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It's time to catch up on developments in the Grünfeld so far this summer.

Download PGN of August '12 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 [D80]

In Dreev - Cheparinov, the Bulgarian played an interesting idea, which Ponomariov and Topalov have already tried out in rapid games, 8...Nd7!?:

If given time, Black will consolidate the left-hand side of the board with ...Nb6.

White replied with 9.d5 (attacking the bishop) followed by 10.Qd4 (hitting the rook), but didn't obtain an advantage. Even though this knight move has already been tested at a high level, the complications seem to be adequate for Black. The game led to a complex struggle where Black was fine.

In the latter stages, possibly in time trouble, Dreev missed a likely win.

Exchange with 7.Be3 [D85]

The game Vladimir Kramnik-Anish Giri, from Dortmund 2011, dealt a blow to one of Black's main ways of defending against the Be3 Exchange variation (see the archives). However developments over the last few months have seen Black fight back, as he has found ways to obtain a satisfactory game.

One example can be seen in Game Two, Alojzije Jankovic-Abhijeet Gupta, which I particularly like because of the way the Indian won a drawish endgame. The notes demonstrate that Black can even vary somewhat and still face up to Kramnik's 13.h4 with confidence.

Exchange with 8.Bb5+ [D85]

Game Three features 7.Nf3 c5 8.Bb5+, which was recently seen in a game from the Anand-Gelfand match (see the archives). Here Leonid Gerzhoy varied by playing d4-d5 a move later than Anand did. However Wesley So was able to favourably sacrifice the exchange, which seems to put White's tenth move under a cloud. In the latter stages, after finally getting back into the game, Gerzhoy missed an easy way to draw.

Exchange with 7.Bg5 [D85]

This line has become popular over the last few years. White aims for a good version of the Be3-Exchange Variation, as the bishop is more active on g5, where it bears down on e7. In Game 4, Spike Ernst, playing Black, was able to liven things up by sacrificing two pawns to obtain very active pieces:

From a theoretical point of view 10.d5 is less common than 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.d5, however in both these cases it's not easy to find a route to full equality.

Exchange with 8.Rb1 [D85]

Fabiano Caruana outplayed Mateusz Bartel in Game 5 after the exchange of queens in the Rb1-Exchange Variation. After having a rough time earlier this year, against Teimour Radjabov, Caruana has understood that he needs to play with ...b6 to nullify the effect of White's rook on b1. Indeed this was known before he was born. Bartel played sharply, but Caruana was able to find his way through the complications.

So as the surprise value of the revival is now gone, in my opinion, 11.Qd2 won't be played very often in future by strong GMs.

Exchange with 7.Qa4+ [D85]

In Game 6 Ian Nepomniachtchi tried the early queen check, but Igor Kurnosov was well prepared and achieved comfortable equality. I don't personally believe that 7.Qa4+ is anything special and this game, plus the notes, seem to confirm my view.

The actual game was soon favourable to Black who played the early phase energetically. However at a key moment Kurnosov surprisingly didn't take a key pawn and found himself on the defensive.

Exchange with 7.Bc4 [D87]

Game 7 features a solid system that White has been struggling to crack. Black plays ...b6, ...Na5, ...e6, and then simply completes development:

Someone with attacking flair might be able to find a more active plan for White on the kingside, but I can't see how to create any real problems for Black. In the game Vovk was unable to find anything either, and he then chose an unfortunate moment to enter the knight endgame. The line that Volokitin (and Kamsky last year) played is little known, but certainly deserves further outings.

The Seville Variation [D88]

The Seville Variation had its heyday before I started writing for (i.e. a long time ago!) and it's rare that the well-established theory gets shaken up, however here is a case where it is.

This position after 20.d5 was already seen in one of the legendary Karpov-Kasparov encounters, and has been played a few time since. Here Emil Sutovsky introduced a new (and excellent!) idea against Le Quang Liem in Game Eight. Black played 20...b5! and then demonstrated a way to obtain adequate counterplay.

In essence: placing the bishop on a3, the knight on d6 and then pushing the queenside majority is a good plan, especially if combined with a timely ....Rf8. In the game, the Israeli GM later went for bizarre complications with a piece sacrifice (probably going for more than a share of the spoils?) and a fascinating struggle ensued in which White should have won.

4/5.Bf4 [D92]

In the following position a new move was recently played:

Here Black has 8...d4!, which has now led in two games to the following...

This position begs the question: Who is better?

A computer will count up pieces and thus conclude that White is on top, but it's Black who has all the fun. Indeed in Game 9, Paramarjan Negi won with the black pieces against Bartosz Socko, but the rook offer isn't his idea, as it had already occurred in Alexander Grischuk-Fabiano Caruana (him again!) a month earlier, where White was fortunate to draw.

So, as White doesn't have an easy time, 6...Be6 is an ideal choice for dynamic players, especially as this new twist looks great. It's definitely worth playing this idea before it gets to be well-known, even then I can't see many white players opting for this by choice.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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