In Game 1 Boris Avrukh is totally outplayed by Virginijus Grabliauskas, who employs a solid defensive set-up with some hidden bite. The Lithuanian concentrated first on stabilizing the queenside before completing his kingside development and after a positional error from his opponent, he quickly took control. An instructive game for all English Defence practitioners even if you prefer a more active initial attitude.
It's a long time since 5 f3 was fashionable, but a number of variations haven't been fully worked out. Here we examine two of them.
First of all, Game 2 continued with the sharp 5...e6 6 e4 exd5 7 e5 Qe7 8 Qe2 Ng8 and soon entered complications where Black's thematic queen sacrifice led to a nice win for Mariano. Although Adianto (playing White) missed a couple of ways to defend it's clear that Black had practical compensation.
From a theoretical point of view 14 Qf2 is sometimes given as stronger here than our featured 14 Bb6. However against 14 Qf2 I have suggested an improvement on Neumann-Gipslis, which (if it holds water) shows that Black is giving as good as he gets against both key moves. Thus I'm concluding that the whole line (Black's most dynamic defence to 5 f3!?) is OK for him.
In Postny - Mannion (Game 3), the experienced Scottish Benko expert goes straight down the main line of 5...axb5 6 e4 Qa5 to meet his doom. He followed a line in which he had survived before, but since which Kasimdzhanov has beaten Pavel Tregubov. It seems safe to say that Postny was better prepared as in our featured game, Black basically fell apart. Although there's not much new here, it all seems to confirm my view that Black's queen's knight belongs on d7. See the notes where 15...Nd7! is recommended.
In this month's featured Leningrad game (Game 4) Ikonnikov meets the queenside fianchetto with ...h6, ...g5 and ...Qe8-h5:
This seems a dynamic way to meet White's sluggish but solid set-up. In the early middlegame the Russian finds an ingenious and effective way to generate dangerous kingside play with ..g4 and ...Nc7-e6-g5.
There are two Stonewalls this time:
In Game five Ulibin successfully improved with 12...Bxg5 suggesting that the whole line with 9...Nh5 is a satisfactory way of meeting White's popular Nh3 and Bf4-system. Indeed this could well be a better option than the low-scoring 9...h6. Not for the first time in this column, Ulibin's ubiquitous time trouble cost the Russian Stonewall expert half-a-point.
In Game Six Blagojevic dominated a game where the early Nc3, Rb1 and b2-b4 was employed. It's worth looking closely at the notes to find a better way of defending for Black. Although 8...Bd7 9 Bg5 Be8! seems to be playable, the safest seems to be 9...Nd7 which surprisingly doesn't get mentioned by ECO.
Playing the Classical Dutch this time, Ikonnikov was faced with an unusual idea - 8 Bf4 followed by c4-c5 in Game 7:
This new temporary pawn sacrifice seems inadequate (in theory!), but White does obtain active pieces plus various open lines and should keep his opponent tied down for quite a while in practical play. In the featured encounter, even after White dropped a piece he was able to keep the threats coming for the whole game and was actually in with a sporting chance of drawing until his penultimate move blundered everything away. On move 33, Ikonnikov could have made things easier for himself, but he did manage to convert with a mating net that his opponent clearly failed to anticipate.
Game Eight features a crushing win by Van Wely but Black didn't react well to the unusual 8 Qd3. If Dgebuadze had read Pinski's book (Classical Dutch, Jan Pinski, Everyman 2002) he would have known that 8 Qd3 Nc6 9 e4:
is virtually refuted by 9...Qh5! when White is struggling to equalize. Anyway if Loek tries 8 Qd3 against any diligent Daring Defences subscribers he'll be in for a surprise!
Gamelet 9 only lasts 10 moves! I couldn't resist putting in this blunder (sorry Mr. Handoko!). I've added some notes that suggest that lines where White allows ...Bb4 aren't a problem for Black, but only if after 7 exd5 he recaptures with the queen.
Albin Counter Gambit
In Game 10 Rustemov tries the old and largely forgotten 4 e4-line that is associated with Spassky from forty-odd years ago:
The complications turned out in White's favour but future Albin players should consider 8...Ng4! as a likely improvement.
I've briefly mentioned the Albin in one of the questions that arose via the Forum. Is Morozevich's 5...Nge7 the way to meet 5 Nbd2, or is it only a one-off surprise? See the second of the two questions.
More next time but one answer to a query about the 4 Bf4 line (see the first Forum question).
Till next time,