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Not quite an Olympiad special ('only' 9 out of 10) but definitely a month for high-ranking Grünfeld encounters.

Download PGN of January '09 Daring Defences games

Early Bg5

In Game one Harikrishna employed the now well-known c-pawn gambit but then unusually ignored the b-file, instead just getting on with development before fighting back in the centre. The resulting middlegame was quite murky but I'm happy to conclude that Black was OK until he fell for an amazing trick where White won the key e-pawn with a devastating combination.

In Game 10 Greek GM Papaioannou won an impressive positional game with the topical Qa4+ followed by Qxc4. White avoids the slings and arrows of the gambit and just hopes to keep a slight pull due to his solid centre. It's worth noting that since Wang Yue was successful against Svidler a few months back with this theme, there have been developments and on most occasions Black has been holding his own. Here however Black never quite equalized and was punished for trying to break out as both ...a5 and ...e5 turned out to be weakening.


Socko and Naiditsch played out a fascinating draw in Game 2. This opening variation, where Black sacrifices the exchange, leads to murky play where White's king comes under some pressure after both critical moves 14 Bxe5 and 14 Bg5, but he stays ahead on material. In fact it's not even clear which of these moves offers White the best chance of retaining an advantage as there remain question marks over Koneru-Predojevic (see the notes) and later on in the present game with 19 Qxb7. All-in-all a fun line where Black's practical chances shouldn't be underestimated, indeed Naiditsch must have been kicking himself over the win he missed.

Exchange Variation

Many players have been playing with an early Be3 recently, but Radjabov handles it in a half-forgotten manner in Game 3. Kamsky has a tendency to play the Grünfeld with a restrained style, and this was no exception, but it proved to be rather passive here. Radjabov was duly provoked into advancing and then sacrificing pawns to put pressure on Black's king but, although it worked in the actual game, Black had several ways to improve and defend himself.

Black's best way of handling this line could be with an early ...f5, see Sadler-Svidler in the notes.

In games 4 and 5 White tried a dangerous gambit with 11 d5:

White hands the c-pawn on a plate but while Black eats, and then tries to digest, White has time to take a lead in development. Furthermore the central majority (d5 and e4 against e7) form a wedge to restrict Black's forces giving him interesting compensation, but is it objectively enough?

In Game 4, Nakamura-Mamedyarov Black defended really well and went on to win.

However a week or so later Onischuk introduced an improvement that proved to be more challenging for Black. In Game Five Eljanov was unable to cope with the problems over the board, but there are alternatives for Black that seem reasonable, so have a good look at my notes!

I actually received an e-mail asking for my impressions on the game: Well, White played well but I suspect that Eljanov will be better prepared next time. If all else fails, then the plan with ...Qc8 and ...Ba6 doesn't look too bad.

In Game 6 White probably surprised his opponent with 13 Rc1!?:

but Morozevich seemed to cope fairly well with any new problems arising. Later on it was even Black trying to win but Onischuk managed to keep his nerve and save the day.

Kamsky produces a model game for Black in Game 7. Blockading and consolidating in the centre and thus calming White's ambitions on the kingside. Then when he was good and ready he broke free with ...b5 and soon took over. So his victory wasn't just because White suddenly had a first rank problem it was because he was completely outplayed.

In Game Eight Topalov included a manoeuvre involving N-f4 keeping a firm grip on the centre. It's noteworthy that Cheparinov did something very similar in Game 9, indeed in both games the move was played on move 16! Can we call this the 'Bulgarian Bind'? The knight on this square certainly gives Black something to think about as d5 and e6 are controlled by the steed, and as a result the black players didn't find an easy solution to releasing the central pressure in either Games 8 and 9.

However the most striking move in Game 8 was the following highly original positional sacrifice...

White played 19 Rb5! the sort of exchange sacrifice that many of us wouldn't have considered. In fact it was the black rook that proved to be awkwardly placed on a6 and Svidler soon took the offer but White picked up pawns and more than enough compensation in the moves that followed.

Cheparinov against Kazhgaleyev was a fine tussle in Game 9. I wasn't sure about the need to play h2-h4, but I particularly liked 32 Nd3 showing that White was in fact better despite Black's solid looking defensive set-up. Maybe the Bulgarian Bind has a rosy future?


Till next month, Glenn Flear

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