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The title refers to a game which I played this summer where I was White against Remy Degraeve (a teenage son of the French GM Jean-Marc Degraeve). My opponent confidently played a move that I hadn't seen before and created all sorts of practical problems in the Budapest Gambit.
Otherwise, I have examined developments in the fringes of the Grünfeld i.e. the Anti-Grünfeld and the Neo-Grünfeld.

Download PGN of August ’17 Daring Defences games

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Budapest Gambit 3...Ng4 4.Nf3 mainline [A52]

It could be that Black's thirteenth move appeared on a chess board in Flear, G - Degraeve, R for the first time:

In the actual game, I couldn't find a way to punish this cheeky rook shift and it wasn't long before I was worse. The endgame a pawn up was definitely 'winnable' for my opponent, but I was able to avoid further embarrassment and held the draw.

Hindsight, and the help of the engines, has helped me find one or two ways for White to keep a shade of an edge after 13...Rg6, but it still looks like an improvement over 13...Rh6 which doesn't seem quite satisfactory for Black. A boost for Black's resources, but I'm wondering which Degraeve was the instigator of this clever move?

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Qd6 [D70]

Aronian, L - Svidler, P is perhaps the last word in a highly theoretical variation where Black had to find a few accurate moves, but Svidler got his half-point in the end. It seems that developments over the last few years have ultimately led us to this equal endgame.

In the notes, I've had a look at deviations along the way, which might set the scene but perhaps don't give us any indication of what will come next. A general aspect that is worth thinking about is whether or not White decides to avoid the trade of queens. In certain game segments (in the notes), you'll notice that White prefers to seek a middlegame solution by withdrawing his queen from the requested exchange. Then tension is somewhat heightened, but Black's counterplay seems adequate.

So, 9...Qd6 seems to be holding up fine.

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 e5 [D70]

White's aggressive follow-up 9.d5 c6 10.0-0-0!?, as played in Utnasunov, A - Dubov, D leads to a sharp struggle especially if White then pushes his kingside pawns like crazy!

Over the board, such a position would be frightening to some, but fun for others! Even with the help of analysis engines I still haven't reached a final conclusion, so there is plenty of scope for further home analysis in the quest to find out what is really happening. I suspect that Black is just about OK, but has to be very careful as it's his king that becomes more exposed.

In the game, White allowed his opponent to take over too easily.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Nc3 Bf5!? [D74]

The rare 8...Bf5 was seen in Abergel, T - Ragger, M French league 2017, where the Austrian GM was able to create different problems by varying from the usual 8...Nb6. Ragger's approach would no doubt confuse a few who have perhaps never seen it before. The game gradually drifted away from White, but this is perhaps because the type of position arising with the blockading knight on d6 aren't easy to handle. This approach needs further tests to see if it's really a decent alternative because at present even the engines' assessments aren't totally reliable.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Nc3 Nb6 9.e3 [D76]

The following position occurred in Laznicka, V - Tilicheev, V Pardubice 2017:

Several possibilities have been investigated by Black, notably 12...c6, the most common. Here however 12...e4!? was played which leads to some lively possibilities and (probably) even objectively a decent game. Later, Tilicheev didn't really have any major difficulties and held the draw with a sensible defensive display.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Nc3 Nb6 9.e3 [D76]

It's rare that the eighth most popular move in a position is particularly challenging, but in Vasquez, G - Cori, J Medellin 2017, it could be the case. After the normal 9...Re8 the slightly surprising 10.Nh4 was played:

The second player has to be quite careful about his response, but I think that Black got it right in the actual game with 10...e5 11.d5 Nb4. Cori soon spurned easy equality preferring instead to sacrifice a pawn for long-term pressure, but this involved a certain amount of risk.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Na3 c3 8.bxc3 c5 [D77]

David Howell was successful with 9.Ne5 (more direct than 9.e3 and, in recent times, higher scoring) in his game against Simen Elistratov from Minsk 2017.

After 9...Nc6 10.Nac4 Be6 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Qd3! White seems to generate some pressure (see Howell, D - Elistratov, S):

There haven't been many games, but so far White has obtained quite good positions from here, so the onus is on Black to find a convincing route to equality.

Later on, in what smacks of a time scramble, White let his advantage slip before ultimately bringing home the whole point.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Na3 c3 8.bxc3 c5 [D77]

The encounter between two living legends, Vaganian, R - Ponomariov, R from Biel 2017, was of theoretical importance, as Ponomariov's way of handling the opening seems to be one of the most trustworthy (note in particular the way he handled his light-squared bishop). This led to the position in the diagram, which was finely in the balance, but, alas, at this point he went astray:

Ponomariov probably soon regretted his 18...e5 because he spent the rest of the game in a rearguard action desperately scrambling to save himself. Instead Smirin once played 18...Rfd8 and went on to beat no less a player than Anatoly Karpov. A more recent e-mail game featured 18...Nd5 which I'm backing as best of all. Check the notes to see what you think.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 c6 7.b3 [D78]

In the opening, 7.b3 is a reasonable try by White to pursue development whist avoiding the simplifying 7.cxd5. Just as in Ju Wenjun - Stefanova, A Black typically reacts with 7...dxc4 8.bxc4 c5 with tension down the long dark-squared diagonal. Another consequence of this reaction is that White has broken queenside pawns, but it seems that the isolated c-pawn can be an asset when it pushes onto c5, hitting and restricting Black's queen:

In the game White had the slightly superior pieces and this enabled the Chinese GM to create problems for her opponent.

Neo-Grünfeld 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 c6 7.cxd5 cxd5 [D79]

The notoriously solid 'Symmetrical variation', which has similarities with the Exchange variations of both the French and Slav defences, where in each case the question of how to generate an interesting game arises. Here Korobov tried 8...b6!? and delayed developing his queen's knight, seeking a certain flexibility, an approach that has interested quite a few high-ranking GMs recently:

Objectively, with White having an extra tempo, Black still has to be very careful at first (see the note to move thirteen in Karttunen, M - Korobov, A where there is a hint of a white edge). However, if he can obtain harmonious piece deployment then there could be potential to outplay an opponent. Note for example in the featured game the gradual expansion of the queenside.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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