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I've dug up some analyses on certain half-forgotten lines that have long lost their topicality. One of these is the Seville Variation (see Navara, D - Paravyan, D below), which was evoked in an e-mail query from Brazilian GM Luis Paulo Supi. The problem for Black is that when the 'old stuff' does indeed get played again, the opponent who has done his homework (with those books that you personally haven't opened for years!) he may have a psychological edge. In fact, there are some folk who do occasionally revive such variations and furthermore have a new idea or two up their sleeves. Anyway, it's interesting to re-examine some of these variations with a shiny new engine and see what one can find...

Download PGN of October ’22 Daring Defences games

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Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.d5 [D87]

In Salem, A - Sevian, S Black fell for a cunning trap and went down quite quickly. I suspect that he was less familiar with the opening than Salem who had already played 15.f4 before:

The knight is pushed away from its central outpost and White ensures a space edge. It may well be true that after 15...Ng4 16.Bd4 e5 Black is able to come back to e5 with his steed, but now the d5-pawn can't be undermined. Then, with careful play, Black can perhaps hold the balance, but it's easier for him to go astray.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Rc1 [D87]

In Sarana, A - Paravyan, D meeting the check with 12.Rc3 looks odd, but if it holds up to scrutiny then it does enable White to later place his king on a chosen square (either with 0-0 or sometimes K-f2) rather than move it to the less-than-ideal f1.

In response, the 12...Bg4 13.f3 Bd7 manoeuvre of the game worked fine, but I feel that White should have taken the opportunity to use his new-found access to the f2-square with a later 15.Kf2 rather than 15.0-0. The main idea up to now has been to play with ...Be6!?, but this only works if there isn't Qd1-b3 available. So 12...Rd8 13.Qd2 Bg4 14.f3 Be6 is a playable example. Otherwise, MVL's choice of 12...e5 is plausible, but is highly complicated, for example, after 13.d5 best seems to be 13...b5!?.

Grünfeld Exchange, Seville Variation 7.Bc4, 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bxf7+ [D88]

In the Seville Variation, David Navara surprised his opponent in Navara, D - Paravyan, D with his sixteenth move:

It looks like there is a route to 'stone-cold equality' (see 19...Rf8 instead of 19...Rd8) but this would be difficult to find if one wasn't familiar with the subtleties. Black soon got himself into difficulties, but the trap was quite deep. Note in the main line (i.e. with 15...Qd5 instead of 15...Nc4) the move 16.Ng1!? which isn't that comfortable for Black unless he is really well-prepared. Giri used this clever idea and thus caused Carlsen a few problems in a rapid game in this manner only a couple of years ago.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bd3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Be6 14.d5 [D89]

The notorious exchange sac variation had dropped out of favour, perhaps as 10...Bg4 isn't as popular as it used to be (although if Svidler is recommending in his Chessable course, it might be due for a comeback). In Urkedal, F - Bersamina, P White tried a sub-variation involving 16.Kh1:

The idea of placing the king out of harm's way in the corner is far from new, and indeed arises in a number of similar positions, but as it's less forcing Black has more rope to get himself tangled! Anyway, here Bersamina found a promising novelty, after 16...Bf7 17.Bh6 the surprising 17...Nc6. The knight is brought back into the action before it's too late. Giving back the exchange is a small price to pay for an easy game. In fact, from here Black was able to outplay his opponent, but it was still a tricky exercise converting the advantage.

Grünfeld Exchange 7.Bc4, 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bd3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Be6 14.Rc1 [D89]

I always wondered why the pawn sacrifice with 14.Rc1 was so unpopular, especially after Sakaev had shown some interesting options for White in a repertoire from a generation ago, many of which remain untried. In Petrosyan, M - Fawzy, A Black found a novelty quite deep into the game, and a good one as it clearly improves on previous experience.

Here the no-nonsense 18...Nc4 gives back the pawn for an acceptable game, whereas the more materialistic 18...a6 hasn't fared well in the past. After the further moves 19.Bxc4 a5 20.Qa3 bxc4 21.Rxc4 Fawzy innovated with 21...a4! which I rather like, and it seems that chances are objectively balanced. A sharp struggle resulted in the aftermath, but Black was the one pressing and indeed he missed a clear win at one stage.

Grünfeld Exchange with 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bd2 0-0 7.Rc1 c5 [D90]

The Korobov, A - Vachier-Lagrave, M encounter I examine here became quite complex, but this is perhaps a result of both sides insisting on continuing with principled moves!

First of all, MVL goes for 7...c5 hitting the centre in typical Grünfeld fashion despite the possibility of 8.dxc5 which deserves attention, but Black does seem to get enough play. In the game, after 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Rxc5 Qxa2 a lively middlegame arises. Korobov sacrificed the b-pawn for development time, but (as you'll see in the notes) this isn't the only way to handle White's game. The complications that resulted were pleasant for a neutral to observe and led to an exciting draw, but there was a hint of a white edge at some point. In any case, it's still too early to make any definitive conclusions, but 7...c5 is certainly more dynamic than some of the alternatives.

Grünfeld 4.h4 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.h5 [D80]

Sometimes a fashion is hard to understand except for its novelty value. In Ponkratov, P - Paravyan, D for example White pushed his h-pawn early, but in the diagram position it's what is happening in the centre that is more relevant:

The pressure on d4 is evident whereas any benefit from having a pawn on h5 seems a little vague. So the opening line with 4.h4 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.h5 is hard to justify on any objective grounds, but in a number of blitz and rapid games Black has been known to be caught by surprise. Still, I reckon that White is taking a big risk by punting such an approach, and in this particular game Paravyan could have just grabbed the d-pawn for only minimal compensation.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Bf4 [D91]

In Kempinski, R - Tomczak, J the following position arose:

These lines where one grabs and holds onto the c4-pawn are an ideal way to create problems...that is, for both players. The possibility of 12.h4 throws further wood on the fire, but Kempinski instead opted for 12.Bxc4 when 12...bxc4 13.Qb7 Na6! 14.Qxa6 c5 led to Black giving up a pawn for fair compensation. If all this doesn't suit your style (i.e. you prefer being a pawn up, not down!) then Morozevich's 10...Qd7!? looks like a more cautious way to handle the queenside.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bc4 [D94]

In Mamedyarov, S - Carlsen, M White was ultimately victorious, but not so much because of the opening.

It may just look like 12.h3 is a pragmatic choice to avoid ...Bg4, but play can easily become quite concrete in what may follow. Carlsen chose 12...Nxb3 13.axb3 e6, but I have a feeling that this is a slightly dangerous approach, as the d-pawn on d6 (following 14.d6) can be a nuisance. I suggest placing the bishop on f5 (either with or without the capture on b3) and induce White to take the risks, which he can do with the double-edged option g2-g4.

Grünfeld Russian 7.e4 a6 8.Be2 b5 9.Qb3 c5 10.dxc5 Bb7 11.0-0 [D97]

In Niemann, H - Salem, A a line that was 'hot' around the time that the American was born was given a modern examination. Interest may have cooled, but there are still plenty of ideas that deserve a closer examination.

The struggle is heating up in the diagram position and Niemann has some choice, but it's clear that he was well prepared. The game continued 17.a3 b4 18.Bd6 Rfe8 and now the modern-looking 19.h4! seems to offer White chances for an advantage. In the complex struggle that followed Salem gradually turned the game in his favour, but White's two main mistakes involved the same error: he should have brought his dormant rook into play with R-b1 (see moves 22 and 31) and his failure to do so cost him dear.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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