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First of all, an e-mail that improves radically on some of my analysis, and even forces me to (that is, after eating humble pie!) change my conclusions!
See Game One for a re-look at Wojtaszek-Williams. Denis Monokroussos has found a way for White to wriggle through the complications and emerge with an advantage. Although I've touched up some of his lines, I have to agree with his conclusion that Simon Williams' rook sacrifice is objectively not sound.
English Defence 4.Bd3 [A40]
In Game Two, Konstantin Chernyshov came up with a novelty as early as move 6, and then (see the notes) repeated it four days later.
The early queen development 6...Qf6 gave the Russian GM two good openings out of two. The idea is not totally new as, after 7.Ngf3 Nc6, play transposes to a line that has already occurred a few times. However, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the accelerated version of this queen sortie.
In our featured game, I particularly liked the way that the central pawns were handled by the winner: at first they required careful defence, but then they advanced down the board sweeping away all in their path.
In Game Three a new idea by Boris Savchenko enabled him to obtain a complex middlegame which he eventually won. The idea of playing such an early ...h6 and ...g5 is not without risk, but if Black can get away with this wing advance, then he can look forward to promising options on the dark squares. His opponent, Mircea Parligras, wasn't able to make Black suffer for his daring, and Savchenko was later able to take the initiative on both wings.
Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 [A52]
Our featured game L'Ami-Swinkels concentrates on one of the main lines of the Budapest. Swinkels is able to introduce a natural-looking novelty, 15...dxc5!, and then had no problems in the ensuing middlegame
My interpretation is that this seems to justify Black's plan of 'delayed castling, early h-pawn push'. One can even go further and suggest that the commonly-played 7.a3 is well met by the line starting with 11...b6, but further games at GM level are required to confirm my suspicions.
Benko (with a hint of Blumenfeld) Gambit
In the Benko Gambit, I've recently had several games, but haven't done that well as White. My opponents have been using some cunning move orders!
One point that I should make is that if Black plays both of ...b5 and ...e6, in the early part of the opening phase, there can be more than a passing resemblance to the Blumenfeld.
First of all in a type of Benko Declined, in Game 5, White blunders a pawn on move seven!
The idea of 7...Nxe4! isn't new, but this is the first time that I've highlighted this particular trick in the Daring Defences column. In fact, Vassily Ivanchuk beat Ivan Sokolov in a similar manner in last year's Olympiad, but many out there who play moves like 4.Qc2 tend to do so to 'avoid theory', so they are perhaps not aware that White is the one in danger!
Game Six, which is objectively a Benko, but similar to a Blumenfeld, led to a very short draw, but there is still a story to tell.
White's pawn sacrifice was well diffused by my thoroughly-prepared opponent, but after the game the computer pointed out some alternatives for White that could have kept the fight going.
Frankly though, I don't really believe that playing in gambit-style with the knight on the 'passive' d2-square should be a problem for the second player, and there are other ways (see the notes) for Black to avoid a quick draw if he wants a longer fight.
In Games 7 and 8, fellow ChessPublishing analyst Eric Prié played a Benoni with 3...a6 against me twice this summer! In both cases my efforts as White were far from satisfactory. In turned out that the 'threat of playing a Benko' can be psychologically strong, as White has to start thinking for himself on move four!
As for the protagonists, Harry Schüssler was followed by some of his fellow Swedes in the early eighties and then, in the mid-eighties, several Spanish GMs including Miguel Illescas Cordoba, Pablo San Segundo and Juan Bellon Lopez continued to popularize this 'flexi-Benoni':
White could play 4.a4, but then Black can reply with 4...e5, with a type of Czech Benoni. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it can be sometimes advisable in the Czech Benoni to delay or avoid a2-a4 as White. However, most of the time, it comes down largely to a question of taste.
In Game 7 I played 4.Nc3 and decided to capture the b-pawn, as in a Benko. However this turns out to be rather unsatisfactory as Black is able to obtain a decent version of a kind of Blumenfeld. In the game I was somewhat worse and rather relieved to draw.
In Game Eight I tried 4.Nf3 and 5.Qc2, sticking to a 'Benko-Declined' approach. I have to admit that I was rather outplayed in the opening and again it was Black who had the better options. However, if you check through the notes, White did have some promising options, especially after Prié's precocious development of his queen's bishop.
So, after 4.Nf3 b5 Black obtains a Benko Declined, but one where the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c4 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 a6!? is certainly playable, but slightly odd.
Benko Accepted without Kxf1 [A58]
In Game 9 however, Black is punished for allowing White to obtain exactly what he wants in a Benko Accepted (king quickly into safety and an early e4-e5 advance). A model game that fits into the category of 'what not to do with Black'.
An approach which can be described as more critical from a theoretical point of view can be seen in Game 10, Bartel-Bologan. Viktor Bologan sticks with the Benko Gambit even though his results have been rather patchy. Both sides interpreted the fianchetto variation in their own fashion with some atypical manoeuvres. The whole game was fairly messy and unclear, with White a shade better early on, and Black having the better of the draw towards the end.
Owen's Defence with c3 [B00]
In Game 11 Boris Savchenko was not successful with his handling of the Owen's Defence. I don't like his sixth move which deserves a ?! in my opinion:
Was this move typical Savchenko provocation? Or, was he simply getting the move order mixed-up? I've mentioned some alternatives in the notes, many of which give Black a better chance of obtaining a decent middlegame.
Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]
In Game 12, a high-level encounter in the 3.f3 Anti-Grünfeld, Emil Sutovsky tried out the recent idea 9...Qd6!?:
Ivanchuk reacted with 10.Nb5 Qd7 11.Na3, which has been played before, whereupon Emil Sutovsky replied with 11...e5. My analysis suggests that Sutovsky's move seems to be a decent novelty, as Black was then at least equal. White's knight turned out to be slightly odd on a3, but unfortunately the Israeli GM became too excited about his prospects and sacrificed unsoundly.
So the conclusion is that 9...Qd6 is fine. Of the alternatives 9...f5 is also good, but Black has had some difficulties after the other main line starting with 9...e5.
Blumenfeld Gambit Declined [E10]
In the recent Game 13 I was surprised when my opponent chose the Blumenfeld Gambit. However I managed to find an interesting solution, which I have since discovered has been investigated by Israeli GMs Mikhalevsky and Roiz.
So 5...Qa5+ 6.Nc3!? Ne4 7.cxb5! is actually a challenging way of meeting the Blumenfeld:
but of course Black has several alternatives to 5...Qa5+, the main one being 5...exd5 6.cxd5 d6.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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