This month we shall investigate three games all involving ...c6 and ...e5, a thematic way of handling the Leningrad.
In Game One Mikhail 'Mr.Leningrad' Gurevich is able to obtain a comfortable game against Kaidanov. Black's solid system should be called provocative rather than dynamic as Black usually has to wait for White 'to do something' before getting a shot at counterplay. Kaidanov is duly provoked and soon falls for a tactical shot that nets Black the exchange. It wasn't easy to convert, but one feels that Gurevich could have made more of his winning chances.
In my opinion, the line with 8 Qb3 gives a more dynamic struggle than 8 d5 e5 9 dxe6 type positions:
Game Two is a good example but the complex struggle soon panned out in White's favour.
In Game 3 Reinderman found an opportune moment to play ...d5 and created a lively position. In itself this wasn't enough to gain the advantage but White's tactical combination 18 Nxb5 just didn't work. Black then kept control and was able to convert his material advantage, he took his time and didn't give White any swindling opportunities.
The Grünfeld continues to be popular at all levels as it combines soundness and opportunities for counterplay. Here we will review developments from the last few weeks of 2007.
In Game Four we see yet another encounter in the 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4 variation:
Although there has been an explosion in the popularity of this line, there are still ample opportunities for introducing original ideas. In Akobian-Roiz White varies on move 11, perhaps because Black has been holding his own after 8 Rb1 Nd7!.
Here again Black was able to complete development with a good game and was arguably even better. The latter stages of this encounter, in the quasi-ending where both players have Rook, Knight and five pawns is interesting.
I have featured the Exchange Variation with 5 Bd2 a number of times in this column, especially with the further moves 5...Bg7 6 e4 Nb6, but I can't remember looking at 6...Nxc3 7 Bxc3 before:
In Game Five Black's plan (featuring central action based on ...Qd6 and ...Rd8) is playable up to a point, but in the game he gets it wrong and all hell breaks loose. Later on White's attacking play ultimately earns him the whole point, but the game is flawed due to mutual blunders near the end.
Emil Sutovsky repeats ...Na5 and ...b6 in Game 6 with which he lost against Harikrishna a few months ago. In that game my annotations demonstrated that Black had an improvement or two and so it seemed OK for the second player. This time White kept the advantage throughout and I am unable to find anything particularly positive for Black. So bravo to Zhou Jianchao for his preparation who correctly judged that Black's compensating activity would fizzle out. Black now needs something really fundamental to make the whole line with 13...e5 fully playable.
Avrukh is a well-known specialist in the Grünfeld with both colours. So his choice of 10...Bg4 followed by 11...Bd7 in Game 7 certainly raises my eyebrows!
Inviting White to have the extra move f2-f3 is unusual and not generally highly rated, but could be in for closer scrutiny in future. White can of course continue with f3-f4 (see my notes to move 14) which would transpose to positions that normally arise from the immediate 10...Bd7, but is this what Avrukh was waiting for?
Black won the actual game due largely to a big trap, but he was also theoretically successful as White was unable to prove any advantage out of the opening.
Games 8 and 9 feature the Exchange Sacrifice Variation. Despite a cooling off in the popularity of this highly theoretical approach, Black players have to be on their guard about only half remembering their theory. Game 8 is a good example as Akesson puts up little resistance.
In Game 9 Nyback comes up with a strong improvement for White and wins quickly. So as a result of this important novelty I suggest that Black players should play the sounder 17...fxe5 rather than 17...e6:
Games 10 and 11 feature 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bf4:
In Game 10 L'Ami tried to go his own way in the opening by combining several Grünfeld motifs at once. However the sad result was that he just gave up the centre and was unable to earn any real counterplay. Fridman's play is instructive: holding the centre and making the space advantage count.
Game 11 was a more mainstream way of meeting 4 Nf3 followed by 5 Bf4. Although the jostling for position in the early middlegame is interesting, particularly as this column is biased towards the consequences of opening play, the whole game is worth a good look. White in particular handled the technical phase well and somewhat surprisingly eked out a win despite all the pawns only being on one side.
Finally, Game 12 is notable for Grünfeld players due to Kamsky successfully adding some originality to the opening phase, see 11...Qc8:
Historically, of course, this game was part of him winning the 'World Championship' without losing a single game.
The advantage of ...Bg4 combined with ...Nfd7 (a form of Smyslov's variation) is that the resulting positions are tense without the need to learn as much theory as in the Hungarian (7...a6) or the Prins (7...Na6).
Till next month, Glenn Flear