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This month I'll be looking mainly at developments in the Grünfeld Exchange, but first of all (in reply to an email query) I will be reviewing the Staunton Gambit in the Dutch Defence.

Download PGN of December '15 Daring Defences games

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Dutch Defence Staunton Gambit 2.e4 fxe4 3.f3 [A82]

The Staunton Gambit with 2.e4 is a direct gambit attempt to exploit Black's daring first move. Naturally, in reply, one can no longer entertain thoughts of steering play towards one's favourite main line in the Dutch. Instead, Black has to take the pawn and be mentally ready to survive (and thrive!) against the coming onslaught.

In the email from subscriber Michael, he was particularly interested in 1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.f3. However it looks as if Black obtains a good, if not favourable game, after 3...d5.

I have also investigated 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 which seems to be more challenging. Here Black has to be well-prepared not to come under pressure. I used some analysis from Viktor Moskalenko's Diamond Dutch from 2014, most of which I agreed with. He has suggested some quite good ideas, some of which seem to have been so far ignored.

If your intention, when playing the Dutch, involves 1...f5 then you would be wise to carefully play through Game (segment?) One and the notes, in order to help avoid any nasty surprises.

Grünfeld Exchange with Be3 [D85]

The Exchange Variation is one of the favourite White attempts against the Grünfeld Defence. This is probably because White can steer play into his own choice of set-up.

The most fashionable version involves Be3, usually on moves seven or eight. I think that this is partially due to the publication of Kornev's A Practical White Repertoire with 1.d4 and 2.c4 (in three volumes, see volume 2 for the Grünfeld) where he presents some very good ideas for White.

I have included six games that demonstrate some promising ideas for both colours.

In Game Two Polish GM Alexander Mista happily cedes the bishop pair, but isn't able to equalize. This suggests that, in the diagram position, his novelty 15...Bg4 isn't the best way for Black to continue:

Here the recommended move still seems to be 15...Ne7 with which Black has been holding his own.

Later on, although Black lost a pawn his vigorous attempts at a pawn advance on the kingside earned him half-a-point. The ending to the story could have been so different if Tomi Nyback had avoided getting his bishop locked out of play.

Rozum-Matinian, in Game Three, was a great fight that followed in the footsteps of Kramnik-Grischuk from mid-2014. It was interesting to see how things have moved on since then (after Black's daring 14...Bd4 introduced by Grischuk). Summing up, it seems that this game (and others that get mentioned in the notes) haven't been able to demonstrate any advantage for White.

Although Matinian won this particular struggle, he did let it slip at one point and could even have lost but, in his defence, the double-rook endgame was particularly treacherous.

In Game Four the move order is perhaps less of an issue than the plan. Nepomniachtchi played ...Nd7 and ...e5, and once White closed the centre with d4-d5, he continued with ...N-f6-e8-d6, where the knight sat very prettily. I'm at pains to show how White can meet this with any conviction. Yilmaz, for example, seemed to do all the right things, but never really threatened to be better. The resulting early-middlegame position was just so comfortable for Black.

Nevertheless, despite the Russian's best efforts he couldn't earn more than half the spoils.

In Game Five Markus Ragger won a great game against Andrei Volokitin. I had already analyzed the quick d-pawn push quite recently in an analogous position, but Ragger's introduction of h4 first doesn't change the assessment that much: Black should be fine, but has to be precise:

There are alternatives available for Black on moves 14 and 16, but the real error came on move 17. It's interesting to note in these positions the prevalence of exchange sacrifices. Ragger made one himself and then in masterful style resisted the temptation to regain it quickly. Instead he kept the bind throughout and stopped Black's rooks from ever becoming dangerous.

In Game Six Ragger was at it again. This time he outplays Sutovsky and obtains a highly favourable 'rooks plus opposite bishops' pseudo-endgame.

The choice between 14.Ke2 (chosen recently by Matlakov) and 14.0-0 (as here) seems to come down to personal taste. There may well be all sorts of subtleties that I'm missing, but I've decided that 14...b6 is the most trustworthy way of meeting White's fourteenth move castling. I know I'm basing this on a game where Dominguez Perez equalized, but it does seem to be important not to allow White the gain of a tempo with Bd2 that occurred in our featured game.

In Game Seven Teimour Radjabov played a provocative system against Mustafa Yilmaz. White duly started getting his kingside attack going and then anything could have happened. The Turkish GM probably missed an opportunity to be much better with 22.d6, with the point that opening the centre would further expose Black's king to the elements.

Later on, Radjabov won the exchange, but even here it wasn't easy to deliver a knock-out blow as Black's king was lacking cover.

It looks like Black can indeed play the opening this way, but if you are tempted you should check the game segment (in the note to move 14) where Cheshkovsky (in the 'pre-chess-computer' age, back in 1980) demonstrated a route to equality.

Grünfeld Exchange: 7.Qa4+ Nd7 [D85]

In Game Eight Potkin's idea to play 11.e5 created new problems for Black. The pawn wedge certainly restricts the knight on d7, even if it cedes the d5-square:

In reaction, Mista played with ...a6 and ...b5 (to free up the b6-square) and later with ...f6 hitting back. Despite these logical counters, there was a hint that White could have obtained some advantage, see move 19, so this suggests that White's idea might be quite promising.

The endgame was a tough struggle, with both players showing great skill. Although Mista, who is also quite a nifty problem solver, slipped up by going the wrong way with his king he still created intense pressure, and it was always going to be hard to hold out for White.

Grünfeld Exchange: 5.Bd2 Bg7 [D85]

In Game Nine, Fridman-Tari, the 5.Bd2 Variation led to a middlegame with White's bishop actively posted on d5. Black traded it off but then came under attack. Fridman played a nice combination, but didn't follow-up correctly and so had to settle for a draw. The young Aryan Tari seems to be a specialist of this line with both colours, but still got into hot water. I don't know if he agrees, but I think that this line is easier to play with White. Despite the fact that there are a few suggested potential improvements in the notes, Black has to very careful here.

Grünfeld Exchange: 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Qd2 [D85]

Game Ten was a fine attacking display from Nikola Sedlak.

Ivan Sokolov likes to surprise his opponents! Here with this unusual 9th move, 9.Qd2!?, he certainly would take many out of their book. A closer look however suggests why this has dropped out of tournament practise some years ago.

Boris Avrukh's analysis (from Grandmaster Repertoire: The Grünfeld Defence, Volume Two) starting with 9...Bg4 suggests that Black might even be able to gain an early advantage.

Instead the game should be compared to Yilmaz-Nepomniachtchi, in that Black employed the same blockading plan. Maybe Ivan Sokolov will agree, it can be awkward for White!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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