Daring Defence Delights for December
GM Glenn Flear
We start with another success story for the English Defence in Game One. Kraai's novelty on move 6 seems to give Black a good game, and he crowned this with excellent endgame technique.
However Game Two represents further bad news for the Benko, an opening that's really under the cosh due to 10 Rb1:
Barsov introduces a convincing new move and then orchestrates a crushing attack.
The Dutch also has a bad month scoring ½/4 but only one of the four games can be blamed on the opening.
The topical 7...Qe8 variation of the Leningrad Dutch comes under the microscope in two games, with a couple of successful new ideas by White.
In Game 3 Atalik's nuance in the opening doesn't look that dramatic until the following position was reached:
White unleashed the remarkable 20 Bxe5!! which in my annotations I claim to be sound and advantageous. I don't know what Stefan Kindermann will have ready for next time, but he'll have to review this line which was previously considered as solid for Black.
Bacrot's interest in 8 Nd5 against 7...Qe8 in Game 4 is interesting, but from a theoretical point of view, not convincing.
Although he improved on a game that I recently mentioned in this column, I still consider Black's chances to be acceptable. Indeed as Black, Christian Bauer played quite ambitiously with his exchange sacrifice, but was later outplayed (presumably in time trouble).
In Game 5 Malaniuk tries his chances with 7...c6, a rather unfashionable, but robust alternative to the more popular 7...Qe8. He equalizes easily but becomes frustrated by White's dour defensive tactics and eventually ends up in a bad endgame because of his own will to win. We've all done this against players 100-200 rating points less, haven't we? The opening, however, was impeccable from Black's point of view.
The less common Iljhin-Zhenevsky is met with 7 b3 in Pelletier - Bricard, but the game and notes indicate that Black has adequate resources with 7...Ne4, as employed by the Frenchman:
In the Grünfeld, Svidler surprises Radjabov with his choice in the opening in Game 7. The young Azerbaijani doesn't bother with any subtleties - he just goes all out for a direct attack, but overplays his hand. At the end, Svidler took an attractive draw but I suspect that he had better a few moves earlier.
Game 8 can arise from a D90 move-order or, as in the game, via an anti-Grünfeld. The theory before this game has deemed this line respectable for Black, and our featured game won't change matters. Pelletier varies but rapidly regrets his decision as Black is too active and White's king too exposed.
We finish with a couple of encounters in the Russian System, Hungarian Variation with 8 e5:
Although the popularity of this line has waned rather it's still critical and worth a closer look. After the further 8...b5 9 Qb3 Nfd7:
How should White continue, and is it dangerous for Black? See Games 9 and 10 to find out!
Of White's 10th moves, both the well established moves 10 Be3 and 10 h4 are faring poorly these days, although the latter is rather unclear (see the notes to Game 9). Game 9 features the novelty 10 a4, which works well here and indeed holds up to a preliminary analysis. I suspect that 10...c5 deserves a closer look, as Wittman's 10...bxa4 led to the knight on c5 becoming a pain for the Austrian.
The disruptive 10 e6 seems to have been largely shorn of it's terror. Following 10...fxe6 11 Be3, Black can choose between 11...Nb6, (with complications), and 11...Nf6, (going for safety first). In Game 10 Ruck chooses the latter and nevertheless obtains a winning position as Kozul's experimentation quickly turned sour on him.