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Mostly 'main' Daring Defences this month.

Download PGN of March '08 Daring Defences games

Benko Gambit

In Game One young French tactician Vachier-Lagrave employs the Benko which is slightly surprising for him. He finds an intriguing way of sacrificing the exchange for a better structure and is able to obtain enough play thus justifying his approach.

Overall the Benko is showing something of a resurgence at a high level, as despite the computer's general disapproval(!), it's recognized by many that its no easy matter exploiting the extra pawn. Hence renewed interest in some declined lines such as 4 Nd2:

Nevertheless, Game Two however is a further demonstration of the main problem for Black in the Benko Accepted. The fianchetto variation with 10 Rb1 can be unpleasant for Black if he doesn't find a good plan as here. Kopylov tried his best to inflict damage on White's set-up but to no avail as Khenkin gradually took control.

Dutch Defence

A bumper five games involving 1...f5 this time.

The first of these, Rajlich-Ilincic, Game 3 was basically a disaster from Black's point of view. His third move proving to be novel, but inadequate and a hot candidate for the 'not to be tried again' label.

In Stefanova - Gurevich White's opening led to Black having a potentially vulnerable king. This didn't show up at all until much later in the game when Stefanova inaugurated some complications that turned out in her favour. However Gurevich could have avoided White's attack with precise play. So it seems to me that his way of defending the Black side makes a worthy alternative to Malaniuk's tried-and-tested early ...Nc6 with 6...e5.

By playing 7...g5 here Black gains time for his quest to hit back in the centre.

In Game Five Gozzoli revives a rather useful idea of Korchnoi's. Bauer didn't manage to find a good continuation after the opening and was soon worse. In fact Black only equalized in the final position after White hadn't made the most of his chances.

In the notes I mention that after 10 Qa3!? I think that Black should play 10...Ne4 (activating) 11 b4 Be6 (hitting c4) with a satisfactory position.

Christian Bauer was again in action in Game 6, this time with White. He wins a hard-fought struggle against Sikula in the Stonewall. The plan of playing c4-c5 and b2-b4-b5 combined with Qa4 offered White an edge which he never relinquished. Opposite bishops gave Black some vague hopes of saving the game, but Christian Bauer demonstrated excellent technique.

The Veterans, Lechtynsky and Korchnoi had an interesting struggle in the 'Stonewall with ...Nc6' in Game 7:

White played with great energy throughout but Korchnoi could have defended better in the complications. As for the opening; it strikes me that playing with ...c6 is sounder but the idea of ...Nc6 is not fundamentally bad, just harder to play for Black.

Neo-Grünfeld Defence

The young Russian Khismatullin features in both games in this section.

In Game 8 playing Black, he reacts well to White's less well-known plan of recapturing on d5 with the knight. His temporary pawn sacrifice was proved correct, after which he obtained full equality. Later on he even won as his opponent tried to press for the full point when it wasn't really justified.

In Game 9 (played 9 days earlier) Khismatullin failed to handle the White pieces that well and Black even obtained the advantage just after the opening. Although White ended up on the defensive the whole game he had chances to hold out until he made a dreadful blunder.

Perhaps his suffering in this game provoked Denis Khismatullin to really study this opening well, and he reaped the benefits (with the other colour!) in the next tournament.

Grünfeld Defence

Game 10 features the only pure Grünfeld in my selection for this month, but it involves a couple of the usual suspects; Topalov and Shirov. Topalov is often really well-prepared and this proved to be the case as he unleashed a novelty in a fairly well known position:

Topalov's novelty here was 20 Bd3 (instead of the standard 20 f4 which recent practise seems to suggest is OK for Black) setting new problems for Black. No doubt this move will be repeated in the coming months, and Black's defences will probably be improved, but it had the desired effect in this game as Shirov found it hard to come to terms with all the possibilities in the position.

I received an e-mail from Franck Steenbekkers concerning two variations: a Grünfeld and a Neo-Grünfeld.

The Seville variation has dropped out of fashion and as a result I haven't dealt with this line for some years although 16 Kg1 (moving the king to safer climes) is tricky for Black. White has an extra doubled pawn and this can be used to generate play on the kingside (typically by supporting the advance of a pawn to g5 and then playing his knight to g4), whilst reducing the effectiveness of any counterplay:

As a result of this e-mail and our subscriber's unfortunate experience in the game Naumkin - Steenbekkers, I have had a close look at Sakaev's analysis who suggests that with accurate play White can hope for an advantage in this line.

In the notes to Game 11 however, I demonstrate that Black can hold the balance if he can generate some counterchances which usually involves an advance of his majority combined with various threats elsewhere.

In Game 12 Steenbekkers brings my attention to the game Dydyshko-Jansa (which he followed for many moves in Maiorov-Steenbekkers, Cappelle-la-Grande 2008). Black obtains some activity for a slightly broken structure on the queenside, but I have a feeling that White is a shade better as Black may have to 'wait and see' in order for White to show his hand before undertaking anything active himself. In the notes Black has also played 12...Nd5 with a similar scenario, except then Schmidt was able to (more or less) equalize against Wojtkiewicz by advancing his a-pawn.


Till next month, Glenn Flear

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