanges White was able to advance his passed c-pawn and earn the full point. Does this deal a blow to Black's 6...c5 or can the line be rescued with an improvement, either on move 11 or perhaps as late as move 16?

See the game and notes to make your mind up!

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 c5 [D80]

The quiet positional lines that occur after 5...c5 look acceptable for Black at first sight, as in Jakovenko, D - Matinian, N, but are a little easier for White to handle. Jakovenko innovated as early as move ten, but it didn't radically change the nature of the middlegame that followed. The restrained white centre in this line isn't always easy to attack, so both players often mobilize their forces before anything dramatic happens. Here, when he was good and ready, Jakovenko expanded with e4 and d5 creating a dangerous passed d-pawn, whereupon Matinian failed to cope.

To get something more lively for Black, I quite like meeting 10.Qa3 with 10...g5, as you'll see in the notes.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 dxc4 [D82/93]

What's the interest in analyzing a draw that has all happened before i.e. Moiseenko, A - Areshchenko, A ? Well, the game itself didn't offer anything new, but I was interested in investigating attempts by both sides to vary earlier in order to keep the game alive. In the notes, you'll find various ways to avoid the forcing lines that lead to the draw seen in the main game, but it seems that 15.Bh2 only seems to offer equality:

The plus-side of the main alternative 15.Rxc6 is that it leads to unbalanced middlegames with chances for both sides. Less well-known is 15.Bg5, where Black has to find several good moves to avoid something nasty happening.

My main conclusion is that having a good memory is necessary with either colour!

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 7.cxd5 [D83]

Van Wely, L - Nepomniachtchi, I was a fantastic struggle where in the endgame the initiative passed from one player to the other, despite the limited material left on the board. As for the opening, after the fashionable 6...Be6, the Dutchman decided to capture twice on d5 which led to the following position:

I have already considered 9.a3 in a previous update, but Van Wely preferred 9.b3 which is equally popular. Nepomniachtchi had already had this variation before, so his plan involving ...Qa5+ and an early ...Qa3 may have been prepared in advance. He obtained a good game which brings me to the conclusion that 7.cxd5 is not worrisome for Black.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 7.c5 [D83]

Anton Guijarro had a fantastic tournament in Gibraltar and this was just one of his impressive games. The most notable moment in our featured game, Anton Guijarro, D - Awonder, L was the Spaniard's inspired piece sacrifice which occurred in the following position:

Here he played 13.Nxd5 and obtained two central pawns plus great bishops for the piece. Although it looked promising, I feel that his opponent had chances to defend better and even obtain a satisfactory game, but it certainly wasn't easy.

In the opening, Awonder's 8...Nfd7!? didn't work out so well here, but deserves another test. Otherwise 8...Nbd7 is better known, where Black often aims for an eventual ...e5 advance, but meantime keeps a firm hold on d5, thus avoiding the type of sacrifice of the game.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Be3 c5 8.Nf3 [D85]

In Sarkar, J - Gledura, B the young Hungarian, Benjamin Gledura, was able to introduce a startling exchange sacrifice to stymie his opponent's attack:

After 13...Nxe5! 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.Bxf8 Kxf8 White may have had the objective material advantage of rook for bishop and pawn but Justin Sarkar then chose a poor plan and went on to lose. However, even if he were to centralize his forces (rather than sticking to an impotent attack down the h-file) then I couldn't find any advantage. So Gledura's 13...Nxe5 looks like a good move.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Be3 Qc7 [D87]

In the traditional Exchange Grünfeld, those plans involving a quick h2-h4 by White have always struck me as promising only if Black is slow to attack the centre. Shabalov, on the other hand, seems to enjoy this plan even in the mainstream lines. His reasoning could be that if White can hold his central pawns together then Black's counterplay isn't too threatening. Consequently, there is time to add an extra element that won't be not particularly pleasant for Black to face. The rapid game that I have used to illustrate this idea, Shabalov, A - Flores Ruiz, M wasn't perfect by any means, but Black had practical problems to face.

In the notes, you'll see that White can play in this way against various eleventh moves by Black. The limited number of examples means that it isn't easy to make hard-and-fast conclusions, but it certainly gives us all something to think about!

Grünfeld Russian 6.Qxc4 Be6 [D96]

The Russian Variation is another case where an early ...Be6 is popular. One could argue that if White is going to bring his queen out so early then he should expect to get it booted about! Indeed, if he isn't careful Black can get a lead in development as you can see in Dobrov, V - Tari, A which almost went horribly wrong for White even in the opening. After some errors by both sides, the game ended in a draw, but left me with the impression that White needs a major improvement as early as possible.

If my suspicions are founded (that the 7.Qa4+ Bd7 8.Qc2 idea of the game is not very good), I suggest that the reader investigate 7.Qd3 (which is rare, but solid enough) or 7.Qb5+ (if you prefer pawn-grabbing as a way of life).

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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