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This month I've been looking at various lines in the Grünfeld Defence that have been attracting the attention of some of the World's top players recently.

Download PGN of June '13 Daring Defences games

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Budapest Gambit 4.Bf4 g5 [A52]

First of all however, a refinement in the Budapest Gambit.

Playing White, Erwin L'Ami recently employed a promising option against the ...g5-thrust. His game against Marko Tratar was examined in the May 2013 update. Here, I'm just confirming the suspicions of a subscriber that L'Ami missed a strong idea in the early middlegame, after 17...Qe8:

See L'Ami-Tratar for the analysis.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4, 5.Rc1 [D82]

Li Chao ('b') reacted to White's 4.Bf4 and 5.Rc1 with a strong riposte in Game 2. The move 5...Nh5 first comes across as odd, but it turns out that the bishop doesn't have any ideal squares:

Indeed this game just confirms that White has difficulties in obtaining any advantage at all in this line. I'm so impressed with Black's game, that I think that 5.Rc1 is shown to be inferior. So White should stick to 5.e3 or 5.Nf3.

Exchange with 5.Bd2 [D85]

Over the last couple of years or so Viswanathan Anand has lacked some punch in his play and he would probably be the first to admit this. However, in Game 3, he can't be accused of lacking ambition. He gambited his h-pawn (risky) and then following up by ditching his a-pawn (dubious), but found himself in trouble for his efforts. One imprecise move by Jan Hammer, and suddenly it was Black's king who was in hot water, but only because Vishy was able to find 'a bit of magic'.

Exchange with 8.Rb1 [D85]

After a period in the doldrums, the highly theoretical 8.Rb1 is now back in fashion. If Levon Aronian is going to play this with any regularity, then others will follow. In particular, his use of 16.f5 in Game 4 is significant:

In the game and notes I've come around to the opinion that trading queens often favours White, due to the d-pawn giving White some useful options. In the game this was true to a certain extent, but Vachier-Lagrave got back into contention due to an error on Aronian's part. Later on, Black was at least equal at one point but went wrong in turn, leading to a victory for the World No.2.

My recipe for Black would be to place his queen on d6 for now (blockading the annoying d-pawn and keeping out of trouble) followed by rapidly activating his rooks. Emil Sutovsky once obtained a comfortable draw against Etienne Bacrot in this way.

In Game 5 Levon Aronian had less difficulty in taking the full point after 13.Rxb7:

Capturing on b7 doesn't have the reputation of being particularly dangerous, as Black has 13...Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 with a solid game, see the notes. There doesn't seem to be anything special for White (that I can deduce) on the horizon after that, but perhaps the fact that Aronian was willing to give it a go suggests that he has something up his sleeve.

In any case, the Armenian clearly demonstrated that Hammer's 13...Nc6 is inferior.

In Game 6, Kanarek-Kurnosov, White used a move which seems to create problems for Black. This refreshes a dusty old line from White's point of view as the established moves 18.Bc5 and 18.Rb4 are well-mapped out, whereas 18.Re1 creates new difficulties:

Some of you may recognize this from a recent Radjabov-Svidler encounter which led to a quick draw. If Radjabov had been more ambitious he could have played on, but the main lesson is that Svidler's 19...Bd7 is probably stronger than Kurnosov's 19...Bxe2.

A fine game from Kanarek, and a warning for Black players to get their 8.Rb1 theory up-to-date!

In Game 7 White also won. Davit Shengelia created some problems for Alexander Areshchenko, but I believe that Black could have held with a more precise 22nd move. In such situations, the race between the d-pawn and a-pawn is often a close call, but it helps Black's case if he can also combine this with threats on the kingside. The earlier game Radjabov-Karjakin (see the notes) is also important to review, in order to enhance one's understanding of this line.

Exchange with Bc4 [D87]

The result may have been 0-1 in Game 8, but White was winning for a great deal of the encounter. Not for the first time in recent months, time trouble cost Ivanchuk dear.

In the opening, the tricky 10.Rc1 can cause Black some difficult moments. The critical line involves 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Qa5+ (see the notes) which should be fine for the second player, but note that Svidler got outplayed recently in a Blitz game.

Dominguez preferred to play 10...Qa5 immediately, which led to a tense middlegame, with Black holding his own until the 22nd move. Then Ivanchuk took over, until his 'accident' occurred later on.

The position in the following diagram after 13.dxe5 seems to be new:

Fernando Peralta innovated with this in Game 9, varying from one of his own games. His plan of placing the bishop on d5 and then pushing the f-pawn was enticing. Play was tense, White sought an attack, and Black had to walk a tightrope to safety. Although I couldn't find anything concrete, the overall impression was that Black had to be at his very best to defend the attack.

So 13.dxe5 is a fine novelty that offers decent practical chances for White.

Russian System 7...Be6 [D97]

One of the newest ways to handle Black's defence is with 7...Be6. In reply, White has to choose between advancing the d-pawn, or moving the queen.

Queen moves haven't impressed so far, noting that in the examples quoted there is the striking impression that White will inevitably have to lose further time. However, advancing the d-pawn gives Black a target (d5) for his counter-attacking ambitions.

After studying the evidence, I consider Black to have an acceptable game after both White approaches.

The fact that this variation is in its infancy means that there are doubtlessly many new ideas just waiting to be played. An example can be found in Game 10, Romain Edouard being the first to play 9...e6:

I quite liked Black's game in the early middlegame, but later on Edouard was outplayed by an inspired Sergey Volkov. The alternative move 9...c6 seems acceptable as well, so theoretically Black is holding his own with 7...Be6.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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