Daring Defences for April 2004
There's a mixed bag of ideas this month. Overall Black obtains 50% from the eleven featured games, but this isn't helped by Miezis losing twice in the Budapest!
GM Glenn Flear
One of the things I've noticed this time is the fact that a number of players are happy to play the same line with Black or White. They are obviously not dogmatic folk who believe that a variation is good for one side or the other! Instead they judge an idea 'interesting' and worth a try with either colour. If a player has recently studied a variation with White, for instance, he may be persuaded of it's virtues for Black (especially if it's a dynamic variation of a dynamic defence to 1 d4!). Perhaps we should call this phenemona the 'turncoat' mentality!?
I'll start here as both of the lines employed against the enterprising Latvian tactician Normunds Miezis are worth a closer look as they are typical choices for aggressive White players.
The line with 6 Nc3 shouldn't be that dangerous (see the notes to Game One) but Black didn't choose the best path. His twelfth move was to blame for his later demise.
The line with 4 e4 in Game Two is perhaps White's most double-edged option:
Certainly Black had chances in this game but White's swashbuckling approach paid off... this time. As we've seen in Simon Williams's games before from his beloved Dutch...he's not afraid of going 'all in'!
See the game to see how Williams had all the fun!
The featured game is not that spectacular, but shows Black equalizing comfortably in one of the main lines. Tregubov had the courage in Game Three to play the Benko against Shirov who chose a line in which he himself has had experience as Black!
In my February update, I mentioned the game Tregubov (as White!)-Gharamian (see the notes to Rowson - Vuckovic) where White got nowhere with 10 Rb1 in the Fianchetto Variation.
The implication of all this is that it looks as if Tregubov is convinced that the Benko is playable again at a high level now that 10 Rb1 has been shorn of it's terror!
A sharp line of the 'anti-Dutch' 2 Bg5-system is given an outing in Bergez-Bricard. For Leningrad players and other Dutch fans this represents one of Black's more dynamic tries as he gets central counterplay as compensation for a potentially loose kingside. In Game 4 the centre proved to be more important.
I had the opportunity to try out the Blatny Variation in a recent encounter against another of the Chesspublishing team. I wanted to retain winning chances as I had half-a-point less than my opponent going into the game. As you can see from Game 5 it resulted in another success for the Owen's!
Now what's a 2700 player doing playing the Albin? Well Morozevich achieves two murky games with it and even manages to beat a surprised Boris Gelfand. His plan with an early ...Ng8-e7-g6 isn't new but although he played it eleven year's ago it hasn't really been covered by the theorist's (Ward doesn't mention it in his 'Unusual Queen's Gambit Declined' for instance).
There doesn't seem to be anything seriously wrong with Morozevich's plan but White may retain a modest positional edge after 8 e6!:
Are we about to see a revival of this Gambit? See Game Six.
The White Exchange variation with Nf3 and Be3 is quite solid and the standard early exchange of queens with ...Qa5, ...cxd4 and ...Qxd2+ doesn't suit everyone. Games 7 and 8 take a closer look at a couple of Black attempts to get some life into the system from Black's point of view. In Game Seven Eljanov keeps the queens on but this involves allowing White to play d4-d5 obtaining a protected passed pawn. The opening phase seemed fine and Black did obtain the better chances in the middlegame, but towards the end he almost lost.
In Game Eight Black tries the queenless middlegame, but with his knight going to b4 rather than a5, a speciality of experienced Grünfeld-battler Vlastimil Jansa. In our featured game Black wins rather easily as White quickly went wrong. Votava probably got the idea from a 2002 game where he faced this idea with the white pieces.
Another example of players willing to play dynamic defences with both colours!
In Game Nine Black tries the enterprising 10...b5. Sutovsky resorting to this old line to try and keep his opponents guessing, but his two recent games illustrate it's drawbacks. Vaisser's 11 Bxb5 leads to an easy draw, whereas Nielsen's more ambitious 11 Bd5 gives White chances to maintain a pull into the middlegame. So I can't recommend this one to DD subscribers.
Luc Van Wely employs Ivan Sokolov's early disruptive queen check in Game 10. The opening was rather unclear but I believe that White missed a win in the middlegame complications:
What's best? See the game for my answer!
The theory of this line has developed quite a lot in the last year but I don't believe that Black has any particular problems here. See the notes for the reference to an earlier game Sokolov,I-Van Wely,L which is yet another example of this month's 'turncoat' theme!
Finally, Game 11 sees a smooth display from Sutovsky who shows us that after 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bf4 0-0 6 e3 c5 7 dxc5:
the move 7...Ne4 is a reasonable alternative to the better known 7...Qa5.
Don't forget to keep the questions rolling in, especially if there's a line that you would like clarifying.