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!

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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.

Conclusion

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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