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A real Grünfeld-fest this time! I've noticed that there have been a number of high level encounters and various theoretical developments in the ever-rich Grünfeld Defence. So I've concentrated all my efforts there this time.

Download PGN of May '06 Daring Defences games

Grünfeld Defence - 4 Bf4

In Game One White employs 4 Bf4 and Black sacrifices the c-pawn, in an old and largely forgotten theoretical line. White could obtain the advantage on move 23 according to a nine-year-old analysis of Mikhalevski which still seems to be correct.

Although the complications resulting from 8...Nc6 (above) are fascinating, the fact that it isn't played very often isn't that surprising: Firstly it's probably dubious if White is very well prepared and secondly 8...Na6 is a perfectly satisfactory (and much less risky) alternative for Black.

Exchange Variation

Bacrot took on Svidler with 8 Rb1 in the Exchange Variation in Game Two. Svidler's reaction was to play calmly at first with 9...b6 followed by ...Qc7, a relatively positional approach:

At move 13 he varied from a previous game of Bacrot's which after a quick flurry of activity led to an equal 'endgame' of rook, bishop and five pawns against rook, knight and five.

Although Black seemed to draw comfortably enough White could have tried 20 e5 which may have kept a pull. Recently 8...b6 seems to be one of, if not the, most successful counter to 8 Rb1.

In Game Three Khenkin played the Exchange variation with an early Be3 and Qd2, and after 14 Bd3 we have:

When Atalik's 14...Bd7 was an interesting novelty.

Black has won three high-ranking encounters out of three from this position (Vyzmanavin against both Dvoirys and Svidler and now Khenkin-Atalik), which hides the fact that he may be struggling to equalize! After checking through the notes, if this line doesn't convince potential Black players, then it would be wise to switch to the better known 8...Qa5. In Game 3 grabbing the e-pawn seems to be right but then White should castle (see move 18). Evidently Khenkin realized too late as he clearly overlooked 22...Nxe5 when his king didn't survive for long.

Robert Markus employs a quiet form of the Exchange variation with 5 Bd2 in Game Four, which has seen a revival in recent years due to the tricky 8 Bb5. Marinkovic decides to meet this actively with 8...c6 9 Be2 f5 which seemed satisfactory at the time but he eventually lost. I'm sure Black was indeed OK in this game, but it turned out to be the type of position where the player with the weaknesses has to be more careful. Markus kept control of events rather well despite the complex nature of the middlegame struggle and completely outplayed his opponent.

In Game Five Areshchenko meets the Classical Exchange Variation with 10...Bd7 and after 11 Rb1 he plays the natural 11...Qc7:

I suspect that this is a better way of handling the 10...Bd7 line than the hitherto popular 11...a6. Indeed Grünfeld-expert Eljanov didn't really trouble him and Black obtained a fine game. Does this mean that 10...Bd7 is back in business?

Later on, Black blundered two pieces for a rook and White had good winning chances in the endgame but failed to cash in. Time trouble was probably to blame for some sloppy play.

Peter Svidler, who popularized 10...Bd7 a few years ago, was successful against Topalov with 10...Qc7 in Game Six so I anticipate that this line (as already recommended by me in the April update in reply to an e-mail enquiry) will now have a new lease of life.

In fact the whole thing seems rather comfortable for Black, but Sakaev's 13 dxc5 might be worth a try for players of the white pieces, see the notes. Topalov's troubles seem to stem from his new ambitious idea 16 c3-c4?!, as Svidler was able to undermine the centre before White could create any serious threats.

I received an e-mail from Chris Garfield about the aggressive 10 h4 in the Classical Exchange variation. White doesn't castle but goes for an immediate crisis on the kingside:

I can understand the subscriber's concerns as after the standard defence 10...cxd4 11 cxd4 Qd6, White has 12 Rb1! Rd8 13 Qb3! and seems to be on top as illustrated by the game Li Sholong-Van der Weide from this year's Wijk aan Zee C-tournament.

Instead I suggest that Black counter with the lesser-known 10...Qa5!, in order to meet 11 Kf1 by 11...b6, when the exchange of light-squared bishops seems promising for Black: He doesn't drop behind in development, he reduces White's attacking power and can gain useful counterplay on the queenside light-squares.

The Exchange Sacrifice Variation still holds a few surprises in store for the unwary:

Here is a position where 15...f6 is 'de rigeur', or so everyone thought, but Petr plays 15...Bd7!? 16 Bh6 Qb6+!. Basically Black gives back the exchange for an easier life.

He not only defended with Black in Game Eight he even went on to win, so a few questions will need to be asked about this unusual way of defending. His 20th move is a good novelty and gives Black a reasonable game. The critical test however is 20 Qd4, see the notes, against which Black hasn't yet demonstrated a way to equalize. I suggest that we all keep a look out to see if Petr's idea catches on.

Van Wely repeats the 16 Qd4 line which brought him victory against Sutovsky a few months ago. Mikhalevski was however very well prepared in Game Nine and shows how Black can avoid the worst. After the opening phase I don't think that Black had any particular problems and even in the pawn-down ending he never looked in trouble. Has the sting been taken out of 16 Qd4?

5 Bf4

Game Ten features another type of exchange sacrifice which we have covered before. The Bf4 lines also seem to lead to long forcing lines and it's only on move 22 does Black have his first real choice! The resulting positions are rich in complexity and far from clear which is why a number of strong players have been attracted to this line, but Black has been doing rather well in practise.

Russian - 7...a6

Svidler's third game from this update, Game Eleven, involves a very complex queen versus pieces middlegame. Although theory tends to give this line as equal and a draw was indeed the final result, there were quite a few controversial moments in between.

Bologan's idea of rapidly getting the knight to d5 is new, but I don't think it was worth an advantage. Later, in my opinion, Svidler went astray and Bologan could indeed have obtained the better of it, but maybe when the actual players' annotations are published they may not agree with me!

Till next time,

Glenn Flear

If you have any questions, either leave a message on the Daring Defences Forum, or subscribers can email me at