Play 5.Bd2 against the Gruenfeld
We are happy to introduce the latest opening project of IM Renato Quintiliano - Play 5.Bd2 against the Gruenfeld. Recently, Renato achieved his last GM norm and the official attribution of the GM norm is just a formality now.
The current database consists of 10 huge theoretical chapters, 20 interactive test positions, Video Version (4.5 hours Running time), a Memory Booster, and Computer Practice.
Preview by the Author
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5
After my latest databases focused on solving Black's problems in 1.d4 d5 defences, I took the ambitious decision of trying to answer one of the biggest questions (if not THE biggest question) faced by 1.d4 players as White, and I'm also a member of that club, by the way: How can we fight for an advantage against the Grunfeld Defence?
This is obviously a difficult task. The Grunfeld is regarded as one of Black's most reliable options against 1.d4. Strong players like Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave trust its foundations so much that they have been playing it almost exclusively for more than 10 years already, even knowing that their equally strong and experienced opponents in the elite would come prepared for it.
Nevertheless, the opening theory is developing very quickly nowadays, and White players keep finding different ideas to pose new practical problems and try to overcome the solidity of the Grunfeld. That being said, I chose 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 as my recommendation.
The seemingly timid bishop move always seemed like an interesting option to me. Some years ago, I have tried it in a couple of games after studying the lines a bit. My research for this database required a careful review and updating of these old analyses. But I was pleased to realize that it remains a totally playable and worthy variation. White's initial idea is pretty obvious: We aim to recapture on c3 with the bishop, creating an opposition with Black's strong dark-squared bishop and sometimes we can even exchange it when the Black king becomes a potential weakness. However, there are at least two more aspects that attract me to this move. The first is that Black has a limited range of set-ups to choose from against this line. That makes my job of organizing the material simpler, and, surely, makes your task of studying it easier, too, as well as understanding the typical positions and structures that arise in each line. Another point is that White keeps a very flexible position, a very important thing regarding modern opening preparation. That means we can not only study more than one option against Black's moves but it also keeps room for new ideas and improvements.
In Chapter 1 we begin dealing with a serious problem already: 5...c5
This is an idea that became popular in the last years and was played even by Carlsen in the last FIDE World Cup. Black has scored very well here which means this move should not be underestimated. On the other hand, it is a relatively new line and its theory is still being developed. Here, I recommend a materialistic approach with 6.dxc5 Bg7 7.Qc1!? a move that may look strange at first sight. But in the analysis, it proved to be an interesting attempt of solving White's practical problems and holding the pawn at the same time.
The retreat 5...Nb6 is more popular, aiming to exploit one of the drawbacks of White's last move by putting pressure on d4. After 6.e3 Bg7, White has two ambitious options.
In Chapter 2, I've analysed the more common 7.f4!? aiming to build a strong formation in the centre. Black should react in an active way against this plan to avoid ending up in an inferior position, ensuing a complicated fight in the middlegame. In Chapter 2 we see these positions and how to deal with Black's counterplay.
Another option is 7.h4!? which is a recent idea introduced by GM Anton Guijarro. The advance of the h-pawn poses new practical problems for Black and leads to rich and interesting positions. In Chapter 3, I have analysed some interesting recent games and tried to make a small contribution to the development of this line.
The main crossroads arises after 5...Bg7 6.e4
At this point, the most popular option is 6...Nb6, aiming for quick development with pressure on d4.
The most Grunfeld-like reaction 6...Nxc3 is studied in Chapters 4-7. The main branching point is being reached after 7.Bxc3 0-0 8.Qd2.
Now, the most thematic Gruenfeld move is 8...c5.
However, Black can choose a different plan with 8...Nc6!? a move that became popular after Carlsen used it against Anand in their 2014 World Championship Match. The line goes 9.Nf3 Bg4 Black's idea is to force simplifications and after 10.d5 Bxf3 11.Bxg7! Kxg7 12.gxf3 Ne5 13.0-0-0!, we reach the critical position.
We have a very interesting battle and a rich position for both sides. The material and structural imbalances ensure a complicated fight. In Chapter 4, I covered the typical plans for both sides in this position. I believe White has interesting chances for an advantage due to a clever move order found by Carlsen, and I have tried to develop his idea further.
White should answer 8...c5 with 9.d5.
Now, Black has two options at his disposal - 9...Bxc3 and 9...e6.
