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As you may have gathered from the title, this month we'll be having a good look at developments in this ever popular defence. One trend that is noticeable (and not just in this particular column!) is that Black seems to be playing ...Be6 in all sorts of positions where the bishop is placed to have influence over the c4-square.

Download PGN of June ’17 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld Defence 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 [D83]

In Nabaty, T - Zubov, A the continuation 7.c5 c6 8.h3 was met by the active 8...Ne4 and Black was able to achieve a fine game:

This looks clearer than alternative plans involving the forcing 8...b6 or the cagey 8...Bc8. So this could be a good way of neutralizing the cautious 8.h3.

White soon went astray and allowed Black's knight to take up a dominating outpost on d3 which soon led to Black winning a pawn.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 [D85]

In Brynell, S - Turov, M Black's ...Qa5-c7 manoeuvre looked slightly passive, but he was able to outplay his opponent and ultimately obtain the full point.

In terms of the opening after 8...0-0 9.Be2!? Qa5 White has three options:

Although 10.Qd2 looks fairly standard, White could even try 10.0-0 as he obtains good play when Black captures on c3.

In the actual game, Brynell's choice of 10.Bd2 created certain difficulties for Black, as the queen was not particularly comfortable on the same diagonal as the bishop. Furthermore, when Turov dropped his queen back to c7, simply Ra1-c1 would again target the queen indirectly.

So it seems that 9.Be2 constitutes quite an interesting 'flexible approach' against which 9....Qa5 might not be the best reply.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Qa4+ [D85]

Alexander Moiseenko has been one of the pioneers in popularizing 7.Qa4+ and here he is at it again. In Moiseenko, A - Bakhamtsky, V it's notable that once White had stabilized his grip on the centre the advance of the h-pawn turned out to be difficult to meet:

As to what we can learn from the opening, a number of the game segments in the Black deviations seem playable for him, but aren't quite equalizing. This suggests that White's opening schema has some bite. Improvements on move twelve or fifteen (see the notes) may offer a better way forward, but Black has to play very carefully to keep the balance.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Ne2 c5 9.Be3 Nc6 10.h4 [D87]

The game Volke, K - Gupta, A is one of those examples of White playing a marginal system and getting lucky. The general consensus on 10.h4:

after 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Qa5+ 12.Kf1 is that White gets tricky play, but that it's not quite sound.

Even more so after the further moves 12...Qa3 13.Qd2, which definitely looks dodgy, Gupta was sufficiently confident to spurn a draw, but an error led to complications where White's attack proved to be decisive.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.g3 dxc4 [D90]

On the evidence of Meier, G - Carlsen, M it seems that this attempt to get into a Neo-Grünfeld doesn't work very well, although one could argue a case for ignoring the c-pawn and just carrying on with kingside development in gambit style with Bg2, 0-0 and so on. My gut feeling is that after 5...dxc4 it's White who has all the difficult decisions to make:

, so those who like the idea of a 'belated Neo-Grünfeld' would do better to opt for 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.g3. Instead, a clear conclusion from the opening phase is that the Qa4 and Qxc4 manoeuvre seems to take too much valuable time.

In the featured game, Carlsen soon obtained the advantage with Black, which takes some doing against the normally very solid Meier, and never gave White a chance.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 [D90]

The popular h2-h4 advance is not necessarily an attempt to attack like crazy. In certain cases, especially when Black bolsters the centre with 5...c6, the idea is to obtain some sort of concession on the kingside and then proceed positionally elsewhere. Here in Sadorra, J - Jumabayev, R it didn't work out particularly well as Black got the better of the manoeuvring phase on the other wing thus enabling him to seize the initiative with a timely ...e5:

The type of positions occurring (in the game and notes) from 5...c6 6.Bg5 seem more akin to various lines of the Semi-Slav and Slav than the Grünfeld. So players with a wide experience of such lines might be attracted to the idea of creating fresh problems for pure-Grünfelders. So be prepared!

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bh4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4 [D91]

In many cases, as here, White begins with 4.Bg5 and only with a later Nf3 does play transpose to this standard variation where White gives up the c-pawn for a lead in development. In Tran Tuan Minh - Wei Yi, White didn't worry too much about regaining material equality until he was fully deployed. Meantime, it turns out that it's not so easy for Black to complete development, as Wei Yi found out after making an erroneous but natural-looking development move (13...Re8?) that allowed White a strong initiative. It was, however, only after a second serious error that Black lost the game.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bh4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4 [D91]

If we take into account Black's problems to get his queen's knight into the game in Tran Tuan Minh - Wei Yi, above, you can understand why Grünfeld expert maxime Vachier-Lagrave opts for a quick ...Nd7-b6, from where the knight (apart from getting out the way!) protects the c-pawn. If Tomashevsky, E - Vachier-Lagrave, M seems familiar, it's because there seems to be an ongoing theoretical discussion around the virtues of the Frenchman's pet idea.

Here, after 12.Rfb1, everyone else plays 12...Qd7, but Maxime has opted for 12...Bd7 on two occasions.

In the present game, Black's preparation and play gave him the better game and he got very close to winning, but Tomashevsky's excellent defensive technique somehow saved the day.

Grünfeld Defence Russian System 7.e4 Be6 [D96]

In the game Flear, G - Li Chao b 'visually' the opening looked promising for White, but accurate play from Black was able to more than diffuse any White opening pull. Indeed, Black soon obtained any chances going which leads me to conclude that the Chinese GM has found the way to meet the otherwise quite tricky Qc4-d3 retreat. So it seems that the early ...Be6 development is still going strong against the Russian Variation.

After the game, I was kicking myself for losing what I thought was an easy draw, but maybe it was already untenable once my opponent had achieved ...g5.

Grünfeld Russian System 7.e4 Na6 [D97]

Against the Prins a quick Bg5 can be quite tricky for an unprepared opponent. In my youth, I once managed to almost beat Korchnoi with this idea in the mid eighties and the idea is still relatively unknown.

In Miton, K - Le Roux, J-P I don't know if the Frenchman was surprised or not but he came up with a novelty (13...Qe8 rather than the previously recommended 13...Qb6) that seems to hold up to scrutiny. So, henceforth, with everybody who reads this column spreading the word, perhaps the sting has been taken out of this line. Black was better for most of this game but couldn't find a way to win, but he perhaps missed a couple of half-chances, one in the middlegame and one towards the end. You'll see what I mean if you diligently play through the game and notes.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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