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Neo-Grünfeld 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 Nxc3 7.bxc3 c5 8.Nf3 Nc6 [D75]
This particular line of the Neo-Grünfeld is officially a D75, but amongst GMs it arises more often from the Exchange Variation (D85). Along the way, White cuts out some of Black's alternatives, so bear this in mind when studying early g3-systems. In Kozak, A - Chen Qi the following position arose:
Here the disadvantage of 11...cxd4 (opening the c-file) is that the queen is then not ideally placed on c7 and will no doubt soon have to move again. Instead, Chen Qi chose 11...b6 which I approve of, but after 12.dxc5 I think that 12...Bb7 is best, when White can indeed grab his pawn but there will be positional compensation, as so often with such a structure (following cxb6 etc.).
In the game, 12...Ba6 was strongly met by 13.Nd4, an enterprising and promising exchange offer. Black then accepted the need to give back his gains and acquiesced to being a pawn down in the late middlegame, but had a sort of blockade. A notable example of the queenside majority being 'unusable'.
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 with 10...b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.Bb5 [D87]
The encounter Ivic, V - Sindarov, J was another example of the fashionable Bc4-b5 idea.
Here Sindarov chose 16...Qa3 which seems to be a novelty and probably an improvement over 16...e5 which Ding Liren had employed (and suffered with) in a rapid game from a few years ago. Ivic reacted with 17.d5 and a tense middlegame arose where the passed pawn in the centre gave Black a few headaches. Indeed, in the game, White was soon close to winning, but this was due to Black's error of judgement (and/or calculation) on move nineteen.. However, I suspect that Black's opening idea would have been justified with the improvement 19...Ba6 (instead of 19...Bxc6?).
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 with 10...b6 11.h4 [D87]
In Mchedlishvili, M - Petriashvili, N White pushed his h-pawn early and fast, as is the trend these days.
Placing the queen on h4 is an attempt to compete for squares on the kingside and neutralize White's h-file action. Mchedlishvili then met this with 13.Qc1 a promising line that has caused a few problems since its introduction by Praggnanandhaa in his victory over Anish Giri from May 2022. After 13...cxd4 14.cxd4 Black found a new move 14...Bb7 which was reasonable enough, but then reacted badly to 15.h6 by placing his bishop on h8 where it was locked out of the game for the duration. More appropriate here (and in a number of similar positions) is to come to f6 so that after 15...Bf6 16.e5 Be7 the bishop remains in play.
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 with 10...b6 11.Qd2 Bb7 12.Rac1 [D87]
In Praggnanandhaa, R - Erigaisi, A the thrust h2-h4 was again employed, but this time a little later (see the previous game) yielding the diagram position:
Erigaisi was able to snatch the pawn and live with the consequences after the sequence 14...Na5 15.Bd3 cxd4 16.cxd4 Qxh4. White perhaps had enough compensation, but no more. This encounter was a big test for 14.h4 with neither side claiming a theoretical victory.
Grünfeld Exchange with h3 [D85]
A sharp position, resulting from the seemingly 'quiet' h3-Exchange Variation, occurred in Maghsoodloo, P - Erigaisi, A:
Both sides were no doubt primed for this line with Maghsoodloo even having experience with the black side. Following 16...Nd3 (best, I believe) 17.Bxd3 Qxd3 18.Bg5 Rfe8 the Iranian came up with the novelty 19.Qb4. It wasn't necessarily advantageous (well, according to the engines) but the consequences created enough difficult decisions for his opponent who eventually went astray. In this complex fight, it's almost inevitable that errors will creep in and Erigaisi actually missed a precise sequence that would have saved the game just before the time control, but quite a tough one to find.
Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bf4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 c6 [D91]
The World Champion was in action in Keymer, V - Carlsen, M and it was another of those cases where he seems to just be always one step ahead of the opponent's thinking.
In the opening, he chose 7...c6 which he had already employed a decade ago. This solid-looking move is no real improvement on ...c5 ideas, but it at least creates different problems. In the middlegame, the following position was notable:
Here 16...c5! 17.d5 Bg4 18.Bd2 e6 put the centre under pressure.
Where did White go wrong? A good question! The latter stages flowed so well for Carlsen that I suggest seeking an answer early on in the opening and personally would suggest 10.cxd5 rather than the neutral 10.Be2.
Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bf4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 c5 8.e3 0-0 [D91]
The queens came off early in Gukesh, D - Rapport, R.
This type of position may not suit all tastes but, sensibilities aside, 11...Qa5+! (inducing a queen trade) seems to be one of the better antidotes to 6.Bf4.
In the diagram position, there are several attempts to squeeze an edge out of the queenless middlegame but, both in the game and notes, I couldn't find anything to get excited about. So theoretically there isn't anything concrete for White at all, so I believe that interest will soon return to the other retreat 6.Bh4.
Grünfeld 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bf4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.e3 c5 8.cxd5 cxd4 9.cxd4 Qxd5 10.Nf3 [D91]
In Keinanen, T - Shirov, A Alexei Shirov persisted with a rare line that he has tried before.
Black angles to fianchetto his bishop first and only then decide, depending on his opponent's actions, how to continue. In this case, following 12.0-0 Bb7 13.Rc1 0-0, when his queen was pushed with 14.Bc4 he opted for 14...Qh5, an aggressive but slightly risky approach, but that's a question of style! Sometimes, provoking the opponent, works wonders! Here, it looks like the queen wasn't great so far out on the kingside and White was for preference, but one should note that Black did win the game. Still, I would prefer 14...Qf5!? with some inherent trickiness, but less risk, as it's then easier to switch the queen to other sectors of the board.
Russian System 6...a6 7.e4 [D96]
In Tin Jingyao - Kuybokarov, T White introduced a new move as early as move ten:
Tin Jingyao had previously played 10.Be2 which, after 10...0-0 11.0-0 Nbd7, transposes to a better known position. In earlier updates, I had already examined 12.e5 which may yield some chances for an edge.
Normally, Black castles before striking out with ...a6 and ...b5, so (in the actual game this time) undermining the queenside with 10.a4 was hoping to benefit from Black's king still being in the centre. However, 10...Nbd7! was a good reaction from Kuybokarov and enabled Black to obtain a satisfactory game.
Russian System 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 Nfd7 9.Rd1 [D98]
In Tin Jingyao - Van Foreest, J Black had a bad day at the office.
Here, the main choice is between 10.Be2 or 10.Qb3, but Tin perhaps surprised his higher-rated opponent with 10.h3 investing a tempo to force Black to cede the bishop pair. Deviating from the routine tenth moves paid off, as he was able to place his queen on the more active c5 and his bishop on the g2-square where it proved to be quite handy. So full marks for this almost unknown approach, which led to victory and it was notable that he was always in the driving seat. Certainly, Van Foreest could have improved, for example with 13...Nd7 (instead of 13...a5?!) just to irritate the white queen, and he had some later ideas that might have been adequate to draw, but these are hardly 'constructive' propositions!
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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