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This month's update is rather different in that most of the subjects covered were suggested by subscribers. I have been looking at some critical variations in the Albin and Benko, as well as a couple of systems in the Grünfeld.

Download PGN of March '13 Daring Defences games

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Benko Accepted with Kxf1, 12.a4 [A59]

The latest crisis in the Benko is occurring in the 'tempo-saving' classical line, where White plays 12.a4:

This move both secures a handy outpost on b5 and allows the rook to move along the file (getting off the long diagonal whilst still protecting the a-pawn).

The threat to post a knight on b5 seems to create some problems, whether Black allows the knight to stay, or alternatively seeks to challenge control with ...Nf6-e8-c7. The 2012 games Carlsen-Bologan and Nakamura-Bologan worked out in White's favour, prompting Kasparov (Sergey, that is) to advise his readers not to play the Benko against 2700+ opposition (in 'The Dynamic Benko Gambit', published by New in Chess in late 2012).

In Game 1 Sergey Kasparov had to face this line himself against Atalik who, despite only being a 'modest' 2600-player (!?), made the Benko look uninviting for Black. Both Kasparov and Bologan played with ...Qb6 and suffered.

In Game 2 the alternative defences with ...Ra6 (with ...e6 in mind) and ...Qa5 are examined. Neither of these seem to be that comfortable for Black. As White hasn't bothered with h2-h3, play often resembles analogous positions with White having extra time. The whole game Andersen-Zaragatski was alarmingly smooth for White and ...Ra6 (see Leitao-Leon Hoyos in the notes) was hardly any better.

Is the Benko in trouble again?

Albin Counter-Gambit 5.g3 Nge7, 5.a3 Nge7, 5.Nbd2 Qe7 [D08/09]

I was sent some analysis by Doug Schwetke concerning an early ...Qe7 in the Albin after 5.Nbd2, and he asked me what I think about the idea. My conclusion is that it seems to offer interesting play for Black as the e-pawn is then hard to defend. Black hasn't scored well with this move, but it hasn't been played that often.

I have analyzed three games in all, illustrating both the main line with 5.g3 Nge7, and 5.a3 as well as 5.Nbd2 Qe7.

In Toth-Didenko, Game 3, White tried the solid plan of quickly developing the kingside (5.g3 etc). However, Black was able to regain the pawn, and full equality was available with the precise 10...Re8, see the notes. In the game White's bishop pair gave him a pull, but his fortieth move let him down.

As for the theory, it's more testing to disrupt Black's comfort zone with 7.Bg5 Qd7 8.e6, which has been successfully employed by Dreev. White then seeks a small edge, as he can place his knights on the handy blockading squares d3 and e4.

Here is an unusual idea worthy of a diagram, after 5...Qe7!?:

In Sakaev-Nabaty, the flexible 5.Nbd2 was indeed met by 5...Qe7, which is not the first time that Nabaty has tried this move, so Sakaev may well have been prepared. The position that arose after move ten in Game 4 is interesting:

Black certainly seems to have achieved a great deal, as he has developed rapidly, castled and obtained a pawn wedge that restricts his opponent. This type of position may actually be quite difficult to judge over the board, but there must be at least 'some' compensation for the pawn. Rybka prefers White slightly, but many Albin practitioners would probably take Black.

In a complicated battle, Sakaev came out on top where winning involved a spectacular middlegame walk for his king from g1 to a6.

In 2010 Kiril Georgiev recommended a certain method against the Albin and was able to try it out over the board. Although he duly won, his opponent wasn't without resources and on the nineteenth move captured the a-pawn the wrong way. A closer look at Game 5 reveals that White's move order can be improved on and, yes indeed, he can claim a small but persistent theoretical edge.

So the Albin isn't refuted by any means, but in each of these three games White has ways to cause some problems for Black. The most alarming of this trio for Albin-gambiteers is the fact that Georgiev's suggestion offers Black no attacking chances whatsoever. Not many people play 2...e5 with the idea of defending passively from start to finish.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10...Bd7 11.Rb1 Qc7 [D87]

The correspondence game featured next seems to offer Black a safe way of playing this line with 11...Qc7:

Jendrian posted the move 12.Bd3, which also features in Game 7. The alternative, and perhaps critical line involves 12.Bf4, see Game 8.

In Game 6 after 12.Bd3, Black continued with 12...a6 13.f4 cxd4 14.exd4 e6! which proved to be solid.

In Game 7, Sjugirov-Vastrukhin, Black played the inferior 14...Bg4, but although he eventually lost his position proved to be quite robust. Even here it wasn't that easy for White to keep control.

In Game 8 the sharp line with 12.Bf4 Qc8 13.d5 is examined. There have been many games, and my impression is that Black is probably doing OK despite the analysis engines consistently preferring White.

Throughout these three games White has several alternative tries. I can't claim that he obtains anything concrete, but Black has to be on his toes. In may be easier to find precise defensive moves in a Correspondence game, so I wouldn't be put off by Game 6, where Lux held out.

Maybe the truth is that one shouldn't be too concerned about the computer's opinions in the resulting strategically complex middlegames. It's more important to find a set-up with which you feel comfortable and create some practical problems for your opponent, and that goes for both colours!

5.Qa4+ [D90]

I've already looked at the Qd1-a4+-b3 manoeuvre in recent months, but there have been further developments in this popular line.

In Game 9, Bacrot-Negi, the Indian GM tried 11...Nb4 in the diagram position, whereas 11...cxd4 has been played many times. The first example of 11...Nb4 I can find is from a game played by Hracek (July 2012). I actually faced this move recently, but unfortunately soon lost my way.

In a Norwegian league game Elsness played the natural 12.Rc1, but I don't think this offers a great deal, if anything at all. Instead, Etienne Bacrot reacted with 12.0-0-0 and emerged from the complications with an extra pawn, but Negi successfully defended. This feels like a variation that is just in its infancy and frankly it seems to create more difficulties for White that the standard 11...cxd4, where Black hasn't been doing that well.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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