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Grünfeld Defence [A90]
The first e-mail concerns a question about an alternative in one of Boris Avrukh's analyses in the Stonewall. Boris Avrukh is an influential author, so many players have been sifting through his ideas with a fine-toothed comb. Indeed, the move 15...Qb7 cannot be described as a pure novelty, as it was analyzed by Victor Moskalenko in a recent New In Chess Survey (Yearbook 101):
I had already looked at this, and some of his other suggestions in the March 2012 update, and added my own touch, see the notes there to Cornette-Spraggett. However in order to keep the subscriber happy, I have looked deeper into the position, but still can't offer anything more than a nominal edge for White.
Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]
The second email is from Roberto Chiesa who was interested in the game Ivanisevic-Gabrielian, which I analyzed last month. He has sent me his quick win played in late 2011, involving the same opening sequence, so it seems that he played 13.Ng5 before Ivanisevic:
So he certainly has a case for claiming the novelty as his own.
As a rule, the word 'novelty' is widely used in chess literature to point out a 'new move', but I suspect that in the vast majority of cases the move in question has already occurred before. This could be in an obscure tournament, unpublished games, or somebody's analysis. Most game annotations, from books or even online, don't make their way into mainstream databases. So an unsuspecting annotator such as myself may unwittingly use the term 'novelty' too lightly!
Furthermore, my database of correspondence and Internet games could do with updating, I must admit!
I remember in my youth being in the same situation as Roberto Chiesa. A move that I had analyzed and played before anyone else was played by Skembris a year later and given the 'TN' sign in Informator. For the Yugoslav editors, the move was new to Sahovski publications and files, which is how they define 'novelty'. They didn't necessarily have access to second-string tournaments in the UK, of course.
I have also heard of cases where a line inexplicably drops out of favour amongst the elite. Not because of something that has happened over the board, but because of a certain move that is known by the main protagonists, but has not actually been played. Eventually a lesser player gets the credit for playing the 'novelty', but which is already 'well-known' before it has occurred!
Game Three again features the sharp Anti-Grünfeld line starting with 3.f3, a surprise choice for a World Championship Match. Boris Gelfand opts for 8...e5, rather than the more fashionable 8...Nc6, and a complex struggle ensued. The diagram position after 16...e4 is critical for the assessment of this whole line:
Black activates his bishop and will try to bring White's king into the firing line. On the other side of the board, White will aim to consolidate, and rely on the long-term influence of the passed d-pawn. Anand may have been close to winning the actual game, but the opening phase after 17.Bd4 was probably acceptable for Black. Since this encounter, the key alternative 17.d6 has been tried, when Black needs to be precise, see the notes.
4/5 Bg5 Ne4 [D91]
Some crafty preparation was at hand in Game 4! Salgado Lopez plays 9...c5, which no one seems to have done before:
Furthermore his idea (of giving back the pawn and developing rapidly), offered him a perfectly respectable position after the opening. Later on, it was even Black who was better, and the young Spaniard may have had some regrets in only drawing.
4 Qb3 [D81]
In Game 5 Van Wely deviated from a famous encounter between Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky, but to no avail, as he was soon slightly worse. If you investigate the notes, and hunt around in the archives, you'll see that I prefer White in this line after 12.e5. In fact, I can't quite accept that 7...a6 gives Black enough for the pawn, but such 'Benko-style-long-term-pawn-offers' are not easy to judge, and I could simply be wrong! Later on, towards move 40, Van Wely was in some trouble, which demonstrates that perhaps playing the white-side of this line isn't necessarily that easy!
4 Bf4 [D82]
Game Six takes me back to 2009, when this sharp opening variation was all the rage, whereas recent tests have been few and far between. Here Black never obtained enough for the exchange, as 19...Ng4 turned out to be inadequate:
Looking back over my notes, I recall that 19...b5 and 19...Bg4 are the critical alternatives, but haven't been played for three years, it seems.
Exchange Variation 8 Rb1, 11 d5 [D85]
Ivan Cheparinov is successful in Game 7 with a slightly suspicious gambit line. Although he had aggressively posted pieces, objectively he only won because his opponent didn't defend very well. Computer assessment suggests that White doesn't have enough compensation, but sitting opposite finding a series of careful defensive moves isn't everybody's cup of tea. So there are sporting chances for White.
Exchange Variation 8 Bb5+ [D85]
Anand's 8.Bb5+ in Game Eight isn't generally considered to be dangerous, as White generally follows up with the quiet 9.0-0. However the World Champion complicated the struggle with 9.d5, leading to relatively unknown positions:
Considering the fact that he normally doesn't play the Grünfeld, Boris Gelfand handled the opening well. Indeed, after he had castled into safety, the Israeli GM was at least equal and could have perhaps sought more than a share of the spoils.
Exchange Variation 7 Bc4 [D87]
The rapid Game nine, between two of France's leading players, was won by Black. Etienne Bacrot was no doubt in time pressure at the end, which would explain why he didn't resist better, but he was under pressure from early on. His opponent, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, has experience with both colours in this line, and was able to obtain a comfortable opening:
It seems that (after 13.Bh6) Black is almost spoilt for choice, as both 13...e6 and 13...Rad8 seem to be fine for him, which suggests that the 11...b6 variation will be here to stay. Here 13...e6 (blocking the a2-g8 diagonal and discouraging d4-d5) was played, and the later follow-up ...f5 killed off White's kingside ambitions.
5 Qa4+ [D90]
The Ding Liren-Joh Gomez encounter in Game 10 is yet another recent example of Q-a4+-b3. The main theoretical debate arises mainly in the notes to this game, as I don't like Ding Liren's 17.Qh4, and I doubt that he does either!
The key move here (after 16...Nc5) seems to be 17.Qb4, as already played by Sebastien Feller in 2011. I have refined my analysis of this position and have perhaps found a way for Black to just about equalize. See if you agree with my comments in the notes.
Russian System 7 e4 Nc6 [D97]
Vachier-Lagrave employs a tricky gambit idea in Game 11. He already lost with this line against Alexander Morozevich, but the young Parisian persists! The game worked a treat, as Black quickly obtained at least equality and ground out a win with the bishop pair in the pseudo-endgame.
Black certainly has practical chances in the diagram position, but does he have full compensation after 15.f3 (rather than 15.Bg5?!)? I wonder! I'm not sure at present, but if in future Vachier-Lagrave goes for this gambit again, then we'll have our answer!
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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