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Grünfeld 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 dxc4 7.e3 Be6 8.Nh3 [D80]
The game Brunello, S - Grandelius, N featured the 5.Bh4 gambit with the odd-looking 8.Nh3:
a move that first received some attention a few years ago on ChessPublishing. Now that it's better known, it doesn't have the same 'surprise weapon effect' any more. It seems that 8...Bh6 (as played by Grandelius) is the best reply. Various ninth moves by White, 9.Be2, 9.Ng5, and the game move 9.Bg5 all have their particularities, but Black seems to have plenty of resources in each case. One of these being to meet 9.Bg5 with the cheeky retreat 9...Bg7!?.
In the game, Grandelius emerged from the opening with the safer king and just kept probing away at his opponent's vulnerable monarch.
Grünfeld 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 dxc4 8.Bxc4 0-0 9.Nge2 [D82]
The tables were turned in the high-ranking encounter Wojtaszek, R - Mamedyarov, S late on. After having some advantage from an early stage, Mamedyarov undertook a king walk, but to his dismay saw too late that it was only to its doom.
As for the theory, the sharp opening sequence involved a novelty on move twelve:
The advantage of any new move, such as 12.Nb5, is that there is a fair chance that your opponent may not have studied that precise position at home and so is thrown onto his own resources. However, on the other hand, there is a risk that it isn't any good! Here, the complications that followed offered plenty of options for both sides, and perhaps raise more questions than any answers that I have been able to ascertain. My feeling is that Wojtaszek's novelty is not worse than the alternatives, so we'll probably see it again soon.
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be2 [D85]
The rapid-play game Andreikin, D - Jones, G was a bit of a crush. However, when we examine the details it seems that despite White's attacking posture the Englishman could have obtained a perfectly acceptable game as late as move seventeen with 17...Be5.
I've tried to explain the move order subtleties of the opening in a line where it seems so easy to drift into an unsatisfactory position (with either side!) if you are not on the ball. An example of this being Black's natural-looking 9...Ne5 which doesn't look right to me and I've even branded it with an ?!. On the other hand, I think that Andreikin's 11.0-0!? is a perfect choice for a rapid game! My recommendation is that whatever your chosen sequence, learn it well!
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Nf3 c5 8.h3 [D85]
In Lupulescu, C - Jones, G the following position arose:
Black will have to make a decision about his queen (as it can't stay aligned with White's bishop for long). There doesn't seem to be any consensus here, and all sorts of set-ups have been tried. Sometimes the ambitious a3-square is chosen (but the noble lady might be vulnerable there), and some folk have preferred d8 (safer, but there is a feeling that Black is losing time), whereas Jones was successful in dropping back to c7. Anyway, the aggressive h-pawn push by Lupulescu (13.h4) 'feels' like the right answer, but it only led to an unclear game rather than any advantage.
Grünfeld Exchange 5.Bd2 Bg7 6.e4 Nxc3 7.Bxc3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nd7 [D85]
I think that we can all learn a great deal from Alekseenko's play in Levin, Ev - Alekseenko, K. Notably, he played with 8...Nd7 and 9...b6, and only later countered with ...c5 after the further preparatory move ...e6. Such a sluggish approach might not work in other lines of the Exchange, but here it was justified as White's generally unchallenging development didn't disrupt his plans.
After all that, exchanges enabled him to get the better of equality, which he exploited in exemplary fashion in a fine rook endgame.
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 [D87]
The general approach by White was quite sensible in Bluebaum, M - Baldauf, M. He just maintained and nurtured his centre early on, and only instigated his h2-h4 advance when he felt that everything was under control. Black then needed to react quickly, and thus did so with the sharp ...f5 counter, which seemed to give him reasonable play. Indeed, he seemed to be holding his own until he lost his way in the complications just before the time control.
So it seems that Black's novel 15...a6 was probably OK, as was his 18...f5. This perhaps goes to show that White's whole set-up, despite being attractive-looking, is not that worrying for Black.
Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bd3 Exchange sac line [D89]
I received an enquiry from a subscriber, Doug Shwetke, asking me what I thought about Korobov's interpretation of the exchange sacrifice. Good question! The recent encounter Korobov, A - Deac, B featured the surprising 16.h4:
The really new move occurred following 16...Rc8 when he played 17.Bxa7 taking a pawn, rather than going for an all-out king assault. So if Black were then to play 'normal' moves, White seems to be relying on long-term positional compensation to make up for the (now smaller) material deficit. In the game, Deac then provoked a tactical sequence which led the game towards a draw, but there was a suggestion that White had an edge. So maybe the previously rare 16.h4 won't escape the notice of other players for long.
Grünfeld 4 Nf3 Bg7 5.h3 [D90]
The highest-rated player who regularly plays the Grünfeld Defence has to be Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and it really suits his 'active' style. As he knows it so well, his opponents need to be quite cunning to find a way to bamboozle him in the early stages. The German GM Meier tried to do so with 5.h3 in Meier, G - Vachier-Lagrave, M but this was met with a vigorous reaction 5...dxc4 6.e4 c5! 7.d5 0-0 8.Bxc4 b5! which deserves a diagram:
The general rule that if White takes his time (e.g. the slow and obscure 5.h3) then Black is justified in hitting back as quickly as possible, is illustrated by MVL's riposte. The Frenchman already had equalized, then went on to outplay his opponent for a while, before allowing his opponent too much leeway, and then ultimately getting the better of things for a second time. The endgame was long but instructive and featured a delightful Zugzwang.
Russian, Hungarian Variation 8.Be2 b5 9.Qb3 c5 10.dxc5 Nbd7 [D97]
Heimann played the provocative 10...Nbd7 for a second time (at least!) in Kaczmarczyk, D - Heimann, A. Black essentially sacrificed a pawn but obtained plenty of activity, a sort of recurring theme in the German GM's Grünfeld games. You might remember Riazantsev's attacking win over Volkov from a couple of years back (see the archives) where this knight move first came to our attention. I suppose setting newer problems for someone well-prepared in the subtleties of the more heavily analyzed 10...Bb7 and 10...Be6 will appeal to some but, be careful, as Black only seems to have a fine line to an eventual equality. The game illustrated this situation but, with all the queenside pawns being chopped off, a draw was inevitable.
Russian 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be2 Nfd7 9.Be3 Nb6 10.Qc5 [D98]
Placing the white queen on the c5-square, as in Visakh, N - Mareco, S is not that popular but has cropped up in some high-ranking games over the years:
Naturally the queen will get challenged at some point, but there is the question of how Black should best try to do this. In the game, he opted to put off this question for a while with 10...e6 and 11...Re8 taking the game out of known theory, but still obtaining a decent position. Maybe he wanted to see exactly what White was up to before committing his queen's knight. The alternatives 10...Nc6, 10...Nbd7 and 10...Bxf3 11.gxf3 e5 have all been tried, with the latter perhaps being the most likely to give full equality. Anyway, I thought that Mareco's approach was a good practical one.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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