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It's time for a Grünfeld special with a series of developments in a number of lines.
Amongst the annotated games, I've included Ding Liren-Wei Yi, Wijk aan Zee 2016 (Game Nine), which is extensively analyzed by subscriber Bill Schaefer. I haven't altered his impressive research (which constitutes an up-to-date summary on the 8...e5 gambit including one of his own games), except for adding in a suggested alternative on move eight for White. As things stand, it looks as if 8...e5 is holding up to scrutiny, hence the interest in perhaps varying from the main move 8.Be2.

Download PGN of February ’16 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4 Bg5 Bg7 [D80]

In Game One Robson uses the early ...c5-gambit in his quick-fire victory against Gorovets. This game is yet another illustration that this double-pawn sacrifice is not only sound, but more than holding its own theoretically.

So it represents a dynamic way of meeting 4.Bg5, which used to have the reputation of denying Black active play. White defended sloppily in the featured game and was harshly punished, but part of the problem was that he was under pressure from the outset.

White players really need to have something up their sleeve if they are willing to take up the challenge. In recent times, Peter Svidler (playing White!) perhaps came closest, as you'll see in the note to move nine. He did obtain an opening advantage against Teimour Radjabov, but Black's play can be improved on, as I have pointed out in that note.

Grünfeld 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bg5 Ne4 6 Bf4 [D91]

In Game Two, after 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 White retreated with 6.Bf4 which Black met by snatching the c-pawn i.e. 6...Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4:

This type of pawn grab can be compared to the analogous position with the bishop on h4, and there are also similarities (and transpositions) resulting from 4.Bh4 Ne4!? (which has been covered fairly frequently in this column, especially a few years ago when it was particularly fashionable).

In the game, Vocaturo outplayed Nyback and went on to win. A key moment was when the Italian castled long which seemed to solve Black's opening problems.

Grünfeld 4 Bf4 Bg7 5 e3 [D82]

In Game Three both players showed their willingness to vary from the main lines. Firstly, Vishnu acted with the early 5...c5!? which is usually played later i.e. after castling. Atalik reacted with a quick Qb3, an old (and largely forgotten?) line where the theory hasn't shown many modern developments. The notable exception being an Ivanchuk-Carlsen encounter from five years ago.

There are several acceptable choices on move seven for Black, including Carlsen's choice 7...Na6.

In the featured game, 7...Nc6 also seems fine. Subsequently, Atalik did obtain some pressure for White, but Black never looked in serious danger even in the inferior opposite-bishop endgame.

Grünfeld 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bf4 0-0 [D93]

In Game Four Anish Giri cleverly confuses Helgi Olafsson with his novelty 9...Nh5:

Usually the ...Be6 and ...c6 set-up is considered to be 'solid' but 'unambitious', but Giri spices it up by offering his b-pawn as bait. The 'Icelandic legend' (Olafsson) didn't capture at any point, but it certainly came into consideration on moves 10 (see the diagram) and as late as move 19.

However,White's best chance of an opening advantage was perhaps with 15.Qa3. Even with an analysis engine, it's hard to fathom out what is going on, but White certainly shouldn't be worse.

Grünfeld Exchange 7 Qa4+ Nd7 [D85]

In Game Five Neverov played an interesting idea that deserves a diagram:

Then, following Anton Guijarro's 10.Qa3, I think that Black should continue with 10...c5 transposing to a respectable line.

In the game, Black's slightly slow manoeuvre ...Nb8-d7-f8-e6 turned out to be surprisingly robust. Black obtained a good game and was on top before cracking up right at the end.

Grünfeld Exchange 7 Bc4, 10...Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 [D87]

Games Four and Five both reached the following position after 13.Qd2:

In Game Six Areshchenko continued with 13...Rad8 and followed up with the novel idea ...Na5 combined with ...e5. Not only did this plan negate any White chances of an advantage, Areshchenko profited from an error from Aronian to gain the advantage.

Black eventually won a long knight endgame, but despite his generally resilient defence, Aronian did miss a draw just a few moves before having to resign.

In Game Seven Borisek played with ...a6 and ...b5, which also seemed to yield a decent middlegame. So this suggests that the 10...Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 manoeuvre (in order to loosen the a7-g1 diagonal) is holding up in recent practise. Laznicka's victory was perhaps fortunate, as Black was better for a fair part of the game, but the latter phase was so complicated it's understandable that errors crept in.

Grünfeld: Russian System 7 e4 a6 8 Be2 [D97]

In Game Eight Giri again employs the Grünfeld as Black, and (as the top players tend to) he comes up with another novelty, this time on move 15:

Navara reacts in dramatic fashion by quickly pushing his f-pawn and creatively sacrificing a rook to get at Black's king. Most of the game involves Navara's queen probing left and right in order to make inroads into Black's defences. The Czech GM had some other options late-on that may have caused greater problems for the defender, but Black held the day. I'm not sure that Giri's novelty completely solves Black's problems in this line, so one might have to vary earlier in the quest for full equality.

Grünfeld: Russian System 7 e4 Nc6 8 Be2 e5 Gambit [D97]

Game Nine was almost entirely analyzed by Bill Schaefer, who has carefully referenced a number of examples from some of my previous Daring Defences columns. White has not found it an easy task to obtain any real advantage against the 8...e5 gambit, especially if the Black player really knows his stuff. Hence the thought of deviating as early as move eight with somewhat different practical problems for Black to solve.

Grünfeld: Russian System 7 e4 Be6 [D97]

In Game Ten the relatively young idea of meeting the Russian Variation with 7...Be6 is given a high-level test in a battle between a couple of the highest-ranking Chinese players.

Wang Yue innovated with 10.Bg5, which was almost certainly home preparation, as his opponent (Wei Yi) had already had this line before:

Wei Yi's reaction with 10...b5 is instructive, seeking activity before White can get his kingside development complete.

In the game, Wang Yue's pawn hunting adventures looked highly provocative and the engines don't think his scheme should have worked. Unfortunately for Wei Yi, a few imprecise moves and Wang Yue took the full point. I think that 18...Nf5 would have been stronger, putting in doubt the wisdom of White's greed. The same can't be said about Wei Yi's 10...b5 which is the sort of dynamic counter that readers to this column will appreciate.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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