The line 9...e6 is more common and I concluded that it is likely Black's best path to equalize. After 10.Bc4 exd5 11.Bxd5 Nc6! we reach the critical position.
This has become the main move in recent games, with Black still being undefeated so far. I found it very difficult to find something for White, but eventually worked out a new move order which at least avoids the drawish tendencies and preserves some practical chances. You will find it as well as other typical ideas and move orders in this line in Chapter 5.
In Chapter 6, I deal with 9...Bxc3 10.bxc3 e6 11.d6!
White has a passed pawn, more freedom and real chances of developing an attack on the kingside with h4-h5. I think Black's position is simply more difficult since White's ideas are always simple and dangerous while Black is forced to show precise play in order to avoid getting crushed by the attack. In Chapter 6, you can see how to exploit the potential of White's position as well as a promising novelty shown by the engine.
Instead of 10...e6, Black should play 10...Qd6.
The modern trend preparing either a harmonious development with Nd7 or the advances e7-e6 and f7-f5 in order to undermine White's centre. The critical position is being reached after 11.f4 e6 12.Bc4
At this point, 12...b5! is a serious attempt to solve Black's opening problems by force. If Black is able to regain the pawn and exchange everything in the centre, then White won't have any chances of playing for an advantage. However, we can make Black's goal harder to achieve by means of a new move leading to an interesting position with chances for both sides, although I think White's position could be easier in a practical game. The analysis on this line can be found in Chapter 7.
Let's get back to the position arising after 6...Nb6. The line goes 7.Be3 0-0 when White has a choice.
Besides the main move 8.h3, I examine 2 alternative options as well.
The move 8.Bb5!? is an interesting idea that drew my attention. The bishop seems pointless on b5, but it can actually be very useful by provoking some committal decision by Black. Another point is that it gives White the option of developing the knight to e2. I have checked a lot of options for Black here but concluded that White can fight for an advantage against all of them. For this reason, I offer this as an alternative for White in Chapter 8.
Intending to provide you with as many interesting options as possible, in Chapter 10, I analyse the alternative 8.a4!? a5 9.h3 This is an idea that became more popular recently thanks to a couple of games by Magnus Carlsen against MVL. The inclusion of a4/a5 adds a few interesting differences compared to the main line, and could be a nice try against a not so well prepared opponent, or if you just want to avoid the main theoretical lines.
After 8.h3 e5, White has a choice between two options.
9.d5!? is a less played line, but I could not find anything wrong with it. White seizes more space in the centre and forces an active reaction from Black: 9...c6 10.Qb3 cxd5 11.exd5
We already have a tense position with a double-edged fight ahead. The d5-pawn can be dangerous, and if White manages to complete the development, it will ensure a clear advantage. On the other hand, Black got an equally dangerous majority on the kingside and still has a lead in development. As usual, such dynamic positions tend to be balanced with correct play by both sides, but the analysis of Chapter 9 shows that the path is not exactly obvious.
The other move is 9.Nf3 when the game heads for simplification in a more or less natural way now: 9...exd4 10.Bxd4 Nc6 11.Bxg7 Qxd1+ 12.Rxd1 Kxg7 13.Bb5 Nb4 14.a3 a6 15.Be2 Nc6 16.Nd4 Nxd4 17.Rxd4 Be6 18.0-0 Rfd8 19.Rfd1 Rxd4 20.Rxd4
The resulting ending is of course balanced, but not without play. Although Black should be fine with correct play, one of the world's best Grunfeld players didn't manage to keep the balance and got in trouble after only two imprecise moves. This recent game between Carlsen and MVL really impressed me and made me think about White's practical chances in this ending. In Chapter 8 I went more deeply into some ideas that can pose small problems for Black and possible ways of making progress for White. The position is quite technical and that means we can easily lose our tiny advantage (if there is any, after all) if we play imprecisely. But after analysing it I still think White has some practical chances.
I could have concluded the introduction of this database with a more inspiring position for players eager for an advantage against the Grunfeld, but I think this one represents the essence of my thinking in this work better. The truth is that it is simply too difficult to find an advantage by force in modern opening preparation times, especially if you go for forced lines that everyone can analyse until the end with an engine. Instead, my focus here was on avoiding these forcing lines and offer as many interesting options as possible, both positional and dynamic, a few new ideas, always aiming for positions with practical chances and where your opponent won't be able to simplify into a dead draw or a totally balanced game. Hopefully, these lines can make your task of outplaying the Grunfeld easier in the future.