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This month I'll be looking at a selection of slightly offbeat variations arising from several opening systems in the 'Daring Defences' spectrum.

Download PGN of July '13 Daring Defences games

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English Defence 4.Qc2 Nc6!? [A40]

Nigel Short waves the flag for his country by playing the English Defence in Game one. In the middlegame he obtains a nice positional edge and eventually breaks through into his opponent's camp. After Porper's 4.Qc2, Short opted for 4...Nc6!?, perhaps to avoid any anticipated preparation:

Last year, against the same opponent, Short preferred 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Nc6, whereas the main line with 4...Qh4 led to a Black win in the recent rapid game Postny-Greenfeld.

After 4...Nc6, it's debatable as to whether White's 5.d5 is the right approach.

Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 g5 [A52]

The 4...g5-thrust is not really a gambit, but is the sort of move that appeals to gambiteers: Black gets some activity and a complex game. I'm not personally a great fan, as the weaknesses in Black's camp seem to be an important issue. A case in point is Game 2 which Black won, but in the notes White had more than one way to a small but certain edge.

Benko Gambit 4.f3 [A57]

A couple of ideas in the Benko caught my attention this time.

In Game 3 Dmitry Svetushkin tried 4.f3, and later innovated to obtain a nominal edge. However, most Benko players would probably have been satisfied with Black. I think that he has plenty of resources against this solid, but uncritical line.

The sister variation 4.cxb5 a6 5.f3 (see the notes) is however quite tricky and something that Benko players need to prepare for, especially as this is recommended for White by Lars Schandorff in his 2012 Quality Chess book Playing 1.d4 The Indian Defences.

Benko Accepted with g3 [A58]

Riazantsev was unable to win with the fashionable 11.Ne1 in Game 4:

The idea is to come to c2 (and then e3 to bolster d5 and cover c4). White redeploys his king's knight before deciding where his other pieces are heading.

There have been some high level games which Prizant seemed aware of, as he was well-prepared. The game continuation seemed fine for Black.

Dutch Defence 2.Bg5 g6 [A80]

L'Ami's 4.h4 in Game 5 is difficult to handle for Black, as one can see from the examples in the notes:

In the game Puijssers actually demonstrated a way to obtain a decent position with Black before blundering horribly and losing. So despite the result, it seems that Black is finally getting close to neutralizing this tricky line.

Leningrad Defence 6.b4 [A81]

Quite a number of players with White opt for an early b2-b4 against the Leningrad, as it makes sense in many lines. However, White's space-gaining advance also presents a target for Black.

In Game 6 Neiksans shows the downside of White's advance in fine positional style. I think it is more challenging for the Leningrad (this is equally true in other lines of the Dutch) when White combines b4 with an early c4, but that's another story.

Leningrad Defence with ...e6 [A87]

The ...e6 Leningrad, featured in Game 7, is not really at the cutting-edge of theory. However, although it is slightly slow, there are no real strategic problems with this approach. I quite like Gajewski's 8.Qb3 although I'm not sure it's worth any real advantage:

It's worth comparing other lines of the Leningrad where Q-b3 is played, in order to get a 'feel' for these types of position.

Stonewall with b3 [A90]

I don't use rapid games very often in this column, but I particularly liked the way Yannick Pelletier handled the Stonewall to out-play no less an opponent than Shakriyar Mamedyarov in Game 8. Later on, time trouble and Mamedyarov's wizardry enabled the 'super GM' to escape with a draw.

Owen's Defence 3.f4 [B00]

A fairly new, but surprisingly popular, set-up for White against the Owen's involves him opting for N-c3 and f2-f4, without d2-d4. If Black settles for an early ...c5, then the position would resemble a Closed Sicilian or Grand Prix Attack:

In Game 9 Black hit back with a quick ...d5 and then he gained space with ...d4, when he could probably claim an equal game. However, the big question is what will Black do with his king? The up-and-coming Alexander Ipatov didn't find a satisfactory answer in the game and was punished.

Blumenfeld Gambit 5.Bg5 b4 [E10]

Ivan Salgado Lopez was successful with Nisipeanu's 5...b4 in Game 10, but was helped by the fact that his fellow Spanish opponent didn't seem keen on maintaining a central edge. White later ran out of ideas and went backwards instead of holding his ground.

More critical for Black are the potentially sharp 6.a3 and, later, the solid 9.Nbd2.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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