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English Defence 4.Bd3 [A40]
In Game One Nigel Short wins an instructive game as Black in the Bd3 line. It's quite remarkable how Short was able to dominate, despite the closed centre and space disadvantage! His plan of putting off castling whilst pushing the h-pawn turned out to be quite potent.
Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 [A52]
Three games, all in the 4.Bf4 variation.
In Game Two Black opts for the 4...g5 solution. This seems most in the spirit of gambit play, and isn't necessarily inferior to the more positional main lines. My advice, for those who are tempted, is that you should make sure that you are well-prepared to meet an early h2-h4.
In this game Bogdanovich opted for 'natural' development without the use of his h-pawn, and Sitnikov reacted with the bright idea of ...h5. Over the board, it worked a treat as Black gradually outplayed his opponent and was close to winning. However, the move could do with further practical tests.
Overall, Black has been doing reasonably well with 4...g5.
In Game Three, Brunner-Tan, Black won as White unwisely sought the full point.
In the diagram position the curious 12...Bc3!? was thus justified, where Black gives White a nigh-on useless extra pawn.
As to the theory, the real test comes from 13.Qc2 which wasn't played in the game, but has been employed by both Yakovich and Rodshtein.
Those who have played the Budapest for years must be aware of the 'persistent positional problem' in the main line of 4.Bf4. Summing this up: White obtains the bishop pair, starts a minority attack on the queenside and leaves Black with an isolated pawn. This scenario was played out in Podolchenko-Gunnarsson, Game 4, and Black eventually lost the endgame.
Despite being on the receiving end of White's thematic play, I believe that Black was still favourite to hold. Firstly he gave away his d-pawn too lightly and secondly the queen endgame that followed wasn't at all trivial. Perhaps Budapest players should look on the bright side, as even when White has everything he wants, maybe Black should nevertheless be able to save himself.
Benko Gambit Accepted [A59]
In the Classical Main Line where White walks his king to h2 the following position often arises:
Black has two noteworthy knight moves here: 15...Nb6, and 15...Nc7.
Nicolai Pedersen (in his recent book Play the Benko Gambit, Everyman 2011) prefers the former, whereas Maxim Turov, in our featured game 5, opts for the latter.
Having now had a close look at the possibilities for both sides, I have to admit that I prefer the way that the young Russian plays. The notes detail my conclusions, but basically the manoeuvre ...Nc7-b5 seems to be Black's most reliable way of handling his game.
In Game 5 however, after playing well for most of this encounter, Turov made a meal of the endgame and almost threw away half-a-point, before Skembris blundered back in turn.
Modern time controls have certain advantages, but in practise, as everyone is in chronic time trouble after about move 50, the general level of endgame play is not great!
A newish idea that doesn't make many Benko books is in the following position after 11...0-0:
where White plays 12.a4.
Naturally, Benko players won't be that surprised to see White play such a move in many other lines, but he hasn't been doing so here until recently. I remember seeing Anatoly Vaisser play this variation as White (but without a4), so it was an interesting opening choice by Timoscenko against him in Game Six. In their encounter a sharp tactical flurry left both kings open to the winds and Black duly took a perpetual. However, in the notes some early deviations and a couple of computer suggestions suggest that White could have retained some advantage.
Game 7 features the same line with a slightly different set-up from Black, this one employed by no less a player than Fabiano Caruana, where he seemed fairly comfortable. I expect there to be more interest in this line soon, as Black's best defence to 12.a4 hasn't yet crystallized, but Caruana's 12...Qa5 will be high up the list of candidates.
Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]
The choice of 3.f3 by World Champion Viswanathan Anand in a big money game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and by Nikita Vitiugov against Anish Giri (see Game Eight) shows that the move is becoming a mainstream option. Although, only a couple of years back, my discussions were centred around Black seeking counterplay with either 9...e5 or 9...f5, here we shall be looking at another method involving 9...Qd6 (aiming, with the further ...Rd8, for piece pressure against d4):
The majority of the games involving this move are from the last year or so, but I had already analyzed the game Grischuk-Mamedyarov in an earlier update a year ago (see the archives).
Mamedyarov dropped a pawn against Anand (see the notes), but Giri sacrificed one against Vitiugov! The difference was that Giri obtained enough play and regained the sacrificed material, whereas Mamedyarov didn't!
Here's a gambit that I bet the majority of subscriber's to this column have never seen before:
Kateryna Lahno is the first player in living memory to have played 4...c6 here. Her imaginative play in Game 9 created enormous practical problems for her opponent, but Zhao Xue proved up to the task by wriggling out and winning.
The first critical moment was Lahno's choice of 15...Nd5, a move that I doubt that I would have considered. At first I had strong doubts about it's soundness, but in fact the more I have looked at this line, the more I think that the move is playable.
There were a couple of alternatives, at that point, that also seem to justify Black's play, so my conclusion is that Lahno's fourth move was fine. Has a new variation just come to the attention of the world?
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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