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A Grünfeld mix this time with some new ideas, rare sidelines as well as some heavy theory. Overall, this month, more often than not, Black achieves excellent positions straight out of the opening. In fact, in several cases, he is even able to claim an early advantage. Encouraging for those who like to play this ever-popular 'defence' with the black pieces.

Download PGN of April ’19 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 c5 7.dxc5 Ne4!? [D83]

I was present when Barsegyan, H - Gupta, Ab was being played and was surprised at the time how quickly the Indian GM took control.

It turns out that 8.Nxe4? doesn't work very well. Black may not be gaining a tempo directly after 8...dxe4 (as there is no knight on f3), but it still requires too much time for White to get his kingside pieces deployed. You will notice the monster dark-squared bishop that traumatized White's queenside!

It looks like the first player just has to play 8.cxd5, which I've examined in the notes. There might be chances for a White pull, but 7...Ne4 certainly isn't a bad move.

Grünfeld Exchange 8.h3 0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 10.Be3 [D85]

The recent fashion for playing the Exchange with h2-h3 might come to an end once the game Edouard, R - Huzman, A becomes better known. Of course, as so often is the case, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had already shown the way, but Huzman took up the gauntlet. His play demonstrates how Black can play for more than a share of the spoils after the exchange sacrifice (that follows on from the diagram position). Time trouble looks as if it was the root cause behind him letting the win slip through his hands.

I'm confident that 13...fxe4 14.Ng5 Nxd4!, as in the game, is a fine continuation, and might put a few people off playing the h3-Exchange in future.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Qa4+ Nd7 8.Nf3 0-0 9.Be2 e5!? [D85]

The encounter Vidit, S - Shankland, S for me was a great fearless display by Shankland who kept the Indian GM in difficulties throughout. He perhaps surprised Vidit in the first place by opting for 9...e5!?:

as 10.Ba3 Re8 was followed up with the dubious-looking 11.dxe5?!, rather than the more logical 11.d5. I don't understand why he helped Black's pieces to activate?

Later, the American sacrificed three pawns to keep White tangled up and eventually his enterprising play paid dividends.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 0-0 9.Rc1 Qa5 10.Qd2 Rd8 [D85]

I don't know how important White's novelty will prove to be in future but it worked to perfection in Sorokin, A - Mista, A.:

Full marks to Sorokin for trying 19.dxc6!? which certainly confused Mista who quickly got into difficulties. It seems that after 19...Rxd2 20.Rxd2 Black should opt for 20...Rc8!, but it's easy for commentators to pass judgement when they have the benefit of hindsight and their trusty engine! Anyway, the critical position is given as an edge to Black by the silicon monster, but I'm not so sure and would like to see some humans test this out.

Grünfeld Exchange 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 10.d5 [D85]

I can't remember ever contemplating the gambit employed in Esipenko, A - Wei Yi but it has actually been played a few times:

So Black takes up the challenge with 12...Bxc3 and then White tries some active-looking moves hoping to benefit from his lead in development. My conclusion is that a murky middlegame results where anything could happen. If we disregard any surprise value, then objectively Black shouldn't be worse and, if he's careful, might even be the one more likely to come out on top. At the end, Wei Yi managed to squeeze out a win from a drawish rook endgame.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 [D87]

The final result was a bit of a disaster for Le Quang Liem in Yakubboev, N - Le Quang Liem which ended astonishingly as 1-0, despite Black obtaining a winning position. Only right near the end did he lose the thread. In the opening, Le Quang Liem played à la Vachier-Lagrave and 'sacced' his c-pawn for general activity and the bishop pair. The theory of this line has now been worked out deep into the game without any sign of a White edge. Here the compensation was so convincing that Black took control, and subsequently White had to give up the exchange to stay on the board. The later complications should have been better navigated by the Vietnamese No.1, but even 2700+s are human!

Grünfeld Exchange 6.Bd2 0-0 7.Rc1 Nc6!? [D90]

The Exchange Variation with an early Bd2 is now quite well-established on the tournament scene, but in Laxman, R - Cheparinov, I a rarer version with an early Nf3 was employed. Although placing the knight on f3 can't be bad, it allows Black to have the option of a ...Bg4 pin if desired. Cheparinov instead developed his light-squared bishop elsewhere, achieved an excellent opening and went on to win a fine endgame. Early on, I was wondering if Laxman made the right choice on move nine:

I thought that Bc1-d2 was getting ready to recapture on c3 (with Bxc3 in the case of ...Nxc3), but here 9.bxc3 was played, after which 9...b6 worked fine for the Bulgarian star. My analysis, and previous experience, indicates that 9.Bxc3 is indeed the correct move after which I didn't find a sure-fire way to equalize.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 dxc4 [D91]

Megaranto, S - Sjugirov, S is one of those cases where Black gets a really good opening, but is unable to break down a resolute defender. I don't think that Sjugirov missed anything major, but he perhaps could have tested his opponent a little more, here or there. As to the opening, I just find the positions resulting from 6.e3 Be6 to be comfortable for Black in all lines:

If you are willing to accept complications then the almost forgotten 6.e4 c5 7.d5 b5 8.d6 is worth investigation, as it gets very sharp and might rattle an unprepared opponent.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 dxc4 7.e3 Be6 8.Ng5 [D92]

A theoretical discussion in Xiong, J - So, W ultimately led to a draw. White was pressing slightly, but I don't think that Wesley So was in danger, and maybe not even worse at all. Xiong's opening twist 17.a4!? was perhaps worth a try as a one-off, but I don't think that Black is that uncomfortable, even if he has to keep an eye out for a possible a4-a5 advance. So could perhaps have been more ambitious with 20...c6 retaining the extra pawn, but experience suggests that White's activity in analogous positions is enough to keep a dynamic balance.

Grünfeld Russian 7.e4 a6 8.e5 b5 9.Qb3 Nfd7 10.e6!? [D97]

In the Salgado Lopez, I - McShane, L encounter White tried to surprise his opponent with 12.g3, an almost unknown manner to develop the light-squared bishop in the Russian System. The Englishman was however up to the task and soon found a nice exchange sacrifice to seize the advantage and never looked back.

I'm at a loss to offer any decent suggestions as to a possible significant improvement for the first player. There are some tricky ideas, cert, but nothing to suggest that 10.e6!? is anything other than 'double-edged at best'.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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