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This month I'm presenting a Grünfeld Defence special, with the exception of one important game in the Blumenfeld.

Download PGN of December '14 Daring Defences games

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The Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Bg7!? [D80]

In Game One, Jobava-Radjabov, the in-mode line 4.Bg5 Bg7!? was tested:

The struggle led to an exciting draw where Jobava's knights were every bit the equals of Radjabov's bishops.

Theoretically it seems that 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 c5!? is holding up to scrutiny, that is even after the more critical 9.Nb3 (see the notes) rather than Jobava's 9.e3.

Grünfeld 4.Qb3 [A58]

The ...c5 sacrifice in Game Two turned out badly after White successfully employed a novelty on move 9.

Instead of the previously seen 9.e4, Troff calmly developed his king's knight with 9.Nf3.

In the game, White soon sacrificed the exchange and obtained an advantage which he held onto throughout. My feeling is that 8...Bg7 is imprecise and Black should be aiming to win back the pawn rather than developing the kingside. So I would recommend opting for 8...Na6 or maybe 8...Bc6.

Grünfeld: Bf4 Systems, 6.Rc1 Be6 7.c5 [D83]

Two featured games reached this position. The plan of playing ...Be6 to get White to advance his c-pawn has become very popular. Once the pawn has indeed gone to c5, the bishop is then in the way of the e-pawn, and could do with redeploying.

In Game Three Kulaots tried 8...Bg4 9.f3 Bc8 and obtained a satisfactory position. Despite the final result, this idea passed its first test.

In Game Four Grischuk preferred to drop the bishop back immediately to c8 and then followed up with ...Nfd7 and ...e5. With White's bishop on d3, the threat of ...e4 forced Gelfand's hand who was obliged to capture on e5, thus ceding the c5-pawn. Although matters weren't particularly clear, I'm convinced that White had no advantage at this stage. So 6...Be6 is holding up well.

Grünfeld: Bf4 Systems, 6.Rc1 c5 7.dxc5 Qa5 [D83]

I can't be so sure about 6...c5!?, employed by Vachier-Lagrave in Game Five:

Even with his renowned tactical wizardry, and preparation supported by a high-powered computer, I find it hard to justify his opening choice. In a practical game 9...e6 and 12...b5 generated complications and no doubt created some uncertainty in Gelfand's mind, but there seems to be more than one way for White to claim an advantage.

So for those who are tempted by the 'active' 6...c5, I suggest they then stick with the tried and tested 7...Be6 rather than the dubious 7...Qa5.

Did Maxime Vachier-Lagrave simply get his lines mixed up? Nevertheless, despite a shaky-looking opening, he still almost won!

Grünfeld: Bf4 Systems, 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 [D93]

If White plays 4.Nf3 and only then 5.Bf4 there can be differences with the immediate 4.Bf4 lines. One of these is that with White delaying Rc1 it's perhaps easier to get the c-pawn back after the liberating ...c5.

Game 8, Danielian-Berkes, was highly theoretical, with the Armenian playing down a line in which she already had experience. At first the computer clearly prefers White, but the longer it 'thinks' the more moderate it becomes in it's view. After the exchange of queens, Black's position is rock-solid and Berkes was soon able to equalize. Later on, the minor piece pseudo-endgame should probably be drawn until White made a serious error on move 34.

There have been so many games played in this, the ultimate main line, that the most difficult task for Black is often to remember so much theory! My advice is to pay particular attention in your preparation to Danielian's 14.Nd5 e5 15.Bh2 and the tricky 14.g4.

Grünfeld Exchange 5.Bd2 [A85]

The recent World Championship Match actually started with a Grünfeld and highlighted the fact that the Exchange Variation with 5.Bd2 has changed its status in my time at from 'inoffensive' to 'cutting edge':

Anand's plan of placing the bishop on h3 in Game 6 is visually appealing, but Carlsen was able to negate the pressure.

So it seems that the plan with 8...Nc6 is a perfectly reasonable alternative to 8...c5. After both options, there is no real consensus as to which moment to release the tension of the 'bishop face-off' along the long-dark diagonal.

An unresolved question is: Did Carlsen miss a win in the later stages of this encounter? Everyone agrees that 42...Re3! is an improvement, but then White's best reply isn't clear-cut. Despite one commentator claiming that the queen endgame after 43.Rd7+ is 'winning for Black', I suspect that White could hold with best play.

Grünfeld 5.Qa4+, 8.Bf4 c6 [D90]

In Game 7 Gomez tries the early Qa4+ against Vachier-Lagrave. A few years ago this was popular amongst leading French players, so it probably didn't surprise Maxime.

Here the French No.1 played 10...c5!, yet another example of this thematic temporary pawn sacrifice. It's amazing how often a quick ...c5 seems to solve Black's problems against systems where White delays kingside development.

The game was about equal until White's poor 21st, after which he was well and truly outplayed.

Russian System Hungarian Variation, 7...a6 8.Bf4 [D97]

In Game 9 Volokitin meets 8.Bf4 with 8...b5 sacrificing the c-pawn:

Black obtained a comfortable game, and a quick look at the notes suggests that this seems to be the norm these days. So I really think that White should try something else against the Hungarian Variation.

Black's technique to confirm his advantage in the phase leading up to the rook endgame is instructive. I couldn't find a draw for White in the race that occurs in the pure rook endgame, but he's close.

Blumenfeld 5.e4 counter-gambit [E10]

The unnamed 5.e4 counter-gambit again comes under scrutiny this month. In Game 10 Zeller introduces a new move that seems to significantly improves Black's prospects...

Here 8...a6 was played, whereas I examined 8...b4 in August's update. There Black was struggling, however keeping the tension with 8...a6! may solve Black's problems in this line. White has a number of options, but I have been unable to find any route to a White advantage.

In the game, Svane playing White ran out of constructive ideas and his position imploded.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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