Breaking News in the Gruenfeld!

Breaking News in the Gruenfeld!

2Bf41-0
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Welcome back!  I'm continuing my reviews of chess books on the Forward Chess platform. In order to get an understanding of just how effective studying on Forward Chess itself has been, please read up on some of my earlier blogs. I give in depth explanations of the benefits I've reaped since using the advanced tools to boost my chess learning. It's enjoyable if you are 500, 1500, or even 2500. No matter your level, I find that the Forward Chess way of studying book is more engaging with the reader. When the reader is more engaged with the material presented in the book, they absorb more knowledge through this "active learning".

The book we'll enjoy investigating together today is Unknown Weapons in the Grunfeld by renowned opening theoretician GM Millos Pavlovic and published by Thinkers Publishing©.  

This book for anyone who wants to improve:

  • Their theoretical knowledge from either color.
  • Their understanding of typical ideas and patterns in the Gruenfeld.
  • Arm their repertoire with powerful surprise weapons.
  • Anyone who wants to begin learning this opening from any side.

The book is extremely comprehensive, there are 12 chapters (with many sub-chapters as well) but in this review I'll reveal several exciting specimens from my 3 favorite chapters. While this book is not just about all the 5th move sidelines for white, (it includes the very main lines too) I enjoyed 3 chapters from sidelines 5.Na4, 5.h4, and 5.Bd2, each has a unique flaw black aims to exploit. At the end I will help the reader extract general conclusions about the variations. (ideas, themes, plans)


5.Na4

 A little background here. While the 4th most common move in the position displaces white's knight onto the edge of the board, may be construed as mysterious to the inexperienced on-looker, this move has clear logic. White wants to create a large center with e4 but without allowing the typical Gruenfeld exchange Nxc3 followed by c5! and black's bishop becomes a monster on the long diagonal. In an ideal scenario, white would push away black's knight away, then white will later return his "dim" knight on the rim back to the center by retreating to c3. With over 750 games as of 2020, this move has garnered universal respect by all top players and has become something of trend. It's been wielded by the best Gruenfeld player of all time, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL) as well as Nakamura, and especially Xiong many times in recent years. It was pioneered by Armenian IM Ashot Nadanian, who defeated strong GM Varuzhan Akobian in the first game in this line. However, shortly there after (in 1997) Melikset Khachiyan (@GMMelik) dismantled him with a lengthy king-walk.  But I'll limit this post to just the book review. (I recommend everyone to search Nadanian-Khachiyan 1997, Armenian Championships, 0-1... great game.)

Grandmaster Melikset Khachiyan

While main moves have been common 5...Bg7 and sometimes even 5...e5, Pavlovic proposes a great solution that's enterprising and deadly: 5...Nb6!? the 4th most common response with surprise value and deployed by 2600+ elo GMs Krishnan Sasikiran, Salem A.R. Saleh, Benjamin Gledura, Lubomir Ftacnik, and also the late Russian super-grandmaster Igor Kurnosov who tragically died after getting hit by a car at the age of 28, in 2013.

Conclusions:

  • 5...Nb6!? a powerful response known to few and not only equalizes, but gives black a dynamic, unbalanced position to play for a win. Vintage Gruenfeld.
  • 8...Qd6!? is a great novelty discovered by the author and it's lucky that he shared it with the chess community.
  • Black typically pressures the d4 square and the long diagonal in general. (Bg4 pins the knight which was protecting e4, there's of course the omnipresent monster bishop on g7, and then the typical pawn thrusts e5 and c5)
  • Always be prepared to sacrifice a pawn for the initiative in many variations. Sometimes, there's no obvious concrete return on the investment , but there's always a tangible dynamic pressure that's applied on white in nearly every sacrificial variation. This is the spirit of the Gruenfeld defense. Sac a pawn, terrorize your opponent.

The author GM Milos Pavlovic

5.h4!?

I will keep my investigation slightly shorter in this review on 5.h4. Certainly there's been an unbelievable craze with people essaying this move. I discussed it in many of my previous blogs as well. Have fun with this move as white or black, the complications are seemingly endless in some variations.

Conclusions:

  • h4 can fatally weaken the g4 sqaure, and make it difficult to kick out black's bishop.
  • Because white is starting a pawn storm but is behind is development, if black suddenly opens the center white's king becomes unsafe and white attack crumbles.
  • Black welcomes white to lose time in the position with h4-h5-h6.
  • 6...0-0! is a strong move by Pavlovic (with excellent statistics) and it seems to be ridding black of many typical problems in this variation.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave the best Gruenfeld player ever.

4.Bg5

Here Pavlovic recommends us a rare continuation that packs potent venom.

Conclusions:
  • 4...Bg7 is a modern idea against 4.Bg5 and might be the most precise way to pressure white.
  • (As usual) black sacrifices a pawn for a serious initiative and pressure along the diagonal.
  • 6...c5!? recommended by Pavlovic is doing theoretically well and should concern white players.
  • Position that are concluded with "complex play" or "compensation" tend to be much easier for black to play thanks in large to his active pieces and tactical possibilites.

Which variation is your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Click here for more on my introduction to Forward Chess, my insight on why I think it's a useful tool, and my review on Yaroslav Zherebukh's Gruenfeld book, The Modernized Grunfeld!

Bye for now!