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It's a New Year (let it be a happy one!) and a variety of openings this time. In particular, to celebrate my new playable eBooks on the Budapest and Albin ... I've immediately updated them!

Download PGN of January '15 Daring Defences games

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Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Mainline [A52]

In Game One (Gupta-Moskalenko), the Indian GM didn't really shake-up Moskalenko's 'Fabulous Budapest' in the opening. Later however, an amazing pawn move led to an opposite-coloured bishop middlegame where White's pieces were best poised for creating an attack.

Theoretically Moskalenko's choice of 13...Nxc4 was ambitious, and not totally clear:

However, for those wanting a more solid game 13...0-0 is a decent alternative.

Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 g5, 7.h4 [A52]

In Game Two Black outplayed his opponent throughout. The root cause of White's problems was his poor knight on d2 which meant that line opening in the centre just helped his opponent.

Of White's different tries my favourite is 9.e3 here, rather than the game continuation 9.Nd2. In this case White can count on a pull, as indicated in the notes.

Benko Gambit 5.f3 [A57]

The line with 5.f3 isn't played that often, but it can be very sharp, so Black needs to be well prepared.

Black plays an idea here that is fairly rare: 10...Qd8, which avoids the theoretical debate that results from 10...c4. The game and notes don't answer all the questions in the rich struggle that followed, but indications so far suggest that the queen retreat is playable.

Black was better for most of Game Three, but opposite bishops enabled White to salvage the draw.

Benko Gambit 5.b6 [A57]

In Game Four White plays the positional 5.b5-b6. Later on, the key moment, from the point of view of the opening, is Ramirez's decision to place his queen on a7 rather than c7:

The advantage of the a7-square is that one of his knights can use c7 as a staging post. In the game, however, the manoeuvre N-c4-a5 and then onto c6 would have given White some advantage. The a5-square not being surveying by the queen, whereas it would be from c7. This factor should be taken into consideration, but may not always be critical. The game segments in the notes don't give a definitive verdict on this choice, but may help you get a feel for the type of middlegames that occur after both queen retreats.

In either case, Black needs to use the b-file to create counterplay, but at times can combine this with ...e6 or ...f5 to counter White's space preponderance.

Albin Counter-Gambit 5.a3 Nge7 6.Nbd2 [D08]

In Game Five Stopa plays the Albin in a slightly unusual way, but is able to obtain a perfectly acceptable game. It's possible that your computer won't give Black as having full compensation for the pawn, but in practise it would be enough to give White a hard time.

So my impression is that 7...Be7 is a better try than 7...Ngxe5:

The endgame should have been a draw, but Black went badly wrong. Time trouble? In two minds about playing for a win or not? Stopa's main error, which wasn't obvious at first, was that his f-pawn was a weakness on f3 rather than a strength.

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]

No less a player than Areshchenko became confused in the sharp opposite-side castling lines resulting from the Anti-Grünfeld in Game 6. Nigalidze's use of 11.Bh6 probably caught him unprepared. When tested again, two days later, Areshchenko had booked up his theory and was able to equalize using 15...e5! rather than 15...c5?!

Indications suggest that Black has a route to equality here following 15...e5, but only serious problems if he supports the knight with the c-pawn.

In the featured game, White eventually won a long endgame, but should probably have finished the job much more quickly.

In Game 7 Etienne Bacrot also sacrifices his d-pawn for an attack, but is less successful. He introduces a novelty (see 14.Qf2!?), but Boris Gelfand was able to diffuse all the h-file threats. An instructive defensive display from the World Championship contender, who went on to win. In the latter stages, seeing that he had very little for his pawn, Bacrot tried desperately to complicate the struggle, but this led to accelerating his own downfall.

Neo-Grünfeld cxd5 with Ne2 [D72]

The variation of the Neo-Grünfeld chosen by Wang Yue in Game 8 leads to a complex struggle where Black has practical problems to solve, especially after the challenging 14.Qb3. However, a close look suggests that Black has more than one way to obtain a decent middlegame position:

Here Black can choose between 14...Bd3, 14...Rac8 and 14...Rfe8. None of them are easy, but all of them are OK! In the game, Wang Yue was able to get close to winning an endgame where there seemed to be absolutely nothing doing at one point. An indication of what willpower can do!

Neo-Grünfeld 5...dxc4 6.Na3 c3, 9.Re1 [D77]

In Game 9 Anish Giri again employs a line that he and Luc Van Wely have been experimenting with, 9.Re1:

As there haven't been that many games, there is plenty of scope for individual interpretation, and the theory hasn't yet crystallized down to a 'main line'. The point behind this early rook move is the possibility of e2-e4, occupying the centre. Whether or not White actually decides to make this advance it certainly gives Black something to think about!

In the actual game, Giri played on, and on, with only a microscopic advantage and finally Grandelius cracked.

Neo-Grünfeld ...c6 7.b3 [D78]

In Game 10 the game was decided in the middlegame as Caruana harmonized his forces better than Ding Liren, obtained the bishop pair and decisively opened up the struggle. It's instructive to see how just 'slightly' clumsy pieces in the white camp eventually led to the Chinese GM's downfall.

As to the opening, I'd already mentioned in this column that 7.b3 is best met by 7...dxc4 8.bxc4 c5, as employed by the World No.2:

Later on, it's not evident where the light-squared bishop should go, but in practise Black has done OK with ...Be6, ...Bg4 and now ...Bf5. So take your pick!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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