Daring defences for March 2003
As I seem to have dealt with most of my reader's letters (don't forget to keep them coming in!) in the February emailbag, I think it's time to cover some issues brought up in recent discussions on the Forum.
GM Glenn Flear
I have decided to have this email/Forum discussion here, and then move on to the meat of the update further down the page.
The most popular question (and one that I'm convinced preoccupies some top flight GMs at the moment) is: What to do against the Grünfeld!?
Some Grünfeld players don't like playing against the g3-systems and others against Bf4.
The strength of the fianchetto-schema by White is that there are various move-orders and Black can get confused about the timing of ...d5, ...c5 and even ...e5.
One slightly worrying feature about the Bf4 set-up is that it's been extensively analyzed over the years and that there is a solid body of theory.
Objectively however, if Black gets his move-order and memory work sorted out neither of these are that dangerous, so time to revise the relevant e-mail books!
A small point, en passant, is that it's worth mentioning that I prefer the line played by Black in Game Three of the update, rather than that chosen in Game Four.
Looking at some other suggestions, I've briefly analyzed some further ideas after an early 4 Bg5 in the first email game, and 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Qb3 Nxc3 in the second, but I don't find either of them convincing for White.
My opinion is that the Grünfeld is one's of Black best openings, but has the downside of being easy to avoid (to this end 1 c4 or 1 Nf3 are useful weapons for White). Maybe White players need to learn some serious theory if they really want to test Black's defence in the opening itself, the variation in Game Seven of the update has drawn some blood recently, for example.
Meeting the Benko with 4 f3 is tricky for the unprepared so I've gone into some detail on this one, see the third email game. I recommend 4...bxc4 (where the pawn isn't great on f3 and so is often advanced to f4) rather than 4...g6, the latter transposes to lines where White may keep a pull.
My last Forum analysis game covers a line resulting from 1...b6 (known as the English Defence if White plays with c4 and d4, and Owen's Defence with e4 and d4).
Here Black plays 7...d5 (instead of 7...Nc6) and has obtained reasonable prospects despite my suspicion that White should be able to keep an edge. Comparison with the French Defence is natural, but Black is surprisingly flexible and even has a choice of plausible plans. Read my summary of developments and you'll see what I mean.
I'm grateful to a reader for bringing my attention to an interesting idea by Black concerning the Classical Exchange of the Grünfeld (see the final Forum/email game). Black can try 8...Nc6 (instead of 8...0-0) and then meet 9 Be3 with 9...cxd4 10 cxd4 Qa5+. However as you can see in my research, White seems to be on top after 11 Bd2 Qd8 and the top Grünfeld practitioners Svidler and Dvoirys have abandoned the line. Black's best try could then be 11...Qh5, but here too I think White keeps the better chances.
Game 1 features "The Whole Hog Variation" (as named by Basman) of the English Defence. A line that I'm surprised to see such a solid player as Rausis get involved with. This variation was analysed in English circles in the seventies, but has largely been overlooked in recent years. After White's 9 hxg8(=Q)+
(yes, White does obtain a second queen on move 9, albeit only briefly!) Black was better but White fought back well to draw.
Game 2 is the first of a bunch of Van Wely games, which are often entertaining. Luc is a great fighter but here his desire to win cost him the draw. Ulibin's handling of the Stonewall is always interesting to see.
The large Grünfeld section (concentrating on the D80's) starts in Game Three with a couple of unusual ideas. H.Gretarsson's 11 e4 is new but unlikely to gain a following after White was always worse. In the notes P.Eljanov's risky pawn 'sac' 7...Na6 is tricky for White to handle, as V.Malakhatko found to his cost!
In Game Four Black struggles but ultimately draws. The line involving 7...dxc4 may not be so easy for Black as previously thought, so 7...Ne4 is to be preferred.
Luke McShane makes short shrift of Bacrot's attempt to counter the Grünfeld with a slow sideline in Game Five.
These lines seem to be giving the Grünfeld a hard time. Before you get too excited though, note that in Game Seven I suggest a possible antidote with 19...e6 (as in the game A.Kharlov-S.Mamedyarov, Batumi 2002 which Black held).
Nigel Davies will no doubt be interested to see his pet-idea tested in the game Van Wely against McShane. Black's position seemed fine until he missed a neat trick from the Dutchman. I'm sure that Van Wely will admit that he was the "Luc that got lucky".
To finish with, a beautiful game from Gretarsson who is far more successful with this novelty than he was in Game Three. Not only does he chop up a 2600+ but he'll put a frown on the faces of all the 11...Bd7 aficionados who have been enjoying themselves of late.
Is White just better? See Game 9.
Watch this space!
Next time in mid-April I'll feature the D90's, be answering queries and, of course, reviewing other ideas that are on the boil.
Write to the Forum, or to Glenn_Flear@chesspublishing.com.