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Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]
We start this month with a great fight between Sethuraman and Kovchan in Game One. Black eventually prevailed, but it could have gone either way.
As to the opening, I always feel that the principled move against 7...Nc6!? is 8.Bb5, but many games (as in this case) do continue with 8.d5:
White was arguably justified in his choice, as he maintained a small pull out of the opening. Not wanting to stay passive, Black took a risk and (correctly, as it turns out) sacrificed a piece for three pawns for a complicated struggle.
The pawn wedges on a6 and f6 offered White plenty of hopes to endure, so he played optimistically, but it was Black who prevailed as he snared White's king in the centre of the board.
Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 [D80]
In Game Two the renowned attacking player Shakhriyar Mamedyarov mated his opponent's king in the centre of the board. All this came about as Savchenko, playing Black, was unable to cope with the problems set by White's ugly, but potent, 9th move, 9.Nh3:
The threat of the knight coming to f4 sets Black a problem. Chop it off or live with it?
Some players have captured on h3, but then the bishop pair can be a useful asset for White. Top games with this approach are as yet inconclusive, see the notes. Savchenko instead carried on with his business and allowed N-f4 and then the further N-d5. Despite trading queens he was unable to survive, and furthermore, even completing his development became problematic.
So although 9.Nh3 looks odd, the consequences for Black can be dramatic!
In Game Three, Kovalenko-Salem, White settled for the more conventional 9.Nf3. The consequences of Black snatching the c-pawn and holding onto it has seen a number of strong players investigating the ramifications.The game turned out to be a theoretical debate that, via some forcing lines, leads to a balanced rook and opposite bishop endgame. So Black seems to be doing fine here.
When I first started these Daring Defences updates, 4.Bg5 was considered to be 'fresh pasture' with very little theory. Now it's as well-mapped as many of the main lines!
Grünfeld Defence: Meeting Bf4 with ...Be6 [D83]
In Game Four, Matsenko-Salgado Lopez, Black was successful with an unusual manoeuvre involving placing his queen on a2:
Then, with the direct ...Rc8 and ...c5, he achieved (at least!) full equality and even quickly seized the initiative. Black's technique was almost perfect, but there was one point where he could have avoided giving White any resources by delaying the transition into the rook endgame. I think that White missed a chance to hold, see my analysis to move 53.
Another example of ...Be6 occurred in Dominguez Perez-Vachier Lagrave, see Game Five. It seems to be a rich area for new ideas amongst the elite at the moment. The bishop generally doesn't reside on the e6-square for long, but Black aims to get White to commit himself and then the light-squared bishop is repositioned accordingly. Here, some preliminary action on the queenside led to a White knight being posted on b6, behind enemy lines!
Vachier-Lagrave seems to have great instinct for positional sacrifices and here was an example of him giving up the exchange for a sound (even waterproof) defensive set-up. Black was never in trouble despite the material deficit.
Exchange Grünfeld with Be3 [D85]
In Game Six Artemiev tried a novel way to defend his kingside against White's attacking intentions. He played an early ...f6 and later met White's h4-h5 with ...g5. Avoidance tactics?
The idea has merit and probably wasn't too bad, but he soon rather overplayed his hand by retreating his bishop back to c8 (not allowing a trade for White's knight), rather than d7. As a result he dropped too far behind in development and the middlegame was almost certainly lost for Black.
If this idea doesn't prove to be acceptable, then I would suggest defending the king by deploying the knight to f6 rather than moving it away to b6.
Exchange Grünfeld with 7.Bc4 and h4 [D87]
I'm not claiming that there is much that's new in Game Seven, but White's h2-h4 thrust is likely to worry some readers (unless, that is, they are ready). In fact this line has largely been forgotten so the game and notes are at least useful for revision. I would describe many of the resulting positions as 'unclear' with the open h-file coming into one's thoughts even if White can't normally get in any lightning attacks.
Here, on move twelve, Black opted for 12...Qa3, the standard antidote according to many books, but there seem to be other ways to get an objectively reasonable game. For those of a fearful nature, 12...h5 might make them feel more comfortable, as at least the h-file stays closed!
The game was a rapidplay encounter where both players seemed to be doing their best to play for the full point. White lost his way from move 53 onwards, but Ivanisevic's time was probably very short by then.
Grünfeld 4.Nf3 and 5.Bf4 [D92/93]
Games Eight and Nine both feature French GM Romain Edouard playing with the White pieces.
In the first of these, Game Eight against Naroditsky, he employed a rare idea (8.cxd5, rather than the customary 8.dxc5) and was able to obtain an early advantage.
Then after 8...Nxd5 9.Nxd5 Qxd5 10.Bc4 Qd7 his 11.d5 looks like a promising improvement. My bet is that this was home preparation, as Romain is known to be particularly strong in the opening phase.
He would have been kicking himself to have allowed the win to slip away!
Game Nine saw Black adapting the ...a6 and ...b5 plan in slightly unusual circumstances. In an analogous position, when White has played the slower h2-h3 (instead of Nf3) it's known, whereas here it looks new. The Iranian Maghsoodloo obtained a reasonable game and even went on to win when his more illustruous opponent over-pushed his luck. The final moves were quite exciting, but Black held his nerve to earn the full point.
Grünfeld Defence 5.e3 [D94]
Although playing with an early e3 (before developing the queen's bishop) may look tame, it actually has some bite. One idea being that afer 5.e3 0-0 White has 6.b4 taking a space option on the queenside.
So Savchenko decided on a radical course of action, meeting 5.e3 with 5...a5!? in Game 10:
This certainly deserves a diagram, but I don't think that there will be many followers. Although it cuts out b2-b4, the fluidity of the centre means that there are development priorities that come ahead of such prophylaxis. The danger is that the move may prove to be worse than irrelevant, as it could later lead to a weakening of the b5-square. In the actual game, Rakhmanov was able to obtain a white edge from the opening. So, you've guessed it, I'm not a fan of 5...a5.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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