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Chess is a game not a science! It's worth remembering this when getting too embroiled in opening preparation. Surprise value and practical chances can outweigh theoretical correctness in the short term, and even if dryish equality is all that results, experienced players can often make something out of nothing if they are patient.

Download PGN of April '06 Daring Defences games

English Defence

In one of the main lines, where White plays a3 along with d4-d5, Black typically heads for c5 with his queen's knight before committing his king's bishop. A couple of high-level encounters in the French League both reached the following position after 7...Nc5:

In Game One White achieved nothing after 8 Nf3 Nce4! so the more common 8 Nh3 Bd6 9 0-0, as in Game Two, is the acid test. Christian Bauer was able to steer the game towards an early perpetual check here, but the notes offer some interesting alternatives for both players.

Game Three features the thematic ...b5, 'undermining-the-advanced-centre' but in an unusual position. Fridman could even have won White's queen for two pieces after Cardon went a-hunting the poisoned b-pawn. After Black missed his chance, White then managed to extricate his queen and even had an edge in the middlegame before going badly astray later and losing two pawns and then a knight.

Benko Gambit

Another example of 5 e3 (see last month's update) is featured in Game Four, a line which seems to be going through a mini-revival at the moment. White's 9 Nf3 with 11 Bc3 (unusual but it has been seen before) certainly confused Aveskulov:

It now seems clear that Black should stick to 11...e6 when he can probably steer the game towards equality. Instead the wild 11...Bxa2 was unsound and Black was lucky not to have lost in the opening. Later on (in probable mutual time trouble) both sides missed chances for an advantage before the point was finally shared.

Dutch Defence: Stonewall

Nielsen-Kogan in Game Five shows White playing a thematic method of countering the Stonewall. He exchanges Black's 'good' bishop and hopes to retain an edge by keeping things quiet. Although it didn't really lead to anything in the actual game he could have kept a nominal edge with 17 Ne2. Later Nielsen became frustrated with dry equality and went for more but as the notes show, he could have got less!

Dutch Defence: Leningrad

It's rare to see Christian Bauer get into trouble in the Leningrad but Komarov finds a clever pawn sacrifice in Game Six to invade the black camp. However it should have only been enough for a draw, although it seems that an earlier temporary sacrifice with 21 e5-e6 was probably more dangerous:

The opening requires a closer look as it was considered one of White's most dangerous lines in Kindermann's 2002 Chessgate book 'Leningrader System'. Christian avoids the theory with 11...e6 and obtains a reasonable game (he apparently even turned down a draw offer at one point) although the idea of combining a Leningrad with a Stonewall isn't everyone's cup of tea.

In Game Seven Nijboer again shows his highly-tuned attacking instinct as ...f4 came at an awkward moment for Iotov who was unable to organize an effective defence. A good example of how vulnerable a king can be when the fianchettoed bishop has been exchanged! The opening plan of ...c6 followed by ...a5 looks like an interesting way of countering the fashionable b2-b4 schema.

Dutch Defence: Williams system?

In a few years maybe we'll give up trying to pronounce or write the Ilyin-Zhenevsky system and name it after the most active proponent of today: Englishman Simon Williams. In Game Eight he counter-attacks in romantic style before going down to Belov. His opening game him an adequate game, but although his pawn sacrifice was sound he followed up incorrectly.

Grünfeld Defence

I received an e-mail from a frustrated GM, Bogdan Lalic, who wonders what Black should play against the traditional Exchange Grünfeld with Bc4 and Ne2. This is a question that I must admit has crossed my mind and is worth a serious look.

Although in the diagram position 10...Bg4 is the main (and probably best move) it may not be the most practical. By playing 10...Bg4 you may end up testing your opponent's memory rather than his ability to handle the Grünfeld as White.

See Game Eleven for some lesser ideas that give Black a chance to get a playable and interesting position.

Grünfeld Defence according to Gupta.

I examine two D85 games of theoretical interest, both played in the same tournament by young Indian IM Abhijeet Gupta, one with each colour.

In Game Nine (as White) he meets 12...Nd7 with the unusual but quite promising 13 Ra1 which has scored fairly well so far, albeit in only a few outings:

Black was surprised and reacted too passively giving White tremendous pressure. The finish was rather neat, but both sides could have improved in the moves leading up to the decisive combination.

Game Ten followed an analysis from this very column!

Here, after the last move 19...Nxe7, White played 20 h3!

I wonder if either of the players involved follow! The move 20 h3 first came to light here after Dutch subscriber Franck Steenbekkers lost a rapid game after being surprised by this astonishing move. My analysis suggested that Black should react by capturing on f3 when I judged the exchange down middlegame to be playable for Black although objectively a shade better for White. Gupta indeed captured on f3 and had no problems to hold, but it's possible that White's plan didn't represent the biggest test for Black. Nevertheless we can still tentatively conclude that Black is OK after 16...b6.

Till next time,

Glenn Flear

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