Grünfeld Defence 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4
In Game 1, following 5...Nxc3 6 bxc3 dxc4, Akobian plays the positional line with 7 Qa4+ where White recuperates the pawn. Since Wang Yue out-foxed Peter Svidler last year there have been many games, most of them concerning 9...c5! instead of Svidler's 9...Nc6. Despite White's success in this particular outing, Black seems to be holding his own as the notes can testify. Hammer's problems perhaps started with the artificial 21...Be5 (rather than 21...e5), but he failed to grasp that (as a rule of thumb) Black shouldn't be afraid to close the centre if need be.
In Game 2, Zhigalko instead opts for 5...c5 and the following position soon occurred, after 9 Qf3:
Zhigalko's reply 9...Qf5!? is quite interesting, especially as he soon obtained the initiative with Black which is rarely the case in these lines. Instead of Laznicka's poor 10 Qxf5, critical is 10 Bb5 Bd7 11 Qxf5 gxf5 where the jury is still out on a final judgement.
Chuchelov-Timofeev in Game 3 features a novelty on move 10 for Black in the '4 Qb3 versus the Pseudo-Hungarian line':
Here Black played the natural, but previously unplayed, 10...Bb7 and continued to avoid resorting to the usual ...b4. The game was quite a good test of Timofeev's idea, as Chuchelov managed to find a way to keep a certain control of his position despite Black's activity. Hindsight helps commentators no end, but it seems clear that White would never have lost if he had captured on e6 (on move 22), as the resulting simplified positions leave White a pawn up with a nominal advantage.
Theoretically speaking 10...Bb7 strikes me as playable, but not fully equalizing, so I don't know if the move will become more popular than 10...b4.
Wang Yue has a preference for slight technical edges so it's perhaps no surprise that he is willing to go down one of the main lines of 4 Bf4 against the Grünfeld where the queens come off. White has the better pawn structure, see Game 4, but in practise has not been able to win these positions, largely because even if Black has doubled (hobbled?) a-pawns, his bishop pair tends to save the day. Indeed Jakovenko had no real problems to save his pawn-down endgame.
However I must admit that I would feel more comfortable playing White in this line.
Exchange with Be3, Qd2
In Game 5 Petrosian's opening seemed to work well, but then he drifted into an inferior position and lost a pawn. The endgame was a tough affair which he held but I wonder if Moiseenko missed a win.
So what we can learn about 12 Bg5 f6 13 Bf4 f5! 14 Bc4, is that 14...fxe4 seems to lead to complications that I believe are drawing. Am I missing something? Instead 14...Qa4 was less clear but was still probably fine for Black.
So all-in-all I quite like Petrosian's 13...f5:
Black attacks the centre!
Exchange with Bc4, Ne2
Bareev introduces a novelty on move 17 in Game 6 in the highly fashionable line involving an early ...e5 by Black. Despite the result and Bareev's superb handling of the final phase, I don't think that his move (17 Be3) offers any advantage. So I have to conclude that the onus is still on White to keep searching to find something convincing against 12...e5.
The opening by Black in Game 7 looks imprecise and Wang Hao was able to obtain some pressure. For most of the game Black defended carefully, and was very close to equalizing, so his collapse at the end came out of the blue as Wang Hao found a nice tactical sequence to chalk up the whole point.
In Jakovenko - Topalov, Black played in an ambitious manner throughout starting with his novelty 14...Nb4 which led to complications:
Now I can only guess at how much of the game can be put down to preparation, inspiration and desperation, but Topalov sacrificed a piece for pressure, attacking chances and a pawn or two. Could Jakovenko have found a way through the variations to emerge with a winning position? Possibly, even probably, if one analyzes the position long enough, but in practise it proved difficult to keep control. Jakovenko's blunder shouldn't be considered in isolation, it was a result of the intense pressure that Topalov managed to generate.
4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bg5
The opening in Game 9 should be compared with that of Game 1, featuring the immediate 4 Bg5, and in general studied in tandem. Apart from transpositional possibilities, the slight differences need to be taken into effect when choosing one's plan.
Here Black just about equalized, but was outplayed in the middlegame, probably because he was reticent to play ...f5 to support his nicely centralized knight.
4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bf4
Black fell into an opening trap in Game 10, and one that is important to remember if you intend playing 7...c5 here:.
Instead of this 7...b5 looks slightly shaky and 7...Bg4 has been over-analyzed. So 7...c5 is indeed worth some consideration, and should be playable, but Black has to pick one of the other options on later moves to avoid following Malisauskas's unfortunate example!
Till next month, Glenn Flear