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In the final update of the year, I'll be looking at the latest developments in a number of variations in the Grünfeld Defence.

Download PGN of December ’16 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5 [D85]

In Deac, B - Areshchenko, A, Black employed 9...Bd7 which has recently come to the fore:

Black will probably follow up next move either by capturing on c3 or exchanging on d4, but it's convenient to have developed a piece first. In reply, White's attempts at an advantage haven't come to very much, and the same thing could be said (or written) about the featured game. In this case, Areshchenko's early ...Ba4 and ...Bb5 demonstrates another aspect of playing ...Bd7 before ...Nc6. Later it was Black who was closest to winning, so maybe a good antidote has been found to 9.Nd2.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Bg4 [D85]

There are a number of lines in the Grünfeld where Black can place his queen on d6, especially once White has committed his centre with d4-d5. From here the grand lady can look in all directions at the dark squares.

However, I hadn't seen this idea in quite the same circumstances as in Lupulescu, C - Vachier-Lagrave, M. Black obtained a comfortable draw at the end, but I don't really trust MVL's ...f5 follow-up, as it weakens e6 too much. Instead, to make the queen's position work I think that Black should leave his f-pawn at home, and settle for a plan based on retaining a grip on e5 possibly combined with countering by pushing the b-pawn.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Qa4+ Qd7 [D85]

The attraction of the disruptive queen check seen in Moiseenko, A - Li Chao b has really taken off in recent years and is still popular at a high level. Here, theoretically, Black was objectively close to equal, but came under nagging pressure later on. The game and notes illustrate a number of middlegame and endgame themes concerning opposite bishops (i.e. when they are combined with rooks and/or queens). Then they are not drawish at all!

I don't think Moiseenko really expected a significant advantage from this opening choice, but rather aimed to steer the game away from 'the type of dynamic positions most Grünfeld players seek'. Black's typically broken structure means he has to be cautious, but I quite like the idea of him placing his light-squared bishop on the a6-f1 diagonal with a timely ...a5 and ...Ba6 (see the notes for some examples). The bishop can be a useful asset operating from a6 or b5 and will be less clumsy than it proved to be here on the c8-h3 diagonal.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 [D87]

In Korobov, A - Georgiev, K White played an unusual plan with N-f4:

This knight leap is not unknown at various moments in the 'traditional Exchange Variation' but is quite a rare idea. Black felt obliged to meet this with 14...e6, to cover the d5-square, and then Korobov's 15.Bb5 ensured that he kept his d-pawn healthy. I don't think White was better in the play that followed but, in general, by posing 'different problems' you can get the opponent thinking and perhaps feeling less confident than usual.

Move 30 was the turning point when the balance finally tilted in White's favour.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ [D90]

In Arnaudov, G - Heimann, A White got himself into difficulties quite early on and never recovered. In fact things went from bad to worse as White's king became caught in the centre with nowhere to hide. I know from personal experience that if White starts spending time with his queen early on he can drop behind in development. With time being of the essence, Black logically reacted vigorously and... well just play through the game and notes and you'll see what I mean! The whole opening system is virtually unplayable from White's point of view except perhaps for 9.Nxb5 where he might be able to equalize.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Na4 [D85]

The position after White's seventh move in Tari, A - Vuckovic, B deserves a diagram:

It looks like Tari hasn't read anything about 'standard piece development' i.e. not moving them twice in the opening, placing knights towards the centre so they control key squares, etc.

In fact, if you think about it, the fight for the centre is before your eyes! The bishop on f5 restrains White's desired e2-e4 so it 'needs' to be pushed back, whereas the knight on a4 plays a role in making ...c5 less likely.

Of course, such eccentric moves are not without their downside and to exploit them Black needs to get the timing right for countering in the centre. The game continuation 7...Bd7 8.e4 e5 led to lively complications which petered out to a quiet pseudo-endgame where Black had to work hard to equalize. So the opening sequence does create certain difficulties for Black.

Otherwise, Ivanchuk's 7...Bc8 is a reasonable alternative, when Black is also losing time on non-developing moves.

I'm going to conclude that there is method behind Tari's madness!

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 [D92] (by transposition)

In Zhao Xue - Dzagnidze, N, Zhao Xue started out with the London System, but by transposition found herself in a line of the Grünfeld which her opponent had recently experienced. Not surprisingly, the Georgian was better prepared and won a convincing game. In some of these sharper lines you really need to know your stuff to avoid a disaster, which in this case could have been avoided on move eleven with 11.cxd5.

With hindsight, the quieter 9.Be2 might have been a more prudent choice (rather than the combative 9.Ng5), but for that you'll have to check out the archives!

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 [D92]

Lauber, A - Ragger, M was another encounter in the fashionable 6.Rc1 line, but this time with a more straightforward move order. The Austrian GM was able to play a rare idea indeed, as I could only find one previous example of the following pawn advance:

Here Ragger pushed his d-pawn with 10...d4!? and went on to get a good game. Subsequently, he couldn't make much headway with his slightly superior endgame, but at least he made his opponent work hard for the draw.

If 10...d4 is really to be challenged then it will probably be with 11.exd4 Nxd4 12.Be3, as in the stem game in the notes.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 [D93]

Alexander Fier is often willing to delve into the fashionable and theoretical, and this is no exception. In Vakhidov, T - Fier, A he was able to employ a recently developed idea:

The Brazilian played 11...b6!? which is only the fourth game that I have found with this eyebrow-raising move. Black goes into gambit-mode to open up lines on the queenside to exploit his lead in development. In the games so far White hasn't been able to obtain even a hint of an advantage.

As to the featured game, Black was winning before making a crass blunder and then complications arose which were far from clear. The final position was quite funny, but I'm not sure that Alexander (who generally has a good sense of humour) would have appreciated it at the time!

Grünfeld: Russian System, Hungarian Variation 7.e4 a6 8.e5 [D97]

In Holt, C - Troff, K, White made an innovative exchange sacrifice.

Here 16.Qb3 has been tested in some e-mail games, but although this rich position hasn't yet revealed all its secrets, so far Black seems to be doing OK. Holt instead played 16.0-0 which at first looks like a beginner's blunder. However, despite the material deficit, he was soon able to crowd the centre with his active minor pieces, which at first looks optically quite dynamic. So in a practical game this surprising idea might have worked, but Troff was able to hit back and force favourable exchanges. The pseudo-endgame wasn't an easy win, but Black was successful in the end.

All-in-all, it looks like 16.0-0 isn't very good.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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