A new chess opening to be obsessed with

The Grunfeld Defence! (or Defense.)

This one’s hypermodern, which means it’s going to take me a couple weeks and multiple failed playing attempts to understand it. I started learning chess from a classical guy who taught me to play toward the center. Basically, chess is a little like literature – everything was based around old, rarely challenged structures and rules until the first few decades of the 20th century, when everything changed, when the structures were seen as unable to support the revelations of war, disease, revolution, and changing social and class mores. In literature, it meant stuff like this:

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih

– the last few stanzas of “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

In chess, it meant stuff like this:

which is the starting position of the Grunfeld defence, in which black is about to fianchetto and hasn’t even moved his king’s pawn! Crazy, huh?

Basically, what this means is that black is giving up a strong pawn center (seen as a must since the Paul Morphy days and earlier, as far back as I know) in favor of building a fianchetto castle (sometimes called the King’s Indian) that leaves very few options for White in pursuing a mate that’s not spottable half a dozen moves in advance. The Exchange Variation, one of the most progressions in the Grunfeld defence, sees that crowded-looking center with the knights and pawns being completely massacred and leaving the Queen sitting in the middle or black’s knight threatened by a well-defended pawn or knight from white.

The exchange variation is TOUGH. I get slaughtered when I play it with white. There are some other variations which are a little easier, but risky.


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