Bayonet Attack - 9 b4
The Bayonet continues to make news and for those keen to resist some of the more extravagant claims that are made for its potency, it might be found heartening to see Ivan Cheparinov now switching sides and defending the Black side. But maybe it is just that suddenly his White opponents are willing to confront him in this area of his expertise? Either way, his choices are revealing. In the first game Bareev - Cheparinov he heads for the 10...f5 main line and after 11 Ng5 Nf6 12 f3 adopts the fashionable 12...Kh8!? move, favourite of that other young superstar Teimour Radjabov:
I like the fact that 12...Kh8 helps to slow down White's c5 break and somehow my confidence in the move is reinforced if 13 Be3 is really White's best. However, the opening is in fact by no means a total success for Black here. I like the logic of 13...Nh5, but sometimes logic is just not enough. So what of the alternative 13...Bh6 ? At the very least, anyone wanting to follow Bareev's opening recipe will need something new against this tricky customer - Black has so far tended to attack with vigour, and not a little success, after conceding the bishop pair in this novel way.
So, is Cheparinov's switch of system a few weeks later the product of disillusion or just a desire to extend the range of positions he has handled in practice? The latter should be sufficient motivation for a young player and Malakhatko - Cheparinov certainly emerges into a complex and testing middle-game structure. I hope the readers will here find my long explanation of Black's knight manoeuvres helpful. Sometimes it is not enough to dwell on the paradoxical nature of the play, but to really dig down to the motivation. I am still not crazy about 9...Nh5 and 10...a5, but in this case familiarity has bred a certain grudging respect. Black appears to waste umpteen tempi, notably by heading backwards with 15...Nh5 from the diagram:
but it is nonetheless very hard to characterise in a few words how his opponent should be using them. In the game Black forces the play with 21...e4!? a natural and dynamic idea, but one which to a degree backfires. However, it is always worth reflecting how one would play a position against a player for whom the delicate art of just sitting there and making vaguely intelligent but non-committal moves comes rather naturally. The very difficulty I have in answering that question is perhaps the ultimate justification of Black's counter-intuitive comings and goings.
Gligoric System: 7 Be3
This is an old hunting ground of mine, but a couple of bad experiences against precisely the system which Black selects here in Zontakh - Demchenko, 7...Ng4 8 Bg5 f6 9 Bh4 g5 10 Bh4 Nh6! has dampened my enthusiasm for some time now. The revelation in this game is to find that White can still find some life in 11 dxe5, ironically at the very time that unprecedented numbers of players are turning to 11 d5, a move I always viewed as something of a last resort. The key conceptual breakthrough (having already ascertained that White has no particularly good square for the queen after 11...dxe5 and is best off trading them) is to treat a knight potentially landing on d4 with its due respect but not with something akin to dread.
This is likely to encourage the entirely healthy move 14 h4! (from the diagram) which at least softens Black's king-side pawns and raises the possibility that the bishop on g3 may not be condemned to spectate in perpetuity.
But as Black spare a thought for 11...fxe5!? too. It may not be the best move, but it is quite likely neglected on grounds of fashion as much as of objective merit. For many it will be stylistically more suitable too.
Classical with 7...Nbd7
Wells - Espig is less topical, but features rather a nice pawn sacrifice - 14 c5!? dxc5 15 d5! from the diagram - - and incidentally, a second in the notes:
I have never been a great fan of 7...Nbd7 in the Classical King's Indian, but it can be a tough nut to crack. I suspect that Black does better to look elsewhere than 8...Ng4 but it is well worth knowing the moment to strike in such a position and I hope the game may shed some light on this.
5 Nf3 0-0 6 h3
This I have always found a complex system to understand. Here again, I selected the game Riazantsev - Inarkiev for its fascinating ideas (21...Rf4!? met by 22 Kb1!? from the diagram chiefly among them) rather than either for their faultless execution or theoretical urgency.
In fact, White's 11th move Nd2 was clearly an oversight since after 11...Bf6! the knight feels obliged to return to f3. I suspect it is not an untypical mistake to focus a bit too much on ...f5 (it is, after all, much of what the King's Indian is about!) and forget a subtle positional move of this sort. But there is still much to be learned from structure later arrived at and I certainly had the welcome feeling of being entertained here too.
5 Bd3 and 6 Nge2
I was drawn to the game Chatalbashev - Timoshenko by the sheer simplicity of White's plan in the centre and by how powerful it can look if Black does not take the appropriate precautionary measures.
From a theoretical standpoint, I suspect Black can feel comfortable enough after 5 Bd3 0-0 6 Nge2 Nc6 7 0-0, with either 7...Nh5 or 7...e5, but there is enough content in both that it is highly recommended to prepare for this system with due respect. The game also features a highly thematic and instructive pawn sacrifice in 18 e5! even if the play thereafter reveals patchy inspiration on both sides rather than consistent control from either player..
As I said above Richard Palliser will be here with the November update, I suspect sooner rather than later.