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A belated Happy New Year to you all. After a short break, with Simon Williams taking the helm (thanks!) with his close look at the Classical Dutch in December, I'm back with a Grünfeld special. Two lines in particular drew my attention this month: The fashionable Be3 followed by Qd2 set-up; and the 8.Rb1 Exchange, which is becoming popular again.

Download PGN of January '11 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4.Bg5 [D80]

In Game 1, Murtas Kazghaleyev wins a messy game as White, but Le Quang Liem had a good position out of the opening. The Vietnamese number one stood well, but in the encounter he became frustrated (exploiting the extra pawn is problematic) and lost his way.

As for the opening set-up, Black seems to be holding firm with ...Be6 and ...c6, as this, and the games in the notes, demonstrate.

Exchange with Be3 and Qd2 [D85]

Games 2 and 3 show how Black can obtain active play and winning chances even after the early exchange of queens.

In Game 2 Smirin reacts with an early ...f5 and obtained the advantage quite early. This thematic push is known in similar positions, but here it works well with the rook still on f8, and with White a tempo down on his development (White's knight is on g1 rather than in the analogous line where Nf3, Rd8 have been played). In the notes, the game Tregubov-Mamedyarov is another example of Black seizing an early initiative.

In Game 3 (with the additional moves Nf3, Rd8) Macieja is the latest White victim of the urge to play the premature 12.c4, which leads to a dream position for Black. Anish Giri demonstrated fine technique, but he was handed a great opening on a plate. If Macieja (amongst others) had taken into account the conclusions made some months ago in this column, maybe he (they) would have avoided this embarrassing game.

In Game 4 Vladimir Kramnik avoided such problems, and outplayed David Howell with the critical 12.Bg5 f6 13.Be3 which yields the following position:

Here Black hasn't found it easy to demonstrate a sure-fire defence. Howell's efforts in this game were probably just about OK (see my suggested improvements on moves 19 and 28) but it didn't feel that he had quite equalized. In the notes, the recent encounter Potkin-Svidler reveals what the experienced Russian expert on the Grünfeld has had up his sleeve. If Svidler had continued with 24...Qb4 he was fine in my opinion. I suggest you look at this and makes your own conclusions, but I expect others to follow this example in the quest for full equality.

Exchange with 8.Rb1 [D85]

In Game 5 the players go down one of the main lines of the ...b6-variation. Here is the position after 14.e5:

Here Black has to find a plan which involves improving his knight's prospects. So, for example 14...Rae8 with ...f6 is known, when Black frees his game at the cost of an isolated e-pawn. An older plan, involving a quick occupation of the c-file (and putting off a decision about the knight's future), can be met by a timely B-b5 so Gustafsson's choice of 14...a6 is understandable. Markos reacted with h2-h4 and pushed the pawn up to h6 where it caused Black discomfort into the endgame. This plan is interesting but perhaps not enough for an advantage against precise play, see the notes for more information.

In Game 6, Babujian-Areshchenko, White avoided the main debate in any theoretical discussion by castling early. However this slight surprise didn't cause Black any particular problems. Later on, the endgame was curious as Areshchenko's material advantage was more than compensated for by his hyper-active king, and he even won.

In Games 7 and 8 Black went hunting the a-pawn (8...0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 Qxa2 12.0-0 Bg4).

In Game 7 White continued with 13.Be3 when L'Ami (playing Black against Nielsen) went on to win a game that involved some handy home preparation.

White's other try is 13.Bg5 and that was featured in Game 8. After several more moves the following position was reached:

Gareev's novel 20.Qb1 had surprise value and indeed Tseitlin reacted badly in the game. However, after exchanging queens, 21...Rc8 would have been good enough to equalize.

I have to admit that the a-pawn grabbing lines are very complicated and require an excellent memory, but at the present time Black seems to be holding his own theoretically.

Exchange with 5.Bd2

This variation is still considered to be quite solid. In Game 9 Black tried 5...Nb6 with a quick ...c5, which in principle should be OK for him, but White was able to keep some advantage throughout. L'Ami's error may have come as early as move twelve, as his novelty 12...Nf8 seems less effective than the previously played 12...f6 13.Bf4 a6 which I recommend in the notes.

Classical Exchange [D87]

Anton Korobov revived an old move in Game 10 where White places his queen on the left flank. Areshchenko didn't find a good plan and was dominated by an impressive Korobov. The recipe for Black was demonstrated by a certain Garry Kasparov 22 years ago, as you'll see in the notes.

Perhaps the moral of this game is that 'in the search for new ideas, it's always a good idea to first of all hunt for good ones from the past'.


Till next month, Glenn Flear

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