>> Previous Update >>
English Defence 3.Nc3 Bb7 4.a3 f5 5.Nf3 [A40]
One area that I've not examined much in the past is when White reacts to the English Defence with an early Nf3. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such a sensible developing move, but as it doesn't compete for the e4-square it isn't particularly critical. In Li, Di - Li Chao b, from a recent Chinese league game, White also played with a quick a2-a3 (but without d4-d5) leading to a type of Queen's Indian, but one in which Black has achieved the handy move ...f5 without too much hassle:
Black's middlegame plan of seeking action on the queenside seemed fair enough, but provoked some complications in which White seems to have missed a win.
English Defence 3.a3 f5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.g3 Ba6 [A40/85]
In Shetty, A - Shabalov, A Black employed an unusual idea that may be common or garden in the Queen's Indian, but such a rare one for the English Defence that I've not covered it before. Black's threat against the c4-pawn is a slight nuisance for the first player:
Shabalov has actually played like this before and it can be thought of as an interesting idea to avoid loads of theory and then just play chess. Of course, by following up with the 'centre stabilizing ...d5' we are then more in Stonewall Dutch territory, so it might favour the player who is best able to cope with a variety of opening set-ups. A good strategy against 'rigid thinking opponents', perhaps?
In the actual game, Black started off quite well, only to lose his way in the complications. Shabalov did defend rather well to earn his half-point, but Shetty missed a win along the way.
Budapest Gambit 3...Ng4 4.Bf4 g5 [A52]
The line with 4...g5 is in the spirit of the gambit and sure, Black gets his fun (well, for a few moves anyway). It's used in Rapid and Blitz a fair deal, but less so in traditional 'slow' chess. This may well be because objectively it should favour White, especially if he reacts with a quick h2-h4 (move six or seven), as you'll see in the notes. In Guseynov, A - Haznedaroglu, K White employed this move rather later, but still created problems for Black. A sign that there are several ways for White to meet Black's rather optimistic system.
In the latter phase of the encounter White let the win slip through his hands. How often does that happen to one when facing a higher-rated player?
Benko Gambit 5.e3 axb5 6.Bxb5 Qa5+ [A57]
The line employed in Nabaty,T - Hnydiuk, A looks like a problem for Black. White has been scoring heavily with 9.Nf3 when after 9...Nxd5 10.a4 we reach the following position:
In several recent encounters Black hasn't been able to solve his problems and this was the case here as White cruised to victory. There are some possible improvements suggested in the notes but, if all else fails, then Black should consider seeking an alternative approach on move five!
Benko Gambit Accepted without Kxf1 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.e4 0-0 8.a7 [A58]
After White's trendy 8.a7 Black tried to play the Benko in a fairly traditional style in Lagarde, D - Nagy, Ga but wasn't very successful. There shouldn't be anything seriously wrong with this approach but, in the game, Black's 15...Bxc3 from the following diagram position didn't leave a very positive impression:
The crunch move remains the more forcing 9...e6 when the rook on a7 may have a future along the seventh rank.
Benko Gambit Accepted without Kxf1 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.e4 0-0 8.Be2 [A58]
Although Black played an impressive game in Sammalvuo, T - Karttunen, M White avoided playing the critical 10.e5 which is the greatest challenge. In the game, Karttunen's use of 15...Nh5 seemed to confuse his opponent as Black played more actively in the centre and kingside than what we are used to:
There is nothing forced, of course, after this unusual knight leap but it seems that White will soon have to move his g-pawn which might prove weakening.
Benko Gambit Accepted with Kxf1 8...d6 9.g3 Bg7 10.Kg2 0-0 11.Nf3 Nbd7 12.a4 [A59]
I don't understand why people are willing to play the old main line for Black without any ideas to help make their game more palatable. The game and notes just tell a depressing story if you are a Benko player. Even in Blitz games White is keeping a grip here. Lenderman, A - Belous, V to me just reinforces my opinion that Black desperately needs some new ideas.
As to the details, probably the ambitious 18...c4 was an error, whereas the patient 18...Rb8 would keep the tension and any disadvantage to a minimum. Even so, sorry, I don't have any particularly good news for lovers of this gambit.
Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.b3 [A88]
The in-mode Leningrad with 7...c6 featured in Leenhouts, K - Pruijssers, R turned out in Black's favour, but he was noticeably never under pressure. The choices by both players, even as early as move eight, can lead to some subtle differences with significant consequences. I like the flexible 8...Na6, one point being that Black waits to see where the bishop is going:
So, 9...Qa5 only gets played when it wins a tempo against the bishop on a3, as in the game. Instead, following 9.Bb2 Black does better to choose between 9...Qc7 or the more unusual 9...Rb8.
Classical Dutch 6...d6 7.Nc3 a5 [A99]
Igor Naumkin is one of the rare GMs around who regularly plays the Classical Dutch, and one of an even smaller number who is happy to switch into a type of delayed Stonewall, as in Sarana,A-Naumkin,I.
So when Sarana played 10.Qd3 here, Naumkin reacted with 10...d5 to keep the centre closed. Black's forces are not quite as harmonious-looking as in a mainstream Stonewall, but it's devilishly difficult for White to chip away at Black's central wall of pawns. White kept plugging away and objectively had a slight pull before Black (correctly, I believe) opened the game into a sharper struggle, before missing some tactical resources.
As for the latest developments in theory then 8.Re1 is the one to watch, and where some of the latest nuances are discussed in the notes.
Albin without g3 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 Nge7 6.b4 Ng6 7.Bb2 a5 [D08]
The featured game Valenzuela Gomez, F - Cuartas, Ja led to Black obtaining the advantage in the middlegame and winning with a direct kingside attack. In this, the 'main line', (as a rule) if Black can actually find the time to get his king into safety then it's the weaknesses around White's kingside that can prove to be the key factor. However, in the notes, it looks like Black's choice of 15...Qd5 shouldn't be good enough. Instead 15...Qh3 is the best choice. Earlier than this, maybe Black has another idea that could well equalize...
Here the strange manoeuvre 12...Qd5 13.Nc3 Qd7 is rare but on the basis of a recent e-mail game seems to be playable. Food for thought.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
>> Previous Update >>