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A varied selection this time, but one comment that is worth making is to note the rise from strength to strength of both the Albin and Blumenfeld Gambits. Who would have believed that a few years ago!?

Download PGN of April '07 Daring Defences games

Dutch Defence

In Game One Kunin tries the anti-Leningrad System with c2-c3 and Qb3:

Bartel decides on a Stonewall-inspired set-up in reply and gets close to equality. Later on Black even gained the initiative but it wasn't quite enough to win.

In Game Two White's experiment with 4 Bf4 and 5 Nf3 against the Classical Dutch turns out rather badly. Black just develops in a logical way and the White set-up just doesn't gel. In fact Black wins a smooth game.

Game 3 is by far the most theoretical Dutch game featured this time. Gurevich employed his pet-line with 7...Qe8 and Iljin then steered the game down the main line when the position in the following Diagram arose:

Experience up to now suggests that 13...Rb8 is the best move when the jury is still out on whether or not White can maintain an edge. In the game White seemed to be getting his act together quite well so Gurevich felt the urge to sacrifice a pawn for murky play. The resulting positions are hard to judge but White may have missed one chance for an advantage with 22 e4 followed by f4-f5.

I'm not sure that this game clarifies the state of theory as 14...Ne6 instead of 14...a5 has in the past proven playable and, in any case, White didn't really have time to demonstrate any positional ascendance before Black hit the 'mix it' button. However in my opinion 13...Rb8 still looks the best chance for Black to get an interesting and dynamic game.

Albin Counter-Gambit

Another game that illustrates the problems that White has in getting any advantage at all with the g3-systems against 5...Nge7:

It's amazing how Morozevich's idea has transformed the opening from an off-beat no-hoper to a respectable way of equalizing!

Neverov pushed his luck on the kingside in Game Four, at first correctly enough, but later he blundered in an attempt to smash up Black's king defences. Strohhaeker equalized fairly comfortably and could have avoided all this excitement by simply playing the prophylactic 19...a5. In the game after missing 27 c5 White lost control and the game could have gone either way.

Grünfeld Defence

Chris from Germany points out a slightly off-beat system in the Grünfeld and is interesting to know my opinion of it:

Although I briefly look at some alternatives in Game Five, my personal preference is for 9...b6 with play akin to the main line after 9 Be2. Black should then have no particular problems to obtain a good position out of the opening.

Sasikiran's opening experiment with 9...Nfd7 in Game 6 failed to impress:

White kept hold of the central arena and had pressure across the whole board. Ivan Sokolov then had to win the game twice, firstly he squandered the advantage associated with an extra pawn in the middlegame before engineering a neat win in the ending, but Sasikiran had a better defence near the end and probably could have held. A sad game from Black's point of view but from a theoretical angle 9...Nh5, instead of 9...Nfd7, still has a good reputation.

Kiril Georgiev introduces a new move in Game 7, but this may have been over-the-board improvisation rather than home preparation. In fact 10 Ba3 isn't such a good move as neglecting kingside development soon cost him dear.

The great thing about playing 7...c5 is that it really sharpens the struggle, which isn't necessarily what White is seeking when playing a system involving e2-e3 and b2-b4. It's also fun to play a move that the opponent has been keen to stop!

So White should prefer 10 Be2, which can be judged as unclear based on a limited number of games in this line, although Black has done fairly well in practise. Instead 10 Ba3 is at best equal, on the evidence of the notes to this game.

The main line of the Hungarian Variation sees another top player bite the dust with Black. Indeed White has been scoring heavily in the line seen in Game 8, one which poignantly exemplifies Black's difficulties: If all else comes to naught the passed c-pawn can tip the balance in White's favour. Anyone intending to play this variation with Black should take into account this factor despite analysis engines considering Black to be equal. In the actual game Sutovsky should probably have left his queen on c6 when any nominal White advantage will be more difficult to enhance.

In theory Black is OK, but it is proving more difficult for the second player to handle these positions.

Blumenfeld Counter-Gambit Accepted

The Blumenfeld seems to be going through a new phase in it's revival.

From the diagram position White has tried several moves but there is no consensus on what is best.

In Game 9 White's 7 Bf4 didn't yield any advantage. Black chose to react with 7...a6, although I suspect that it isn't necessary to open up the queenside lines immediately. Instead 7...Bd6 aiming for quick development also seems adequate.

Although the resulting positions were rather complex I think both players made errors in the middlegame. Black for instance shouldn't have allowed White the chance to simplify into the clearly-better-for-White endgame that led to the second player's demise.

In Game 10 after 7 g3 Black is again confronted with a dichotomy between 7...Bd6 and 7...a6. Ovetchkin chose 7...a6 which seems to be at the height of fashion, but a few months ago against the other main move 7 e3, he chose 7...Bd6 as then ...a6 is less effective.

One of the reasons that the main lines don't crystallize easily in the Blumenfeld Accepted is that the resulting positions are hard to judge. What we can conclude however is that the opening in Game 10 went like a dream for Black which shows that White's 'solid' set-up is not a serious test for this audacious opening gambit. I'll have to follow developments closely here as I'm not sure what to recommend to White players at the moment.


Till next time, Glenn Flear

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