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Anti-Dutch 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5 [A80]
I'm starting with some diverse Anti-Dutch, typically 'Anti-Leningrad' ideas.
White's sensible Anti-Dutch development (1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5) in Game One is well met by 3...Ne4. I know that White can then get excited by the prospect (after 4.Bf4 etc) of playing for g2-g4 but this didn't unduly worry Black in our featured game.
I actually think that 6.Nxe4 is more awkward (see the notes), but even here I consider Black to be able to equalize completely.
Instead, after 4.h4, my investigations suggest that Black should hold back from ...Nxg5 until he has operations underway elsewhere.
c2-c3 versus Leningrad [A81]
In Game Two Bologan's plan with c2-c3 didn't work out very well. Indeed he was soon worse, which suggests that Nepomniachtchi's 6...a5 was quite a good reply:
Essentially, despite the original intention to play a Leningrad, Black should embrace the idea (like many GMs) of consolidating the centre with ...d5 leading to play more akin to a Stonewall. There is no clearly best move order for Black, but I suggest that Leningrad players compare the positions that arise from analogous ones where c2-c3 is played even earlier, for example on move four (1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.c3!?).
In Game Three the early Bg5 development is often used by top players in rapid games, as Black has to be a little careful. Mamedyarov in particular has tried it several times, but has generally been thwarted by some of the World's best defenders.
A point to bear in mind is that Black is wise to delay ...g6 a move or two, until White's attacking schemes with h2-h4 are less dangerous. The next questions to bear in mind are how, and when, to angle for ...e5. In the game Filippov opted to play ...e5 early, but then had to tread carefully to get to near equality. Later on, a couple of imprecise moves led to a winning rook endgame for White.
Stonewall Defence [A90]
The Drenchev-Sedlak encounter in Game Four reminds me of some classical games where White would manoeuvre around and cause Black a hard time in the Stonewall. Indeed, the whole concept of placing a pawn on d5 was under a cloud until people realised that the bishop could be calmly deployed to b7.
I quite liked White's position after the opening, and indeed it all flowed very smoothly. However, despite all that, maybe Black could have held with a passive defence rather than sacrificing the exchange. Nevertheless, I generally consider ...b6 (which Sedlak has played before with success) to be more reliable than ...Bd7-e8, in this particular line.
Classical Defence 5.Nh3 [A91]
In Game Five the plan of Nh3 combined with b3 is employed by White:
Although N-h3 is often recommended against the Stonewall, here it is applied against an attempted Iljin-Zhenevsky. Ipatov obtained a nice position which induced Williams to play in a speculative, and indeed dubious, manner.
In the notes I suggest some possible improvements for Black, one of them being 8...Qc7 to support ...e5. This 'Antoshin-style' plan doesn't necessarily suit those seeking a kingside attack, but it's solid enough. As an alternative, I can't see anything wrong for Black in the game segment Neverov-Eggleston, where Black played ...e5 after castling, ...Qe8 and ...Bd8.
Classical Defence 7...Ne4 [A96]
In Game 6 one of the main lines of the Iljin-Zhenevsky was tested in Krasenkow-Williams. Although Black won the opening debate, there are a number of unanswered questions that I've brought up in the notes. I'm looking forward to seeing some future Williams encounters to see how he intends to meet 11.Be3 for instance.
After the game my fellow Englishman was sure that he missed a win. A closer look suggests that he may have missed two. See what you think.
Another example of play from the 7...Ne4 variation occurred in Game 7. This time White didn't capture on e4 and instead invited Black to trade on c3:
White supports the d-pawn with this move and then prepares to play Qc3-c2 and then e2-e4. In the game it all fell into place and Lenic maintained a small but durable advantage. Horvath had drawing chances but a couple of small errors and the endgame became untenable.
Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 [D70]
Magnus Carlsen features in Game 8 against Fabiano Caruana, who repeated his play from some earlier high-level encounters. The first 'new move' was 15.Bh6, but Larry Kaufman had already analyzed this in his recent book Sabotage the Grünfeld which I've already discussed in this column:
The World Champion obtained some advantage, but lost the thread and spent most of the game fighting for a draw a piece for a couple of pawns down.
I can't see a sure-fire improvement for Black, although I suspect that any White advantage following Kaufman's 17...Qf8 is tiny. Another reasonable idea, this time on move eighteen, involves opening the position with 18...exd5, and then meeting 19 Nf4 with 19...Be6. My computer suggests that it is equal.
Exchange Grünfeld 7.Be3, 11.Ng5 [D85]
White has, as a rule, been fairly successful with the 11.Ng5 idea played by Karjakin against Grischuk in Game 9. All those ...Bxf3 ideas are out of the window and the bishop on g4 will soon be pushed back with h2-h3:
However, the opening went in Black's favour who even won material (the exchange for a pawn), and (after a close look) one can conclude that Grischuk's play takes any sting out White's whole line. Maybe the point is that the knight just turns out to be 'out of play' on g5.
Unfortunately, Black's forces were not so easy to coordinate and Grischuk first lost his advantage and then eventually the game.
Exchange Variation with 8.Rb1, 10...Qa5+ [D85]
Finally this time, in Game 10, Aronian-Svidler was a highly theoretical battle in the 8.Rb1 Exchange Variation, where some of the variations and games play out to a draw. Although Radjabov's and Bacrot's efforts have revived 13.Rxb7, my impression is that there are no real problems for the second player:
Peter Svidler knew what he was doing and obtained a perfectly acceptable game, as Aronian's nominal advantage was irrelevant at this level.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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