Daring Defences, August 2003
The most critical variation in my domain is the Exchange Sacrifice Variation of the Grünfeld where the line with 17 Kh1 has recently led to some unpleasant moments for Black. Franck Steenbekkers has again brought to my attention some nuances in the theory.
GM Glenn Flear
All the details are covered in the first couple of games but to summarize the implications: In Game 1, the 20...Bb5 defence of Skatschkov-Smikowski (against which I couldn't find anything) has been essentially refuted with an analysis by Afek and Greenfeld. The Israeli analysts are spot on as 26 Qh3! clearly favours White in Game 1, so 20...Bb5 is a strong candidate for the dustbin.
As for Game 2 concerning the most popular 20...Ba4, if we follow an analysis by Zakhartsov from Informator 84, Black has a couple of reasonable defences both leading to draws.
However Mr.Zakhartsov's analysis is very deep into the game so there may be scope for improvement, but again I can't see anything myself. That isn't saying much, I know...
I have to ask the question though: In practical terms is this a good choice for Black? He has to learn 30 moves of theory, defend precisely and with a bit of luck his opponent has nothing better than a perpetual.
I've already covered the first two games (see Skatschkov - Smikowski and notes in my June 2003 update) but if you compare them you'll see that I could have done better first time around! Hopefully I'm on the ball this time!
Also in the Grünfeld this time, a couple of interesting White tries in the Russian system.
In Game Three Ehlvest revives 10 d6 in a variation abandoned by White a couple of years ago. Was he relying on Black being unprepared or has he genuinely got something new in the critical lines? We'll have to wait and see if he plays it again as his opponent went down without a fight.
In Game Four Bareev introduces an important novelty by playing 14 Be2 in the following position.
Lalic put up stiff resistance but lost in the end in one of those games where it's hard to see where the loser went wrong. There's some repair work to do here if you play this line with Black.
In Game Five we see a recent example of Nc3-a4 in the opening. A few years ago Nadanian's idea (either on move 5 or 6) became popular but this game lays bare some of the reasons why it has dropped out of favour.
The English Defence is covered in Games Six, Peter Wells-Zia Rahman and a couple of sidelines in the notes. The main game featured an exciting draw where I think that the Engliah GM missed a win, but the opening was OK for Black. Check the notes for the gamelet Touzane-Miezes where the flashy 6...b5 is made to look a bit suspicious.
In Game 7 we see an unsuccessful opening by White against the Budapest. A smooth performance and a nice combination by Normunds Miezis to gain the whole point.
Meeting the Benko Gambit with 4 a4 has had one notable advocate over the years: GM Chris Ward. In Game 8 we see him drawing with a much lower-rated player in this line despite obtaining a clear advantage in the middlegame. The problem for him and other White players is that Black seems to be able to get a sound position by blocking everything up. For Black such positions can be tedious and don't offer great winning chances, but if you're patient it should be OK for a draw.
In the game Black lost patience, but 17...Nxe4 wasn't at all necessary.
Accepting the pawn and then giving it straight back with 5 b6 is reasonably popular. In Game 9 White managed to keep an edge into the middlegame, but Black was not without counterchances.
Game 10 represents another blow for the Benko after 10 Rb1. White followed up his interesting manoeuvre with a profound exchange sacrifice to win an impressive game.
There is some good news for Benko fans, Van der Weide's 10...Nb6 11 b3 Bc8!? (see the notes) probing away at the light-squares is worth investigating. I've had a look and think it's playable!
Finally in Game 11 the most amazing move of the month:
Here Summerscale came up with 16...b5!! a superb pawn sacrifice that prepares a piece sacrifice! In fact the whole game demonstrates how to play the Classical Dutch in a dynamic fashion.
Till next time! Glenn
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