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This month we will be looking at various White tries against the Grünfeld Defence, but all of them involve 4.Nf3 Bg7.

Download PGN of November '15 Daring Defences games

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Exchange Grünfeld with 6.Na4 [D85]

In Game 1 Romanov was able to obtain a winning position by employing 6.Na4 against Grünfeld expert Ian Nepomniachtchi:

The main benefit of shifting the knight to the edge is to render ...c5 difficult to achieve. Black then has to find an alternative plan, and the best options aren't clearly mapped out. Indeed, Black didn't handle the opening very well which indicates that this surprise weapon could even confuse a member of the 2700-club. In the latter part of the opening, Black has some tantalizing alternatives on moves 9, 11, and 12. Any one of these could yield better prospects than in the featured game, where Black was fortunate to hold the endgame.

Grünfeld 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Qc1!? [D91]

The game Hernandez-So is a good example of what miseries can occur if White delays development and instead goes hunting for tricks. White obtained a temporary material advantage, but was already losing on about move nine! However, one shouldn't dismiss 6.Qc1 too lightly, as with 7.Bh6 (instead of 7.Nxd5) an interesting struggle occurs, see the notes in Game 2.

Although 6...c5!? worked a treat in the actual game, Black could also aim to do something about the bishop on g5, either with 6...h6 or with 6...Nxg5. Both of these options seem perfectly playable.

Grünfeld 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 [D92]

In Game 3 we see another example of White seeking to pick off Black's queen's rook:

It is difficult to judge the diagram position and I'm not sure we can trust the analysis engines, as it is quite an irrational struggle. Black may be a rook and pawn down, but the knight on a8 can be taken at leisure and White cannot complete the development of his kingside very easily. The key element is that Black's central majority is a real problem and that so far, in several games, White hasn't coped very well. Here too, Robson (playing with Black) obtained a winning position quickly by playing ...e4-e3.

Russian System with ...Be6 [D96]

There are three games featured this month, involving an early ...Be6, but the move orders are slightly different. These positions used to be rare, but have become more popular of late. There are three ECO codes to look out for (D90, D96 and D97) in databases.

In Game Four Lysyj retreated his queen to c2 which seems to be new. However, as this doesn't create any particular threats Black has a wide choice of set-ups:

Artemiev reacted in 'Prins fashion' and obtained a good version, as the white queen on c2 was less-well placed than in the analogous position (i.e. a standard Prins) on c4. In the game he obtained a good game before erring and then his knight became entangled, leading to the loss of a pawn. Lysyj then demonstrated good technique to nurture his advantage.

Game Five illustrates what can happen when White decides to grab the b-pawn. In the diagram Li Chao-b has just increased the tension with 13...e5 offering a second pawn:

He obtained long-term compensation and despite being material down deep into the endgame it was Black who was playing for a win. It looks like capturing on b7 doesn't yield any advantage.

In Game 6 Svidler (with White) chose to place his queen on d3, an idea that was played against him by Jakovenko three years ago. In the present encounter, Svidler followed-up with an interesting exchange sacrifice, and obtained active piece play and a pawn in return (i.e. with decent compensation). Later the endgame was favourable for White but Wei Yi held firm.

As for possible improvements, apart from choosing a different square on move 9, see my suggestions on moves 17 and 22.

Russian System, Prins Variation 7...Na6 8.Bf4 [D97]

Combining Bf4 and Rd1 (without d4-d5) is quite rare in the Prins Variation. In the following position from Game Seven Vitiugov introduces a novelty 10.e5:

Caruana replied with 10...Nh5 and defended well to earn a draw, but would have equalized more easily with 10...Be6.

Russian System 7...Nc6, 8...e5 gambit [D97]

In Game 8 David Navara employs the ...e5-gambit and obtained the following position:

Black obtained decent play for the pawn following 13.exd5 Bf5 14.0-0 Rc8 15.Qb3 Ne4, which suggests that this method is a reasonable alternative to the better-known 12...b5. Nevertheless, there remains a feeling that White might be able to retain a small pull.

Russian System, Hungarian 7...a6 [D97]

In Game Nine a very sharp variation turned quickly in White's favour. The culprit was an error on move 14, probably a result of Antal forgetting the theory. The tricky aspect of the e5-e6 thrust is that it doesn't occur that often, so one can easy get confused. For this reason, in order to avoid the same fate, it's worth having a good look at the game and notes.

Finally, Aronian tests Areshchenko in one of the main lines of the Hungarian Variation with a fairly new idea:

In Game Ten the high-ranking Armenian seemed to make some progress, but Black kept his position together. The game livened up over the final few moves, but the struggle stayed about level throughout.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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