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Grünfeld Defence 4.e3 Bg7 5.cxd5 [D80]
The heyday of 4.e3 followed by 5.cxd5 seems to be behind us, but it is still given the occasional outing by someone seeking a solid game.
In Game One Cheparinov wasn't surprised by this choice and had a novelty up his sleeve.
In this position Cheparinov played a new move 9...Na6!
After following up with ...c5 and ...Nc7, Black was well-placed for the ...f5-counter and soon took the initiative in the centre. He then out-analyzed his opponent to win quite quickly.
4.Bg5 Bg7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 c5! [A80]
Over the last few years, in response to 4.Bg5, we have seen a number of GMs willing to gambit two pawns, as in Game Two. Dominguez is the latest to go down this road, but added his own touch.
In the following position, the Cuban played a dramatic move:
I suppose one could debate whether 11...b5 was preparation or over-the-board inspiration, but in either case it seems quite effective. Tomashevsky soon gave up the exchange and a tense queenless middlegame occurred. It didn't go that well for Dominguez, but he managed to hold his unpleasant endgame.
4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 [A80]
Another 4.Bg5 game featuring Tomashevsky with White in Game Three, and another 100+ moves draw!
In contrast to the previous game, here Maxime Vachier-Lagrave responds with pawn-grabbing in mind. The game and notes investigate options involving N-h3, as opposed to the standard Nf3 by White:
The Frenchman was outplayed in the early middlegame, but there are several moments where he might have improved. My feeling is that playing for the ...c5 counter, rather than ...e5 is the simpler approach. He earned his laurels by later putting up staunch resistance to save the day.
Exchange with 5.Bd2 and Nf3 [A90]
Another of those lines which started out as being a way of taking the opponent 'out of the book', but has since become very theoretical.
As to the opening in Game Four, I personally prefer 8.Qd2 to 8.Nf3, but in both cases the difference between keeping a pull for White and getting nothing at all is subtle.
Black was able to keep the passed d-pawn under close scrutiny in Donchenko-Mista, and went on to win the endgame. Let this be a warning for those who allow ...Bg4 with ...Bxf3, as if White loses the initiative the knight can become stronger than the bishop.
Exchange with 5.Bd2 Nb6 6.Bg5 [A85]
In Game Five something curious happens. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has a bad day at the office and is clearly second best against the young Nicola Altini. White obtains a space bind and Black goes in for some self-weakening in an attempt to liberate himself. I particularly liked White's g2-g4 in this game:
The moral of this sorry (for MVL) tale is the following: Black has to play for an early ...c5.
Exchange with 7.Qa4+ [D85]
A fairly regular surprise weapon, 7.Qa4+ is almost becoming mainstream these days.
In Game Six a new move featured in a high-level GM encounter.
Riazantsev introduced a novelty at this point 13.Rd1!?.
The surprise value worked, as David Navara didn't quite find the path to equality. Unfortunately, he somehow got his pieces tangled, after which there doesn't seem to be a defence. In the notes, I'm suggesting improvements on moves 13 and 18, when I think Black is fine.
Exchange with 7.Bc4, 10...Bd7 [A96]
Game Seven can be thought of as a model game for Black, as David Howell gets the maximum out of Black's position in the queenless middlegame following from ...Qa5 and ...cxd4 etc.:
As to the opening, 10...Bd7 has dropped out of fashion, but it may have caught Danny Gormally by surprise, as his routine 11.Qd2 doesn't seem to yield anything (see the game and notes). Critical is 11.Rb1, but for that you'll have to search in the archives.
Later in the game, the bishop pair were a key factor, but I'm not sure if they would have ensured the full-point if Gormally hadn't erred with the ever-so-natural 32.Rc7.
Russian System, Hungarian Variation 7.e4 a6 8.Be2 b5 9.Qb3 c5 10.dxc5 [D97]
The following position after 17...Qd6 featured in both Games 8 and 9:
It can be considered as a key moment in the main line of the Russian System, Hungarian Variation. In Game 8, Donchenko's plan of B-d4-e5 didn't work out well, as he then lost control of the c-file. An instructive point that exemplifies that the bishop is better on f4, as in Game 9.
In Game Eight Ipatov obtained the advantage in the endgame, but there were definitely drawing chances for White, see move 39.
I like very much Game Nine for several reasons, but mainly for Grischuk's fine technique, as he wins the endgame in 'super grandmasterful' fashion.
Naturally, Grischuk knows this line very well, as he has had all this with Black, that is, until he varied on move 23! The endgame plan involves White walking his king to the queenside to 'tickle' the isolated pawn. This long-drawn-out-plan might not be as a serious challenge to Black's system for ordinary mortals, but it may put off the super GMs from playing this way as Black in future.
In Game Ten Boris Gelfand was well-prepared and managed to create problems for Peter Svidler, particularly due to the (no doubt) prepared novelty 17.a4:
After which Black should probably have captured on a4 and then played the modest 18...h6, limiting White to a small pull. Nevertheless, Gelfand's idea suggests that earlier deviations for Black will need a closer look, for example on move 13.
In the game, Svidler fought back and Gelfand seemed to lose control, only for the Israeli No.1 to finally engineer a fine endgame victory out of very little.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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