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Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Bg7 [D80]
During the last decade, 4.Bg5 has become one of the most popular moves. Black has usually replied with 4...Ne4 but, over the last few months, the alternative 4...Bg7 has become the focus of attention. I already examined Wang Hao-Topalov in November's update, and I'll even be looking at three games this time.
After 4.Bg5 Bg7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 the latest twist is 6...c5:
White captured a second pawn with 7.dxc5 in both Games 1 and 2. Instead 7.Nf3 (see the notes to Game 2), transposes to a more common move order (see the notes), Black should probably react with 7...cxd4 8.cxd4 Qb6 9.Nb3 a5! an idea seen in some older games.
Indeed Black was the one who maintained the initiative in both of these games.
Bg5 & Nf3 [D91]
In Game 3 Ivan Sokolov preferred not to capture on f6, but was unable to create any problems for Aronian. Indeed a loss of time, just after the opening, led to serious problems for White. All-in-all I don't consider 5.Nf3 Ne4 6.Bf4 to be particularly worrying for Black, as this game and the notes seem to confirm.
Another success story for this move order!
It looks like 4...Bg7 is going to stay popular, as nothing dramatic has been found (as yet) for White.
Exchange with 7.Bg5 [D85]
It wasn't so long ago that Black had problems meeting this pesky line. However, Game 4 demonstrates Black solving his problems with ...Qd6 and ultimately being better for most of the struggle:
This early queen development is quite a flexible move. Black unpins, keeps an eye on some key central squares and prepares ...Bg4, ...Nd7 and ...e6. Even the ambitious ...f5 comes into consideration in certain lines, see the notes.
Van Kampen won a pawn, gave it back and then took control.
Exchange with Be3 [D85]
Volokitin's plan in Game 5 is quite attractive. He gets on with his central counterplay whilst allowing White to capture (twice) on a5. The first time wasn't serious, but the second time was! In several examples (see the notes) Bxa5 bxa5; actually seems to suit Black. The bishop pair is king, despite the broken pawns.
Exchange 7.Bc4 [D87]
Simon Williams launches an unsound attack in Game 6, but somehow confuses his opponent enough to salvage a draw. The moral perhaps being that even 2600+ players don't necessarily enjoy being threatened with mate! Instead of the dubious 12.Bh6 White has been able to keep a pull after 12.Rac1, see the notes. However if Black plays the early ...b6 idea he will surely be ready for this, see my suggested improvement on Peralta-Ftacnik, in the notes.
The 'reaction' to 5.Qa4+ with the less-well known 5...Nc6 is tempting, as Black hasn't been doing particularly well after 5...Bd7. In Game 7, however, Yemelin is able to retain White's central preponderance after 6.Bf4:
which I consider to be more challenging than 6.Bg5 (which was seen in Wojtaszek-Navara see the archives). In the game Black was unable to find a satisfactory plan and soon went astray.
After 6...0-0 7.e3 Be6 I recommend 8.Rd1! lining up the rook and queen, while 7...Bg4 8.Be2 dxc4 9.h3 favoured White in the actual game.
So it seems that this game and the notes suggest that 5...Nc6 may not lead to equality.
4.Nf3 and 5.Bf4 [D92]
In Game 8, Gormally-Kovchan, White opts to gambit the d-pawn, but in a slightly different way to Parligras-Naumann which I covered recently (see the archives). The difference is that with the power of the bishop pair, Parligras was able to generate strong pressure whereas in Game 8 I had the feeling that Black was always favourite to beat off the attack. So my conclusion is that 14.Ne2 gives better chances for White than 14.d5.
Even so, in this month's featured game, Gormally was able to get 'some' compensation for the pawn and was probably disappointed not to have held the pseudo-endgame with rook and minor piece each.
Russian System - Hungarian Variation 8.e5 [D97]
Many subscribers would recognize the following position, which arises from the Hungarian Variation:
Gupta played the book move 13...Rxf3 in Game 9 which leads to a complex middlegame struggle. Black isn't far off obtaining enough compensation for the exchange. The problem is that White seems to be able to obtain an edge after 14.gxf3 Nxd4 15.Rd1!, which has occurred in several games.
Another reasonable move here is 13...b4, against which I can't find anything advantageous for White. This is worth a try if you don't like Black's chances after 15.Rd1.
Russian 7 e4 Bg4 [D98]
The final game transposes from 4.Qb3 to one of the main lines with ...Nc6 and ...Bg4. You may remember that Anish Giri introduced 15.g3 in the summer of 2011 (see the PGN Archive). Although Black still hasn't yet 'theoretically' equalized, White's edge is slight and requires precise play to be able to demonstrate it.
In Game 10 Wesley So could have opted for 17.Be3, when White is better in my opinion. After missing this opportunity Bykhovsky wasn't in danger.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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