First, an e-mail about the Grünfeld. This should be read in conjunction with my April 2007 update. Game One shows a neat trick for Black when replying to a curious White system involving 8 Rb1 and 9 Qd2!?.
Game Two features a nice Black win:
Pilavov tried the ambitious queen sacrifice 8...Nxe4!? here and won quickly. White could certainly have defended better, but this fun idea may be worth a closer look. In the cold light of day, with computers and some calm analysis it may prove to be dubious, but the alternative 8...Bxe4 seems satisfactory for Black.
Victor Moskalenko doesn't just write about the Budapest, he is willing to play it over the board, a rarity amongst GMs these days. In Game 3 he even plays the known but always eyebrow-raising 4...g5:
His opponent handles the opening reasonably well and gets a comfortable game that probably favours White slightly. Nevertheless playing 4...g5 is more dynamic than the main lines and gives Black realistic winning chances. A decent practical try if you don't mind taking risks.
However in the game De Haan later unnecessarily sacrificed a pawn, then spurned the opportunity to win it back and later failed to grab the exchange. Moskalenko had no problems winning the ending.
Benko Gambit Declined
In Game Four White was able to successfully employ Ivanisevic's early queen check and later took the advantage with Qa4-c6 thus obtaining a dangerous passed pawn. Benko defenders should have a good look at this line as 5...c3 is so commonplace and is being seriously challenged for the first time in years:
Improving on this game probably means following Ivanisevic-Vuckovic (see the notes) but the adventurous out there may want to investigate 7...Ne4!?.
A key game on one of the top boards from the British Championships is featured in Game Five. Winning this game helped young Stephen Gordon on his way to becoming English champion, and made it difficult for Rowson to retain the title of British Champion. The opening requires confidence on Black's part not to be overwhelmed in the centre and I feel that he should probably seek an alternative move order or even development set-up. However Rowson's position after his novelty 14...Rb8 wasn't that bad although I still prefer White:
Later on, the instructive exchange sacrifice was adequate for a satisfactory game but Rowson really wanted to win and so took undue risks.
In Game 6 I luckily obtained the full point against Jonathan Rowson. During the game I felt that White was somewhat better after the opening but in fact it probably isn't that much. Later White (that is me!) was outplayed and should have lost. However in a mad time scramble I cashed in on a serious blunder and obtained a winning position on the chessboard. See the notes for an explanation to the curious end to this game.
So Korchnoi's 8 Bxc4!? is a valid alternative to 8 e5 but in either case Black's position is robust, so meeting 4 Nf3 with 4...Bb7 seems to be OK.
Leningrad Dutch Defence
There's little doubt in my mind that Game 7 demonstrates in an effective way a system that has a rosy future. Black basically plays a Leningrad but delays or even omits altogether the natural move ...d6. In certain cases Black's bishop can develop to b7, and/or he can play ...d7-d5 in one move. In fact both of these themes occurred in Gajewski's impressive win.
The 'delayed ...d6 Leningrad' has been played a few times over the years but the inventive Mattheus Bartel is perhaps the main man responsible for bringing this poorly known system into the limelight with games against high-ranking players.
In this diagram position after 9...b6 Black has dynamic play and no weakness on e6! There seem to be several advantages to this idea: set new problems for White who can't simply play on auto-pilot, no easy way to exploit Black's move order and most of the time Black can revert back to a 'normal-Leningrad' with ...d6 if he likes. Any comments?
Black plays a more normal Leningrad until move eight in Game 8 when he reacts to White's standard 8 d5 with the relatively rare 8...c5:
Blocking the centre is often a prelude to wing play, and Black was able to take care of the kingside arena very nicely indeed. One of the advantages of 8...c5 is that the theory isn't that well known and White's best plan hasn't yet crystallized.
In Game 9 we see an example of the 7...Nc6 8 d5 Ne5 variation. This has been very much in the shadow of the ...c6 and ...Qe8 systems over the last decade but is a worthwhile alternative especially for those seeking a dynamic game. Nakamura obtains a good position with Black, but then makes a small inaccuracy after which he should probably settle for equality. Instead he prefers to seek complications but he underestimated his opponent's chances.
After 7...Nc6 8 d5 Black prefers 8...Na5 in Game 10, which I consider to be underestimated by modern masters. Indeed after the principle reply 9 Qd3 Black has two good moves:
, as both 9...c5 and 9...e5 seem respectable. There is no sure-fire of obtaining an edge and if Black is careful with his sidelined knight he should be fine, as the Game and notes illustrate. Perhaps after seeing this example it will stimulate some subscribers to give 8...Na5 a go!
Ulibin wins a quick game with Black in the Stonewall in Game 11. This game perhaps reminds us that that this variation doesn't only involve heavy manoeuvring. Black plays both ...e5 and ...f4 (whilst still in the opening!) to embarrass White's pieces and Palac finds it hard to adjust. A warning to those who like to play Nh3 against the Stonewall: Even in seemingly closed positions 'knights on the rim are...'!
Till next time, Glenn Flear