Challenge the Gruenfeld with Bg5
We have not had to wait for long a new contribution to the ultra-popular Gruenfeld. The readers have already become acquainted with GM Kiril Georgiev’s review of 4.Bg5 and its ensuing lines. What are the differences with the same bishop sally after 4.Nf3 Bg7?
The Moldavian FM Egor Lashkin is here to give explanations to these essential questions. Even more, the initial position can also occur in games, which have started with 1.Nf3.
Here is how FM Lashkin justifies his choice:
"I chose this system because of its practical soundness. In the majority of lines, we follow basic fundamental rules and achieve decent centre control and better endgames. This system will be suitable for endgame lovers (as there are many endgames to face in the main lines), pragmatists (it offers white a very pleasant game and objective advantage in most lines), and technical players (with precise play, black will be able to achieve some sort of equality, but we have many possibilities for creating practical endgame problems). This line is very unpleasant for Grunfeld players because it reduces all the dynamism and potential that black has in the main Grunfeld lines. This line stifles black, making their choice to play this particular opening unjustified."
The database consists of 10 theoretical chapters, 10 lightly annotated model games, 25 interactive test positions, and a Memory Booster.
The first half of the database is dedicated to the deviations from the main reply 5…Ne4.
The move 5…dxc4 is the first of them to be examined in detail, after 6.e4! the path diverges.
Chapter 1 is dealing with Black’s minor alternatives to 6…0-0 and 6…c5, which are respectively studied in Chapter 2. The latter move is met by 7.Bxc4!, when special attention should be paid to the sequence 7…cxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0 and the demanding 9.e5! with all its tactical subtleties.
Chapter 3 represents the pawn sacrifice 5…0-0, which is closely correlated with the Svidler’s pet line 4.Bg5 Bg7!? and might just transpose. Black is going to rely on the pair of bishops, but the general impression is that a strict way to equality has not been found yet.
Chapter 4 goes even further, as 5…c5 offers a sacrifice of both central pawns.
After 6.cxd5 Qa5 7.cxd5! Black is able to win them back with the help of 7…Nxd5 8.Qxd5 Bxc3 9.Bd2 Bxd2 10..Qxd2 Qxc5
Nevertheless, White can follow with 11.Rc1 Qf5 12.Nd4 Qd7 13.Qh6!, with a strong initiative since Ke8 is stuck in the centre.
The subject of Chapter 5 is the modest 5…c6.
In this case, White can claim a pleasant long-term edge in the spirit of the Exchange Slav by playing 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.e3 Nc6 8.Bd3 0-0 9.h3.
The problem with the development of Bc8 is felt even sharper after 7…0-0 8.Qb3!
The second half is concentrated entirely on 5…Ne4.
Here, instead of the most popular 6.cxd5 or 6.Bh4, White is keeping the bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal with 6.Bf4 and the d5-pawn is questioned again. 6…Nxc3 is the usual reply, in Chapter 6 Black’s less popular options are discussed, while after the capture and 7.bxc3 the second player is at new crossroads.
The principled, but risky 7…dxc4 and Black’s attempts to stick to the extra pawn are analyzed in Chapter 7. An important line is 8.e3 Be6 9.Qb1 b6 10.Ng5 Bd5 11.e4 h6 12.Nf3 Be6 13.Qc1
White has ample compensation, given the rich possibilities in the centre and the kingside.
The last three Chapters are covering the variation 7…c5 8.e3 0-0 9.c:d5 Q:d5 10.Be2
Chapter 8 deals with the concrete 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qa5, which forces 12.Qd2 and trade of the queens before White has managed to castle. However, the king’s location in the centre may well be more an asset than a target in the long run.
After 10…Nc6 11.0-0 Black must reckon with 12.c4, so 11…cxd4 12.cxd4 Bf5 is more or less necessary, but then 13.Qa4! is quite annoying.
White is unambiguously intending to place the rooks on the b- and c-files and exert pressure along them. The critical line 13…Qa5 14.Qxa5 Nxa5 15.Rfc1 is analyzed in Chapter 10, while the minor alternatives on moves 11 and 13 are covered in the previous one.
The mentioned final part has more to do with the typical for the whole variation endgames, for the middlegame phase is overpassed. The line from above is usually leading to trading all the rooks as well - the author goes on in his investigation, proving that White can safely play on two results. It is remarkable, that in various lines Black’s queenside majority appears to be the most vulnerable part in his camp.
About the Author
We are pleased to introduce Egor Lashkin, a FIDE master from Moldova who has been playing chess for around 10 years. Currently, at his peak rating of 2449 with an IM norm, Egor recently achieved great success in the Moldavian Championship 2023, taking first place with a score of 8.5/9 and earning his first norm.
Egor is known in his country as a strong theoretician and is considered to be one of the best players. He has a principled and ambitious approach to the game, particularly in the opening, and his deep theoretical preparation and ongoing desire to analyze have contributed to his success. We look forward to learning from his insights and experiences in the world of chess.