The Budapest isn't played that often at GM level, but the recent interest in 4.Bf4 g5!? has led to some high level encounters in this line. Here, in Game 1, is an example played in the Chinese championships and won by Black.
Here Zhou Weiqi played the 'recommended' 10.h4, but later found that his king was the most insecure. After examining this game, and Li Shilong's original way of handling the black pieces, I have come to the conclusion that an alternative, 10.c5, is the most challenging for Black. The advantage of this move is that White can ensure a central pull without any particular risk to his king whereas after 10.h4 it isn't clear who will benefit most from 'randomizing' events on the kingside.
The variation with 5.f3 had its heyday a generation ago and is now far less popular than various other lines, but it's still important not to forget how to reply! Allowing White to calmly construct his centre 'justifies' his fifth move whereas the active counter-thrust that arises after 5...e6 6.e4 c4!? aims to 'punish' the first player for weakening the a7-g1 diagonal. The featured game (Karthikeyen-Turov, Game Two) demonstrates that White's extra couple of pawns don't insure him from having a rough time, and the daring 6...c4 must surely fit in for those who have a pro-gambit mentality.
In Game 3 Kacheishvili employs the popular 4.Bg5 Ne5 5.Bh4 gambit. It's remarkable how so many strong players have been attracted to playing this complex variation as White, despite the fact that it is somewhat risky. Black has a good score (almost 50%) including plenty of wins and recent developments indicate that strong Grünfeld players are coping quite well with a line that has certainly been shorn of its terror. Mikhalevski's win in the game was hard-worked, but even if one might be able to prove that there was indeed 'enough compensation' for the pawn, given a choice after the opening, I would have taken Black.
Game Four and the notes illustrate some of the developments in a virtually new idea where White plans a modest development, but one where Black's counterplay is hard to come by. I believe that Gelfand was the first to give this idea some mileage at a high level, but since then many players are giving it a go! Kudrin tried the thematic-Grünfeld counter ...c5, but has lost twice with this idea. The alternative is to play more modestly with ...c6 (and perhaps ...e5) at some point. Aronian and Svidler opted for the latter plan but this may not appeal to everyone. Diagram after 9.Be2:
Which plan is best? Both are fine in my opinion, but it essentially comes down to a question of taste. As the theory is in its early stages, there isn't yet a consensus on Black's best set-up but, as White isn't looking that threatening, there is plenty of room for manoeuvre (in order to seek a comfortable and appropriate development) for the second player.
In Game 5 Anish Giri and Peter Svidler both handled the early B-e3 system quite dynamically and this game could stimulate further investigation at all levels. One advantage of 11...Nc6 is that Black can seek more active piece-play than in the 11...e6 line, where Black has had some problems of late. It was indeed the power of Black's pieces that won this game, or, looking at it another way, by Anish Giri being tempted by a couple of pawns.
In Game 6 Black reacted with Sutovsky's pet-line involving an early ...f5. I am not that sure about it being 100% sound (positionally that is) but again it is another valiant attempt to take White out of his comfort zone. Black's exchange sacrifice was the most notable move in the game, but what was White doing leaving his king in the centre for so long?
In Game 7 US champion Gata Kamsky gives his endorsement to a move that seems to be the only way for Black to get a playable game in a highly theoretical line:
Here Black plays 15...h6 (rather than 15...e6?!) after which White players have been unable to find any advantage. In fact White is the one in danger and in the actual game maybe Kamsky missed an opportunity to be better (see his 20th move). So the line with 12...Na5 is still holding up well.
The Blumenfeld leads to complex positions that are difficult to judge and certainly tricky to play for both sides. At times I have to admit that I prefer White, but that is the case in most openings and, furthermore, in the real world, Black doesn't score any worse in this gambit than in more 'mainstream' openings.
In Game 8 Burmakin accepts the gambit and then continued with the unpretentious e2-e3. This doesn't look particularly worrying and yet he was able to maintain a pull and eventually exploit his extra pawn in the endgame, so perhaps Black's opening set-up isn't the best.
One idea is to delay ...a6 and prefer to complete development first, for example ...Bb7, ...Be7, ...0-0, ...Qb6 and then possibly ...a6 if White fianchettos his bishop. Another similar idea is 6...d5 followed by ...Bd6, ...0-0 and then ...a6. The simplest improvement of all however is to play 7...Bxa6 and induce White to play as in Game 10.
The main 'Declined' move 5.Bg5 was played by Kaidanov in Game 9 and he found an original idea which led to a White advantage. This may well be theoretically important and seems to revive 8.Nxd2, although I'm not sure that Black has solved all his problems after 8.Qxd2 either. In the game Robson defended well and saved himself, but he wouldn't have been pleased with his lot after the opening.
White accepted the pawn and then played a kingside fianchetto in Game 10, where Shulman and Nakamura played out a complicated game in the US Championships. One feature of such positions is the pawn thrust e4 by White against which Black needs to be constantly prepared. The complications that followed 16.e2-e4 only held by a thread for White, but I couldn't see any clear improvements for Black. The opening however this time looked perfectly acceptable as Black had decent sporting chances for his pawn.
All hell broke loose after 16 e4 here, see the game and notes for what followed.
Till next month, Glenn Flear