Daring Defences, September 2003
Three subjects this time around: The Benko, the Nimzovich and the Grünfeld.
GM Glenn Flear
I start with a couple of entertaining tussles from the Benko Gambit, both featuring lines that I have already covered in recent updates.
In Game 1, Tregubov (by improving on Dreev-Bellon) is able to show that meeting 5 b6 with 5...e6 is fully satisfactory, although later on he gave Gleizerov some chances.
In Game 2, a Clichy team-mate of Tregubov, Jean-Marc Degraeve, starts to drift into a passive game resulting from the 10/11 Rb1 line in the Exchange variation. His tactical ingenuity is entertaining but his opening wasn't fully satisfactory and didn't help revive this awkward variation for Black.
The Nimzovich isn't one of the most fashionable of the Daring Defences, but it's worth surveying developments from time-to-time.
In Game Three White makes a mess of the opening, but creates great complications and could have got something out of the game. Theoretically 6 Bd3 is less flexible than Beliavsky's 6 Nh3 when ECO prefers White.
Game Four, Hector-Gausel illustrates that after 1 d4 Nc6 2 e4 e5 3 dxe5 Nxe5 4 Nf3 the move 4...Qf6 ultimately leads to problems due to the exposed nature of Black's queen. Instead Miles's favourite 4...Bb4+ is recommended.
The one-sided game Beliavsky - Mikhalchishin makes one thing clear: In the Exchange Variation, if after 6...c5!? the check 7 Bb5+ should not be met by 7...Nc6. Instead 7...Bd7 is correct. Of course most folk prefer 6...Bg7 delaying ...c5 until move 7 or 8, but be warned anyway! If a strong grandmaster can fall into this trap...
Sakaev - Belov deals a nasty blow for fans of ever-fashionable 10...Bd7 as White's piece sacrifice seems strong.
The move 16 f5! offered White two strong central pawns for the piece. Sakaev was soon able to switch to a decisive attack. See the notes to Game 6 to see how Black can improve.
In Game 7 Luke McShane comes up with the novel 16...Qxg5 instead of the standard 16...Nxd4.
The young Englishman has certainly added to Grünfeld theory as well as his ELO-rating in the last few months, but now that his "gap year" between school and university has come to an end I imagine that his creative efforts will be directed to other fields from now on. As for this game; somehow the complications worked out fine for Black but I wonder if White could have improved on move 20?
Game 8 sees Halkias and Borisek repeating a controversial Dreev-Sutovsky encounter until move 23, but I'm still not sure if White has enough for the pawn. An entertaining draw that's worth playing through until the end.
As for what I can deduce from the theory, Black can equalize in my opinion with 15...Nxb3 but 15...Qd7 plays for more.
White's positional system (recently favoured by Artur Yusupov) with 5 e3 and 6 Qb3 is highlighted in Game 9. Black has the choice of abandoning the d5-point or cautiously supporting it. The latter option seems safer but Black then has to be patient as the position takes time to liven up. McShane gives a model display of patience, positional control and fine technique.
In Game 10 Black plays a fine game suggesting that 13 Bf4 has been pacified in the main line of the Russian System, Hungarian Variation (7...a6).
Game 11 features a surprising win by a player 250 points lower rated than Alexander Onischuk - the victim. Pierrot obtains a respectable opening and continues with a sensible defensive game and takes his chance when it comes.
I received a couple of e-mails from Kent Leung who amongst other requests was hoping for some games on the Russian System with 7...a6 and further coverage of 10...Bd7. Well, I've included a high profile game that caught my eye in each of these, so hopefully that will satisfy Kent. However the other Grünfeld games that I've included also seem to be significant from a theoretical point of view, so there's only room for one 7...a6 encounter for now (Game 10), but keep watching this space...
I finish with an e-mail letter from Doug Schwetke asking my opinion of the Grünfeld Exchange line where Black plays ...Bg4 before castling.
In fact it has been played by a number of the top ten in recent years so it's probably reasonable enough. It's less theoretical and more lively than those lines where Black plays into a queenless middlegame with ...Qa5 and ...Qxd2+. So my advice is... see Game 12, and give it a go!
Till next time! Glenn