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This month I'll be looking at the Grünfeld Defence.

Download PGN of November '12 Daring Defences games

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4.Bg5 [D80]

Alexei Dreev has been one of the most consistent supporters of the 4.Bg5 line. However, he will have to re-think his opening strategy after his game against Boris Avrukh, see Game 1. The Israeli theoretician introduced the nuance 10...Bh6, but the key move is actually 12...Qe8:

Black unpins and prepares the counter ...e5. The experienced Russian couldn't find anything special for White and Black was soon better. In future, if there is no antidote to Avrukh's idea, then White players could try to play without 10.Qc2, or alternatively vary on the ninth move.

In the game I didn't find a clear win for Black, but my impression remains that Dreev was somewhat fortunate to draw.

In Game Two, after 4.Bg5 the relatively unusual 4...Bg7 was played in Wang Hao-Topalov. The result of such a high-profile outing, is that the pawn sacrifice could well become more popular in future. I consider this to be a model game for initiative-seekers, where Black was able to keep dark-squared pressure throughout. Wang Hao defended well to save his skin, but clearly won't want to suffer like this very often!

Critical could be 7.Nf3, as already played with some success by Dreev, see the notes.

4.Qb3 [D81]

The game Wesley So against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, featured in Game 3, must still give the Phillipine No.1 nightmares. White went into the endgame a pawn up, only to fall for a trick and lose. It happens even to players in the World's Top 100!

The opening sequence 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Be6!? has had surprise value so far, but is now starting to be better known. My feeling is that this move isn't quite correct, as there are several ways for White to keep the more comfortable game, starting with 6.Qa4+ which Vachier-Lagrave has already faced. Another idea worth investigating is the pawn-grabbing 7.Qb3 c5 8.dxc5.

After the opening phase, the Frenchman sacrificed a pawn for some play, which could have been fully justified if he had followed up with 18...f6, which may indicate that 7.Qd3 isn't a problem for Black.

Exchange with Be3 [D85]

In Game 4 Chatalbashev's enterprising move-order leads to some double-edged positions, such as in the actual game. I quite like Black's chances after the natural 10.Qd2, and indeed it was the Bulgarian generating all the play, and obtaining a significant advantage.

However I'm not sure what Black does against 10.Qb3, a strange move perhaps, but one that seems to have put off the elite. White doesn't mind broken pawns if he gains time and can perhaps even pick off Black's a-pawn, see the notes.

The latter stages were quite tense with the experienced Bulgarian winning a pawn, but opposite bishops gave White the drawing chances he needed to hold out.

Exchange with 7.Bc4 [D87]

Korobov uses a recent Ivanchuk novelty in Game 5, 11.h4:

A very complicated struggle ensued in which Korobov missed a beautiful win, and then a scrappy sequence (mutual zeitnot?) followed, when anything could have happened. The final position (that I have) is actually not clear, but Korobov won somehow.

In London, Grischuk met 11.h4 with 11...e6, when 12.h5 Qh4 seemed to be fine for him. I wonder if Korobov intended to instead 'greet' 11...e6 with 12.Bg5!?.

Instead Ftacnik opted to open the centre with 11...cxd4 12.cxd4 e5, but White's superior mobility enabled him to keep the advantage. Note that here the h-pawn was used mainly as a support for a bishop on g5, rather than just a battering ram.

4.Nf3, 5.Bf4 [D92]

In Game 6 Mircea Parligras uncorked a novelty in a well-established line that was previously thought to offer White no advantage, 18.Qf3:

The Romanian then went on to win convincingly. His opponent was unable to cope with White's gradual build up. Although I think that I've found an improvement (see move 21), it's evident that it's Black who has to find the difficult moves. The extra pawn not being of much use in the middlegame.

5.e3 [D94]

One of those lines which doesn't seem to be very dangerous, from a theoretical point of view, but has its points. By playing the modest e2-e3 White consolidates the d4-point, making Black's counterplay less effective. In Game 7 Sokolov was then able to make the desirable e3-e4 advance when he was fully developed. In turn, Black's position proved to be more difficult to play. The game was finished off with a nice combination.

The big question for Black is to drop back with the knight to b6 or to capture on c3. The former of these has frequently occurred over the years, and Black has a good percentage. That would be my personal choice. Capturing on c3 has the drawback of helping White support his centre, but is also objectively OK. The problem arises if Black can't get enough pressure against White's set-up, as he may then just end up with a rather passive position.

The quiet 4.Nf3, 5.e3 and 6.Qb3 [D95]

In Game 8 Kovalyov placed his rook on d1, perhaps in order to restrain Black's ...c5-counter. Anish Giri not only played ...c5 anyway, but even sacrificed it in order to gain time for development. The whole struggle then revolved around Black's superior pieces, including the bishop pair, pressurizing White who maintained his material advantage throughout. The main conclusion is that Black had enough compensation, but no more. So a draw was probably the logical result.

The Russian System 7...Nc6 [D97]

In Game 9 it was Wesley So's turn to indulge in some speculative gambit play by, coincidently, using another of Vachier-Lagrave's tricky systems. So's recent game against Georg Meier reached the following position after 14...Re8:

Meier opted for 15.f3, a move that I had already analyzed in a previous update. After this encounter my opinion hasn't changed: White is better.

The complications gave Black some counter-activity, but not enough for his pawns. Meier managed to navigate his way through to an advantage, only to miss a chance for a pawn-up pseudo-endgame just before the end. Even if you might be tempted, I should warn you that I personally don't trust this whole line for Black.

The Russian System, Prins Variation 7...Na6 [D97]

The Prins is back in fashion and was successful in Game 10! Ponomariov won a nice bishop versus knight endgame after emerging from the opening with some advantage as Black. Perhaps (see move 18) he could have played for even more.

It seems that both Wojtaszek's 12.Bg5 and the similar 12.Bf4 are being kept well in check by Black at the moment. However the crunch question is what about 12.Rd1?

Schandorff's recommendation 12.Rd1 in this position has been achieving good results (see the notes). So before taking up the Prins, be ready for this.

I'm sure we'll come back to this line again soon.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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