Assault on the fianchetto: 3.h4!? against the Gruenfeld & Co

by ChessBase
1/15/2020 – When top players try out a new opening idea, you will often find an article with analyses and recommendations in one of the next issues of ChessBase Magazine. In the current issue #193 GM Romain Edouard for example takes a closer look at Grischuk's 3.h4!? against Vachier-Lagrave's Gruenfeld. You'll find "fresh unexplored positions" like the aggressive 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!? Enjoy!

ChessBase Magazine 193 ChessBase Magazine 193

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, Duda, Wang Hao, So, Vidit, Vitiugov, McShane and many more. Plus videos by Williams, King and Shirov. 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas and training sessions in strategy, tactics and endgame!


New repertoire ideas (II)

Are you the aggressive attacking type? Why both with quaint opening principles like development and castling when you can launch your h-pawn on move 3? Indeed, it's inspiring to see the starting position of this opening survey arise already after the third move: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!?


This strange attacking move was made popular recently by Alexander Grischuk, who notably used it several times against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. It is an interesting weapon especially against Gruenfeld players, as we will see throughout the article. Black generally goes for Benoni setups against 3.h4, but can also opt for the King's Indian, Benko, and even Gruenfeld — at his own risk.

Let's examine these approaches one by one:

A) 3...h5


The "bullet game" reaction to 3.h4 — Black mechanically blocks the further advance of the white h-pawn We will see that the inclusion of these moves rather favours White, who will often use the g5-square for his bishop.

B) 3...♞c6!?


An interesting answer, keeping all options possible in the centre (except ...c5). Generally though, Black will simply develop with ...♝g7 and ...0-0, then play ...d6 waiting for e2-e4 in order to reply ...e7-e5. Of course, he should watch out for d4-d5 at all times.

C) 3...♝g7 4.♘c3 d6


The pure King's Indian setup for Black. White has a choice of different plans. This is definitely one of the most critical options for Black against 3.h4!?.

D) 3...♝g7 4.♘c3 d5


Insisting on the Gruenfeld. After 5.h5! (already included in the diagram), I do like White's prospects, although there's still a lot to discover.

E) 3...c5 4.d5 b5 — Benko-style!


This was one of the first high-level games in this line (Grischuk-Vachier Lagrave, FIDE Grand Prix Riga 2019). In some variations, the move h4 turns out to be useful, while in some others it does not. Also, here I do like White's prospects, although a Benko specialist would maybe enjoy going for this line.

F) 3...♝g7 4.♘c3 c5 — Benoni style!


After 5.d5 e6 6.e4 exd5 7.exd5 0-0 8.e2 e8 9.f1 we reach the following critical position:


This was played in one game at the highest level possible (Carlsen-Vachier Lagrave, Saint Louis Blitz 2019), Black is probably doing fine, but there's also a lot to be discovered.


Overall, 3.h4!? is an interesting weapon, especially against Gruenfeld players. It offers fresh unexplored positions and — this is quite important for such early new attempts — even if Black reacts excellently, White isn't worse! Definitely worth a try for blitz, rapid — but also classical games!

You will find the full article with analyses and commented games in
ChessBase Magazine #193 (January/February 2020).

ChessBase Magazine 193

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, Duda, Wang Hao, So, Vidit, Vitiugov, McShane and many more. Plus videos by Williams, King and Shirov. 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas and training sessions in strategy, tactics and endgame!


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macauley macauley 1/16/2020 11:17
The horse is very much dead, yes (and I don't advise anyone to type non-editable comments on your phone). :)
Poulovas Poulovas 1/16/2020 03:12
"We're beating a head horse here."... Do you mean a dead horse maybe?
Anyway in chess terms the use of this article's title is incorrect and I don't understand why is so difficult to be understood. There is no Grunfeld at the board yet! I also don't undestand why CBM editors accepted a different title for this article in comparison to the title of CBM193 opening survey.
macauley macauley 1/16/2020 02:25
"The original German article is just a translation of the current article." Then it wouldn't be "original". It was translated the other way around. The author of the current article was CBM editors. We're beating a head horse here.
Poulovas Poulovas 1/16/2020 12:04
The original german article is just a translation of the current article. Magazine CBM193 correctly has the title "Attack on the Fianchetto". No Grunfeld, no King's Indian, no nothing, because after 2 black moves the game can transpose to anything. So why do you refer to Grunfeld setups without a Grunfeld yet at the board?
All I say is that the move 3.h4 is a general weapon against the black fianchetto and White players can use it against players who play not only the Grunfeld but also King's Indian, Modern Defence, Pirc Defence, etc.
From the above I don't think I am the one who needs to reconsider. It was better for the author of the current article just to apply the same title as CBM193 does and not improvise.
macauley macauley 1/16/2020 01:00
@Paulovas - If you look at the original German (from CBM editors), you may reconsider. In any case, I take your point but it's a rather hair-splitting one.
Poulovas Poulovas 1/15/2020 03:20
CBM has nothing to do with the wrong title of this article.
Actually CBM uses correctly the title: "Assault on the fianchetto" at its opening section as shown from a picture above. Only the present article, wich presents CBM193, uses the misleading title "Assault on the fianchetto: 3.h4!? against the Gruenfeld & Co".
Grunfeld requires a minimum of 3 black moves to be played. So no Grunfeld setup with only 2 back moves at the board.
macauley macauley 1/15/2020 03:05
CBM used "Gruenfeld & Co." for the title since it was Grischuk vs Vachier-Lagrave (a die-hard Gruenfeld player) that initiated this article. Part D covers a scenario when black plays ...d5. But indeed there are non-Gruenfeld fianchetto positions covered as well.
Poulovas Poulovas 1/15/2020 01:58
The title of the article is wrong.
There is no Grunfeld at the board, just a black fianchetto. So a title like "assault against black fianchetto" or "assault against modern defence" should be more suitable.