The Dutch Defence
Three games all featuring different Anti-Dutch schemes.
In Game One L'Ami tests Nijboer with a slightly off-beat anti-Dutch featuring an early 0-0-0. Black players haven't handled this well in the past but Nijboer's ...Rb8 followed by ...b5 worked like a dream. With White's king proving so insecure, I bet that there will be less enthusiasm for the quick long-castling idea in future!
Ernst's logical play earned him a pleasant opening in Game Two.
Here the prudent 16...h6 would have been perfectly adequate, but I'm not so keen on his choice of an attempted pawn sacrifice (when it was still on e5). Gagunashvili eventually captured the e-pawn but then Black had fair practical chances in a complex game, where first White and then Black sought the full point. To summarize the opening phase: Meeting Qb3 with a quick ...e5 looks reasonable for Black.
In Game Three Cheparinov played an early b2-b4 against the Leningrad and had the advantage throughout 90-odd moves before winning the game and the tournament. If we look closer at the early stage then 16...Qd6 seems to be the cause of Black's woes. Instead the straightforward 16...Nd7 equalizes, which suggests that 3H's (Hermanio Herraiz Hidalgo) opening play was adequate.
I don't feature this off-beat opening very often but when a game features a string of sacrifices between 2400+ players then it's worth a closer look.
The little-known diagram position from Game 4 after 6 Ng5! looks dangerous for Black.
Later, White's queen sacrifice could have been better defended by Black but it wasn't necessary as 13 Qf4 leads to an advantage. If I'm right then St.George advocates would do well to play 4...e6 with ...Nf6 to follow later.
Anti-Grünfeld with 3 f3
It's hard enough to analyze the complications of Game five so playing such a game must have been mind-bending! I'm pretty sure that 12 g4 is too risky as with his poor development White's king also gets into trouble. The final position is almost certainly better for Black but along the way many of the moves are controversial, but the only real error in my opinion was Chatelbashev's 22 Rh7?. For the opening phase, delaying g2-g4 (like Dreev) or omitting it (like Kramnik) are more likely to give White a pull.
Over the years Vaganian has been a great proponent of g2-g3 against many openings including the Grünfeld. Here in Game Six he varies with the slightly unusual 12 exd5:
I don't like this move as White's pieces then seem to be less well-placed than Black's and the alternative 12 Nfxd5 has been shown to keep some pressure. Sutovsky grasped the advantage with some tactics that led to him obtaining a favourable middlegame (and then ending) with the advantage of two pieces for rook and pawn.
Keep an eye out for the following position from Game Seven:
I've not featured this exchange sacrifice before but it has been played by some high-ranking GMs. Here Nakamura confuses Kudrin in the opening and soon obtains the better chances. However after letting things slip his youthful enthusiasm took over and he took crazy risks to try and win and should definitely have lost. As for the theory: it's still not clear what is Black's best way of handling the position. Indeed even taking the booty and running with 10...Bxc3 followed by 11...0-0 comes into consideration.
Avrukh-Sutovsky in Game Eight turned out to be a very theoretical duel. I've gone into some detail in the notes to put the record straight
ECO is a useful reference tool but can't always be relied on. They give 14 h5 as leading to a White advantage, I can't agree and believe Black to be equal. Their line after 14 Ng5 they judge as yielding 'compensation' when a closer look at the old game Chernin-Stohl leads me to the conclusion that White was much better!
This game (Avrukh-Sutovsky) and a few other recent games have crystallized the critical line as going 14 Ng5 Bxe2 15 Kxe2 e6 16 h5 Nc4!. White won Game 8, a fascinating fight where I haven't found any serious improvements for Black. So at this point in time I would be wary of trying 10...Bxc3+.
Early b4 system
In Game Nine Black reacts actively with a quick ...c5 against White's early b2-b4 system. The complications in the opening seemed fine for Black after his novelty 9...Ne4, especially as he soon won the exchange for a pawn and things seemed to be going smoothly. Black erred in the simplified ending which cost him his winning chances, but White wasn't happy with a draw and went for gold. This was OK up to a point but he eventually over-pressed and lost.
Suddenly after a period in the doldrums the Blumenfeld is back in the news again (and see the new ChessBase-style eBook!)
The modest 6...d6 relies on the resource 7 e4 a6 8 a4 Be7 9 Nbd2 Nxd5! to get Black a good game. To avoid this White has 9 Bxf6 (instead of 9 axb5) 9...Bxf6 10 axb5. This, the key line in my opinion, is hardly new (it was first played in Vaganian-Grigorian from 1971), but has only come back into the public eye because of the efforts of Ghaem Maghami and Volokitin. Jobava tried this against Ghaem Maghami but he didn't follow Vaganian for too long. I'm not sure why but it suggests that there are a few secrets here that you'll have to try and uncover yourselves!
Kozul likes to go his own way in the opening and tried the more cautious 7 e3 which brings us to our featured Game ten. The draw was hardly a peaceful affair with the endgame being particularly sharp. I felt that White may have missed a win on move 40 (with the FIDE time limit becoming more widespread, one no longer knows if this was the last move before the time control, if not, then the players are usually in permanent time trouble by then anyway!) but as for the opening: Black was OK although White may have retained the smallest of pulls.
Till next time,