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A couple of critical lines in the Benko receive further coverage this time, but I'm mainly examining a variety of set-ups in the Dutch. The engines are not keen on these two openings for Black, so one needs to look beyond any 'engine bias' when making assessments. This is often true when Black includes ...d5 in his plans i.e. is the weakness of e5 really a serious issue? A question that doesn't have a straightforward answer, but some examples below might give you a better chance of getting closer to the truth in your own future games.

Download PGN of September ’22 Daring Defences games

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Benko Gambit 5.e3 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.a4 0-0 8.Nf3 Bb7 9.e4 e6 [A57]

In Grischuk, A - Xiong, J Black went on to win but he had problems in the opening.

In this position, 12...Re8+ provoked a known forcing sequence 13.Be3 Ng4 14.0-0 Nxe3 15.fxe3 Rxe3 16.Qd2 when previous experience suggests that Black has problems to stem the coming tide. Xiong innovated with 16...Re7 but a close examination suggests that it's no objective improvement on the standard 16...Re8. Instead of all this, in the diagram position, Perunovic advocated 12...Qe8+ a few years ago and so far analysis and results suggests that Black is holding his own.

In the actual game, with more time, Grischuk would surely have made more of his chances.

Modern Benko Gambit Accepted 6...Bg7 7.e4 0-0 8.a7 Rxa7 [A58]

There was another outing for 8.a7 in the theoretically significant encounter Peng, L - Chatalbashev, B.

The theory has really moved on in recent years in this critical line, with White trying several moves at this point, with 13.Bb5 being one of the best scoring of the bunch. It looks like Chatalbashev was well prepared as he navigated the complications with aplomb finding a neat way of earning enough counterplay to draw. Each of White's thirteenth move options requires tailor-made responses, so good preparation is required especially as Black sometimes only has a fine line to a good game. Still, if you are an ardent ChessPublishing reader then you should get by, as several alternatives have previously featured in this column.

Dutch Defence 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 g6 [A80]

In the opening of Salem, A - Kamsky, G the experienced American GM played with fire as early as move three.

Here the authors of recent works on the Leningrad advise 3...d6 aiming for some progress in the central arena before committing oneself on the kingside. Kamsky fearlessly opted for 3...g6 which was duly met by 4.h4 when there are evident threats. I'm not a great fan of Black's game, as over the next few moves a careful handling is required and he has the more vulnerable king. Despite my negative impression, Kamsky did reach a playable middlegame, but not everyone has his capacity to defend. Later, there were many ups and downs, but I particularly found the rook endgame to be instructive.

Dutch: 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 Be7 [A80]

In Duda, J - Ivanchuk, V Black drifted into a bad game, but turned the tables late on.

My suggested improvement in the opening phase involves 9...h6 here which 'poses the question' at just the right moment. Instead, Ivanchuk developed naturally with 9...Nc6 but he wasn't able to equalize. In these lines the e6 and f5-pawns cab become quite awkward for Black, especially with the 'bad' bishop still on c8 or d7. In rapid chess strange things happen, so here for example, in the latter stages, Duda imprisoned his own bishop thus creating problems for himself.

Dutch: 2.Bg5 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.f3 [A80]

White's fourth move might have come as a surprise in Narayanan, S - Lagarde, M:

Naturally White gives himself the option of f3-e4, but is this 'threat' serious? Well, after 4...Nf6 the immediate 5.e4 does seem to favour White, so Black could consider 4...d5 instead, but these Stonewall/Leningrad hybrids don't suit everyone.

In the game, Maxime Lagarde opted for 4...Nc6 after which Narayanan innovated with 5.d5 but this didn't offer any advantage. The main move is actually 5.e3 when White gives up on the double advance of his e-pawn (for now), but keeps things flexible. Then Black has to decide if he is going to play with ...d7-d5 or not. There is perhaps more than one way to a satisfactory game, but I think that the White pieces are easier to handle.

