Chris from Germany is perhaps reticent to play with a Carlsbad structure (which we generally associate with the Queen's Gambit Declined!) despite the fact that this is probably the best option. See the e-mail reply.
Our first featured game of the month shows that new moves are possible at surprising moments.
This position has occurred dozens of times and White has always played 10 f3, that is until now! Reich introduces 10 h3, an idea that looks worthy of investigation especially if followed up with 13 Qb3. The game itself was double-edged and perhaps both sides missed chances to seize the advantage.
Have you seen the position that arose in Game Two?
This one isn't new but Nepomniachtchi aims to confuse his opponent with a less well-known variation. This basically works (at first!) as he soon obtains an edge with Black. However he spurns the win of a pawn (too drawish?) wanting more, but achieves less as if anything White is the one with chances in a complex queenless middlegame. A lack of time may have led to, and then hastened White's demise.
Timofeev gets into trouble against Wang Yue in Game 3. His chosen defence to the Exchange Variation with 8 Rb1 has seemed promising for Black in the past but goes horribly wrong here. The Chinese player innovates successfully by over-protecting his e-pawn and then bringing his queen's rook to the centre before playing his bishop to h6. So in future Black players will have to be careful if they play this line. A possible improvement being the immediate 20...Rb2, but this requires a good look.
In Game Four Spassov follows the same formula as in the game Wang Yue-Kurnosov, and was successful even though Khenkin's defence was superior in this game. In both games Black's central blockade was eroded and White's centre eventually free to advance.
I am left with the sentiment that the plan of 8...a6 9 Be2 f5 isn't such a good one against 8 Bb5.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave became the youngest French champion in history in August. This game illustrates his energetic handling of the Grünfeld where he sacrifices a pawn for positional compensation and completely crushes the experienced Vaisser. The variation he chooses with ...Bd7 and ...Qc7 doesn't look completely equal (see the notes for some recent high-level encounters that have formed by viewpoint) but has certain advantages over the main lines with ...Bg4: It's less theoretical, Black gets a playable game and White can't play on auto-pilot. Game Five is actually a model demonstration of the power of the initiative in an opposite-coloured bishop middlegame.
Game 6 features a variation that I don't cover very often in this column for two reasons:
1. In practise it arises more often via a Slav, or (in most cases as here) with a very 'unGrünfeld-looking' move-order; and
2. Despite a certain popularity in some quarters it's basically aiming for solidity and a draw with Black. Not quite the usual Daring Defences fare! In this game we see some dangers for Black, an imprecision leading to White's bishops taking control very quickly. However in the notes we notice that with a more precise defence it can be quite tough to make much of the bishop pair with Black being so solid.
We've seen Black frequently meeting 8 Be2 in the Hungarian Variation with 8...b5 9 Qb3 c5!?. Here in Game 7 we examine a recent game involving the satisfactory alternative 9...Nc6, with which Black has been quite successful:
Although White introduced a novelty on move 20, the resulting positions (despite being somewhat difficult to judge due to the material imbalance) are certainly not favourable for White.
The aggressive advance with e4-e5-e6 doesn't look such a great idea for White against the Hungarian either, that is if we examine the notes and our main Game 8, Beliavsky-Negi. In fact White spent virtually the whole game fighting for a draw. So it looks as if 12...b4 is a good dynamic way of handling Black's position and doesn't seem to be worse in the ensuing complications. However before you get too excited with this, check out the possible improvement for White on move 14. I already showed this idea to a pupil who won an easy game as Black with 12...b4!
In Game 9 in the Prins variation White tries to get something out of a system which experience has shown to be a difficult task. His 13 Nh4 is a recent invention and leads to an interesting but not favourable middlegame. Later on, Black seemed to get decent chances, but rather over-ambitiously captured twice on c3 rather than sitting on his bishop pair.
In Game 10 Black meets the Russian System with ...Nc6 and ...Bg4, and Onischuk responds with a positional line where Black has previously been more or less able to hold his own:
A couple of recent alternatives didn't cause Black any worries, but here White played 14 Rd1. Black then varied from the regular move 14...Nc5 with 14...Rfd8, but failed to equalize and was subsequently outplayed. Whether or not there is a hidden improvement in the line with 14...Nc5, this is certainly an area where players should be focusing their research.
Till next time, Glenn Flear