Monday, September 19, 2016

Gruenfeld Defence: Is Ba3 Good?

The Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld Defence has changed quite a bit in the past 45 years. The opening moves are 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7. This is the move order given by both Boris Avrukh and Larry Kaufman in their books on the Gruenfeld Defence. Black can and sometimes does play 6….c5.

In that case White could play 6…c5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Nf3. Then Black’s pieces are not as well placed with the bishop on d7. This line has scored 60% for White in my database. Boris Avrukh in “The Gruenfeld Defense: Volume Two” devotes Chapter 6 to the line 6…Bg7 7.Ba3. GM Avrukh recommends 7…Nd7 and 8…c5 to which he gives pages of concrete analysis.

In the 1970s the main line was still 6…Bg7 7.Bc4. The move 7.Nf3 was considered inaccurate. Only weaker players who did not study openings ever played 7.Nf3 against me. I entered postal tournaments where books were used by everyone. I had to rethink 7.Nf3. Theory later showed that 7…c5 was best, but I liked to castle first.

Wayne Morford challenged my 7.Nf3 0-0 with 8.Ba3!? I was expecting this bishop to go to Be3. White had some very good possibilities until he stutter stepped his other bishop with 9.Bd3 and 11.Bc4. Then Black gradually outplayed him and won.

Morford (1778) - Sawyer (2000), corr APCT 1979 begins 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 0-0 [7...c5=] 8.Ba3!? Nd7 [8...b6 9.Bc4 Bb7 10.0-0 c5=] 9.Bd3 c5 10.0-0 b6 [10...Qa5!=] 11.Bc4 [11.e5 Bb7 12.Re1+/=] 11...Qc7 12.Qe2 Bb7 13.Rad1 Rac8 14.Rc1 e6 15.d5 [15.e5=] 15...exd5 16.exd5 [16.Bxd5 Rfe8 17.Bxb7 Qxb7=/+] 16...Nf6 17.Rfd1 Ne8  [17...Rcd8-/+] 18.Bb2 [18.Bb3 Nd6=/+] 18...Nd6 19.Bd3 Bxd5 20.Ba6 Bb7 21.Bxb7 Nxb7 22.Rc2 Rfe8 23.Qf1 Rcd8 24.Re1 Rxe1 25.Qxe1 Qd7 26.Rd2 Qe8 27.Rxd8 Qxd8 28.h3 Bf6 29.Nd2 Qe7 30.Qd1 Qd6 31.Qe2 Qe5 32.Ne4 Bg7 33.Qd3 h6 34.f3 f5 35.Nd2 Nd6 36.Nc4 [36.a4 Bf6-+] 36...Qe1+ 37.Kh2 Nxc4 38.Qxc4+ Kh7 39.a4 Qd2 40.Qb3 Be5+ 0-1

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Sicilian (1.e4 c5)
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