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Stonewall Dutch 6...Bd6 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 b6 [A90]
In Brunello, S - Fressinet, L, one of the key main lines of the 'modern' Stonewall was tested. French GM Laurent Fressinet employed the aggressive advance of his a-pawn which led to him obtaining a fine outpost for a knight on b4.
The opening phase was surely acceptable for Black, but later in the middlegame Brunello, playing White, obtained the advantage. This seems to have come about because Black (the higher-rated player) became too ambitious. The complications ultimately led to an exciting draw.
Opening-wise, this still looks like a safe way for Black to play.
Stonewall Dutch with ...Bb4+ [A90]
Here again, in Ulibin, M - Romero Holmes, A, Black plays with ...a5 in a 'Stonewall set-up', but under unusual circumstances. Romero ventures ...Bb4+ before opting for ...d5 and then a later retreat to e7. So with such offbeat choices against one of the world's most experienced Stonewall practitioners, Mikhail Ulibin, you would expect White to be better, wouldn't you? If this is the case, Ulibin was unable to prove it in the game. His plan of a rapid f2-f3 and e2-e4 could well have rebounded on him. Which goes to show that playing with White against the Stonewall is no easy matter!
The latter part of the game featured a double rook endgame where White was better, but Black had practical chances to hold. The score in the database seems to be frustratingly incomplete, something that seems to be happening more and more these days. Oh, if everyone would write more neatly...
Stonewall Dutch with ...Be7 and ...c6 [A95]
In Sagar, S - Stocek, J Black placed his bishop on e7, but this may have something to do with White having already placed his knight on c3. This meant that the b2-b3 and Bc1-a3 plan was unavailable for White, which was the main reason why many folk stopped playing the '...Be7 Stonewall' in the old days.
There is a case for White to then place his queen's bishop on f4, which has indeed been tried by some elite players. Instead Sagar was happy to place it on b2 and the game continued sedately towards a fairly balanced middlegame, until...
...White was able to generate some interesting play with the knight lunge 16.Nc5! I'm not sure if this gives any objective advantage, but the resulting positions proved to be easier for White and he went on to win.
Neo-Grünfeld 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.Nf3 0-0 7.0-0 c5 [D75]
In Game Four, Korobov, A - Sutovsky, E, White played an elegant combination that led to a winning attack.
Here after 20...Bxe5 White's 21.Rd5! was decisive. So where did Black go wrong before that?
Korobov introduced a new (well, to me) idea with 11.Qa4 but despite this creating some novel problems for his opponent, I don't think it should yield any objective advantage. In the notes, you'll notice that on move fourteen Sutovsky played a natural developing move (who could blame him!?) but this had unfortunate consequences, as one can see a few moves later in the diagram position. For once, pawn-grabbing is the best path, so I believe that 14...Nxe5 would have led to equality.
Neo-Grünfeld 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.Nf3 0-0 7.0-0 Nb6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.d5 [D76]
The following position was reached in both Games 5 and 6:
In Game Five, Carlsen, M - Wei Yi, the Chinese wunderkind developed his bishop with 13...Bg4. In the notes I examined the choice of the alternative squares d7 and f5. I'm not sure which is best, but my personal favourite is 13...Bf5 as I'm not sure that giving up the bishop too lightly is the best plan. Carlsen's pressure in Game 5 wasn't significant but Black is always a bit cramped in these lines. Wei Yi defended accurately and earned the draw, which is no mean feat, but that doesn't mean that Black earned full equality from the opening phase.
In Alavi, S - Darini, P, from the diagram, Black played the more ambitious 13...Nxb2!? which soon leads to a rare material imbalance: Queen and two pawns versus three minor pieces.
So is this any good? It is certainly hard to judge and I find myself resorting to unclear all over the place and, sure, Black certainly obtains more 'winning chances' than with the calm development we observed in Game 5. However, it was notable that White won in Game 6, not by seeking material gain but by pressurizing the black king. Alavi's plan seemed to be quite effective, so we can at least conclude that if White can get all his pieces coordinated then he has good practical chances. Black has to be careful about any pawn moves on the right-hand side of the board as White's pieces can slip into any resulting holes and cause havoc.
Neo-Grünfeld 6...dxc4 7.Na3 c3 [D77]
In Neiksans, A - Lugovskoy, M the opening didn't seem to throw up anything new until move 14. I hadn't previously seen the plan of White capturing on d5 and then rapidly expanding his centre. It worked quite well in the game as Black had less space and was rather cramped. There are several alternatives for Black between moves 11 and 14, that I'm not sure which one I would recommend, but I think that 14...Nd5 is at least a 'practical' error as it gave the opponent a clear plan of action.
Later on, it was astonishing how Neiksans' pieces (especially the monster knight on c4) kept Black tied down.
Neo-Grünfeld 6...dxc4 7.Na3 Nc6 [D77]
In Meier, G - Romanishin, O, Romanishin's light-squared bishop went in for some curious manoeuvres. First of all, ...Be6-d5 looked standard enough. Then, after being pushed to e4, the veteran Ukrainian GM continued with the novel idea ...Bf5-g4. The point was to hit back at the centre with ...e5.
It didn't quite equalize however and I think that Georg Meier retained a small edge for most of the game. Black earned the draw with good technique.
As for the opening, a number of strong players have played 12...Qc8, but I think that the resulting positions are slightly easier for White:
The question is then how best to pursue one's development. Before reaching any conclusions I think more tests are required (that's what they all write when they haven't got a clue!).
Blumenfeld Gambit Accepted 5.dxe6 fxe6 6.cxb5 d5 [E11]
It's rare to see Black blown away in the Blumenfeld Accepted, but that is exactly what happens in Navara, D - Druska, J. Navara reacts to ...e5 with the thematic e3-e4 resulting in great tension in the central arena:
After this, several of Black's moves could be scrutinized and improvements proposed, but the crux of the matter is that White is just better in the hand-to-hand fighting that follows 13...dxe4.
As to the opening, I would like to see more examples of the ...c4 plan, and in particular 8...c4, see the notes.
Blumenfeld Gambit Declined 5.Bg5 exd5 6.cxd5 h6 [E11]
I wasn't familiar with the following position:
The knight development looks dynamic as it can go to b4 or eventually c5, and it enables ...Rb8 to help protect the b-pawn. This might create new problems for many a white player, but Jurcik's intention seems to have been to improve (a couple of moves later) on a previous game of his opponent, Blagojevic, in Blagojevic, D - Jurcik, M.
The game itself was an up-and-down battle, which raises more questions than it answers, and even the final position wasn't clearly winning despite the unequivocal 0-1 in the database.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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