Daring Defences, June 2003
As promised in May I've been concentrating on developments in the Grünfeld this time, but first of all I've been looking at a line in the Owen's Defence.GM Glenn Flear
Michael Ayton wasn't so happy with Black's prospects after 1 e4 b6 2 d4 Bb7 3 Nc3 e6 4 Bd3
with Nge2 to follow, as nothing seemed convincing. It's true that this is certainly not a bad system for White and it has been underestimated by some commentators.... but not anymore!
For Black, meeting this comes down to a question of taste. Some like it Hippolike, others interpret their Owen's like a French, but I suggest borrowing a theme from other variations of the English Defence or Nimzovich with ...Nc6 intending an early ...e5. So from the diagram, 4...Bb4 5 Nge2 Nc6 6 Be3 e5 looks playable and dynamic.
To see my analysis click on Owen's with Nge2.
The Exchange sacrifice line in the classical Exchange Variation is enjoying a revival with White scoring 4½/5 in some recent GM encounters. This is all developed in Games Six where I've included some analysis supplied in another e-mail contact. From the diagram
Franck Steenbekkers and friends have reached the conclusion that 19...e6 isn't satisfactory for Black. Everyone has been playing 19...Nc4 20 e6 Ba4, except that 19...e6 was successfully played in just one encounter - Kharlov-Mamedyarov, Batumi 2002 where Black held. The reason why no-one has repeated this idea is brought to light: 20 Qe1! (rather than 20 exf6?!) leads to a strong attack and advantage to White. The details are in the notes where Steenbekkers novelty (well done, Franck!) enhances further Black's difficulties in this line. There are a number of new ideas here, but Black's one bright spot is Smikovski's 20...Bb5 (instead of 20...Ba4) which may allow Black to keep his head above water because otherwise he really is struggling to stay afloat.
In Game 2 a couple of rarer Exchange variation ideas are covered. Beliavsky's fine opposite bishop attack against Atalik after 7 Bb5+, and in the notes, 7 Qa4+, an idea developed by Volkov. It's almost as if White is saying "I'll give a check and let's see what happens!"
In Game Three and 4 Black introduces new moves in a couple of critical variations where in each case theoreticians haven't had their final say in my opinion. Game Four in particular is important as lines with 11...Bd7 have been played frequently of late by Svidler and company.
In comparison, Pinter has been trying out the Seville variation (which overall has lost it's popularity as it was thought to have virtually been analysed out to a draw). See Game Five for a couple of his recent encounters with the modern twist 16 Kg1!? and a well worked-out defence by Karr.
Ivan Sokolov has a tendency to surprise his Grünfeld opponents, and Luke McShane was probably not expecting to face 5 Qa4+ as featured in Game Seven! McShane's 8...Nc6 was imaginative but dubious and I recommend 8...Na6 as preferable.
Game Eight was a positional affair, but illustrates a dynamic option for Black after 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bg5 where White tends to try and steer the game into untroubled waters. Here 5...dxc4!? keeps things tense and avoids the sterile main line which follows 5...Ne4 6 cxd5 Nxg5 7 Nxg5 e6 8 Nf3 exd5.
I enjoyed the fight in Game Nine. The players were soon out of theory and into a sharp middlegame. Accurate play by both led to an honourable draw.
What was White's next?
Game Ten also featured a sound positional queen sacrifice from the Grünfeld player. However, Black eventually spoilt his game when he fell for a combination with the time control approaching.
Next time I will look at developments in the Neo-Grünfeld and other openings, especially as the European Championships has thrown up some critical lines at the highest level.
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