One of the main lines is tested in the first game. Lahno plays a nicely controlled technical game against Potkin (Game 1). Her waiting move 15...h6 is interesting:
but there's nothing wrong with the standard 15...Nac4.
In the British Championships Keith Arkell caused quite a surprise by finishing equal first. In the last round he was able to outplay Gawain Jones (Game 2) and win with his trademark 10 b3. Compare this game with his loss against Ivanchuk (see the October 2007 update) and you'll see that young Jones didn't react well to Arkell's predictable improvement. Jones admitted to me that over the board he had forgotten his own analysis. As a possible improvement, I don't believe that White has any advantage after 14...Bxe5.
Games 3-5 all feature an early Qa4+, but in a couple of different variations.
In Game 3 Wang Yue repeats the quiet line which brought him success against Peter Svidler a few months back: 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4 Nxc3 6 bxc3 dxc4 7 Qa4+:
Kamsky wasn't impressed and seemed quite happy to fight back on the queenside with 7...c6 followed by ...Qa5 and ...Be6. Black's opening scheme paid dividends in that he was soon able to confidently snatch the a-pawn. The rest of the game saw White fighting for equality which he achieved, but the Chinese GM can't have been pleased about his lacklustre opening.
The following position occurred in Games 4 & 5:
Eljanov tried 8 Qb3 against Cmilyte in Game 4 and Graf played 8 Bb5 in Game 5, but neither of them were able to obtain an opening advantage.
In Game 4 Cmilyte handled the Black pieces quite actively, but was tempted by a plausible exchange sacrifice in the middlegame that was met with a deep tactical refutation. In the opening 10...e6 proved to be fine but 10...Qg4 also looks good to me.
Rakhmanov in Game Five did try an early ...Qg4 and duly won the e-pawn. Meantime White was able to generate enough play. Later on in the middlegame White emerged with an extra pawn, but Black's bishop pair gave him full compensation.
So all-in-all White's efforts with Qa4+ didn't give him any early joy in any of these encounters.
Black won in Game 6 but was worse out of the opening. After looking closely at this game my feeling is that 6...Nxc3 isn't as good as 6...Nb6 as a reply to 5 Bd2. The elite certainly seem to prefer ...Nb6, probably because it feels wrong to allow White to exchange the dark-squared bishops so easily.
Gupta playing White had some advantage after the opening. However his exchange sacrifice was too optimistic, after which I don't believe that he was better, and in fact the game demonstrates that he was in serious danger of being worse:
Fritz approves of 20 Rxc4 but I've noticed that it has a tendency to overestimate exchange sacrifices.
I watched young Jonathan Hawkins twice play Polugaevsky's line in this year's British Championships. Against Simon Knott (see the notes to Game 7) Black went astray and was soon in trouble. The critical line however was played in the featured game Hawkins - Gormally which I feel represents a good model for Black who had a decent game out of the opening despite Hawkins's innovation.
In fact Gormally obtained good chances in the queenless complications, but was only winning as late as move 97. However by then he had virtually ran out of 'chess time', as the fifty-move rule wasn't far from kicking in.
Another model game for Black can be seen in Game 8. I recommend all Grünfeld players to study this game even if they don't generally play this variation (5 Bg5 Ne4 6 cxd5 Nxg5 7 Nxg5 e6).
Feller uses several thematic ideas to outplay the experienced Vaisser and earns victory in a line which some may think to be lacking in winning chances for Black.
Time for White to show his teeth. Ivanchuk plays a finely controlled positional game that leaves Kamsky flummoxed in Game 9. When Ivanchuk gets things right he makes chess look easy! Kamsky's 8...Nfd7 followed by 9...Nc6 may not be that bad, but he couldn't then find a route to equality, so Black practitioners should probably stick to the main line with 8...Nh5.
Game 10, Kramnik-Kamsky, was a lively affair leading to a neat perpetual check. A great deal of this was theory and even more was probably known to the players, but the game was still fun. After Kamsky's play we can pretty sure that Black is OK if he has done his homework. I wonder if Kramnik has an improvement up his sleeve after 23...Nxe4 (rather than Kamsky's 23...Ne8)?
Till next month, Glenn Flear