The Leningrad Dutch has been favoured by those who as Black like to keep some active possibilities alive. The problem with 7...c6 and 7...Qe8 is that they have been played just too often in previous years, whereas 7...Nc6 has only been given an occasional outing. In Game One Nakamura obtains a good position from the key 8 d5 Ne5 9 Nxe5 dxe5 line where the pawn structure sets the tone: White will aim to pressurize on the left hand side of the board where he has a majority, whereas Black's kingside phalanx will give him counterplay:
The theory could do with some dusting down, but in my opinion even if White has an objective pull Black's practical chances are fairly good, as illustrated by this Black win.
Sargissian introduces a new move in Game Two and is soon rewarded with a clear advantage. He can even capture a pawn on c7 virtually free of charge. In fact he spurns this chance but later on Slobodjan again offers the pawn and Sargissian finally takes the plunge. Black's 'activity' shouldn't give him enough although in the game he managed to land a nice combination which more or less equalized.
Conclusion: Black was lucky and Sagissian's novelty (9 Bxd4!) might prove to be quite good.
A couple of years ago it seemed that 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 f3!? was posing problems for the Grünfeld player who didn't want to allow a Sämisch variation of the King's Indian. Now recent experiences seem to suggest that White is in just as much danger as Black in the messy complications that follow in this sharp variation.
Krasenkov recently had this position (after 7 Be3) twice. The first time he tried the experimental 7...f5 (Game Four) but switched back to a respectable main line with 7...0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 0-0-0 f5 (Game 3). In both cases he managed to win, although his opponents both had interesting play in the early middlegame. Theoretically the most important of these was Game 3 when it seems that Black is doing OK after 10 h4 fxe4 11 h5 gxh5 against both 12 Rxh5 (game) and 12 d5 (notes). So can we summarize 3 f3 as 'Decidedly double-edged but not advantageous'?
Game Five features yet another game in this popular gambit variation which my regular readers must be familiar with by now:
Black did very well as he was able to get away with capturing on g2, but I suggest that you have a good look at 10 0-0 (rather than the poor 10 Nd2) 10...Bg7 11 Nd2 which is critical and where I can't decide which side I prefer.
In Game 6 Morozevich outplays his less well-known opponent in a 'Queen and Knight versus Queen and Bishop' 'ending'. The opening idea, however, with 5 Na4 is a more serious variation than the natural impression that such a bizarre move 'can't be any good' would imply. In fact I quite like White's position after 13 Kf1 rather than the limp 13 Nd2. So not a bad surprise weapon and one that deserves respect.
Game 7 featured a fairly rare recapture after 11...Qxd2+:
White played 12 Bxd2!? and after 12...Bg4 13 Be3!? Nc6 14 d5 gained the advantage. I think 13...Rd8 is the most likely candidate as a potential improvement.
The game was very fiercely fought throughout with both sides playing to win the ending of 'Rook, Bishop and 2 pawns versus Rook and 5 pawns', before that though both sides had missed chances to obtain a considerable advantage. White with 23 Rb4 and Black with various ways such as 30...a5.
In Game 8 Black tried to avoid the main lines of the Exchange Variation with 7...b6 instead of 7...c5. This is one of these lines that has surprise value but not one that I would trust enough to play regularly. In the notes you'll notice that Black can often hold out against White's pressure, but the game is a reminder that he sometimes just gets stuffed.
Karpov tries the positional Exchange Variation with 5 Bd2 against Timofeev in Game 9. After 5...Bg7 6 e4 the most common move is 6...Nb6, but the younger Russian, who had already played the rarer 6...Nxc3 earlier this year, repeated this move only to vary a few moves later in this position:
I'm not sure that capturing on c3 is the simplest way to equality, and Karpov kept a pull in our featured game, but Timofeev earned a half-point with some precise defensive play in the middlegame and ending.
Game 10 shows what can happens to White if he just tries to play natural moves against the Grünfeld. Nosenko won't play like this again in a hurry!
Till next time, Glenn Flear