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Fianchetto Variation - early ...c5 [E60]
In Mitrabha, G - Grigoriants, S Black opted for 4...c5, offering the chance for a Benoni. White declined and play soon led to the following position:
Here, experience suggests that the natural-looking 8.Qb3 seems to be adequately met with 8...Ne4. Instead, with 8.Nc3!? the c-pawn was sacrificed, after which the big issue is whether or not the lead in development will offer adequate compensation for the pawn. In the game, Black was able to diffuse any White pretensions and was soon in control. However with 11.b4 (rather than 11.Ng5?!) I think that there was enough play, which means that 8.Nc3 does indeed have its merits.
In Edouard, R - Hillarp Persson, T the following position was reached:
In the game, 10.e4 was somewhat better for Black following 10...Nb4 11.Qe2 Qd4 after which White spent the rest of the game struggling to draw. However, I can't find anything for White in the diagram that even yields full equality, which suggests that his whole opening strategy needs a radical shake up. All-in-all these early ...c5 lines are holding up to scrutiny.
Fianchetto Panno Variation - 6...Nc6 7.Nc3 Bf5 [E62]
After 8.d5 Na5 White's 9.Nh4, to force the bishop back, as in Lenderman, A - Guseinov, G seems to be an idea that is well-founded. Play then led to the following diagram position:
Black proceeds in standard Panno fashion, but Lenderman's choice of 12.Qd2! stands out as something special. The iconic knight is made to feel uncomfortable on a5. These positions seem easier to handle for White with one knight coming to e3 (defending c4 and covering f5) and the other one ready to be brought back into play, whereas, on the other hand, the steed on a5 might be stuck with poor pastures for the duration. The middlegame that arose had all the hallmarks of a classic Botvinnik game, where the maestro demonstrated the drawbacks of having an out-of-play knight on a5. A fine examination of the details, however, suggest that Black wasn't doing too badly once he had hit back (correctly) with 27...f5, but that the follow-up 28...Nxf5! (avoiding the fixed weakness on f5 that arose in the game following 28...gxf5?!) was then required.
Fianchetto Variation - Yugoslav Mainline 12...e5 13.dxe6 Bxe6 [E66]
One of the Yugoslav main lines occurred by transposition in Pantsulaia, L - Rasulov, Vu.
At this point, both knight leaps to e4 have been examined on ChessPublishing before, but White's best scoring option is 15.Rad1, as in the present game, a move that Pantsulaia has used before. The ploy of then switching the queen to a1 and only then placing a knight on e4 certainly increases the pressure, especially along the long dark diagonal, but I think that Black had more than one way to obtain a good position. See the notes to moves 19 and 22. So although statistically 15.Rad1 is the 'hottest' move here, 'cool' calculation suggests that it may not be any better than the alternatives 15.Nce4, 15.Nde4, or 15.Rfd1.
Fianchetto Variation - 6.Nc3 c6 7.0-0 Bf5 [E62]
In Badelka, O - Iljiushenok, I Black did everything to keep the tension and winning chances alive. It worked up to a point, as he certainly had some advantage, but after getting carried away he lost the thread and ultimately the game.
It looks to me that White has no advantage in this typical 'exchange' structure. The game move 10.Qb3 perhaps being neutralized by either 10...Qc7 or 10...Qe7. So this means that if 8.Ng5!? is to have any future (in terms of theory), then 8...e5 should be met by the space-gaining 9.d5, (the only way!) if White is serious about obtaining anything from the opening.
Fianchetto Variation, Uhlmann's line 6...Nc6 7.Nc3 e5 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 [E62]
The idea of capturing on e5 and then seeking active deployment was tested in Oparin, G - Priasmoro, N. Following 9...Be6 the move 10.Qa4 is the most popular after which Black has to decide how to cope with White having an early initiative:
The long-time ChessPublishing specialist on the KID David Vigorito has discussed 10...Qe8 a few times over the years, but I have added a few of my own thoughts (see the notes). However, this encounter continued with the most popular 10...Qc8. After 11.Nd2 Black has to make a decision, with Priasmoro's pawn offer 11...Nd7 perhaps being the most critical. Oparin duly grabbed the pawn and went on to win, but a likely improvement on move nineteen suggests that Black has enough play.
Classical Fianchetto 8.Qc2 [E67]
In Gukesh, D - Vishnu, P the opening went in Black's favour. Later, he allowed White back into the game before blundering an equal position away with a rash move.
Already, the momentum is with Black after 10...c5! as he is able to exploit White's fragility along the long dark-squared diagonal to great effect. So this suggests that the 'natural' 10.b3?! is inferior to the main move 10.Rd1, although I think that Black can equalize with no hassle even here. The lesser known 10.Qd3 is perhaps White's best chance, but it seems strange that moving the queen twice so early should lead to anything. Kotronias won a nice game in this line with Black, but thinks that White should be slightly better, but I prefer an 'unclear' assessment for now.
Classical Fianchetto 8.e4 Re8 9.h3 [E68]
In Cerveny, M - Praggnanandhaa, R Black successfully took White out of his mainstream theory with his ninth move:
Although 8...Re8 is not exactly offbeat (1740 games), the follow-up 9...b6 (only 20!) certainly is! If White replies with 10.d5 then Black would no doubt aim to show that his previous two moves have their points and that a closed centre is no problem for him. Still, this looks principled and probably the best chance for an opening edge for White. In the game, however, after 10.Be3 exd4 11.Nxd4 Bb7 it just feels that Black has achieved good play without being stressed. I particularly liked the way Praggnanandhaa soon blasted the position open to his benefit.
Classical, Bayonet Attack 9...a5 10.bxa5 Rxa5 11.a4 c5 [E97]
A typical King's Indian scenario occurred in Rakotomaharo, A - Amin, B, where the engines prefer White, but the human eye sees complexity and difficult decisions where nothing at all is clear!
Here Amin met White's threat to his h-pawn with 14...g5 which has its points (space, access to the g6-square), but objectively 14...Kh7 is the safer option, just holding the fort for now in anticipation of getting in ...f5. It seems that Rakotomaharo was on the right track to get a significant advantage during the subsequent phase (due to having the more active pieces), all this starting with the daring 15.h4! to indicate that he can compete on the kingside. Later, things went sour for him however, as he allowed Black's forces to activate too readily.
Classical, Bayonet Attack 9...Nh5 10.Re1 Nf4 11.Bf1 [E97]
The game Yuffa, D - Grigoryan, K2 was so convincing from White's point of view that it certainly would put me off playing this way with Black.
In the game, 11...h6 followed by a general pawn push on the kingside looked dubious (too slow!), in the face of White's expansion in the centre with c4-c5 combined with placing his knights on c4 and b5.
So how should Black proceed from here? Of course 11...a5 comes into consideration, but this has never had a great reputation after Kramnik (playing White) was able to down Kasparov. Other moves such as 11...f5 have also come up short.
So all this may well mean that the second most popular move 10....Nf4 is not such a wise option.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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