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English Defence with a3 and ...f5 [A40]
One of the main lines occurred in Grigorian, S - Gretarsson, H with Black steering his bishop to e5 at the earliest opportunity:
The positional threat of ...Bxc3 usually invites 8.Bd2, but then experience suggests that Black seems to have the time to complete his development in relative peace. Instead, Grigorian preferred 8.Nb5 leaving the bishop high-and-dry on e5, hence the reaction 8...a6 9.Nd4 Bxd4. White thus obtains the bishop pair whilst avoiding a damaged structure. Still, the note to move twelve suggests that Black was fine, so his 7...Be5 certainly wasn't refuted here, despite the eventual result.
English Defence 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qc2 Qh4 6.Bd3 [A40]
The encounter Dzhumaev, M - Abdusattorov, N illustrates the problems that White can face if he tries to construct a mega-centre.
I'm so positive about Black's prospects from the diagram position that I don't understand why anyone would want to play this way with White. In the early days of the English Defence the late, great Tony Miles won a game with 6...f5, but here 6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 f5 was preferred. With pressure building down the long diagonal White has to step with care, but the reaction 8.d5?! looks suspicious to me. There is perhaps a narrow path to equality starting with 8.g3, but I still can't recommend the 5.Qc2 approach for White.
Budapest Gambit 4.e3 Nxe5 5.Nh3 [A52]
The Budapest is one of those openings that is loved by juniors seeking open piece play and attacking chances, but is a rare choice at GM-level in long play tournaments. Sulskis is known as an original thinker and often goes against mainstream trends and his daring choice paid off in Malisauskas, V - Sulskis, S.
The attempted rook switch with 9...Ra6 didn't quite have the desired affect on the first attempt, but it found its way to h6 on move fifteen (see 15...Rh6) after which Black was fine. It's not common to see this manoeuvre employed when White has a knight on f4, but here it (eventually!) worked, although along the way Malisauskas may have missed a complicated refutation starting with 12.Qxa5 (instead of 12.b3). Anyway, the idea of 'playing around' the knights on d5 and f4 in this way is an attractive one, that is if one doesn't worry too much about the fine details!
Dutch 2.Bf4 [A80]
The game Indjic, A - Nikolovski, N is an example of what not to do with Black. Essentially, slow development combined with ...g6 is asking for the h-pawn to be pushed vigorously in one's direction!
I can't find a way to make Black's position palatable from here, which illustrates that the London-inspired 2.Bf4 combined with 4.Be2 shouldn't be taken lightly. So it's evident that once an early ...e6 has been played, Black should forget about ...g6 ideas, and instead pursue a sort of classical development for his dark-squared bishop. In other words, it's not a good idea to change one's mind and seek a Leningrad solution, as it can easily end in tears!
Dutch 2.Nf3 and 3.Bf4 [A80]
In Sjugirov, S - Gleizerov, E Black met the London with a positionally sound Dutch/English Defence/QID hybrid. On another day, the grip on the e4-square would enable Black to develop the rest of his forces with a certain serenity. However, on this occasion, Sjugirov was busting for a fight and a quick h2-h3 and g2-g4 led to the following position:
This move in itself almost guarantees that sharp play will ensue. In this particular case, 7.g4 was met with 7...Bb7 8.gxf5 Nd5!? 9.Bh2 Nb4 which led to complications where Black soon threw fuel on the fire by gambling a piece for an attack. It was probably not sound, but nevertheless offered decent practical chances. However, from a theoretical point of view recapturing on f5 is good enough for a fully satisfactory game (see 8...exf5, and later 9...exf5, in the notes). In my opinion, meeting an early Bf4 with ...e6, ...Be7 and a timely ...b6 looks like a good reaction.
Dutch 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.h4 [A85]
In Zakhartsov, V - Zubritskiy, A White carried out a lightening attack along the h-file, but at the cost of the exchange.
