>> Previous Update >>
Leningrad Dutch 7...Qe8 8.Re1 [A87]
I've included that game and added some notes to highlight other theoretical developments in this sharp line. In fact there seems to be more than one way for Black to solve his problems in Game 1.
Possible is 14...g5, as played by Grischuk and Svidler last year. Otherwise after 14...Na6 15.Qb3, Kopylov's 15...c6 looks to be Black's most solid. Alternatively, Pruijsser's 2015 novelty 15...Kh8 may also be adequate. So the conclusion is that the c-pawn grab (on move 9) is playable.
Anti-Grünfeld 8.Qd2 e5 [D70]
Bogdan features in Game 2 where he follows a complex line that was previously played in Ding Liren-Gelfand. His opponent, Nasutu, introduces a novelty on move 17 which seems to be just as valid as Gelfand's continuation. In the notes to move 21 we remark that best play seems to lead to a draw.
Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 c5 [D91]
I was really impressed with Tomashevsky's handling in his Game 3 win over Khairullin. At various moments he just 'improved' his position slightly before moving onto the next phase. The opening is not one that I generally consider to be that critical in a theoretical sense, but Black has to be careful not to drift into a lifeless position.
White's novelty here, 13.h3, is hardly sensational, but it led to a win, and I'm not sure where Black went wrong! If you like to meet 4.Bg5 with 4...Ne4 5.Bh4 c5 then you would be wise to study these types of positions to develop your 'feel' rather than just learn the moves.
4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 [D83]
In Game Four the popular counter involving a quick ...Be6 received a blow at the hands of the Polish GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek.
The root cause of Black's problems may be that Vachier-Lagrave's time consuming ...Be6-g4-c8 manoeuvre didn't really inconvenience White that much. Nor did 'having to play f2-f3' worry Wojtaszek, as he had enough central control while he calmly expanded on the queenside. Later, despite White's queenside pressure offering him the more comfortable game, it wouldn't have been that easy to make further inroads if Black had stayed on the defensive.
My feeling after this game is that the immediate 8...Bc8 is a better idea than '8...Bg4 and only after f2-f3 going back home with ...Bc8'.
Grünfeld Exchange Variation 7.Qa4+ Qd7 8.Bb5 [D85]
The nuance of meeting 7...Qd7 with 8.Bb5 has recently caught on, as the idea of forcing ..c6, means that Black has little choice: He more or less has to get ...c5 in quickly in order to disentangle his queenside. The fact that Black has to be careful about his development is illustrated by the fact that in Game Five Black's queen's knight didn't come out until move 18, when already trouble was brewing.
The actual game led to a crushing win for Matlakov playing White, but a clear improvement on move 15 would have led to equality in my opinion.
Exchange Variation with Be3, 10.Rc1 Rd8 11.d5 [D85]
A recent book laying-out a White repertoire against the Grünfeld extolling the virtues of this set-up will perhaps mean a rise in popularity in the coming months. Alexei Kornev's 'A Practical White Repertoire with 1.d4 and 2.c4: The King's Fianchetto Defences' has a number of improvements for White, so be warned: You'll need to get prepared! I think that Black's most trustworthy defence involves ...Qa5, ...cxd4 and ...Qxd2+, but these queenless middlegames aren't that exciting for Black, so it's not surprising that players seek something a bit more dynamic.
This popular system for Black didn't hold up well in the two featured games. In Game 6 Gledura won convincingly with White in the theoretical 'Queen for Rook and Bishop' variation arising from 11...e6. Check through the notes: I used to think that Black was OK but Kornev has other ideas!
In Game Seven Ponkratov opted for 11...Nc6 when Kornev (in the aforementioned book) demonstrates that 12.h4 is strong. In my analysis I tried and failed to find a fully-satisfactory way for Black, so it's another feather in Kornev's cap.
Other conclusions about this game are essentially for the record: After 12.Be2, then 12...e6 is OK, but 12...f5 looks dubious.
Overall, I can't recommend the diagram position for Black.
Exchange Variation 7.Bc4, 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Rc1 [D87]
White kept his king in the centre and went all out for a direct h-file attack in Game 8, Fedoseev-Wei Yi.
Although Black won the game, facing 10.Rc1 followed by a quick h4 is definitely nerve-wracking! A close look at the game indicates that White was actually winning at one point in the complications (see 24.Ne5 in the notes). What is even more worrying from Black's point of view is that Wei Yi didn't seem to make any obvious errors!
So, if White's attack is that dangerous, perhaps Black shouldn't play 10...Qc7 (equivalent to waving a red rag!), but opt instead for 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Qa5+ where the theory is better established.
Another system centred on a sharp h-pawn push. In Game Nine Black was much better before losing his way and going down to the h-file attack. As for the opening, it looks like (in theory) Black is doing fine.
Capturing the rook may be playable, but gives White good compensation. Instead 12...Rf5! as played by Li Chao-b is certainly better, when it is White who has to fight for equality. However, remember that all this is fine in theory, but in a practical game, at any level, anything can happen!
Russian System 7.e4 Na6 8.Be2 c5 [D97]
In Games 10 and 11 Bogdan Lalic analyzes a couple of his recent games in the Russian System. If you read carefully through his notes you may find some new ideas that haven't yet been employed in practise.
In Game 10, Black's 15th move was the cause of his later problems.
Russian System 7.e4 Nc6 8.Bf4 [D97]
In Game 11, Black's novelty on move 13 was interesting, but I have more confidence in 13...Nd5.
Russian System 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 Nfd7 9.Nd2 [D98]
How many subscribers are familiar with the following position? Not many I bet!
Radoslaw Wojtaszek was responsible for bringing this idea out of the history books and back into current practise. In Game 12, David Navara was probably surprised by a move that Botvinnik used on one occasion and was then largely forgotten. His 9...Na6 was perhaps last played in the fifties! In the featured game Black's position was probably OK, but he went astray and was losing before miraculously saving himself. I imagine that Wojtaszek was disappointed with the outcome.
In Game 13 Bukavshin adds his own touch by meeting 9...Nb6 with 10.Qc5 which is actually new. The game turned out to be a hard-fought battle where both sides missed opportunities to press for the whole point.
The most curious aspect of the game was the way that it all transformed into a typical Anti-Grünfeld middlegame. Black had a decent version, especially as White lost time with his queen and a knight (which after going from f3 to d2, continued its journey to c3 via b1).
Overall, after the surprise value is gone, 9.Nd2 shouldn't cause too many problems.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
>> Previous Update >>