e-mail bag/recent books
I received a mail from Dennis Monokroussos who pointed out that the line in the Grünfeld that I highlighted in June 2010's update (see Lenderman-Kudrin) wasn't brought to the world's attention by Gelfand after all. Apparently Lajos Portisch used it in the Gotth'Art cup in February (1-0 vs. Beliavsky) and then three rounds later Beliavsky used it as White (1-0 vs. Ftacnik). Thanks DM for the information. I hadn't noticed these earlier games, but I did see that Vincent Colin used it to beat another influential Grünfeld practitioner Michal Krasenkow (see below).
I received a mail and some games from Feingeist who also asked a number of questions. One of them concerning Ponomariov's win over Nisipeanu in the Blumenfeld (see Game 9). The game was complicated but it seems that White was probably always better and so this early e2-e4 idea is indeed quite promising for White. In the notes I refer to Kiril Georgiev's analysis who (in Squeezing the Gambits, Chess Stars 2010) sets out a similar approach for White. Feingeist asks me if this 'refutes' the Blumenfeld! I tend to be cautious about making dramatic pronouncements, but this game does seem to cause 6...a5 some distress. Will Nisipeanu dare play it again?
Feingeist sent me some of his Benko games. Although the games aren't theoretically that significant it's clear that he causes some higher-rated players some problems with his pet opening and I think that he should stick with it. He was concerned about White propositions made in recent books. A good point as Kiril Georgiev (the same book as mentioned above) and Boris Avrukh (GM repertoire 1.d4 Volume Two, Quality 2010) do have some useful ideas for White. So it is a good idea to be aware of these, but even so it isn't that easy to have counters ready! For example see Game 10 where Bologan played the Benko and won. If we look carefully at this game we notice that White blundered at the end but otherwise wasn't worse. Black has decent practical chances even if theoretically he is a shade worse, but if this is good enough for Victor B then it should be OK for club players!
I have made some comments concerning KG and AB's ideas. Avrukh's critical line follows 16 Rfd1 (instead of 16 b4) as you'll see in the notes. I have made some suggestions but have to admit that I can't fully equalize in all lines, but some of the resulting 'edge to White' scenarios may require masterful technique to make anything of it.
Grünfeld Defence - 4.e3
This is usually a quiet backwater for Grünfeld theory but these last few months has seen it becoming 'all the rage!' Vincent Colin got on the bandwagon to beat the higher-rated Krasenkow and again we note the importance of White's passed d-pawn, particularly when Black tries to react with ...c5. In the notes to Game 1 you'll be able to pick out my preference for ...c6 followed by ...e5 which I think represents a more reliable defence.
Exchange with 5.Bd2
In Game Two Wang Yue employed the popular 8.Bb5 and Carlsen replied with 8...Be6, a move that gives White a choice: allow access to c4 or play the committal d4-d5:
Wang Yue's 9.Nge2 didn't lead to anything special in the game although in the notes White has some possible improvements. Perhaps 9.Nf3 is the best White idea. The most surprising feature of this game is how the normally tough Chinese player crumbled as badly as his centre.
Exchange with 8.Rb1
Bacrot introduces a new move in Game 3 (see 18 Qc1!?) but although it has merit, it only seems to yield a draw for White. Later after avoiding a repetition the Frenchman got himself into hot water and was rather fortunate to save half-a-point. Svidler must be kicking himself, although his team won the final of the French cup anyway.
So Black's slightly odd-looking 15...b6 seems to be holding it's own.
Traditional Exchange with Bc4
It was inevitable that some bright spark would aim to introduce an improvement on the World championship games. Here is a case in point with Bok and Giri trying to outdo each other in a theoretical line in Game Four:
I think that the played 17 f5 is the most critical move here, and that 17...Nc6 is an unsuccessful attempt to improve. I still prefer my suggestion of 17...Qd6 (see the archives for Najer-Safarli, 2010) but until someone tests it in practise we won't be sure, will we?
In Game 5 Ivan Sokolov came up with a surprising move which may be new to many, 14 Qa4!?:
This unusual version of the exchange sacrifice was tried out by a few Grandmasters a generation ago but it never really caught on. Emil Sutovsky followed known theory until varying with 21...Bf5 which seems to be new. A closer look at our main game suggests that White could have obtained excellent (and perhaps more than enough) compensation on the 25th move which suggests that Sutovsky's move isn't an improvement.
So I believe that Black's best is still 21...Re8 which was known (and largely forgotten) twenty years ago, see the notes for the details.
Variation with 4.Nf3, 5.Bg5
Although we get used to White sacrificing the c-pawn (as I have covered many examples in the update featuring that double-edged rapidly evolving line) here White plays the more solid 6.cxd5 which is often associated with the Carlsbad structure (for example, white pawns on a2, b2, d4, e3, f2, g2, h2; black pawns on a7, b7, c6, d5, f7, g6, h7) where Black has the bishop pair. Here Akobian played the trappy 8.Qd2 against which Black needs to get his move order right in order to get out of opening in one piece in order to arrive in a comfortable middlegame. Here it didn't happen, and indeed Game 6 is a model example of what can go wrong if Black isn't well-prepared.
Riazantsev and Sutovsky played out a lively draw in Game 7. The opening is rather theoretical, as many strong players have dabbled in this line with at least one of the colours, but there are still many secrets waiting to be discovered in the rich vein of arising variations.
Riazantsev tried 15.Bg5, which is rare, and Sutovsky replied with 15...Rae8, which was previously unknown, and suddenly the players were out of the book:
This time I quite like the look of Sutovsky's improvement and consider that Black was never in trouble, as Riazantsev's attacking chances gave him a perpetual, but nothing more.
Russian System, Hungarian Variation
Game 8 was decided by a major error on Kamsky's part. Before that, out of the opening, Black seemed to be fine and despite the unfortunate result this game can be considered as a further endorsement of the correctness of 12...b4.
So it seems that active pieces are full compensation for badly-broken pawns.
Only Kamsky himself can really explain his blunder, although I've tried!
Till next month, Glenn Flear