July '00 Update
Welcome to this month's Daring Defences Update, presented by GM Neil McDonald.
In the mainline variation 4 cxb5 a6 5 bxa6 g6 6 Nc3 Bxa6 7 e4 Bxf1 8 Kxf1 d6 we look at 9 Nge2. This is a slightly unusual idea. It sometimes indicates that White is planning to attack on the kingside with h2-h4-h5 and so wants to put the knight on g3 or f4 to facilitate the advance of the rook's pawn. However, in the illustrative game it turns out that White has nothing aggressive on the kingside in mind: he just wants to fortify c3 as a prelude to an eventual b2-b4 advance. This works perfectly after some indecisive play by Black in Shulman-Schwartz JUL00.
White can also fianchetto his bishop in the mainline with 7 g3. Black's best response, which has been tested in some top class games, can be found in the analysis to Aleksandrov-Van der Weide. In the game itself, Black plays inaccurately and is beaten in instructive style. Click on Aleksandrov-Van der Weide JUL00.
The variation 4 cxb5 a6 5 e3 remains popular. A typical scenario for this variation is that White launches an attack on the kingside. Last month in Babula-Stocek White's attack proved decisive; this month his assault is of a much cruder nature and it fails to breakthrough. Then Black counterattacks and the white position just crumbles. Have a look at Keatinge Clay- Eriksson JUL00
Our fourth game seems to confirm that Black has a difficult life after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 b5 4 cxb5 a6 5 b6 if he continues in natural Benko fashion with 5...d6. Probably if he plays very precisely for a number of moves he will be OK, but how many of us can manage that? Certainly Black can't in the game given here as he soon ends up in a positional stranglehold on the queenside and in the centre. Take a look at Chiburdanidze - Slobodjan JUL00.
Finally, we consider 4 Nd2 which has enjoyed the attention of players such as Kramnik, Epishin and Korchnoi. Black has to play accurately not to fall into a bind. For a discussion of how this line is handled by the big guns, click on Serper-Miton JUL00.
Both games this month focus on the line 1 d4 d6 2 c4 e5 3 Nf3, with the alternatives 3...e4 or 3...Nd7 for Black.
Firstly, 3...e4 was discussed last month in Sultanov-Poluljahov in which White tried 4 Nd2; now we consider 4 Ng5. Again it seems that Black is fine if he builds a big centre. However, this month's game shows if he is wise he will know the correct moment to liquidate it and clear lines for his pieces. Here's Estremera Panos-Georgiev JUL00.
Regarding the second game, I've been wondering what exactly is the territory of the Old Indian. Some books take the view that it is defined by the fact that Black plays ...Be7 rather than ...Bg7. However, I have an old book by Ludek Pachman which defines ...g7-g6 as the 'New Treatment' of the Old Indian. And surely all those games by David Bronstein and others [say at Zurich 1953] count as Old Indians, despite the fact that ...Bg7 was generally played?
My own opinion is that any method that isn't accepted as part of the modern orthodox handling of the King's Indian can be considered as an 'Old Indian.'
With that in mind, in the next game Black plays ...Bg7 but combines it with ...Nge7 rather than ...Ngf6. He achieves everything Black could hope for when playing an unusual King's Indian. White becomes disoriented and soon finds himself facing an all out attack. Have a look at Tarasov-Zhukov JUL00.
First of all, Black is still doing nicely against e4 lines with the system 1 d4 b6 2 e4 Bb7 3 Bd3 e6 followed by a quick attack on White's centre with ...d7-d5. In the game Grosar-Filipovic, given last month, White responded by closing the centre in French style. Now we look at a game in which he keeps the position open. I'm sure Black shouldn't have any problems here. Have a peek at Aleksandrov-Turikov JUL00.
Judging from recent games, White's intended recipe at the moment for beating the English is the line 1 d4 b6 2 c4 Bb7 3 Nc3 e6 4 a3 f5 5 d5 and next the move 6 g3.
Note that this comes about in a variety of move orders, but White's idea is always the same:
[a] he makes the flanking thrust ...b7-b5 less attractive with an early Nc3.
[b] he prevents ...Bb4 with a3.
[c] he shuts in the black bishop with d5
[d] he then feels secure enough to play 6 g3 followed by his own fianchetto.
I'm feeling slightly pessimistic about Black's chances after looking at Kveinys-Miezis JUL00. In this game he played the ...b7-b5 anyway, but White ignored it and soon Black's centre was looking slightly ragged. However, as you will see, Black missed the chance to handle the opening in more dynamic style and walked into a positional bind.
Hopefully next month there might just be a stunning win waiting which will rehabilitate the whole line for Black.
Meanwhile, to cheer up English Defence players there is an enthralling game between Vallejo Pons and Bunzmann. The white king ends up being chased right up the board and only survives thanks to an extraordinary drawing resource. This game is a useful reminder that in a real game tactical factors based on the inherent dynamism of a set up are often more important than a theoretical assessment. You'll enjoy Vallejo Pons- Bunzmann JUL00.
Looking through the 'evidence' it seems pretty clear to me that 4 Bf4, getting the bishop outside of the pawn structure before playing e2-e3, is more promising for White than the alternative 4 Nf3, when 4...Bc5 5 e3 leaves the bishop shut in. However, we shouldn't exaggerate the strength of 4 Bf4. Although White wins all three games given here, in every case the Elo rating difference in White's favour was enormous.
Therefore don't be discouraged by the results of the games here. It's just a fact of life that much superior players beat their opponents, no matter what the opening. You can bet that had Shirov had the black pieces, as for example he did in a recent game against Bacrot, the results would have been very different!
Our first couple of games feature 4 Bf4.
In the first, Black ventures to play a sharp but dubious line against a player 248 rating points above him. This gamble almost pays off as his opponent, a WGM, doesn't seem too well acquainted with the variation and plays an inferior move. Alas, he misses his one chance to confuse matters and after all is subjected to a technical display by his opponent. Have a look at Kachiani-Vianin JUL00.
In our second example, there is an even bigger imbalance in rating. Again, Black tries to confuse matters, but this time his idea is clearly unsound. Nevertheless, the refutation is elegant, as you will see in Bunzmann-Ubezio JUL00.
In the final 4 Bf4 game Black plays the opening in sensible, solid style and soon has the advantage. Alas then he becomes too confident and looks for a middlegame win instead of forcing a favourable endgame. The result is that he is gunned down by White's two bishops after a clever positional sacrifice. Check out Elsness-Johannessen JUL00.
Finally, there is a 4 Nf3 game. Black omits the standard Re8 developing move and instead lunges straight at White's kingside. He scores a quick and convincing win. Need I tell you that this time the rating advantage was exactly 200 points in Black's favour? Have a look at Rossi-Mukic JUL00.