Grünfeld Defence - 4 Bf4
In Game one Kramnik introduces a novel idea in a well-known position:
Not only does Kramnik introduce a novelty here, but it seems to be quite a good one! 13 Ng5 set many practical problems that Morozevich couldn't cope with at the board. This game needs a careful look if it's in your repertoire as 13 Ng5 opens up a whole new can of worms. I've suggested an improvement for Black on move 14 but you'll really need to check this one further yourselves as this move could surprise a few unprepared people yet.
In Game 2 an old line gets tested twice by Kramnik against Ivanchuk and then Carlsen. Against Carlsen, Kramnik's play is somewhat more critical (i.e. 13 0-0 and only then Be5) but Black doesn't seem unduly worried in either case.
It may be that certain surprising, half-forgotten or even new lines are particularly dangerous in 'blindfold' chess, but not in normal circumstances. Hence the choices in the Melody Amber may not reflect the latest trends amongst the elite and so may not get followed up over the coming months.
Exchange Variation with Nf3
In Game 3 Grischuk revives an old idea of Yusupov. Dominguez however isn't ruffled and copes well over the board, indeed it was Black who was closest to winning this particular encounter. The idea of playing R-b1 and then R-c1 willingly loses a tempo, a concept that we'll see in Game 4 but played by Black. Slight differences in pawn structures can significantly affect the possibilities available to the two sides, so it's always worth comparing analogous variations to avoid getting caught out at the board.
Avoiding the Main line in the Exchange variation with 7 Bc4
What can Black do to get interesting play and winning chances? That was the question posed by Bogdan Lalic a few months back. He has a point as Sakaev's influential book An Expert's Guide to the 7.Bc4 Grünfeld (Chess Stars, 2006) pointed out many interesting ideas for White that seemed to suggest that Black doesn't have an easy time in this line. However time has passed and a number of ideas have been experimented with and some seem to be holding up well and enabling Black to get equal and winnable games.
One approach is to learn 10...Bg4 11 f3 Na5 really well and hope that your book knowledge is better than your opponent's. However this is a major task and many of the long main lines only lead to a draw at best for the second player.
Instead we'll be looking at several high-level games where newer ideas have come to the fore and enable Black to aim to outplay his opponent at the board rather than in the preparation.
In Game 4 Nepomniachtchi varies with 11...Bd7 when the idea is to find a way for f2-f3 to be a weakness rather than a strength. In the game Black did this and equalized comfortably, 13...Qe8 being particularly notable. Later on, Black being the higher-rated player avoided easy equality and took risks to try and win and was rewarded with the full point. Enterprising, if not entirely convincing, but the opening went quite well for him, which is the phase of the game which no doubt most stimulates the subscriber's interest!
In Game Five Krasenkow demonstrates that Black can play the unusual 13...Be5!? and obtain a reasonable game. Ivanchuk may have shown the way by beating Cheparinov in the Cap d'Agde rapid last year, and an idea that I discovered (and no doubt before me by Ivanchuk and Krasenkow) seems to improve on the line quoted by Sakaev. So another dynamic and comfortable way for Black to handle the Grünfeld.
Game 6 was a theoretical encounter with the fashionable 12...e5 gambit, with White playing 12 Rc1 (in Game 7 Korotylev tries the main alternative 12 Qd2 and still faces 12...e5). In Korotylev-Timofeev the novelty came as late as move 20 and led to a tense middlegame where Black had compensation, but White could hope to fiddle around and eventually improve his piece set-up sufficiently for the extra pawn to be a relevant factor. It all worked out like this for White but if Black had played a superior move on move 26 (see my notes) the result would probably have been different.
A day earlier, against Areshchenko in Game 7, Korotylev was again able to innovate. The plan with 16 Qb2 set new problems for Black but mainly because he had lots of options and as usual things remain quite murky in this line. Later on Areshchenko had easy equality (see move 28), but he may have chosen to take risks playing for more but he rather naively weakened his own kingside and was punished. So Korotylev scored 2/2 with White in two days against higher ranked players but Black handled the opening and early middlegame well in both cases.
Topalov - Kamsky featured the same line but White declined the offer and instead played for the attack. Topalov introduced a novelty but his follow up may not have been best:
The new move was 17 e5! which could test Black even more if he had met Kamsky's reply 17...Bd7 with 18 Nxd4. Check my notes to see if you agree! Even then I feel that Black is OK in this line, so White players will need to keep looking and find another new idea to put 12...e5 in any danger.
Beliavsky employs an early Nf4 in Game 9, but Svidler knows all about this theme and was ready and well-prepared. White pressed but realized too late that Black was ready to seize the advantage. A good game in all the phases starting with the preparation by Svidler.
Or rather with 8 Qa4 an 'anti-Hungarian' system as Black was unable to get in ...b5 in Game 10:
After 9...Nb6 Aronian 'sacrificed' his queen for three pieces and the resulting positions were difficult to judge. Ivanchuk was the one pressing to win, perhaps because he knew that if he temporized White's pieces could improve and eventually become dangerous.
The counter queen sacrifice from Ivanchuk was probably good but he may not have had enough time to calculate the tricky rook and pawns versus two minor pieces ending. He lost his way but has many fans as he often pushes to win giving entertaining games in the process.
Till next month, Glenn Flear