After 7.e4, the coming queen check on h5 requires some sort of evasive action. The most popular 7...Be6 is under a cloud, whereas 7...Qd7 (freeing up d8 for the king) has its merits, but I suspect that White has more than enough compensation. This brings me to 7...fxe4, as played in the game, and also recently recommended by the influential author Mihail Marin. The good news is that his analysis suggests that Black is fine, but the bad news (for some!) is that if White keeps checking Marin thinks that Black should acquiesce to a draw. In the featured game, Black was soon on top as White's attacking attempts were easily repulsed, further evidence that Black is OK following 7...fxe4. If this is indeed true then Black can confidently meet 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 with the principled 3...g6 rather than settling for the slightly timid 3...d6, an approach often recommended in the past.
Albin Counter Gambit 3...Ne7 4.cxd5 Qxd5 [D08]
The latest trend involves 3...Ne7 as in Can, E - Mazur, S a move that I had already examined a few months back. The World Champion has also given this 'accelerated Morozevich' approach a one-off try. In the featured game, the following key position occurred:
The question for White is when to play e2-e4, which looks like the only real try for an advantage. After 7.Nf3 h6 Can did indeed continue with 8.e4 after which 8...Nb6 9.Be3 Bd7 10.b4 g5!? was murky, but somehow White should be keeping a pull in all this.
So, not surprisingly, White has been able to find ways to 'keep his nose ahead' against this speculative system, but there doesn't seem to be an outright refutation. So with only a minimal downside, I expect to see more examples of this daring idea, as not everybody reads ChessPublishing, so there is still some surprise (shock!) value associated with 3...Ne7.
Albin, Morozovitch's line, 5.g3 Nge7 6.Bg2 Ng6 7.0-0 [D09]
The first big surprise in Finek, V - Plat, V was Black's ninth move.
At this point, the standard move (and one which I've dealt with in the past) is 9...0-0. Here however Plat preferred to retreat his centralized knight with the rare 9...Ng6 thus keeping the tension as there is now less chance of any early minor piece exchanges. Unfortunately, after the reply 10.Bb2 Black's next move (10...Bf5) was imprecise, and could have been shown up with a more vigorous reaction from White (see the note starting 12.b4!). Instead, 10...0-0 looks more natural and led to equality in its only outing. It will be interesting to see this tested at GM-level, as frankly this idea looks quite promising. So I'm giving my thumbs up to 9...Ng6.
Blumenfeld Gambit Declined 5.e4 [E10]
It's about time I reviewed developments in the 5.e4 gambit, so I suggest referring to the game Stefansson, V - Lomasov, S and the associated notes for the gist of what has been happening.
This seems to be a key position, as White needs to make an important decision. A few years ago 12.Rc1 didn't work out well for Ivan Sokolov, despite him facing a less well-known player. Here 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Ne4 0-0 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 leaves Black with a damaged kingside, something for White to work on. There is probably enough compensation, but no more, that is after both 15.Qd2!? and the chosen 15.Nd2.
Another choice from the diagram position, 12.dxe6 fxe6 13.Ne5, should be met by 15...Qb7 with chances for both sides, an assessment that perhaps sums up the whole line!
Blumenfeld Gambit Accepted [E10]
In Babula, V - Zwardon, V the opening passed off well for Black but, alas, the middlegame turned sour for him. As Zwardon has been playing the Blumenfeld of late, it seems that it was Babula who had the 'surprise move' ready, with 7.b3 only being White's eighth most popular move at this point:
The idea of fianchettoing the dark-squared bishop is known in many similar positions, but when played at this point White is clearly abandoning the b5-pawn to its fate. Black duly took his pawn back and then both sides completed development fairly quickly. Then Black's plan of pushing the a-pawn was fine, but he should have kept the rook on the a-file and used his queen to support the centre, rather than the other way round!
Theoretically, however, it's still 7.Nc3 followed by e2-e4 that seems to be posing the biggest questions for Black.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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