There have been a whole bunch of really important novelties that I just had to tell you all about, many of which radically change assessments of whole lines. The first of these occurred in Game One, where Wang Yue beats Svidler almost effortlessly in a positional line arising from 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4 where White doesn't gambit the pawn.
All this woe for Black came about as the Chinese player introduced the novel move 15 Ne5!:
A move that doesn't look that pleasant for Black, and suggests that White can keep a pull from the seemingly bloodless line arising from 7 Qa4+. What will Svidler come up with in future to repair Black's defences?
As a slight distraction, in the notes you'll see yet another successful Black response to White's (dubious?!) gambit, a further reason why I just can't recommend White's approach.
In Game Two Cramling tries a sharp line arising from 4 Bf4 in the big clash at the top of the ladies European Championship. She was able to introduce a novelty (17 Bf1), but one that had been previously suggested in analysis. Five moves later a draw was agreed as there didn't seem to be a good way to avoid the unusual repetition that occurred in the game. Food for future analysis no doubt, but I personally couldn't find any improvements.
In Game 3 there was a clear case of 'the operation was successful but the patient died'! Sutovsky's novelty 9...f5 looks good to me and even induced him to avoid a repetition and play for more, but despite an extra exchange he never really looked like winning and eventually went on to lose. As Timofeev was also able to equalize recently in another way against 7 Bg5 I doubt that (apart from some folk seeking an early surprise) many White players will bother with this move.
The idea of playing the destabilizing ...f5 also occurs in Game 4 in analogous circumstances. Black was slightly more successful there as he won in 22 moves!
I have over 100 games in the database with this position but Novik is the first to play 8...f5! here. Bravo for such a dynamic novelty. White was tempted by winning the exchange but having extra material didn't enable him to put up much resistance as Black took control.
In Game Five, Peek-Flumbort, White tried a new move, but perhaps the most significant aspect is that he didn't play 18 Bg5 which Sakaev introduced some years ago and which Eddie Dearing labels with an !.
Instead, White chose the reasonable-but-hardly-dangerous 18 a4, and a fairly unclear middlegame arose.
The problem with 18 Bg5 is that after 18...Rfe8 19 d6 Black has 19...f6! with which Yandemirov has been successful, in one case against the same Marcel Peek.
So mark my words(!), if Black is fine against both 18 Bg5 and 18 a4 then the whole line with 12...Qc8 is fully viable.
Game 6 and Game 7 need to be looked at together. In fact I received an e-mail from James White asking why I hadn't covered the game Van Wely-Kamsky last time. He quite correctly understood that apart from it being a model victory for Black it was theoretically important.
My excuse is that for once I did my column very early. As a result I didn't latch onto the game as it was played at about the same time I was sifting through recent games!
In the February update I examined the most recent developments after 12 Rc1 e5!?, see Zhou Jianchao-Sutovsky. Van Wely (in Game 7) preferred 12 Qd2 (to 12 Rc1) but Kamsky introduced a 'sister' variation with 12...e5!?.
White then has to decide 'to take the pawn or not'. Van Wely decided against grabbing a pawn and blocked the centre, but this gave Black no problems at all and Kamsky totally outplayed the Dutchman. Kamsky won a magnificent game that will doubtlessly get included in all Grünfeld books for the next generation or so!
Critical then would seem to be 13 dxc5, but Ni Hua's attempts at refutation came unstuck as Navara not only quickly regained the pawn with a neat tactic, he soon took control. Quite a promising beginning for Black then. So is 12...e5 the answer to both 12 Rc1 and 12 Qd2 ?
In Games 8 and 9 Mamedov defends successfully with 10...Bd7 (the Svidler variation?). In Game 8 he manages to confuse his opponent with an early ...Qa5 which is earlier than usual when combined with 10...Bd7 in the Classical Exchange Variation. Romanov made some incorrect choices and ended up having to play with three lacklustre pieces against queen and a big-passed pawn. The result was never really in doubt.
His most important contribution to theory however can be found in Game 9. Werle played Sakaev's recommendation 15 Be3 and it was interesting to see how a strong Grandmaster intended to improve on the influential Konstantin Sakaev's analysis:
If you play through the next few moves you'll see that Mamedov employed a very instructive method for solving Black's problems. I liked this game as both players played a string of critical ideas which ended in an entertaining draw. The game is theoretically very important, so don't overlook this one!
Take a look at this position. Is this just better for White? Does Black just have to try and grovel a draw? In Game 10 (and the notes) we see that White beat higher-ranked players in two recent outings. On the other hand in Jakab-Boros from 2003 Black was able to draw, but even here White had a small pull, so this line can't really be considered that 'dynamic' anymore from Black's point of view.
In Game 11 Vachier-Lagrave outplayed Volkov in the opening phase to obtain an excellent position. However he spoilt his position with a serious misjudgement when he erroneously gave up his queen for a pair of rooks. The young Frenchman has made great progress in previous years but needs to improve his technical play.
From the Grünfeld player's point of view, it looks to me that Black can successfully vary from the main line of the Hungarian variation with 11...Qc7 and maybe even with 11...Nbd7. So why tempt falling into your opponent's home preparation, (which is a definite risk after 11...Bxe4)?
Our last game investigates recent developments in D99, essentially involving two Buhmann games. Areshchenko demonstrates a sensible way for Black to defend in Game 12 and obtain a reasonable position. Winning chances appeared once White started pushing, but (even in dynamic defences!) winning with Black often requires some help from your opponent!
Till next month, Glenn Flear