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In a number of the chosen games this time there are some sharp ideas, often involving a sacrifice or two. I could mention two sequences that might whet your appetite: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 g5 and 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 c5!? whereas, for those who are interested from White's point of view, you might notice that an early h2-h4 is still highly popular in what follows.

Download PGN of December ’22 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 g5 [D80]

In Pechac, J - Tomczak, J the following position arose:

This strange-looking position is something that Jacek Tomczak has had on several occasions. The moves that followed: 6...dxe4 7.Bxg5 c5 8.Qa4+ b5! are equally unusual, but seem to be correct. The same can be concluded about the whole line, so perhaps this crazy variation is actually sound! Even in the later play, I thought at first that several of the players' moves were 'odd' until I turned the computer on...and found the game to be have been played correctly.

Grünfeld 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 c5 [D81]

In Martinovic, S - Brkic, A Black's fifth move might come as a surprise:

Hmm! Seeking some murky waters, cert, but can this be correct? White promptly captures with 6.dxc5 and then both sides continue their development and Black regains his pawn and equalizes.

Fair enough, but could White have played better and perhaps even refuted Black's gambit? Maybe, but I couldn't find anything! So my feeling is that 5...c5 is playable.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.h3 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Be2 [D85]

In the Exchange Variation the idea of h2-h3 is fashionable and Parligras, M - Maghsoodloo, P followed one of the main lines.

Castling with 15.0-0 offers the exchange, but it would be quite a risky capture. So 15...Bd7 16.Rb1 and then 16...Ba4 occurred and proved to be tricky. Another option that seems to be playable is 16...Qxa2 after which I believe that Black is fine. In the game, Maghsoodloo soon obtained the advantage but it's not clear that it's enough to take the whole point, even with perfect play.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bb5+ c6 8.Ba4 0-0 9.Ne2 b5 10.Bb3 a5 [D85]

In Erigaisi, A - Duda, J against the early 7.Bb5+ Duda reacted by expanding on the queenside.

This pawn advance seems to be a reasonable alternative to the main move 11...Nd7. The fact that the pawn is on a4, enables ...Qa5 and/or ...b5-b4 with pretensions of going active. As to the game, my impression is that this 'dynamic' approach was more or less fine, but there was perhaps an opportunity for Erigaisi, but only later in the middlegame.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Be3 c5 8.Rc1 [D85]

In Carlsen, M - Giri, A the following position arose:

Despite the 'threat' of ...Nb6-c4 the best move seems to be 14.0-0 as played by the World No.1. Giri then innovated with 14...cxd4 and grabbed the d-pawn, but at the cost of allowing the opponent a dangerous-looking rook on the seventh rank. His judgement is perhaps vindicated by computer analysis, which does indeed show that Black can get away with this approach. Nevertheless, it turned out to be difficult to handle and Giri soon got his pieces tangled and lost the exchange before going down.

My suggestion is 14...Nc4 as played earlier this year by Antipov.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 e6 [D87]

Some notable experts have proposed 10...e6, so I decided to take a close look at the options for both sides in Dragnev, V - Ragger, M especially after the critical 11.dxc5:

After 11...Qa5 12.f4 Rd8 13.Qe1 I like 13...Qa4! as employed by Ragger. The game followed a Laznicka, V - Navara, D match game from eleven years ago where Black grabs the e-pawn and then rolls into a ball, playing 'hard to get'. White has sufficient compensation to justify his pawn deficit, but no more than that.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 [D87]

In Lalith, B - Tari, A the Indian's fourteenth move had only been played once before:

Here, meeting 14.h4 with 14...h5 was a good practical decision by Tari (and a novelty!). In the stem game, (Lagarde, M - Nazari A from eleven days earlier) Black allowed h4-h5 but wasn't as comfortable as he would have liked.

In the main game, White failed to find any way to obtain an advantage, but as it's such early days I think 14.h4 could do with more tests before giving up on it.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.h4 [D87]

In Van Foreest, J - Vachier-Lagrave, M Black was able to nullify any White ambitions on the kingside.

Here there are four moves, but the only one that doesn't lead to the exchange of the important c4-bishop is 12.Bd3 after which 12...Nc6 again presses the d4-pawn, which is a nuisance. In the game, Van Foreest instead chose 12.Bd5 when the obvious reply would be 12...e6. For his own reasons, MVL preferred to avoid this move and instead chose the solid 12...h5, followed by ...Rc8, ...Bd7-c6 and obtained a good game. So maybe the Frenchman was onto a good thing with his plan. Later he won the game, but along the way there were some surprising tactical oversights.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 0-0 [D90]

In Xu Xiangyu - Bai Jinshi, Black introduced a novelty.

Here 15...Bg4 soon led to exchanges which turned out to be balanced. Otherwise, there are alternatives such as 15...Nc6 and 15...Nd7 which also seem to be fine. Earlier, after the sequence 5.h4 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.h5 there don't seem to be very many alternatives for either side from the main line, which brings us back to the diagram. So I conclude that meeting 5.h4 with 5...0-0 is perfectly satisfactory for Black, and perhaps less complicated to learn than some of the other defences.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bf4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4 8.e3 Be6 [D91]

In So, W - Duda, J the players reached the following position:

After 13.Be5 it's possible to calmly castle and obtain a safe enough position. Duda however preferred the more ambitious 13...f6 (to keep the tension?) and then, following 14.Bg3, he innovated with 14...c6 (Wei Yi was successful some years ago with 14...0-0) which might be playable, but the follow-up was a little shaky. However, a little later it was Black that took the advantage in the complications with a strong exchange sacrifice only to go badly astray rather later.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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