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I have recently come across a number of enterprising ideas that hadn't been covered very much in So I decided that it would be an ideal subject for the present update.
Good, bad, ugly, or just weird, I hope you find one or two surprise weapons below to take your opponent into uncharted waters!

Download PGN of March ’18 Daring Defences games

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Benko Gambit Declined 4.f3 [A57]

One theme that White occasional employs is one involving f2-f3. This can occur on move four or five.

In Gomez Garrido, C - Espinosa Veloz, G Black plays a strong antidote to 4.f3 i.e. 4...bxc4 5.e4 e6 6.Nc3 Ba6! which frustrates White's attempts to regain his pawn:

White has then tried various plans with mixed results, but nothing seems that dangerous. In the game the idea of gaining space with 9.d6?! quickly rebounded and Black soon took control.

All-in-all, my thinking is that f2-f3 is better played on move five.

Benko Gambit other lines 5.f3 [A57]

A sharp line which requires commitment from both players is 4.cxb5 a6 5.f3 e6!? 6.e4 c4!? where Black sacrifices a second pawn, but hopes to profit from White's king which has difficulties getting into safety:

In Pantzar, M - Nihal, S after 7.Bxc4 axb5 8.Bb3!? White eschews the second pawn and instead prefers to bolster the centre. The problems for the white monarch remain, but in order to keep the ball rolling Black decided he needed to sacrifice the exchange with unclear complications.

No definite conclusions here, as the line needs further testing, but it's clearly a variation where both ambition and risk are present in great measure. One of the most 'romantic-era style' lines in the Benko Gambit.

Dutch Defence 2.Bg5 Nf6 [A80]

Here, I have been checking out some second move alternatives for White, some of which have been neglected by yours truly over the last few years. An example being the natural move 2...Nf6 in reply to 2.Bg5, which has consistently been Black's third most popular option over the years. The question arises as to the strength of 3.Bxf6, seeking the superior structure, which is similar to that arising in the sister variation 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.Bxf6. Here White has the additional option of c2-c4 obtaining more central influence than in those lines where the knight is blocking the pawn. A point illustrated by some of the comments in the game Sulskis, S - Bucinskas, V which quickly ended in White's favour. So I'm not a great fan of 2...Nf6.

Dutch Defence 2.g4 [A80]

The coffee-house gambit 2.g4?! is best left for friendly games over a hot drink, rather than in the prestigious Russian league. However, Lugovskoy was in a strange mood when choosing this and then meeting 2...fxg4 with 3.e4?! (which is another dubious choice in my opinion) in the encounter Lugovskoy, M - Savitskiy, S. What did his team captain think?

Black duly obtained an opening advantage after the correct riposte 3...d5! and was coasting along nicely, but White defended the latter phases rather well and somehow escaped with a draw.

So 2.g4 is challenging, but mainly for one's own defensive technique!

Dutch Defence 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 d6 [A80]

Dmitry Kryakvin has a certain experience in the 'London versus the Dutch' set-up, and introduced a strong novelty in Kryakvin, D - Fedoseev, Vl3, with his 8.e4:

This central advance turns out to be quite difficult to meet and Black soon got himself into trouble after 8...Nb4 9.e5!. I suggest instead 8...fxe4 9.Nxe4 Nd5 but this would be difficult to play, if surprised, in an actual game because it seems to leave Black exposed on the b1-h7 diagonal, but I think that he has adequate resources.

In the featured game White obtained a winning position (he could have even won a piece for not very much) but went badly astray, over-estimating his attack.

Dutch Defence 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 e6 [A80]

On paper, White's win in Mikaelyan, A - Anton Guijarrao, D may seem to be a surprise, but Black was never comfortable. The opening ploy by White to induce ...d5 left Black with unwieldy pawns.

This bishop manoeuvre Bf1-e2-f3 (with or without the intermediate Bh5+) seems quite effective and I couldn't find a path to equality. Maybe ...b6 combined with a Stonewall centre is just too many pawn moves early on. Later on, Black's king was the more vulnerable, one of the points behind 5.Bh5+.

The outcome of the opening of both this and the other featured game with 2.Bf4 suggest that this approach has a rosy future.

Blumenfeld Gambit Declined 5.Bf4 [E10]

The game Plischki, S - Vetoshko, V involves 5.Bf4 which hasn't been covered by me before. Compared to the well-known 5.Bg5 White doesn't pin but simply places the bishop on an active-looking diagonal:

In the game Black's 5...bxc4 didn't work out well and looks too docile a reaction. Another unsuccessful attempt by Black (according to the few games played with it so far) is 5...exd5 which fails to dent White's activity after 6.cxd5 d6 7.e4!

Although 5...b4 might be OK, blocking the position won't suit everyone. So I prefer the disruptive check 5...Qa5+ and after 6.Nc3 only then 6...exd5 7.cxd5 b4! with counterplay and a dynamic middlegame in prospect. This was David Navara's choice recently.

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 Nh5!? [D70] & [E60]

If Black wants to avoid the main lines he can try some alternatives as early as move three.

However, after 3.f3 I'm not really terribly impressed by the positions that Black has been getting with these offbeat tries. The game Donchenko, Alexa - Frischman, Rick is a case in point, the game continuation 3...Nh5!? 4.Nh3 e5 5.dxe5 led to a complicated struggle where White handled his kingside in a somewhat unnatural-looking manner, but one that turned out to be rather strong. I get the impression that Donchenko was well prepared and knew how to navigate the labyrinth of tricky variations and thus obtain an advantage. The strange 3...Nh5:

actually transposes to 3...e5 which might be more familiar. However, whatever the order, objectively it's a bit suspicious in my opinion.

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 Nc6 [D70] & [E60]

Peter Svidler is normally not worried about going down a main line or two, but here he preferred to meet 3.f3 with 3...Nc6:

In the game Vocaturo, D - Svidler, P White was happy to play the critical line 4.d5 Ne5 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.f4 which leads to a space plus for White which he was able to maintain deep into the middlegame. I am not totally sure how significant 'extra space' is when there is no easy breakthrough, but it certainly makes it difficult for Black to obtain counterplay. In the featured game Svidler did his best to have some fun opting for a two knights versus two bishops middlegame, but he was still worse. I think that White needed to play a2-a4 earlier in order to stretch Black's defences. However, once the queens came off Svidler took over.

Anti-Grünfeld 3.f3 e6 4.e4 c5 [D70] & [E60]

A Benoni-style response with 3...e6 and 4...c5 is from my point of view a reasonable attempt to get a dynamic game without facing the ultra-theoretical lines resulting from 3...d5. A strange hybrid occurs with elements from the King's Indian and Modern Benoni, and to a lesser degree the Grünfeld. In the Sämisch structure White builds his d5, e4, f3 centre and then weaves his piece play around this bastion. Although transpositions can occur (don't forget to check out the Chesspublishing columns on the King's Indian and Nimzo/Benoni) the Anti-Grünfeld move order leaves White quite flexible in how to develop his pieces, so additional options are available, for example Ng1-e2-c3.

The featured game Aczel, G - Geldura, B illustrates this line noting that Black held back from committing himself with ...exd5, which has the advantage of denying access to the c4-square for White's pieces. Vachier-Lagrave has recently shown a penchant for playing this strategically complex line with Black. Nevertheless, despite Black's tricky play, Aczel was better throughout and could have given himself more chances of winning the endgame if he had single-mindedly pushed his h-pawn (see move 37).

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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