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Four diverse opening systems are in the spotlight this month.
In the English Defence, Benko Gambit, Albin Counter-Gambit and Blumenfeld Gambit, I have hunted down a series of new ideas - some of which seem to change previous assessments. I recommend a closer look, so read on!

Download PGN of August '14 Daring Defences games

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English Defence Mainline a3, ...f5, d5 [A40]

One of the main lines was tested in Game One, Georgiev-Rombaldoni. The Italian decided to direct all his energy into a kingside attack, which led to an exciting struggle and a perpetual check. In hindsight, one can conclude that the attack was objectively not quite sound and that Georgiev missed a probable win on move 25.

Instead of all the blood and thunder, here the calm 15...Bxf4 16.Nxf4 a4 seems to give Black full equality. This suggests that the whole line is perfectly acceptable for the second player.

English Defence 4 Bd3 Bb4+ 5 Kf1 [A40]

In Game Two Jobava's ...Bb4+ and then ...Be7 didn't work out so well. Wesley So was able to keep his space advantage intact and it was difficult for Black to obtain any counterplay. The fact that White has to 'castle by hand' doesn't seem to be an issue with such a big centre to protect his interests.

Those who like really daring ideas might want to investigate 5...e5!? (see the notes), as then if White grabs the pawn (with the pawn front less stable) he has a harder time getting his king into safety.

English Defence a3, ...Nf6, d5 [A50]

In Game Three Cori indulges in a slightly unusual system, that is playing ...Nf6 instead of ...f5. This hybrid Queen's Indian Defence/English Defence, could be described as aiming for 'quick development' at the cost of abandoning the dynamic ...f5-thrust (with its hold on the e4-square):

White's d4-d5 is critical, as played by Ghosh, with a wedge to keep Black's pieces at bay.

The general assessment depends on Black's ability to counter White's centre (in one of a number of ways), as seen in the notes. In the present game White's positional sacrifice d5-d6 led to Black holding onto the pawn for most of the game, but never being in a position to use it positively.

Later on, Cori Tello misplayed the endgame but was probably short of time and energy by then.

English Defence 4 Bd3 f5 [A40]

Game Four is a prime example of Gambit play. In the diagram, after 9...Ng4, Black would seem to have dangerous play for the pawn, and I suspect that over the board many would be nervous playing White. However, sitting in the comfort of my office, computer at hand, I can assure you that with best play White is the one who is for preference, albeit slightly:

Nevertheless, this shouldn't stop those with a daring streak who like to make their opponent uncomfortable!

Overall, Game 4 was a good fight, enjoy it!

Benko Gambit Declined 4.a4 [A57]

In the Benko Declined, after 4.a4, Black already has to choose his weapon. The dichotomy comes down to either playing the steady 4...b4, when manoeuvring becomes the order of the day, or leave matters open with 4...dxc4. Muzychuk being a tactician by nature preferred to capture, but wasn't able to fully equalize. Even the better known 9...Ba6 (instead of Muzychuk's 9...Na6 in Game Five) doesn't seem to do the trick. White's attack turned out to be very dangerous, but that's partially because the knight on b4 can't help the king in its moment of need.

Instead of letting White recapture straight away, I like Degraeve's 6...Ba6 when Black seems to gain time for his endeavours.

Benko Accepted with Kxf1 12 a4 [A59]

I am sure that some subscribers have been hoping that a way would be found to stem the tide of White's a2-a4 advance in the main line of the gambit accepted. White has been successful with the plan of a4 and Nb5, followed by consolidating the queenside and then preparing to expand (see the archives for several examples).

This month I even have two possible solutions, see Games 6 and 7! The first of these is in Game 6, 12...Na6:

By quickly playing ...Na6-c7 (rather than ...Nbd7, and ...Ne8-c7) White doesn't have time to place his knight on the intended outpost on b5.

I think that Guidarelli's move-order has a future, and so it might be that a2-a4 only works once the queen's knight has gone to d7.

In the game, Black had to defend against White's queen long and hard. The lesson perhaps is that Black shouldn't be too willing to give up his queen for two rooks in such positions, as the queen can cause more damage. I think that I've found a missed win late in the game, see my notes.

In Game 7 Leon Hoyos's sensible 13...Qa6 looks like an improved choice of square (rather than dropping back to b6 or c7, as we've previously seen), but I'd still take White in such positions:

Note that with all the minor pieces still on the board it was tough for White to make progress. Indeed Black was doing quite well in the period of 'toing and froing' that followed.

Later on White was so winning, but in the real world one can't always put the ball in the net even in front of an open goal.

Albin Counter Gambit 5 a3 Nge7 [D08]

Lines with an early a2-a3 are some of the most popular in the Albin.

In Game 8 (and the notes) there are three ways to seek an advantage in this position:

Exchanging queens 9.Qxd4 (recommended by Georgiev and offering a very small edge), Exchanging Knights (the sharpest line where Black seems to have a thin path to safety and equality), and Exchanging both Queens and Knights (the game continuation where Black seems fine). One should compare the types of position arising from both 'queen trade' variations. The one with all the knights suits White better as the white knight on f3 is more influential than the sidelined black one on g6.

In the actual game White blundered horribly in the queenless middlegame which cost him dear.

Albin Counter Gambit 5 Nbd2 [D08]

Kiril Georgiev switches from his book (Squeezing the Gambits, 2010) recommendation to Nbd2 in Game 9. He seeks a queenless middlegame with an extra (damaged, but additional all the same) pawn, a line that previously had a good theoretical reputation.

However, with 9...Be7 Kolev was able to get good play. Indeed, at one point he may even have been better before going astray, which allowed Kiril Georgiev to put his house in order.

This move only made it onto the databases this year. The first example I found (16/4/2014) suggests that Nuno Guerreiro of Portugal was responsible for this novelty.

Blumenfeld Gambit 5 e4!? counter-gambit [E10]

Have you seen this one before?

White spurns the gambitted pawn and instead offers one of his own. The difference here is that Black is obliged to capture otherwise White's builds his centre for free.

In Game 10 White soon had a crushing attack. This, and some examples from the notes, suggests that Black has problems to stave of White's initiative.

So what to do? Black has three options on move six: There are two knight retreats or a preliminary check on a5, it's the latter of these (when White has to be content with the more modest Nbd2 rather than the ideal Nc3) that looks the best of the bunch.

This gambit certainly takes Black away from his typical Blumenfeld haunts, so I expect to see more examples in the coming months.

Keep subscribing, then you won't miss out on future developments!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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