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Grünmania time again as there has been so much happening in this opening.

Download PGN of July '08 Daring Defences games

4 Bg5

In Game 1 Miton won with a spectacular combination. From the theoretical point of view, it looks as if Black has found the way to handle White's solid queen manoeuvre (Qa4+ followed by retaking the pawn with Qxc4).

Recent games suggest that 9...c5! (see diagram) is a better option for Black than 9...Nc6 (see the May 2008 update for Wang Yue-Svidler where White came out on top).

4 Bf4

In Game Two Black successfully introduced a novelty and obtained good compensation. In fact Kurnosov was better and Lysyj playing White only saved himself by sacrificing a rook for perpetual check. This sharp line offers Black good practical chances for the exchange as White's king stays in the centre and Black's minor pieces tend to be very active.

Diagram after 15 Nxa8. Black played 15...b6 rather than the previously played 15...Bd7 (on which the last word hasn't been said!).

Offbeat Exchange variations (Games 3-4 & 9)

Shirov played the solid 5 Bd2 system with the trendy follow-up 8 Bb5 in Game 3. Ivanchuk's manner of handling Black was quite impressive and he was even slightly better in the early middlegame. Just when one assumed that a long-drawn-out battle was in prospect he seized the opportunity for a decisive combination to finish off his opponent in fine style.

Topalov instead opted for an old-fashioned development in Game 9, something that was popularized and virtually forgotten (Exchange variation with Bd2 and Nf3) before Cheparinov was born! A cunning ploy followed up by incisive positional play that completely bamboozled Topalov's young compatriot. Black should play with ...Nc6 rather than N(b8)-d7 as he then is able to obtain freer play. In the game White was able to play e3-e4 and gain a pleasant edge that he held onto and increased as the game progressed.

In Game 4 Gyimesi tried 7 Bg5, another move that I had already looked at in May. The opening was quite tense when Black retreated his bishop to the precarious-looking square f5 instead of capturing on f3. Rade's provocative play was then justified as White took the bait, the complications panning out in Black's favour. Black should no doubt have won but missed an easier win in the middlegame and lacked the necessary endgame technique to earn the full point.

Exchange Variation with 7 Bc4 (Games 5-8)

In the traditional Exchange variation with Bc4 and Ne2 White has managed to find some testing ideas.

In Game Five however we notice that Van Wely hasn't been doing that well with 12 Rc1 followed by capturing the offered pawn after 12...e5 13 dxc5. In fact nobody else has either(!) and its starting to look as if 12...e5 is putting the rook move out of business:

Shirov gradually took over as White's pieces lacked dynamism with or without the extra pawn.

More promising for the first player is ignoring the pawn after 12 Qd2 e5 13 Bh6 with some tricky play against Black's king. Carlsen weathered the storm in Game 6 but even at the end the impression remains that Black hadn't quite equalized. This looks like a better area for future research and I expect further games involving 2700-players in this line soon.

In Game 7 Liang Chong soon made a mess of Ni Hua's kingside. It may well be that the plan of ...Na5, ...b5 ...Qb7-b6 is just too slow. It's basically long-winded and not that threatening, so instead Black should be more vigilant in the centre.

Peralta and Valerga had a mini-match in the more critical lines following 10...Bd7 in Game 8. The diagram is after 14 Bd3:

Valerga lost both these games, one with 14...c4 and the other with 14...e5. Perhaps I have been too complimentary of Black's chances in this line in the recent past and I may have to review my assessments. However have a close look at Valerga's play as there are several opportunities for improvements. A key question however for several analogous positions: how should Black react when White advances his pawn to f5? Should he sit on his position (and hope that White can't break through on such a limited front) or should he lash out, and if so, how?

Once you feel that you know the answer to this question, then you'll be ready to play this critical line!

5 e3

Delchev plays the quiet system with 5 e3 in Game 10, perhaps influenced by Mamedyarov's recent experiment. This is one way to avoid 'normal' Grünfeld positions.

Delchev varied from the solid-looking Mamedyarov-Kamsky (in this QGD Tarrasch reversed!) with 13 Bg5, and after 13...Re8 followed up with the sharp move 14 d6 which gives us the following position:

Gupta didn't react in the best way with 14...Nxb3 and was always worse. He should have instead opted for 14...Qxd6! which leads to complications where Black should be OK. See the notes for the reasons behind my conclusions.

Russian System

In Game 11 Peter Svidler revives and rejigs a rather old line and gets a good opening. Just as Onischuk seemed to be getting outplayed he sacrificed the exchange in order to hold onto his cramping c-pawn. I suspect that both sides could have improved their play over the subsequent moves, but Black gradually took over. So perhaps we are about to see more examples of 10...Be6. Watch this space!


Till next month, Glenn Flear

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