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It's springtime and time to have a close look at developments in the Grünfeld Defence.

Download PGN of April ’17 Daring Defences games

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

We've seen quite a few examples in recent years with this provocative move 4...Bg7. Later, in Xu, Y - Swiercz, D Black employed Dominguez Perez's 11...b5 thrust, sacrificing a second pawn:

No one has been able to find any significant advantage for White from here and Xu's new attempt 15.f3 was, if anything, promising for Black. Instead, the previously played 15.Nbd4 has admittedly given White a nominal endgame advantage, but at GM-level not enough to win.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 dxc4 [D80]

White has allowed Black to snatch a pawn with ...dxc4 in many high-level games, but the weird-looking development (as seen here) with Nh3!? is still fairly rare:

In Iturrizaga, E - Vorobiov, E the South American no.1 demonstrated how the bishop pair can offer White long-term chances deep into the game. However, if Black doesn't capture on h3 then Nh3-f4 can be annoying, so this line does seem to create certain practical problems for Black.

If you are looking for an antidote, I think the alternatives at move ten (as outlined in the notes) offer better practical chances for Black than in the game.

Grünfeld Exchange 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+ [D85]

A highly theoretical struggle occurred in Zhou Jianchao - Tran Minh Thang where White innovated as late as move 29.

White followed an earlier Aronian game and sacrificed a piece for a couple of pawns plus the initiative, before spurning a draw and going for gold. The resulting positions are actually very difficult to judge and even the analysis engines don't seem too sure either! White's central pawn phalanx seems to be fully worth the piece, but I wouldn't go as far as to claim any objective advantage. The simplest defence was to return the piece (with 31...Nxd4) for a safe-looking queenless late middlegame.

The latest trend seems to be 13...Qe6 with which Black has been achieving decent results, see the notes.

Grünfeld Exchange 5.Bd2 Bg7 6.e4 Nxc3 [D85]

In Shirov, A - Kulaots, K Alexei Shirov played a lovely combination to finish Black off in this theoretically notable line which, you might remember, became popular as a result of it occurring in Anand, V - Carlsen, M Sochi 2014:

Shirov's plan to centralize, and keep control there, before getting excited on the kingside worked to a tee. This certainly shows that Black has a tough time here if he isn't prepared, but I don't think that Kulaots should have opened the e-file so readily.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 c6 [D90]

When White shows that he has an aggressive streak, with 5.h4, Black can meet this 'solidly' with 5...c6, consolidating the d5-square which in turn means that h5 is under control. In the game Xiong, J - Ipatov, A White captured on d5 and placed his bishop on f4 when the h4-thrust hasn't much value except giving the bishop an escape square, if need be, on h2:

The main lesson to be learnt from this encounter is that there is no need to be forced into complications after 5.h4, as steady solid play is good enough to equalize. Ipatov rather outplayed Xiong and was close to winning except that he chose the wrong square for his queen late on, as you'll see.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 dxc4 [D90]

In Lalith, B - Puranik, A 5.h4 is met by the sharp reaction 5...dxc4, which is OK, but you really need to know your stuff to 'get by' here.

In the diagram position, after 7...0-0, White's vigorous 8.h5 may be 'sort of tempting', but on the basis of this game and the notes I suspect that it's just dubious. Instead 8.Bxc4 is the way forward after which Riazantsev recently won with a novelty on move 23, but as you'll see in the notes Black in turn could have improved to keep the balance.

In the featured game, Puranik playing Black had all the fun, but it was more a 'Benko-style' victory than a Grünfeld one!

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.h4 [D91]

There is no doubt that 6.h4 is unusual (a first time for ChessPublishing) but has been recommended in the past as a decent surprise weapon. As to Polak, T - Biolek, R, a tough struggle ensued in which I think that Black was fine all along, and indeed there seem to several ways to successfully counter White's offbeat system. Here the following position after 9...Be6 was already breaking new ground:

Whatever the final assessment, it's a rich position offering chances for both sides.

The result was very much in doubt until White's blunder on move 21 after which Black had all the chances, even if it remained complicated.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 dxc4 7.e3 Be6 [D92]

It's quite a popular ploy to play ...Be6 in a number of lines of the Grünfeld, including this one.

In Lauber, A - Baramidze, D Black introduced a novelty and followed up with a plan that turned out to be quite promising for Black:

Here, in the diagram position after 18.Qxb7, Black's 18...Nd5! is new.

Simplification led to an opposite bishop middlegame where Black's bishop was more effective. In fact the whole plan worked so well for Baramidze that I feel that White's whole approach needs a re-think.

Grünfeld Russian System 6.Qxc4 Be6 [D96]

Recent practice seems to be demonstrating that 7.Qd3! is White's best reply to the attack on his queen, as played in Indjic, A - Gupta, Ab the featured game:

There are some transposition issues, so a number of the game segments quoted in the notes came from a different move order. However, whatever the route, it looks like this is the way to best cope with 6...Be6, as White achieves a central preponderance where he has chances for an opening advantage.

Gupta rather sportingly sacrificed his c-pawn, but soon regretted it as he had nothing to speak of for his enterprise. Instead, there are alternatives suggested in the notes, but Black's clearest route to equality hasn't been fully worked out yet.

Grünfeld Russian - Hungarian System 7.e4 a6 8.e5 [D97]

Another Indjic game with White in the Russian System. This time he is the one trying out a 'daring' idea but, in my way of thinking, an over-daring idea! However his surprise weapon worked as Kulaots immediately varied from previous theory, but with an equally dubious-looking move. After a series of exciting moments in Indjic, A - Kulaots, K play eventually led to a queenless scenario where the knights outplayed the bishops in a wide open position.

If you look at the notes then you won't be shaken by 12.h4, but if you don't do your homework you might be caught by surprise!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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