In Game One, Terrieux-Kryvoruchko, an important line in the 5 b6 e6 variation receives attention. This is the second time a Ukranian has played 14...Ba6 in recent months:
The game continuation seems critical and remained rather unclear for most of the middlegame where opposite bishops gave both sides some chances. My feeling is that if White had played 33 Qf1 he wouldn't have been worse, but it was really only his fortieth move that cost him the game.
The Fianchetto variation with 10 Rb1 is still the critical line of the Benko and the struggle in Game Two between Bacrot and Tregubov (plus the notes) shows some recent developments. Bacrot won an excellent game, his preparation and 2700+ endgame technique in particular were certainly on the ball. Did the opening really offer White more than a small pull? I'm not sure where Black should improve, but as both players indulged in some slow manoeuvring after the opening there may be other ways for Black to handle the position. If all else fails 12...Rfb8 isn't bad.
In Kuzubov - Moiseenko Black was worse all game and can't have been satisfied with his opening. Moiseenko decided to play a plan involving ...a5 and ...Na6 which probably works better against systems where White has already played b2-b3. In the game White's queen on a4 and b3 was slightly annoying and Black slipped into a somewhat passive position.
Anti-Grünfeld with 3 f3
Game Four is as complicated as the reputation of the variation. Laznicka's 14 d6 is certainly an interesting way of handling this line and we are subjected to a tense tussle followed by crazy complications:
The strange material imbalances even fool the computer! All Grünfeld players need to have some knowledge of what to do against 3 f3, a move that may not be considered in your Grünfeld-bible. If you don't want to defend against a King's Indian Sämisch then start analysing these complicated lines or seek an early alternative, some of which I've discussed before. Whatever you decide, be ready!
Ftacnik has great know-how in such positions and was able to outplay P.Horvath in Game Five. The Slovak GM had presumably prepared 10...c6 (as this varied from one of his earlier games) and soon obtained a reasonable game, although before making any firm conclusions White's alternative 17 Be3 requires a closer look. In general, recent experiences suggest that 6...Nb4 is as playable as the more solid 6...Nb6 and may represent a more dynamic option.
In Gladyszev - Ni Hua, the young Chinese player made short-shrift of Gladyszev's opening. Notable was Ni Hua's strategy of rapid development instead of worrying about a pawn or two. I'm sure that Gladyszev thought he was doing well until the bombshell 17...Nb4 hit him:
I know the feeling! Ni Hua recently did the same sort of thing to me see Game 11.
In Games 7 & 8 the following position arose:
Black was singularly unsuccessful in either of these encounters. In fact White kept a pleasant edge in both games which suggests that a development schema based on ...Bb7 isn't quite satisfactory.
Capturing the h-pawn is unplayable as Black gets his queen trapped. So he has to decide how to react in the diagram position: to block or not to block the pawn?
Ivanchuk played 15...Qe7 in Game 7, which is similar to the better-known line involving 15...Qd7. Carlsen obtained pressure with e4-e5 followed by Be3-g5-f6 and soon found a way to win a piece.
In Game Eight Baramidze blocked the h-pawn with 15...h5. Although he held out for a long time this was probably because his defensive talent was better than his shaky-looking opening.
Frankly I can't recommend this variation to 'dynamic' Grünfeld Defence players. Avoiding highly-analysed main lines is understandable but not at the cost of obtaining a passive and virtually prospectless position.
Game Nine was a game of three-thirds:
- The opening phase went perfectly satisfactorily for Black.
- Then he self-weakened his kingside provoking Sasikiran to sacrifice the exchange which turned out to give White ample compensation.
- White missed the strongest continuation and a mysterious double-edged ending occurred which was, if anything, in Black's favour.
In Game 10 White dominated the whole game by just keeping control. With Black's majority crippled, Wojtaszek didn't need to indulge with any violent gestures, just by improving his pieces and avoiding counterplay his de facto extra d-pawn had an unpleasant cramping effect that eventually proved decisive.
This is hardly a good advertisement for 11...Nb4, which even if shown to be playable, is certainly more difficult for Black to handle than the main lines after 11...Bf5.
An afterthought. When I recently faced the Grünfeld I decided on the solid Exchange variation with 5 Bd2 which is not a bad system but a variation is only as good as the way it is handled over the board! I didn't play very well but I'll make the lame excuse that it was my second game that day!
What should Black do here? See Game 11 and you'll see how the author of these lines was beaten by Ni Hua.
Till next time, Glenn Flear