E-mail bag - Anti-Grünfeld
I have to thank Franck Steenbekkers for bringing my attention to Stellwagen - De Jong in the 3 f3 anti-Grünfeld. White introduced an interesting novelty with 12 g4:
My feeling is that this is probably an improvement on 12 Rxh5. The game itself soon ended with Black blundering, but even in such a short game, there exist several reasonable-looking options for Black that could (in my opinion) have given him a playable game. So 12 g4 is good, but not that good!
Julian Chan asks about the move order chosen by White in these games. In fact in Bauer-Sikola, Nancy 2008 (see the March 2008 update) White employed the same move order, but there I didn't particularly discuss Black's alternatives as play led to a fairly normal-looking position where play was largely on the flanks.
Essentially White can indeed get a Stonewall with Nh3 (but has committed himself to Nc3), but if you study the notes to Lastin - Ulibin (17...e5!) and Vaisser - Dolmatov (9...h6!?) I feel that, if he had followed-up correctly, Black would have had a decent position in both cases.
There doesn't seem to be any one magic formula, just as in other Stonewall lines, Black does best to react according to White's piece disposition.
Turov wins with a direct attack on Black's king in Game 4, so this game isn't a great advertisement for Black's opening. My own feeling is that 5 Kf1 is quite a useful move and the inevitable loss of time that Black suffers with his dark-squared bishop is more significant than White's lack of castling:
So if you are a fan of 4...Bb4+, you'll need to investigate a way to both develop and then hit back at the centre that is more convincing than Totsky's.
Otherwise there are always 4...Nc6 and 4...f5, the latter of which is the most risky, but heaps of fun.
In Game Five Antoinette Stefanova is successful with 4 Qc2 against the Benko. Another one of these practical anti-Benko lines:
White wants to get in e2-e4 and then calmly deploy. As you'll see in the notes this approach shouldn't be underestimated as White has some space and perhaps the c4-square that enable 'him' decent chances of keeping a pull.
Games 6-8 feature the Dutch, but three different variations. In Game 6 Meijers experiments in the Leningrad with ...c6 followed by ...Ne4, even before touching the d-pawn:
A dynamic idea, but it doesn't work out well in the game. However although I consider these positions more difficult to play with Black (too many options with the pawn structure!) they aren't fundamentally bad.
Black is more successful in Game 7 where the Stonewall is handled in a way that shows that it can be topped with barbed wire for those who try to climb over it! A good example that natural moves from White can get him into trouble early. So the moral is that the advance f2-f3 needs to be supported by well-placed minor pieces otherwise there can be a price to pay along the a7-g1 diagonal.
Finally, in Game 8 Black's early ...Bb4+ and ...Bxd2+ can't really be recommended. This game illustrates first of all that giving up the bishop pair without gaining any compensating concessions is a risky strategy. However, it also shows that the point where one player aims to cash in on his previously fine strategy sometimes leads to him losing the thread. Black was able to find some precise moves that enabled him to draw the rook ending.
Four games in the Grünfeld, the first of which featuring a rare loss for Kamsky.
In Game 9 his loss was actually attributable to a blunder just before move 40, so Cheparinov was lucky to win as White should actually have lost this game. The opening phase is theoretically important as the young Bulgarian follows the critical line against 10...Na5 and ...b6 with 13 Bh6:
On the evidence of this game, it seems that White's sacrifice can be diffused. Kamsky negated White's initiative rather well (note he was willing to play with ...f6 unlike Carlsen last month), but probably spent too much time on the clock doing so! So if the position in the diagram is 'nothing special' for White, what should he do against ...Na5? We'll have to see how the story unfolds in later updates!
In Game 10 a theoretical dog-fight in the 10...Bd7 system between two high-ranking practitioners plays out in Black's favour. The innovation was 13...b6 which enabled Vachier-Lagrave to obtain a decent position and stay comfortably on level terms until White erred later on.
So the ...Bd7 system seems to be going through another lease of life!
In Game 11 Black also plays with ...Bd7, but first throws in 10...Bg4 11 f3, a rather under-rated idea. Naturally it's important to compare the two variations, especially as transpositions are possible, but in this game Mikhalevski manages to get away with this approach.
It's a moot point whether it really helps Black to induce f2-f3, but he may limit White's options if the a7-g1 diagonal has been made potentially more vulnerable.
A good fighting game was most notable mainly for Black's remarkable king-walk, but this wasn't that clear and certainly not his best way to win.
Game 12 features Vachier-Lagrave playing a pawn sacrifice that I always thought (previously, now I'm not sure!) to be unsound, 7...Be6:
Black gives away the c-pawn, and even the b-pawn as well, but then has a lead in development. I'm still not sure how good this idea is objectively, but it certainly could confuse the unwary.
In the actual game Berkes gave back the material for a pull, but 9...Nxd4 may be worth investigating in order to try to improve Black's chances.
What should we call this line: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 a6!? 4 Nc3 c5 5 d5 b5 I wonder? Any suggestions?
An early ...a6 in a number of opening systems is often associated with flexibility and the possibility of creating early tension with ...b5. As a number of US players have regularly played this line I suggest the above name, but am not sure everyone will agree.
In Game 13 Fressinet is faced with Gurevich's interpretation and the game pans out in a pleasant fighting draw. Was White really better in this game? I'm not that sure it amounts to anything much as the middlegames that arise from this system are hard to judge.
So not a bad way for Black of getting a Blumenfeld-type position.
Till next month, Glenn Flear