We start this time with 2 Bg5 against the Dutch. In Game One the interesting 2...c6 followed by ...Qb6 was tried:
Black was not seriously tested by 4 b3 but the question is always what happens after 4 Nd2 sacrificing the b-pawn, see the notes. Later on White had enough compensation for the exchange and in the latter stages perhaps chances to win.
In Game Two Kazhgaleyev tries an unusual anti-Leningrad system, but fails to create any serious problems for Black. Nijboer sacrifices a pawn and obtains the better game. The final position is controversial, the players agreeing a draw when there is still plenty of play. Black could indeed force a draw, but may have a chance to play for more in some double-edged complications.
In Game 3 Nikolic goes wrong in the opening and finds himself in a passive situation. The attempt to fee himself rebounded and he was soon in a desperate position. However to his credit he put up great resistance and gave Kiril Georgiev a tough job in converting the advantage. In the notes I have recommended a more active approach for Black to avoid being squeezed for space.
Farago and Prohaszka are involved in a sharp struggle in Game Four. The fight to seize the initiative and therefore be the first to attack is the main theme, with White winning the battle. There are alternatives for Black, but the lesson that perhaps needs to be understood is that if Black is going to castle long and give up his light-squared bishop he will inevitably have problems along the long light-squared diagonal:
Rapid development may solve this problem in certain cases but here Farago was willing to give up pawns to slow down Black's deployment. In fact Black never even got round to getting his king's bishop out.
The Grünfeld Defence
In Game Five the fashionable and messy gambit line with 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4 gets another outing, here is the diagram position after 12 0-0:
Vovk varies with 12...e5 but Arutinian just aims for a small but persistant edge which continued until the end of the game. Instead Svidler's 12...Nb6 may be more solid and certainly more double-edged.
Our Game 6 comes from the World Senior championships. Tseitlin's opening 'gambit' with 7...Ne4 has been played a few times by enterprising players including Mamedyarov (on one occasion), but that doesn't mean it's recommendable:
After White erred in trying to either exchange (with an extra pawn) or trap the opposing queen (it didn't quite work) Black was at least equal and even obtained a clear advantage later on. Tiredness or time trouble meant that he spoilt his position and ended up defending a pawn down rook ending, which he did successfully, but if White's 81st move was actually played in the game then Black might even have missed a win at the death.
The theoretical 8 Rb1 in Game 7 leads to an exciting game more often than not. Here after the initial flourish a fairly balanced late-middlegame occurred where White has an exchange advantage but Black has compensation in the form of a pawn, two connected passed pawns and a fine bishop. Gelfand had ideas of pressing for a win with White but in fact Shirov playing Black came up with some fantastic tactical ideas to win (see the diagram for a taste). Theoretically I believe that the position is objectively OK for Black and therefore 15...b6 is playable.
This is the position after 41 Rf5?!. Black plays and wins.
Yandemirov demonstrates some of his offbeat ideas in Games 8 and 9 against the traditional Exchange variation. He is successful in Game 8 where a complicated middlegame turns in his favour due his cheeky capture of the d-pawn. In Game 9 however one of his favourite systems is made to look dubious by a well-prepared Ulko:
This is the diagram after 12...f5. White innovates with a simple but strong move 13 exf5!.
Does this mean that Yandemirov will give up his pet-idea (...Nc6-a5, ...Be6 and ...c6 with f2-f4 being met by ...f7-f5)? His light-squared strategy may be just too slow which helps explain why central counterplay with ...c5 is so popular.
In the Exchange Sacrifice variation with 16 Bh6 Shirov has again been defending the black side. This time he was more successful against Aronian in Game 10 than he was last Janauary against Topalov. In fact recent experiences have shown Black at least holding his own, although even at the end Aronian could have brought his knight into Shirov's camp with chances to keep up the pressure. So the last word hasn't been said just yet!
The final game (11!) features a theoretical line in the Russian variation, Hungarian System, which has certainly cropped up in this column a few times over the years. Svidler seems to hold the Black position with ease, which is good news for Gruenfelders who have seen 13 Bf4 scoring heavily for White in fairly recent encounters.
Till next time, Glenn Flear