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This month a selection of the most important developments this winter from the Grünfeld Defence. In several games this time a tricky opening choice leads to problems for the opponent. A good enough reason (as if you needed persuading!) for you to carefully follow the updates on ChessPublishing.

Download PGN of February ’19 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 7.c5 [D83]

In Martirosyan, H - Hakobyan, A after 6.Rc1, the popular 6...Be6 was met by 7.c5:

after which the next few moves revolved around the ...b6 and ...e5 counters. Black achieved both and a pleasant game. It feels like the slow 9.h3 wasn't best, but there isn't a consensus at this point. Evidence, limited as it is, indicates to me that 9.b4 is perhaps the best chance of keeping a pull. In the early middlegame, White's difficulties led to him having to ditch the exchange, but he had reasonable practical compensation even if, objectively, it should have been Black who had any winning chances. As it was, a moment of indecision by Hakobyan and the tables turned definitively in White's favour.

Grünfeld Exchange Be3 & Nf3, 8...Qa5 9.Nd2 Nd7 [D85]

The theory continues to evolve in the line involving White's tricky 9.Nd2. In Debashis, D - Narayanan, S Black reacted in 'prudent manner' with 9...Nd7 and then dropped his queen back to c7. As this isn't a particularly forcing approach then White naturally has various tries, but in the game 12.Qd3 didn't impress very much, as the queen was too exposed there. Later, once the black bishop was well cemented into the very same d3-square it was always a bit of a struggle for White to find a coherent plan, whereas Black calmly took his time to find the right moment to expand.

Grünfeld Exchange Be3 & Nf3, 8...Qa5 9.Nd2 cxd4 10.Nc4 Qd8 [D85]

In the opening phase of Repka, C - Melkumyan, H, 9.Nd2 was met by Black's most direct response which involves opening lines and hitting back at the centre with a quick ...f5. Black even happily sacrificed his b-pawn for plenty of activity and although he perhaps had some initiative it was only with the cunning 27...Nd7 that his advantage started to become significant. Although Repka perhaps had chances to save the endgame, it was Melkumyan's technique that won him the day.

This seems like a more promising try than what had previously been played here. So I'm concluding that Black's novelty 13...Be6 is quite a good one.

Grünfeld Exchange Be3 & Nf3, 8...0-0 9.Be2 [D85]

A fairly cagey encounter, Sjugirov, S - Shukh, N, involved a number of phases. Firstly, White squeezed an edge out of the opening, then Black found some ways to negate any slight inconveniences that he had, before making a slack move allowing White a chance to obtain a big advantage. Sjugirov failed to find the incisive advance 29.d6 and the game drifted to a draw, although towards the end it was perhaps Black who had an edge.

I quite liked White's opening play with his 12.Qb3 allowing use of the d2-square for his knight. So again, and even with this novel plan, this 9.Be2 line seems to offer the first player chances of a pull.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bg5 c5 8.Rc1 0-0 9.Nf3 Bg4 [D85]

A strange game this one and one that Melkumyan will want to forget. He outplayed his opponent in Harsha, B - Melkumyan, H, obtaining a positional, and then a material, advantage before suddenly getting swindled by a startling rook sacrifice. What a turn around! The moral of this sorry tale, perhaps, is that it doesn't matter how big an advantage one has it's essential to constantly stay vigilant.

Of course 7.Bg5 isn't that mainstream, so Harsha was perhaps hoping to surprise his higher-rated opponent, but in fact Black handled the opening, and indeed the majority of the game, impeccably.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2, 10...Na5 11.Bd3 b6 [D87]

One of those sharp lines that is extremely dangerous for Black if he can't remember the theory was seen in Peralta, F - Gallego Alcaraz, A. Of course, those with a remarkable memory will recall some ChessPub updates from a few years back when the top guys were testing the ins and outs of this line, in particular Topalov, V - Kamsky, G Sofia 2009, where the American GM managed to defend with accurate play. A slight imprecision on move seventeen and Gallego Alcaraz was under pressure and eventually went downhill. If you look at White's alternatives on move seventeen in the notes, there too Black really has to be on the ball to avoid a disaster. So 12.Qd2 followed by 13.Bh6, saccing the d-pawn, has to be taken seriously.

Although Argentinian GM Fernando Peralta introduced a novelty in Peralta, F - Artemiev, V with 13.h4, play did actually return to 'known', albeit rarely seen, territory.

White obtains a dangerous looking attack which the engines don't rate particularly highly, until (in some cases) it's too late! In practical terms, this attack with Nf4, Qg4 and h4 (in some move order) looks more challenging for Black than some of the more popular choices. So if you play with ...Na5 and ...b6, be warned! An in-form Artemiev didn't make any mistakes early on (so was at least OK) but perhaps missed a subtlety later on to play for the whole point, but I wonder how many ordinary folk would be able to defend as accurately against Peralta's plan?

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 c6 6.cxd5 [D90]

Although Lagarde, M - Gopal, G started quite leisurely (that Exchange Slav style middlegame again! Nod your head if you know what I mean!) it livened up when Black's bishop on f5 was almost trapped. Gopal sacced a pawn, which turned into the exchange, in order to free his bishop and his game in general. In fact, he was able to claim enough compensation (or very close) due to his protected passed e-pawn. It was then Maxime Lagarde's turn to crack open the game to activate. A reasonable plan in principle, but he mistimed it slightly which meant that it was the young Frenchman who was the one scrambling to make a draw.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 [D92]

A nice attacking win for White in Edouard, R - Puranik, A all came about because Puranik was less familiar with the deviation 9.Nxd5!? Nxd5 10.Bc4 and soon went astray.

The main move is the 'natural-looking' 10...Nxf4, but there are some tricks following 11.Qf3, although this is the path that Black should probably follow. The stem game Wang Hao - Grischuk, A from as far back as 2011 is still the model game from Black's point of view.

Grünfeld Russian 7.e4 a6 8.Be2 b5 9.Qb3 c5 [D97]

In the theoretical discussion that occurred in Navara, D - Mikhalevski, V the following position was reached:

Here Mikhalevski got it wrong! His 17...Nxe5? allowed White too free a hand and Black was soon driven onto the defensive. Instead 17...Bxe5 has been tested in some e-mail games and seems to be playable, as you can see in the note. Maybe the Israeli GM was hoping to surprise Navara with 13...Nc6, but it was the Czech GM who seemed to be the better prepared. Of course, he has fair experience in the 'Russian Hungarian' with 7...a6 and lots in the Grünfeld in general (with both colours!)

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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