Daring Defences for February 2004
Three openings covered this time: The Budapest, Benko and Dutch.
GM Glenn Flear
It's interesting to note that both the Budapest and the Benko are being employed by some useful players at the moment. The recent crisis in the Benko (due to 10 Rb1 in the Fianchetto variation) hasn't put everyone off and a generally bad press for the Budapest doesn't impress everyone it seems. Gutman has been writing a book on the 3...Ne4 variation of the Budapest:
Not many people take Fajorowicz's Variation seriously but Gutman is able to win with it. So I expect others to take a closer look at this maverick option in the coming months.
The Leningrad Dutch is hardly under a cloud but can be tricky to handle as a slight imprecision leads to weaknesses, as distinguished players such as Sadler and Kindermann recently found out.
Two games out of my selection can be described as epics: Sokolov-Van Wely and Nikolic-Schmittdeal are just fantastic struggles. Don't be lazy, play through them in their entirety, they're great fun!
Taking a closer look at the three games in the Budapest.
In Game One White didn't play the opening very ambitiously and Black obtained easy equality. A sign that the Fajorowicz wasn't well-known by the player of the white pieces!
This gave Black a psychological edge and he continued to push throughout and at various moments took risks to play for the win. Gutman earned his win with some nice touches.
Rowson's early play wasn't good enough to get anything as White in Game Two. The opening highlights Black's interesting handling of his f-pawn. The Scottish GM later outplayed his opponent to obtain the better endgame but it wasn't enough to get the full point.
In Game Three Black played the gambit in romantic style, but against top level defence the idea of 8...Qa3 followed by 9...d6:
was found to be lacking. It seems to be better to stick to 8...f6.
Ivan Sokolov has played 4 Nf3 against the Benko in a couple of recent encounters:
In Game 4, the Benko Declined is met by 4...b4. Ivan Sokolov then reacts in a crucial way for the evaluation of the variation, but one's impression is that Van Wely achieved equality around move 20. The latter phase is curious, Van Wely launches his b-pawn and wins material only to find himself in trouble on the dark-squares. A good example of the dangers of giving up one's fianchettoed bishop!
Game 5 represents a good model of how to punish the slow 4...d6. If Black is going to play ...g6 etc. then he should do that immediately only deciding between ...d6 or an immediate ...e6 later, once he has his king tucked away.
In Game Six, Jonathan Rowson, who recently shone in the Hastings Premier, was completely outplayed as White in the Benko. Furthermore he employed 10 Rb1, but in the game and notes 11...Ne8 apparently holds up well:
Could it be that after all the problems that Black has suffered in this line the straightforward ...Ne8-c7 holds the key to a Black revival?
Gyimesi has been successful with the anti-Benko set-up seen in Game Seven. Black can either wait until White catches up in development or go for ...e6 quickly. The game and notes seem to render the latter plan as suspicious although this is what ...Ra6 and ...Qa8 are all about. So where does this leave Black? There are various alternatives at move 12 (see the e-book) or some dinky manoeuvring with ...Ne8-c7, but I can't recommend 14 or 15...e6.
Sadler is not as active as in the old days and perhaps his judgement is starting to suffer. His optimistic 15...Nc5:
in Game Eight led the loss of his a-pawn and in the time scramble he blundered his other rook's pawn! A shame as the Englishman had fought himself back into the game and had practical swindling chances.
As to the opening. White's cautious plan doesn't require Black to over-react. I suggest 15...Qf7 with ideas of ...Rf(or b)c8 and perhaps ...h6 and ...g5 to keep White on his toes.
Game Nine also features a popular White choice against 7...Qe8. Again Black went astray due to over-enthusiasm to get things moving, but his opening wasn't bad before he tried to mix things.
Another loss for Kindermann in this opening, which goes to show that even the best practitioners don't find the Leningrad such an easy system to handle. Black can generally obtain a good theoretical position with 7...Qe8, but knowing when to try and seize the initiative is tough and where both Sadler and Kindermann erred.
In Game 10 Schmittdiel's recent experiences in the Stonewall were instructive. In the main game against Nikolic he had a good opening and was better for most of the 70-odd action-packed moves. Against Anand (see the notes) he held his own until an error on move 33 but in both cases the opening held up well.
Next time I'll give serious attention to the Grünfeld.