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It's time for a 'Grünfeld Defence Special' with some tricky move orders and slightly offbeat choices, naturally with the aim of bamboozling the person opposite! Of course, if one can get the opponent frowning away and 'leaking time', even if the idea is simply a transpositional tool, then it's already a step in the right direction. Furthermore, there is always, even these days, the chance to try something totally new, as is the case of 4.Qd2 (see the notes to Lazavik - Paravyan). Well, I can confidently say that it's 'different', and White even went on to win. So happy creativity!

Download PGN of August ’23 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bf4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 [D80]

In Chernyshov, K - Paravyan, D the first player's ninth move is unusual and might have come as a surprise:

One proposes to trade queens, but this was avoided at this point with the retreat 9...Qd7!? (in order to avoid giving a boost to White's development). Not for long though, as White pursued his quest for exchanges and then followed up with an early pawn grab, albeit Chernyshov's approach proved to be a shade 'dubious', as Black's bishops gave him plenty of compensation.

The game and notes feature a number of early queen trades, and in most cases Black should be happy enough to do so (especially when it doesn't help White accelerate his kingside development!), so meeting 9.Qb3 with 9....Qxb3 is fine, and in the case of 8...cxd4 9.Qxd4, again Black can chop queens, although here full equality is not straightforward. However, following 9.Qf3, the capture on f3 may not be so wise, as Black then has to be careful to equalize. So I quite like the more tense 9...Qd7 of the game.

Grünfeld Exchange 4.Bd2 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.Bxc3 [D85]

In Carlsen, M - Vachier-Lagrave, M the World No.1 tried an unusual fourth move, 4.Bd2, which however soon led back to a standard position.

I wonder if Black can call White's bluff with 4...dxc4? There haven't been many games, but so far Black has done particularly well. You perhaps have to be rather self-confident(!) to do so against Carlsen (what did he have up his sleeve, I wonder?) so MVL just accepted a transposition back into a normal Bd2-Exchange with 4...Bg7 etc. It then became one of those cases where White obtained an outpost on d5 and then Black set about challenging it. The game itself was a pleasant hard fought affair, but theoretically there weren't too many problems thrown up for the defender. After 11.Bc4 the big decision for Black is how to deploy his queenside and, in particular, whether to place his knight on d7 or go via c6, as in the game.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Be2 c5 9.0-0 b6 [D85]

In Lazavik, D - Paravyan, D Black reacted with ...f5. Maybe this cavalier approach was influenced by the fact that this was a rapid game?

There are a number of lines in the Grünfeld where this vigorous counter is fully justified. Here I have my doubts as the e6-square is just asking to be occupied! So see 13.Ng5 fxe4 14.Qc2! in the notes, when I prefer White. Instead, in the actual game, Black was soon able to equalize, that is, following the more cautious 13.Rad1.

Alternatives involving an early ...e7-e6 in the opening are reasonable enough, as you'll see in my comments, but my impression is that White nevertheless retains the easier game.

Hence, going back even earlier, we understand why 7...c5 is more popular than the 'slower' game choice 7...0-0, as not giving White the time to complete kingside development may be important. Once White is fully organized the big centre weighs more on proceedings.

Grünfeld Exchange 5.Bd2 c5!? [D85]

In Duda, J - Firouzja, A Black reacted actively in double-edged fashion as early as move five.

My attention was drawn to this move some months back by a student, but this is the first time it's featured on this site. I previously felt that Black was taking risks with this move, but maybe it's OK. In fact, if it shakes White out of his 'auto-pilot mode' then there can be benefits! Critical was 6.dxc5 Bg7 7.Qb3, but here Firouzja passed up the chance to play the exciting 7...Be6!. In the game, I'm not convinced by his choice of 7...Nf6, and when he did 'sac' the b-pawn on move eleven the complications proved to be his undoing. Still, even so, with the improvement 14...Nfd5 (instead of 14...Nd7?) the result would have remained in doubt.

