ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
All hyper-modern opening systems can be considered as 'provocative'. One player allows an opponent to venture into the centre only to counter when the time is right. Here however, in the update this month, Black is often allowing White the classical advantage of the superior central formation for a long period and often fails to 'equalize'. He hopes instead that novel paths and pastures will destablize the opponent who won't be comfortable having to make key decisions in strange situations. Welcome to a month of VERY provocative replies to 1.d4.

Download PGN of May ’18 Daring Defences games

>> Previous Update >>

Owen's Defence 3 Nc3 e6 4 Bd3 Bb4 5 Nge2 [B00]

The game Saltaev, M - Ypma, P illustrates what Black wants to avoid. White maintains his centre and the flamboyant ...Qh4 just proves to be an inadequate way to obtain counterplay. So, trust me, 5...d5 is a better option than 5...Qh4?!:

Evidence suggests that the white set-up with 5.Nge2 is actually quite strong, so Black could consider varying as early as move four with 4...Nf6, waiting to see where White places his king's knight in order to decide whether the pin with ...Bb4 is worthwhile or not.

Owen's Defence Mainline 6 Bg5 [B00]

One of the better known theoretical lines is tested in Kanep, M - Neiksans, A where Black has a tantalizing choice on move eleven:

Here there are three options 11...exd4, 11...Qe7 and 11...exf4. Which is the best practical option, you might wonder? It's a close call, but my favourite is 11...exf4 which is not so well known and seems to be slightly annoying for White as regaining the pawn allows Black a solid enough game. The sharper 11...exd4 might be just about playable, but Black has to walk a tightrope to wriggle out from White's pressure. In the game, Neiksans chose 11...Qe7 against which White has a temporary initiative, but this was negated with precise play. Later on, the two-pawn up endgame was always drawn, despite Black's best efforts.

Owen's Defence Mainline 6 Qe2 d5 7 exd5 [B00]

Of course, when Carlsen puts his mind to playing an offbeat opening our curiosity is pricked. In Eljanov, P - Carlsen, M the game flowed so easily for the World Champion, it makes you wonder why more top GMs don't play like this! Black recaptured with his queen on move seven which I rather generously gave a '!' (well, it's Carlsen isn't it!) but there is nothing wrong with the alternative 7...Nxd5 either.

A nuance occurred on move nine where Carlsen preferred 9...Nbd7 over 9...0-0, which enabled him to follow-up with ...Rac8 to defend the c7-pawn. This approach seems to offer Black a fully satisfactory game. All-in-all, White's set-up with Qe2 and exd5 doesn't look too challenging.

Owen's Defence Mainline 6 Qe2 d5 7 e5 [B00]

In Gabuzyan, H - Vardanian, H Black was presented with a dilemma on move nine:

To capture or retreat? A question that may well come down to a matter of taste, as both of these options seem valid. Of course, grabbing the c-pawn and then playing a series of careful defensive moves to enable the bishop to survive might not be everyone's cup of tea, but a pawn is worth a little suffering. In the notes, you'll notice that Nakamura didn't get on very well with the white pieces when his opponent took up the gauntlet. In the game Black opted for the more solid (cowardly?) 9...Be7 but this does present White with a number of promising options including 10.c4!? as played by Gabuzyan. If I was playing this line as Black, and was well prepared, I'd personally go for 9...Bxc3.

Neo-Nimzowitsch 1.d4 Nc6 2.d5 [A40]

I'm not sure what to call the provocative opening of Zhakartsov, V - Khaetsky, R i.e.1.d4 Nc6 2.e5. Maybe my suggestion of Neo-Nimzowitsch will do for now (you know what I mean, I think?), but you might have a better idea?

White's space gaining pawn advances are all very well, but he needs to show some restraint and not go too far, hence 5.dxe6 has become the most popular. The Croatian GM Hrvoje Stevic has then replied with 5...dxe6 on several occasions where the early trade of queens occurs. Black has less space and his king gets in the way, but otherwise White's opening advantage is manageable (well, at least Stevic thinks so!) The alternative 5...fxe6, as played by Khaetsky, leads to complex play where White extra space again seems to be significant. I can't claim that White is better in all lines, but my gut-feeling tells me that he is, so 1...Nc6 should probably only be used as a surprise weapon against 1.d4.

Nimzowitsch Main Line 6 d5 [B00]

The main lines of the Nimzowitsch gives Black a certain degree of flexibility in his development choices, but White's central bind tends to give him even more options. However, in my comments to Lu Shanglei - Eid, F you might notice that Black obtained a good, and maybe even advantageous position after the opening. The plan of 'egging on' the opponent to advance his d-pawn and then countering it with ...c6 seems like a respectable one, so perhaps White should vary as early as move five (see the note involving 5.Bb5 where I don't think that 5...Nd7!? is good enough to equalize) in order to obtain more chances of an opening pull.

Nimzowitsch 2...e5 3 dxe5 Nxe5 4 f4 [B00]

In Kjartansson, G - Zubov, A things went from bad to worse quite quickly for White. Black's opening worked rather well and revolved around meeting 6.e5...

...with 6...d5!

He is basically sacrificing a pawn for quick development and this proved to be more than adequate in the actual game.

It might be more prudent for the first player to hold back from f2-f4, and instead develop more cautiously in order to rely on a slightly preferable central pawn formation (e4 versus d7 or d6, like in the Scotch Defence) but, as you'll see in the notes, the alternatives 4.Nf3 and 4.Nc3 (instead of 4.f4) don't look that worrying for Black.

St. George Defence [B00]

Naturally the Saint George Defence isn't played that often at GM level, as there are perhaps more trustworthy options than 1...a6. However, there are times when the idea of getting the opponent out of his preparation as early as move one might appeal, that is, if you are willing to take some positional risks! Compared to Owen's Defence, Black spends an extra tempo to gain some space on the queenside. However, this gives White time to install himself comfortably in the centre and/or organize the undermining a2-a4, which means that one has to be mentally ready to cope with such problems.

In Lenderman, A - Gelashvili, T Black could nevertheless have claimed equality with 11...h6 here, but instead, after his poor 11...Nxe5? he was in trouble. White should clearly have won, but somehow Gelashvili survived.

Albin 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 Nge7 [D08]

In Bluebaum, M - Trent, L, Lawrence Trent tried to defend the 'modern main line', but his OTB novelty on move twelve (12...a4?! instead of 12...Bd7) proved to be inadequate. In the archives you'll find several examples where 12...Bd7 seems to give Black near (but not full) equality, whereas 12...a4 was shown to be too slow here. Bluebaum's lead in development (note the precise 17.Ng5!) gave Black a hard time all game.

The straightforward 9.Qxd4 remains one of the most unpleasant lines for Black to face (he doesn't get any gambit fun and he doesn't equalize!).

Albin with g3 - Mainline ...Be6 [D09]

Maybe this should be re-named as 'the old main line' as not many people play like this any more. In Nechaeva, M - Chizhikov, V Black came up with the surprising move 7...Be7!?:

which has its points, but doesn't look that natural with the knight still on g8. The game continuation, as well as the notes, indicate that White is better, but I'm not convinced that alternatives at move seven help Black either, for example 7...h5 seems to be well met by 8.h4. Maybe the whole plan is simply not adequate against best play from White. In the exciting struggle that followed both sides missed chances to win.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

>> Previous Update >>

If you have any questions, either leave a message on the Daring Defences Forum, or subscribers can email me at