Daring Defences for May 2004
The most notable achievement in this month's update is the perfect 4/4 scored by the Dutch Defence with four different variations. Even 2600+ Pavel Tregubov gets into trouble as White against Christian Bauer, a further illustration that it's not so simple for White to pin down 1...f5!
GM Glenn Flear
One of the featured Grünfeld games again illustrates Ivan Sokolov's early Qa4+ followed by Qb3 as covered last time. The amazing thing however is that on the 8th of May he played his pet line against Peter Svidler in the final round of the French League and then a day later in the German Bundesliga play-off against the same opponent! The second game rapidly varied but reached the same result after the same number of moves!
Replies to e-mail questions
I received a couple of questions from Douglas Schwetke, one concerning the Benko the other the Grünfeld. See the game segments at the end of the update for the details, but neither line covered impresses me from White's point of view.
Apart from the e-mail reply looking at some recent examples from the Zaitsev, there is also Game One illustrating an idea developed by Kasparov. Before you get too excited however I have to say that it's Sergei Kasparov and that his idea doesn't look that great (if this game is anything to go by)!
Miralles had a very good season in the French League and fighting displays such as his win over Eliet in Game Two illustrate why. Despite playing a surprising (inferior?!) second move he was able to show that the theory up to now has underestimated Black's chances. I suggest after 1 d4 f5 2 Nc3 g6 that White should play 3 e4, as 3 h4 didn't seem that testing:
In Game Three Black again chose a risky move-order and this time White's attacking chances with h2-h4 should have given him the better game. However the complications eventually turned out in Black's favour in a sharp endgame featuring six passed pawns! Not surprisingly there are a number of improvements for both sides in this richly entertaining struggle.
In Game 4 one of the main lines of the Leningrad comes under scrutiny. Objectively White was a shade better but even so Black created some practical chances and found a neat tactical resource to steal the whole point.
Black made a dynamic choice here: 18...e5!?
Tregubov - Bauer again followed the typical pattern of these Dutch encounters: It's messy but although White gets something from the opening he can't easily keep control. It was unusual to see Christian Bauer play the Classical rather than the Leningrad, but a number of these less well-fashionable ideas in the Dutch are great surprise weapons.
A number of games this month feature ...dxc4 and a recapture with the queen on c4. The Hungarian Variation of the Russian System (as in Game 10) is both popular and respectable but against Yakovich's 4 Qb3 (Game 6) Black should probably prefer another approach.
In Game 9 Sokolov and Svidler test out a couple of lines where Black has his bishop on d7 rather than c8. It makes sense to study these three games together and compare the implications of these three move orders. In my opinion the moral of the tale is that defending against the Russian System shouldn't be just a question of rattling out one well-memorized line. Instead, in addition Black players would do well to learn a second-string defence in order to avoid being bamboozled by a tricky move order.
Yakovich again obtains the advantage against 7...a6 in Game Six. So far as it goes experience suggests that 7...Na6 is Black's best, but not everyone wants to play the Prins! In that case 7...Nfd7 or 7...c6 aren't bad and have the advantage of being less theoretical.
In Game Seven Portisch chose 7 Qa4+, a move that has been played on occasion by several strong players, but seems excellent for Black because of 7...Qa4 8 Nxa4 Bd7 9 Nc3 Ne4!:
, a move originally introduced by Svidler. The game and notes illustrate White's difficulties in this line.
Volkov fails to keep control in Game Eight (unlike two rounds earlier see Game 10) and goes down in the face of cool technique. I suppose 7 Qa4+ in the Exchange Variation
has surprise value but doesn't seem that unpleasant for Black.
In Game Nine Ivan Sokolov again found out that Svidler has a safe pair of hands when fielding with the Grünfeld. At least 5 Qa4+ gives relatively original positions!
Volkov re-examines a theoretical variation and introduces a novelty in the following position:
Here White played 16 Bd6!
It's clear that Black has to be on his guard after this and he was indeed unable to cope in the game, but I'm not sure how dangerous the move really is after a better defence. See the notes to Game 10 for my suggested 18...b4.
Finally, we have the e-mail question concerning the Grünfeld.
Don't forget to keep the questions rolling in, especially if there's a line that you would like clarifying.