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This month I have been looking at the Grünfeld, the Anti-Grünfeld and the Albin Counter-Gambit.

Download PGN of October '14 Daring Defences games

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Albin Counter Gambit 5 a3 Nge7 [D08]

In both featured games, White tries solid but unpretentious systems settling for a calm game with, in each case, hopes of a riskless pull.

In Game One the queenless middlegame does seem to be a shade easier for White:

This is true, both after Blomqvist's new 13.Rb1, as well as the older 13.a4. In both cases Black has to be careful, as his queenside majority gets pressed by the more active White pieces. Nevertheless, Black's game is perfectly acceptable and no worse than many 'mainstream opening main lines'.

The tables turned later on, and the bishop ending may even have been winning for Black at one point.

Albin Counter Gambit 5 g3 Nge7 [D09]

In Game Two Black again employs the Morozevich-manoeuvre ...Nge7-g6. Against the popular White kingside fianchetto, as in the featured game, it works quite well. Indeed it wasn't long before Stopa, playing Black, seized the advantage against Steingrimsson.

Here, after 13.Rad1, Black's 13...d3! gave him the advantage.

I wouldn't recommend this system for White.

Anti-Grünfeld 3 f3 c5 [D70/E60]

3.f3 against the Grünfeld is still highly popular amongst the elite.

In Game Three, Caruana-Grishcuk, played a few days ago, a novelty was played as early as move four!

In the Anti-Grünfeld, the most common reply to 3...c5 is 4.d5, but that was already played in a previous game between the same players, except with reversed colours! Caruana instead opted for the rare 4.dxc5 (see diagram) and Grischuk replied with 4...e6, a move that hadn't been previously played, as far as I know.

In the late middlegame, Caruana spurned a draw (he had an extra pawn, but Black was active), but went down to some tactics around his king.

The opening seemed to have been fine for Black, so we'll no doubt see 4...e6 again.

Anti-Grünfeld 3 f3 d5, 9...Qd6 10 Kb1 [D70]

Game Four, with Caruana again playing White, was a theoretical battle where White came out on top. Svidler's move 10...a6 is newish, but had already been analysed by Kaufman. I think that Black's first error was 12...Ne5 after which White had the easier game. Instead I prefer 12...Na5 or 12...Qb4 where I agree with Kaufman's lines of play, but not his conclusions! Svidler's piece sacrifice however seems to be correct and enabled him to obtain a playable game.

Grünfeld with 4 Bf4 Bg7 5 e3 0-0 6 Rc1 [D83]

In Game Five Paravyan was successful with a fairly new idea:

I like this move against which I couldn't find anything special for White. If this proves to be good then this will no doubt dent the enthusiasm for 7.c5 which has recently been popular.

Belov rather put all his eggs in one basket by concentrating on obtaining a queenside preponderance, but this gave Black a free hand elsewhere to drum up an attack.

In Game 6 Black employs the more common 7...c6, in response to 7.c5, and Lysyj then opts for the slow but useful 8.h3:

The game is an example of Black misplaying his queenside break, which suggests that the novel 8...Nbd7 is not very good. I doubt that 8...Ne4 is best either, so Black should probably settle for 8...b6 (see the notes). After 8...b6, Black hasn't fully solved his problems theoretically, but is getting close.

Even so, I think that 7...Nh5 could be more precise, and after 8.Bg5 then to go for 8...b6 as in the previous game.

Grünfeld Exchange with 5.Bd2 [D85]

First of all, concerning the 5.Bd2 Exchange Grünfeld, I received an e-mail enquiry concerning a relatively new pawn sacrifice. The main question was: Can Black get away with capturing the pawn?

My reply is perhaps a little vague, as it seems that this line hasn't been fully worked out yet. White seems to obtain reasonable compensation for his investment, but Black can risk capturing on d4 as in Game 7. I personally think that Black can indeed snatch the material, and then has a playable game, but it's not the sort of position which Grünfeld practitioners normally go for.

So it comes down to a question of taste: Black can play a normal looking-line, or grab a pawn and then accept the need to go on the defensive.

The game Tomashevsky - Radjabov led to a draw, but can hardly be described as peaceful.

Here the Russian, instead of retreating, went 'all in' with 15.Nxf7! leading to complications where Black had to be very careful. Radjabov defended well and saved the game, but there is a suspicion that White is somewhat better after this piece offer.

This is the latest, but not the last, word on 7...c5. If this proves to be too dangerous for Black, then the solid 7...0-0 8.Nf3 Nbd7 is a safer alternative.

Russian System 7 e4 a6 8 Be2 b5 [D97]

In Game 9 one of the main lines of the Russian System was tested in Wojtaszek-Nepomniachtchi. One's impression from this game was that White had no advantage at all. Indeed, it was Black who had all the chances including missing a hidden tactic that would have won a pawn.

The problem that Black has had in the past in this variation is that if he plays an inaccurate move or two (and ends up being too passive) the bishop pair can give White some interesting play. Here however it was the knight pair in the open centre that were ruling the roost!

Russian System 7 e4 a6 8 e5 and 10 h4 [D97]

Istratescu played quite ambitiously with 10.h4 and 11.e6 in Game 10, a sharp line that has largely dropped out of fashion.

Here White improved with 14.Nxb5 after which complex play results. The Frenchman was more skilful in coordinating his forces and gradually took control, but the notes suggest that Black should have been fine. On move twenty for example, Black could have sacrificed a pawn for excellent play.

Russian 7 e4 Nc6 8 Be2 e5!? [D97]

In Game 11 Navara demonstrates that Black is fine after improving on Morozevich versus Vachier-Lagrave from three years ago. Of course, vigilant readers to this column would have known all about the possibility of 14...Re6! from my comments at the time:

There have been several games in this gambit line, but apart from the encounter Koneru-Harika (see the notes, where Black has an improvement 15...Nxe4!) Black has been holding his own.

The curious thing about the featured game is that Navara seemed to be doing so well, and yet Ivanisevic calmly centralized his king before sacrificing a pawn for enough activity to draw. Good defensive technique on his part.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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