ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
I've decided to look at a selection of recent GM games in this important opening, noting that in each case White is playing with an early Nf3. In a number of these examples tricky move order ploys are employed, so be careful about being steered into an inferior version of your pet opening by staying on auto-pilot too long in the opening phase.

Download PGN of December ’17 Daring Defences games

>> Previous Update >>

Grünfeld Defence Exchange 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Qa4+ [D90]

An early check on a4 is one of those sophisticated lines where White angles to disrupt Black's harmony and then seek 'a good version' of a typical Grünfeld position. Alon Greenfeld had already faced this idea with Black and was evidently sufficiently impressed that he then gave it a go with White in Greenfeld, A - Gupta, Ab Mansa 2017 (maybe the first time I've analyzed a game from Zambia!).

Play rapidly left the beaten track, as Black's seventh move in the diagram position turns out to be completely new!

The idea of placing the queen on a3 is known in some analogous positions, but Gupta's novelty 7...Bc6 coped quite well. The idea is that Black doesn't bother fighting for ...c5, and instead reacts with an early ...e5, which was certainly good enough to equalize here.

White's pawn sacrifice (14.e4?!) was dubious and Greenfeld then had to spend over 100 moves in a rearguard defence to earn his half point.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 c6 [D90]

Benjamin Gledura demonstrates a dynamic plan to meet White's popular 5.h4 in the game Miron, L - Gledura, B.

Here, after 10.Qa3, he introduces a new idea 10...a6 11.Bd3 Nc4!. This turned out to be particularly strong as Miron failed to get to grips with Black's knight outpost on c4.

There have been several other novel ideas introduced in this line, but I like the young Hungarian GM's approach the best.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 [D93]

In Matuszewski, Mi - Cvek, R White's move order (starting from the London System!) was unusual, but soon reverted to a highly theoretical variation. White later introduced a sensible-looking novelty on move 21:

I'm not sure that 21.Rd1 changes the assessment of this variation (where White has two pawns for the exchange, and seemingly enough compensation but perhaps no more that that). In a practical game, it often comes down to which side feels the most comfortable in the resulting middlegame. Here it was White who eked out a win, but I don't think that there is any objective advantage despite intense scrutiny from opening analysts over the years.

The game Ftacnik, L - Bok, B was a fairly short draw, but a lot happened in 28 moves, see the following position!

Did you blink? Are you asking yourself if there is a misprint in the diagram? White has two queens against one and then over the next couple of moves gives them both up! Clearly an unusual game indeed.

As for the theory, 7...Ne4 seems to be troubling White more than 7...Qa5. I'm intrigued by the possibility of 14...fxe6 which could do with a closer look: Is Black already better? If so, then White's whole approach is busted. Later on, for the record, White might have missed his chance for more than a draw with 20.Kf1 rather than 20.Ke2, but this requires a deep analysis of a 'two rooks versus queen scenario'.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bc4 [D94]

Lines with an early e2-e3 are almost certainly going to become more popular, as they were recommended in Axel Smith's recent e3 Poison book.

In Sandipan, C - Baldauf, M White played his sold opening set-up (the centre with c3, d4, e3 isn't that easy to undermine) and later switched to a more ambitious Stonewall style f2-f4 which stops any ideas of ...e5. I'm sure Black was doing OK, but the cavalier g2-g4 and h4-h5 on the kingside certainly threw him at the time, even if with an engine running at home it's possible for yours truly to find a refutation.

As for the opening theory, Black has to decide what to do with his light-squared bishop, but 11...b6 is a useful move anyway and puts off the decision for one move. It's probably a good idea to see White's 12th move first before deciding between placing this piece on b7, d7, f5 or g4.

Grünfeld Defence, Russian System 6...Be6 7.Qa4+ [D97]

The modern riposte to the Russian System with 6...Be6 is still doing fine. Here in Istratescu, A - Yankelevich, L the French GM Istratescu got into a tangle, as Black's activity in the opening was perfectly well-founded with White lagging in development. It's true that in the Russian System White does spend quite some time on queen moves:

So after 7.Qa4+ Bd7 I am going to dismiss the game's 8.Qc2 as inferior, but instead maybe 8.Qa3 has merit. Otherwise, White should settle for 7.Qd3.

The rest of the game involved White scrambling to get an 'opposite bishop draw'.

Grünfeld Defence, Russian System Prins Variation 7.e4 Na6 8.Be2 c5 9.d5 e6 10.O-O exd5 11.exd5 Re8 [D97]

In Bosiocic, M - Rodshtein, M, in the main line of the Prins, the Israeli GM met 12.Bf4 with the unusual move 12...Bd7, perhaps aiming to avoid his opponent's preparation:

Although this doesn't look like a bad idea, unlike the well mapped out 12...Bf5, it doesn't support the handy knight leap ...Ne4. White didn't seem to gain anything special from the opening phase, but later on Bosiocic outplayed his opponent when Black mishandled the manoeuvring around the passed d-pawn.

The encounter Steingrimsson, H - Kantans, M again featured the Prins, but here White opted for 12.Rd1 (whch was recommended in a repertoire book a few years ago) and after 12...Bf5 13.d6 a key position arises:

Here Black has a wide choice, but most of his options are just inferior including 13...Nd7 which soon led to serious problems in the Black camp. Unless anyone knows better than me, I suggest that one should stick to 13...h6! which up to now has proved to be the most trustworthy. Overall, this was something of a one-sided game, but this sometimes happens if one player doesn't know their theory...

Grünfeld Defence, Russian System 7...Nc6 8.Be2 e5 [D97]

The high-profile clash Aronian, L - Vachier-Lagrave, M was a highly theoretical affair in a line which seems to have attracted plenty of elite players in recent years. MVL sacrifices a couple of pawns and leads play into an opposite bishop middlegame (and later a pseudo-endgame) where Black is only really playing for two results. Top players can hold these 'pawn (or two!) down but with opposite bishop scenarios', but I wouldn't recommend this approach for club players.

Theory-wise the novelty came with 24...h5, but it doesn't change the assessment from the recently played alternatives 24...Bxb2 and 24...Red8. In each case Black has to suffer a little, but should be able to take home half-a-point.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Qb3, transposing to Russian System Mainline with 7...Bg4 [D99]

In Gomez, John - Li Chao b, the early Qb3 has similarities with the Russian System and certain lines of the Anti-Grünfeld from the English Opening. This is one of those variations that makes one aware of the importance of move order choices to confuse an opponent. With the sequence employed by White here, I think that 6...Nxc3 is the most precise, whereas 6...Nb6 (as played) brings up some thoughts about certain hybrid systems.

In the game, play led into a Russian System which Gomez has had before:

Somehow I prefer White slightly (see the notes for some possible improvements), but the Phillipine GM was probably a bit over-optimistic when he tried to expand in the centre starting with 17.d5!? and he found himself with difficulties. Of course in a rapid game, what happens later has to be taken with a pinch of salt, so we can't be sure about the veracity of the final moves.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

>> Previous Update >>

If you have any questions, either leave a message on the Daring Defences Forum, or subscribers can email me at