Daring Defences for March 2004
I've featured two openings this time: The Grünfeld and Owen's Defence.
GM Glenn Flear
The Owen's isn't considered that serious a defence in some quarters but Pavel Blatny doesn't seem to mind.
What do you make of this position I wonder?
Here he employs the Owen's in three rapid games against high ranking opposition and wins two of them, so it certainly deserves a closer look. It's interesting to see how 2600 opposition responds and if their reactions are convincing.
It's an attractive concept to play 1...b6 against anything (well almost everything, as it's not that intelligent against 1 g3!). Black develops his queen's bishop, bears down on e4 and then waits to see what White is going to do about it.
The problem here and in the English Defence is finding a way to challenge for the centre and getting the knights into action. In games 1-3 Blatny really seems to understand how to handle his Owen's, but I'm not sure that most of us would have his sense of creativity to find such dynamic counterchances with less space.
So three respectable openings against hot opposition is not bad at all. Although in Game Two Ehlvest found a tactical way to smash Black's defences, wins against Shabalov (Game One) and Yudasin (Game Three) are not to be sneered at. All in all two out of three ain't bad.
I particularly liked his game against Yudasin, as the minor piece manoeuvring was truly profound as was the cheeky combination to win his opponent's queen.
Black to play and win, see Game 3 for the solution.
It's about time 4 Bg5 was featured in this column as it's not that unusual:
The featured game demonstrates fine play from Radjabov who managed to outplay his more experienced opponent. Shirov's 'temporary' pawn sacrifice eventually became an exchange sacrifice that was a shade desperate, so Black should really seek an alternative way of handling the opening. Therefore in the notes to Game 4 I've indicated a couple of respectable alternatives 5...Nxc3 6 bxc3 dxc4 7 e3 and now either 7...Be6 or 7...Bg7.
In Game 5 Svidler employs 5...Nh5!? to counter 4 Bf4 Bg7 5 Rc1. The opening proved to be fine for him but he was later in big trouble and should have lost. His problems can be traced to a point when he sacrificed a pawn unsoundly.
Both Games 6 and 7 were sharp theoretical tussles. Van Wely and Rytshagov have revived a line in Game Six that I wrongly dismissed in November last year and now it seems that the onus is on White to find something:
Position after 23...Rc8! Black seems to have excellent compensation in this variation, after all.
Game Seven is a line that has dropped out of the limelight in recent years because Black's position is probably dubious with correct play. However it's all sufficiently complicated to have surprise and confusion value. In the game both players missed chances to win and certainly had more fun than they would have had in the dry endgame that follows 8...Na6.
In Game Eight Bergez's 11 Bd3!? worked wonders:
Although this move has been played before it wasn't well known (until now that is!) and frankly it's not so easy for Black to defend. I suspect that Vallejo Pons went astray immediately but I haven't found a clear-cut equalising plan for Black.
Game Nine presents another outing for Ivanchuk's positional exchange sacrifice in Svidler's 10...Bd7, and here again Black held his own.
The recent idea 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg5 is given a further try in Game 10, but White's 10 a4 was not the best way to handle the position. The complications following 13...f5 were playable but White later missed a couple of opportunities to give himself an edge.
Last of all Game 11 headed down a line that is promising for White but turned sour very quickly. Despite Black's victory, varying as early as move five is recommended.
Don't forget to keep the questions rolling in, especially if there's a line that you would like clarifying.