Dutch: 2 Bg5 c6 [A80]

The American rapid and blitz king sometimes plays offbeat lines as surprise weapons, but this is his fourth game (at least) with 2...c6, so it can hardly be described as unexpected. In Grischuk, A - Nakamura, H he was clearly worse in the early middlegame, but he later turned things around and now has 4/4 (against Xiong, Chigaev and Rapport as well as Alexander Grischuk) with this provocative line.

In this strange-looking position several attempts have been tried by Black. The most successful of these involve the ...d5 plan (opting for solidity) or a quick ...h6 (that is, before ...Nf6) when flexibility is the order of the day.

I don't like the game choice very much, as 4...Nf6 5.e3 g6 6.Bxf6 exf6 7.d5 favoured White. In the later phase of this game it was instructive how Nakamura was able to engineer a win.

Dutch: 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 [A85]

In Sarana, A - Kamsky, G White's opening choice is something of a pet line for Alexey Sarana.

In the game, White chose to place his queen on d2, but Sarana had previously opted for c2 (with 9.0-0 0-0 10.Qc2 including against Nakamura). It's a moot choice which is the better of the two, but in both cases a tense middlegame arises where a certain jostling for position occurs. Neither side has an easy plan, so a certain patience is required. Kamsky was able to achieve full equality in the early middlegame, but a couple of imprecise moves enabled Sarana to get the better of the struggle. Time was no doubt a factor at the end, as Sarana allowed Kamsky back into the game after achieving a winning position, and then, suddenly, it was all over! There are clearly some unanswered questions here.

Dutch Leningrad 6.Nc3 d6 7.0-0 c6 8.Re1 [A88]

In Donchenko, A - Korobov, A meeting the popular 8.Re1 with 8...Nbd7 was fairly unusual, following which White opted for 9.e4:

This seems like the logical follow-up to 8.Re1 and yet a number of players have been reticent to commit themselves in this way in the past. After the further moves 9...Nxe4 10.Nxe4 fxe4 11.Rxe4 Nf6 12.Re1 Korobov innovated with 12...Bf5 whereupon the biggest test could be 13.h3 intending g2-g4. Donchenko's 13.Qe2 is less convincing as Black has 13...e5!.

Later on, it proved difficult for Black to cope with all the threats and he had to give up his queen for inadequate compensation. Still, the opening experiment doesn't look too bad, especially as a surprise weapon, but I'm not sure that Black can fully equalize after 13.h3.

Stonewall Dutch 6...Bd6 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 0-0 [A90]

In classical fashion, Koneru sought an exchange of dark-squared bishops in Koneru, H - Hoang Thanh Trang:

White seems to have achieved a number of objectives and has in practice scored well from this position, and yet I remain unconvinced that there is any real advantage (see my suggested improvement 17...g5 for example).

Hoang's 11...Bb7 didn't prove to be bad, as this piece sits well here when combined with the ...c5 break, but it might be even more competitive to place the bishop on a6 as Anish Giri once did. In the latter phases, time seems to have taken it's toll on the quality, but White was very close to winning at one point.

Stonewall Dutch 5...Bd6 6.Qc2 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Bf4 [A90]

In Yilmaz, M - Greet, A White chose to trade dark-squared bishops early (8.Bf4) after which the pawn structure is modified (8...Bxf4 9.gxf4). The diagram highlights a key moment which arose a few moves later:

Here Black needs to settle on a plan for the next stage of the game. Andrew Greet rather aggressively employed a rook shift with 11...Rf6, but I find this to be committal. Still, it's perhaps not a bad practical choice as it forces White to be very careful about how he handles his kingside. More cagey ideas such as 11...a5 intending a timely ...b6 come into consideration, but I wouldn't recommend the immediate 11...b6 as White is then well-placed to react actively.

The unusual pawn structure that arose in the middlegame and endgame seemed to give plenty of options for both players, but in the game Yilmaz handled matters best.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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