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This month I shall be having a look at some of those lines that crop up occasionally but are not exactly main lines.

Download PGN of December '07 Daring Defences games

English Defence

In Game One Black plays an interesting positional move that is worth a diagram:

Black gains space and influence without seriously compromising his position. I can't see anything dramatic for White, can you?

Erdos, playing White, couldn't find anything better than chasing after a queenside pawn after which Mateuta obtained active counterplay which led to a fairly quick Black win. One of the best English Defence wins that I've seen for a while.

Budapest Gambit

Although Game Two and the notes illustrate the potential of the controversial move 4...g5 in the Budapest, the game itself contains two significant errors.

Firstly Black failed to concentrate on the activity of his pieces after the opening, and slipped into a difficult position due to his inferior structure. Finally White got rather carried away snatching pawns and failed to see the danger and thus blundered away the fruit of his earlier efforts.

Benko Gambit

In a non-theoretical Benko Declined (that arose from an unusual move order) in Game 3, Black was able to limit White's opening pull to a nominal space advantage. Restraining the e4-e5 advance being the main task for the second player early on.

Later Sasikiran optimistically allowed (overlooked? underestimated? misanalyzed?) a combination where Black wins a pawn on the queenside but in the process must trade his dark-squared bishop for a knight.

Zvjagintsev, it seems, then had several opportunities to favourably open the central arena, when I doubt that White had enough compensating play. However he preferred to advance his c-pawn whilst trying to block the kingside, but this plan failed and Black even lost.

So this game is not so interesting for theory but is worth a serious look as it brings into focus the sort of practical decisions that the Benko player will have to face at some time during his chess playing career.

Victor Mikhalevski will look back on Game Four as a major tragedy. Nakamura's attempt to complicate the struggle backfired and Mikhalevki totally outplayed the American to obtain a winning endgame. However the presence of an advanced passed pawn confused White and with his remaining seconds ticking away... he blew it!

From the point of view of Benko players the way that Nakamura handled the late-opening/early-middlegame phase is worth noting as he obtained a comfortable game. So allowing the a4-a5 advance and then spending time to bring the knight to d4 seems to be OK:

Game Five features an interesting struggle in one of the main lines of the Benko Accepted. Black won but I think White had several ways to improve his chances of holding the game.

As for the relatively theoretical opening. Practise (see the notes) suggests that Black can more or less hold his own in these positions. White holding onto the pawn in many lines, even into the ending, but frustratingly for him can't do much with it.

Black's moves are so natural and the position seems easy to handle. So it probably requires someone very well prepared playing White, perhaps with a new idea up his sleeve, to really test Black's resources.

Stonewall Dutch

In Game 6 Aleksandrov didn't obtain any advantage out of the opening, but his choice of plan wasn't very dangerous. Although a2-a4 with the idea of exchanging bishops is respectable he should probably follow up with a manouevre to redeploy his sidelined knight on a3 to the influential d3-square.

Later on his efforts to try and squeeze something out of nothing rebounded and he was rather fortunate to draw. Time trouble can perhaps explain some of the errors in the latter half of the game.

The exciting complications in Game 7 were very wild and both players had winning chances. The creative ideas on display show how rich the Stonewall can be when both participants are in a sporting mood. Again from a theoretical point of view the opening looks fine for Black.

The opening idea in Game 8, Andreikin-Grigoryan, is new to me. The idea of playing 6 Bf4!? is to stop (or at least put Black off) placing his bishop on d6, which is generally accepted as the most dynamic square:

Despite the surprise value of this move, Black was able to find a satisfactory way to handle his position and obtain an equal game. In the middlegame Andreikin achieved a breakthrough by temporarily sacrificing a rook to complicate the position. Black missed a hidden resource to escape and went down in an ending where White had three pawns for the exchange.

Blumenfeld Counter Gambit

Two games played in the World Championships in Khany Mansyisk between Ivanchuk and Nisipeanu involved the Blumenfeld Declined. A sign that this opening is considered to be respectable even amongst the world's elite!

In (the rapid tie-break) Game 9 Nisipeanu plays a novelty as early as move 5!

This idea is known from some lines of the Benko Declined where Black gains space with his b-pawn whilst denying the queen's knight it's most natural square on c3. The late opening/early middlegame held many possibilities for both players but Black seemed to be OK until he was wrongly attracted to kingside activity. Exchanging off the dark-squared bishops proved to be wrong as this led to him losing the c-pawn.

The 'classical chess' encounter in Game 10 resulted in a draw. White had a pull throughout and even won a pawn but Nisipeanu's stubborn defence earned him half-a-point. It's no surprise, however, that he didn't want to repeat the opening which didn't quite equalize for Black.

Will these high-profile games induce further interest in this opening? Watch this space in the new year.


Which reminds me, seasonal greetings to all! Glenn Flear

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