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A Grünfeld-fest this time. There have been some important developments and some high level encounters over the last couple of months, so let's have a look!

Download PGN of February '07 Daring Defences games

Exchange Grünfeld

In Game One Milov's 7 Bg5 is rare:

However David Howell solved Black's opening problems fairly quickly and soon had a material advantage. His downfall was a consequence of allowing White too much leeway to take the initiative when two bishops plus a passed pawn were too strong for rook and knight. He had however several chances to avoid going too passive but probably didn't have enough time to navigate such a complex position.

There are some similarities between that one and Game Two as they both feature queenless middlegames. Here Krasenkov played the dynamic ...f5 break which complicates. As a result of what followed in this game, I believe Dziuba's choice of 14 d5 will be henceforth considered to be dubious. Instead 14 e5 is the only way to play for something. Despite getting in the ...Nxd5 blow, Black's advantage shouldn't have been enough to win against a more sensible defence. This was actually a rapid game and Dziuba was presumably pressed for time as his play was sub-standard towards the end.

Of all White's set-ups in D85 the most fashionable line in recent years has been 8 Rb1, which is often met these days by the relatively solid 9...b6-variation.

We have in Game 3 an example of Black playing positionally and successfully diffusing White's early initiative. In fact Adianto must have overlooked something as his centre just fell to pieces in no time at all. Sasikiran had no problem to convert his pawn advantage. The opening deserves some additional comment as Sasikiran's idea of 14...a6 is both prophylactic (avoiding B-b5) and with a positive purpose (...b5 with options such as ...N-b6-d5 and ...b4):

An idea worth remembering to improve the knight's prospects in such positions.

Now three games from the same variation, in all of which the following position arose:

Game Four was an unmitigated disaster for Svidler. A few years ago it was the high-ranking Russian superGM who almost single-handedly revived 10...Bd7. After a few experiments, over the last year or so with other lines, he's back and with a new twist. The way the opening played out, the variation looks like a hybrid between 10...Bd7 and 10...Qc7 (which he has also played). The opening struggle seemed reasonable for Black (i.e. if instead ...Q-b6 is played without first capturing on d4) and will probably receive further interest in the coming months despite the result of this game. Van Wely's tricky tactics with his rook were obviously seen too late by Svidler, who will try and forget this experience!

In the same variation as above, in Game Five, Carlsen-Navara was a complicated struggle that led to White having compensation for the exchange. Although the young Norwegian was pushing, and even missed a win at one moment, it was Black that eventually broke the deadlock by creating mating threats after advancing his kingside pawns. Opening-wise it's clear that this variation was the main area of discussion in the Grünfeld, but we'll need some further examples before we can reach a definite conclusion about the viability of 10...Bd7 11 Rb1 Qc7!?.

At least it gives Black the option of trying something against the Classical Exchange that isn't well mapped out.

Game Six was played on the same day as Game 4! A coincidence perhaps but Areshchenko has already tempted this variation before (against Kobalia last year) except that this time he introduced the novelty 14...c4 and delayed committing his e-pawn to e5:

After the exchange of dark-squared bishops he then was finally willing to block the centre with ...e5. Although at one point Sokolov missed a win, I suspect that Black's plan is fundamentally sound as the white light-squared bishop doesn't contribute towards an eventual attack.

A big theoretical tussle was resolved in White's favour in Game 7. The first surprise was Topalov willing to play 26 h3 which had up to then been dismissed by myself in my analysis as bad. After the clever 28 Qc3 followed by 29 Ng3 Black clearly had difficulties:

Is this the critical position after 16 Qd4 ?

Shirov decided to bring his knight into play at the cost of his h-pawn with 29...Nb7 but this seems to be inadequate. Instead 29...Re8 may be necessary when I'm not sure if White has anything better than a draw.

A good example of how deeply a 2780 player will prepare his openings!

Grünfeld Russian

Game Eight shows the problem with not remembering the critical variation. Epishin ducks out of a theoretical discussion and then he ends up with nothing for his pawn. To make matters worse he overlooks a killing combination when there was no coming back. It's interesting to see Komljenovic trying the sharp line with 11...Nb6!?:

Maybe he has something up his sleeve to improve on Korotylev-Timofeev, where although Black was just about OK there are still a few questions about the soundness of Black's position.

The Hungarian Variation is again featured in Game Nine, but just as in the game above, White was unable to obtain any pressure out of the opening. In this game Sutovsky cleverly kept winning chances alive and finally got his man. It seems to me that 13 Bf4 is more challenging than 13 Rd1.

The Czech GM Babula obtained an excellent but complicated game with White in the final game. This resulting from an opening variation in which he has already had some experience. As the game went on, time problems and the tension of the occasion led to him gradually letting things slip and he eventually lost the ending. Let's face it it's so much easier to sit at home and find errors in a GM's play when you have your trusty partner Fritz giving you a hand, but he must have been kicking himself after obtaining such a great position! It's possible that his 13 a4! could be the best way for White to handle this variation forcing Black to make a decision about his queenside structure, see Game 10.

Till next time, Glenn Flear

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