First of all an e-mail from Franck Steenbekkers who is concerned about Black's chances after 7 Bg5 in the Grünfeld Exchange Variation:
In SOS-10 Igor Lysyj writes an article on this line, which he calls the Kruppa Variation, and he does seem to demonstrate some interesting ideas for White.
However after taking a closer look I get the impression that Black's main problem is that the perceived main line, i.e. Sutovsky's sharp counter with 10...f5, is simply not correct. The resulting complications lead at best to a dubious middlegame, where although practical results aren't bad, a close examination with an analysis engine suggests that Black is in trouble.
Instead Black could opt for a positional solution, such as with 10...Nd7 simply developing and being prepared to give up the bishop pair, which should enable him to obtain a playable middlegame and near-equality.
However I consider the most precise way for Black is to seek a queenless middlegame with 8...Qa5 (just as is typical against 7 or 8 Be3) where he should be able to equalize with precise play, see Game one.
In Game 2, Uribe-Buhmann, the advantage passed backwards and forwards in the later stages. A sure sign that much of the game was affected by time pressure. The opening features one of the main lines where White builds a big centre and Black counters with ...f5.
As neither side was distracted by complications the game settled down to a middlegame where three pairs of minor pieces had been exchanged. White has some space and Black solidity plus possibly the superior structure:
Overall, I'd consider chances to be about equal, although Black has to be wary of White advancing with d4-d5 or c4-c5.
I like Game 3 as it is really a model for Black. Ponomariov is able to outplay Eljanov despite his space disadvantage and he thus emphasizes that this whole approach by Black is very sound. I actually feel that the modest 4...Nc6 is Black's best line against 4 Bd3 and have done so since I lost easily with White against Tony Miles in this line
In Game 4, Flear-Taddei, yours truly was well prepared for the Budapest (following his own ChessPub Guide!) and the move 12 Qd5! obliged Black to play very carefully:
I think Budapest fans then need to investigate 12...Ba7 13 c5 Rae6! to solidify the central arena before getting too carried away with any attacking ideas. In the game the natural 13...Rh6?! proved to be inadequate, as Lalic had already shown as long ago as 1988, but as that unfortunate accident isn't highlighted in some Budapest books I don't think Taddei will be the last player to go down that road!
This game illustrates a point about all tricky sidelines: any 'surprise' value is lost if you play them too often or, with insufficient home preparation, you may get surprised yourself!
In Game Five, Postny-Eliet, Black's opening was fine up to a point, and that includes the advance of his h-pawn. However Victor Moskalenko has demonstrated that Black needs to then place his king on the kingside in such positions as White's queenside expansion is in that case far less dangerous. In the game, after castling long Eliet ran out of things to do and he had to spend a lot of effort making sure White couldn't just break through in front of his king.
Three Benko games this time as we take a look at the tricky Zaitsev Variation which is popular at club level. White gets various early tactical chances, but in the long-term the knight on b5 risks being stranded a long way from home.
The key position, as reached in Games 6-8, is the following after 7...d6:
Game 6 looks at 8 Bf4 which is the most popular move these days. If Black remembers to play 8...g5 he should be able to emerge from the opening with a decent position. The key line being 8 Bf4 g5 9 Bxg5 Nxe4 10 Bf4 Qa5!=.
In the game Rozum played the inferior 9 e5 which turned out well for Black very quickly.
In Game 7 the move 8 Nf3 was tried. Black's main problem is selecting between two promising moves 8...Nxe4 and 8...g6, both of which should give him a good game. In the actual game Shytaj took the pawn which is perhaps the most ambitious and was rewarded as Efimov, playing White, never regained the pawn and was soon in trouble.
So 8 Nf3 is rightfully under a cloud.
Game 8 illustrates the kind of disaster that attracts some players to the white side of this line. Even a 2500 player can go wrong and get panned in the opening. However, the notes show that Black has a clear improvement on move 11 and a safer alternative on move eight, so 8 Bc4 shouldn't be that dangerous.
Overall the Zaitsev is out of fashion as it is known that it is a 'speculative' way to handle the white pieces. However if you don't remember what to play you could be the next victim, so study these three games carefully if you intend playing the Benko!
The diagram position after 9...Bd7 has been reached a couple of times this year in high-ranking games:
In Game 9 White consolidated his position with 10 Qd3 and retained his dark-squared bishop, whereas in Game 10 Krasenkow preferred 10 Bxf6 and 11 Qb3, aiming for a clear light-squared strategy.
The Iranian GM Ghaem Maghami found an inspired way to complicate with game with an early ...f5 aiming to exploit White's sluggish development. The complications that followed were very unclear and led to (in my opinion the fair result) an exciting perpetual check. My computer tended to prefer White but I couldn't find anything clear-cut and nor could Neverov.
In Game 10 Tregubov built up a nice attack and then lost the plot, missing a clear win and then having difficulties in the endgame. This doesn't necessarily mean that Krasenkow's plan with Bxf6 isn't dangerous, as it seems that the difference between being 'better' or 'worse' is often a fine line as Tregubov found out to his cost.
These two games may not really answer that many questions as to White's best plan, but do at least demonstrate the rich possibilities for both sides in this line.
Till next month, Glenn Flear