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Master The Grunfeld with US Chess Champion Sam Shankland

The Grunfeld is a chess opening for Black against 1.d4 and occurs after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5. This opening gets its name from a famous game in 1922 when Ernst Grünfeld beat Alexander Alekhine with the opening. Since then, the Grunfeld has been a favorite weapon of World Champions Smyslov, Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov and Vishy Anand.

Many positions in the Grunfeld promise Black more active play than in most other openings. Black is able to enter unbalanced positions which allow him to aim for more than just equality. This is why the Grunfeld has become one of Black’s most popular choices against 1.d4.

It is key to understand that the Grunfeld is a hypermodern opening. This means that Black does not try to control the center early on with his pawns but spends some time on fianchettoing his dark-squared bishop and only then attacks the center with his pieces. To put it into a simple formula: Black first leaves the center to White and then tries to conquer it later with using his superior development.

However, it is important to note that the Grunfeld is a sharp opening and many lines lead to very concrete play. For this reason, Black can not only enjoy all the rich possibilities, but also needs to be familiar with several critical ideas, tactical themes and strategic plans for both sides.

In this exclusive course preview, the 2018 US Chess Champion Sam Shankland teaches the ideas and motifs found in this sharp opening, explaining the essential tactics in the Grunfeld gives you a complete understanding of typical tactical patterns for both sides.

Tactical Ideas in The Grunfeld

In this video, Sam Shankland starts by looking at a game between Loek van Wely with the White pieces against Gata Kamsky with the Black pieces. Let’s analyse some of the game here.

Master The Grunfeld With Us Chess Champion Sam ShanklandIt begins as a normal Grunfeld, namely 1. d6 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3, which reaches the position on the left. WHite has put together the strongest possible defense of the d-pawn. The knight might be more active if it were placed on f3 instead, but that would allow Black the resource of playing …Bg4, putting more pressure on the d-pawn by pinning one of its’ defenders. In addition, …Qa5 hangs over White’s head, which would pin and threaten the c-pawn. After Ne2 there is no issue – for example, after …Bg4, White simply plays f3. Similarly with …Qa5, the c-pawn is defended by the knight and White can simply play 0-0 and get the king safe.

At the same time, however, White’s pieces are a little poorly placed. After 9…0-0 10. 0-0, Black has a whole host of options. Sam prefers …Qc7 at this point and has been playing it recently in his games that reach this position. Alternatively …Rd8 would add pressure to the d-pawn, or Black can simply continue with development. In this game, Kamsky played 10…Na5, an interesting choice.

Master The Grunfeld With Us Chess Champion Sam Shankland

The point of this move is that it threatens the bishop on c4, chasing it away. 11. Bd3 and then 11…b6 gives us the position on the right. In the video, Sam talks about how a locked center is one pawn structure which often arises from the Grunfeld. This structure tends to be good for Black when White’s pawn is already on c3, and not on b2. In the latter case, White can always try to break open the queenside with b4 and occupy the c-file. With the pawn on c3, the queenside is completely locked. Make sure to watch the full video!

Master the Grunfeld

If you want to know an opening, you should be familiar with its typical positional ideas and remember the most important theoretical lines. But this is not enough. Every opening has its own stock of tactical motives. Therefore, you also have to know the typical tactical patterns which frequently recur in your opening. GM Sam Shankland’s course on the essential tactics in the Grunfeld gives you a complete understanding of typical tactical patterns for both sides. Click here to get instant access with 50% off.

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