One illustration of how Black's line has bite is that after the 'solid-looking' 7.Rc1 0-0 8.Nf3 Nc6 9.e3 he can seek the initiative with 9...Ndb4! as demonstrated by Anish Giri.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 [D87]

In Nesterov, A - Timofeev, A a subtlety on move thirteen drew my attention:

Actually it's quite a rare choice, but I suppose that playing such a natural move whilst holding back on committing oneself has it's points. Nesterov completed his deployment and then pushed his h-pawn (see 16.h4!), a standard and strong plan in such positions. The fact that Timofeev soon placed his c8-rook on d8 underlines the fact that Black's choice on move thirteen didn't give him full satisfaction. Nevertheless, despite the engine being enthusiastic about White's chances, such 'advantages' are hard to exploit by humans, as proved to be the case here.

Time for a pronouncement: I have a theory! Every opening where White has a space advantage involving a pawn on d5 (whether passed or not) are over-hyped by the engines i.e. the silicon monster gives White as having a healthy plus when humans consider Black to be perfectly fine. Has anybody else noticed this?

Check out some main line King's Indians, Chigorin Ruy Lopezs, Benkos, Benonis and various Grünfelds involving a pawn on d5, and note what Stockfish 16 thinks. See what I mean!?

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...b6 11.h4 [D87]

There was a big theoretical battle in Xu Xiangyu - Wang Hao:

In the diagram position 17...Be5!? is one way 'forwards' for Black, with complications almost guaranteed! In the game, Wang Hao preferred the seemingly more cautious 17...Qe7 (it was a team event) with which he already had some experience playing White.

In fact, he eventually was able to play a novelty as late as move twenty-two (22...Qh4+) after which complications reared up after all! The struggle that followed was a slugfest of high quality that could prove to be the 'final word' on this line for years to come.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bd3 [D89]

In Bluebaum, M - Akesson, R White played a rare 'anti-theoretical' idea.

OK, this yields no advantage, as you'll see in the game and notes, but Black was eventually outplayed. Was this because he had lots of 'new decisions to make' and was thus short of time and energy later on?

There are several ways to secure a comfortable game after 14.Qd2, for instance placing either minor piece on c4 is adequate. However, the choice of plan still needs some thought and the idea in the game of pushing the b-pawn (16...b5) was as good as any. Maybe Akesson could even have claimed an edge if he had followed up with 17...a5.

Grünfeld Exchange with Nf3, 8.Be3 Qa5 9.Nd2 Bd7 [D85]

After some 'toing and froing' in Gareev, T - Tabatabaei, M the following position occurred on move fifteen:

Previously, I had already suggested 16.d5 in this column (well, it's not difficult to find!) and now it was played, when after 16...Nd4 17.Bd3 the engine suggests a repetition as best play. Well, most humans prefer to play chess rather than simply add half-a-point to their tournament tally, so Black castled and then grabbed the b-pawn, with a complex middlegame which could have gone either way.

Of course, in this line, 14.Nb3 would be tantamount to an invitation to a draw, hence (if you really want to play chess!) Grünfeld fans might prefer one of the alternatives on move thirteen.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 dxc4 7.e3 c5 8.Bxc4 [D92]

In Moranda, W - Areshchenko, A the following position occurred where White has a slight lead in development:

Now the question arises as to how to sort out the queenside. Of the alternatives to 9...Nbd7, I prefer 9...Bd7 (preparing 10...Nc6) to 9...a6. In the game, Black retains flexibility and doesn't yet reveal where the d7-knight is heading. After the reply 10.Bg3 maybe the simplest is to go via b6 to d5 (as Aronian has done) but 10...Nc5 wasn't bad either. There are many ways to lead the game towards equality (or at least very close), it seems to be more a question of taste than anything else.

Grünfeld 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 c6 7.Nf3 Be6 8.Ng5 [D92]

In Abdusattorov, N - Mamedyarov, S the Azeri No.1 was rewarded for his daring approach.

Many folk would have reacted to 9.Qb3 with 9...Qb6, almost without thought, but 9...Nh5 is more ambitious. It's then possible to capture on b7, but not without risk (the engine considers that Black obtains adequate play). So Abdusattorov tried to keep matters simple with 10.Bxb8 Rxb8 11.cxd5? but it turns out that this pawn capture has a serious downside, which becomes clear after Mamedyarov's riposte 11...e5! after which Black obtained an advantage and never looked back.

This will be my last update, for a while, at least! Glenn Flear

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