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This month I'll be looking at the ever-popular Grünfeld Defence. In particular, there are no less than four games in the line with 5.h4, which has become very popular of late. Franck Steenbekkers has asked me to point out a good defence for Black, and also asked me why it has become so popular at a high level.
Apart from some who are known to frequently 'follow the latest' fashion, I think that a whole new area such as this one is stimulating. It enables those motivated enough to be able to add individual input. So a top-level player can thus put some work in, and hope to create some problems for future opponents.

Download PGN of October '13 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld 4.Qb3 [D81]

In Game one Georg Meier is successful against his compatriot Arkady Naiditsch in the line 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Be6:

However Peter Leko and Vassily Ivanchuk have both demonstrated ways of making Black's position perfectly acceptable. One conclusion is that it looks like 8...Bc6 is best avoided.

I'm not sure that Meier handled the pseudo-endgame that well, but he got the full point in the end.

Exchange Variation 8.Rb1 9...Nc6 [D85]

Levon Aronian has played Maxime Vachier-Lagrave quite a few times recently. In Game 2 he varies on move 16 from a previous encounter between them that I analyzed quite recently in this column. Here Aronian employs the tricky move 17.Rb5 ...

...a line that has become popular of late. A few moves later Aronian innovates, but Vachier-Lagrave defends well and the game leads to a dynamic equilibrium where White's well-defended pawn on the seventh rank yields adequate compensation for the exchange.

Exchange Variation with 7/8.Be3 [D85]

In Game 3 Vachier-Lagrave plays White in a line in which he had previously experienced with Black. In fact the initial pawn sacrifice turned in his favour and he even emerged with a pawn to the good. Fabiano Caruana then had to defend long and hard to save the game. Black may have possible improvements on moves 12 and 16, see the notes.

As for the pseudo-endgame, I have found an improvement on move 43, but I'm not sure if it's good enough to win.

My impression in Game 4 is that Vladimir Kramnik has done it again!

Here, a couple of years ago, the former World Champion played 13.h4 and completely out-foxed Anish Giri, see the archives.

Earlier this year, he tried 13.Bc4 against Fabiano Caruana, and now in Game 4 he went for a third option 13.Bb5.

The thing that is so curious to me is how straightforward was this win. In fact it all boils down to the choice of 17...Bxe5 by Areshchenko, which turns out to be a poor decision. Better was 17...Rac8 when I consider Black to be perfectly OK.

Exchange Variation 7.Bc4, 10...b6 [D87]

In Game 5 Le Quang Liem beat Alexander Grischuk in a slightly strange way. Black was fine, but slowly drifted into a lost endgame. I'm not sure which was the final error, but on move 23 opening the position looks like a more trustworthy option than allowing White to obtain a protected passed pawn.

As for the opening, White doesn't seem to be able claim very much in this line.

5.h4 [D90]

In Game 6 Black meets 5.h4 with 5...c6, solidifying the centre. In the game, and notes, 6.Bg5 doesn't seem to cause Black too many problems. Caruana ultimately wins, but has to walk his king across the board to escape White's desperate attack.

Instead 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Bf4 is more worrying for the second player as Black lacks counterplay in the resulting positions. Black is close to equality, and yet it's not that comfortable for him. For example, Anish Giri failed to hold against Alexander Morozevich, see the notes.

In Game 7 Agdestein tries something too risky. Indeed, the aggressive 7.e5 turns out to over-extend the white centre. The game ended in a pretty draw, but Benjamin Bok must have been disappointed to have let the win slip out of his grasp.

In the notes, it's worth noting that the cautious 5...h6 is covered, and Shakriyar Mamedyarov obtained a good game in this way.

Game 8 also leads to a draw, and this time it is Mamedyarov playing White. Gata Kamsky's defence involving the confident ...hxg6 as the way to recapture on g6, turned out to be satisfactory as Black. Both sides could perhaps have improved on their play in the late opening/early middlegame, but the overall impression is that Black is fine here.

The latter part of the struggle was quite exciting and not to be missed.

Game 9 differs in that Black recaptures with the f-pawn. The critical position occurs a few moves later when White sacrifices on h7:

Although this seems quite spectacular, the three replies that have been tried all seem reasonable:

Ragger tried 12...Kxh7, Ponomariov 12...Nc6, and an unknown junior 12...Rf5. Further games and analysis may clarify the situation further, but as things stand Black seems to be holding his own here.

However note that Vitiugov crashed through fairly quickly, which shows that playing Black in this line can be perilous.

Russian System Prins Variation 7...Na6 8.a3 [D97]

Tomashevsky's 8.a3 must have come as a surprise, as it can only be described as an obscure (well, at least previously) option!

The type of positions that arose in Game 10 certainly evoke some analogous positions, but Wesley So wasn't able to solve all his problems. Maybe this line will henceforth become more popular. In the game just when the Phillipino GM seemed to be close to saving the game, he blundered and lost.

I would suggest a possible improvement on move 11 when the exchange of queens should enable Black to be able to equalize.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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