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I have recently been involved in the European Team Championships, so I decided to have an update dedicated to opening developments from that event.
Naturally the Grünfeld was the most popular, but both the Dutch and Blumenfeld Gambit feature in this month's selection.

Download PGN of November '11 Daring Defences games

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Dutch Defence 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 g6 [A80]

Game One features White's '2.Nc3, 3.B to f4 or g5, and then an h-pawn push'. A tempting approach if Black insists on playing with ...g6. It can be quite scary from Black's point of view, but Muzychuk's reaction with ...c5 does seem to promise at least a fair share of the centre:

Khurtsidze is ultimately successful with her direct attacking plan, but a careful look at the game suggests that Mariya Muzychuk had a decent position in the early middlegame.

Those who don't like draughty h-files in front of their king may prefer the ...c6 and ...Qb6 plan, as recently played by Nakamura against Ponomariov in the World Blitz Championship (see the note to move 3).

Leningrad Dutch 7...Qe8 8.d5 [A87]

Van Wely was close to winning with Black against Victor Laznicka in Game Two. He demonstrates that 8...h6!? is quite a good way of avoiding mainstream theory whilst creating some practical problems for an opponent:

Essentially if White is slow, then ...g5 comes, whereas, on the other hand, if White forces the issue, Black is flexible and can try to react accordingly. Laznicka's 9.Qc2 was met by 9...Na6, when the option of ...Nb4 has to be taken into consideration.

Definitely in the spirit of the Leningrad!

Grünfeld Defence - 4.Bg5 Ne4 [D91]

Peter Svidler has lots of experience in the 4.Bg5 gambit line and he often comes up with new ideas in order to keep ahead of an opponent's preparation. Here his novelty on move 14 in Game Three does improve Black's prospects and seems to yield an equal game. I like his move 14...Qd6. Capturing the d-pawn can wait, accelerating development is more important:

Later on, the Russian and World Cup Champion is then able to activate his rooks in an unusual manner. Their presence is instrumental in enabling him to trap White's dark-squared bishop.

4.Bf4 [D93]

Excellent preparation by Monica Socko led to Kateryna Lahno's demise in Game 4. The whole line with 14.g4 needs to be studied seriously, as it's so easy for Black to go astray, however the note to Black's 17th move may suggest an easier route to equality.

Otherwise Svidler had already showed the importance of capturing on e5 (see move 23) in the main line, as the position of Black's king (g7 or g8) is important in what follows.

Exchange 7.Bb5+ [D85]

Ivanchuk, in Game 5, went back to an idea which he'd already played many years ago: 7.Bb5+ in the Exchange variation. The notes show other ways for Black to handle the position but Rodshtein opted to push his queenside up quickly, thus chasing back the opposing light-squared bishop. Ivanchuk's counter-plan with an early h2-h4 was rather enticing, and the young Israeli needed to defend well to avoid getting into hot water:

If I was giving advice about how to handle the black pieces, I would suggest instead opting for the line starting with 9...c5 (see the notes) when play in the centre won't give White the time to push his h-pawn.

Exchange 7.Be3 [D85]

I don't think that Veselin Topalov's analysis team have been reading the ChessPublishing updates! In any case, in Game Six, Topalov makes the same mistake as Svidler in a queen sacrifice line that creates certain difficulties for Black. At the risk of repeating myself, I had already pointed out a solution for Black on move 26(!) where he should be able to equalize, back in the January 2011 update.

Topalov finally varied on move 31, but he obtained a worse position than Svidler, so Leko didn't have that much work to do to finish off the Bulgarian.

5.Qa4+ [D90]

Emil Sutovsky plays a peach of a game demonstrating a good way of meeting an early Qa4+ in Game 7:

The plan involves taking on c4, castling, then ...c6, ...Qa5, ...b5-b4 and then battering away at the centre. Sounds simple doesn't it? It may not be for you and I, but Sutovsky certainly knew what he was doing here!

White players need to seek an improvement on moves 10 and 11, as the rest of the game went like a dream for Black.

Russian System 7.e4 Nc6 8.Be2 Bg4 [D98]

In Game Eight the Polish No.1, Radoslaw Wojtaczek, is able to win against the ...Nc6 and ...Bg4 system, but Tomi Nyback had equalized after the opening.

However despite Black's early promise, both 15.Qc2 played by Wojtaszek and 15.g3, preferred by Giri (see September 2011), still seem to create certain difficulties for Black. In this month's, White has possible improvements on moves 16 and 17, against which I can't find a route to full equality.

Nyback's problems arose later on when he neglected the long-dark diagonal.

Russian System 7.e4 a6 8.Qa4 [D97]

In Bartel-Borisek, featured in Game 9, both sides missed chances for an advantage. White played his opening very aggressively, but he was too optimistic. Later after Black had gone astray and squandered his advantage, Bartel missed a nice win.

As for the opening, 8.Qa4 is an interesting choice:

Maybe Black's best solution is to react with 8...Nbd7, as chosen by Ivanchuk when faced with this position against Aronian. In that game (see the notes and also the game in the PGN Archive) the Armenian's queen sacrifice wasn't very convincing (to my eyes) but this needs further analysis and tests.

Blumenfeld Gambit - 5.Bg5 [E10]

In Game 10, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov demonstrates how Black can obtain counterplay in one of the key lines from this opening. White obtains free access to the c4-square, but Black is gradually able to make a nuisance of himself on the kingside.

Kiril Georgiev indicates that Black is wise to play 10...a5 at this point (to stop a4-a5 by White), but Mamedyarov doesn't bother, preferring 10...Bb7 instead.

As the strong Azeri outplayed Alexander Delchev, one of the leading experts of the white side of this variation, it's a good sign that Black's possibilities have been under-estimated in the past.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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