The Safest Grunfeld by Alexander Delchev and Evgenij Agrest

Sample from the new book, part one

The Safest Grunfeld by Alexander Delchev and Evgenij Agrest offers a complete repertoire for Black against 1.d4 and various Anti-Grunfeld systems as 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3, 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.b4, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3.

The book follows Chess Stars trademark structure with 3 chapters in every part. “Main Ideas” aim to give you a succinct review of the theory and the basic knowledge that should you allow to start playing the opening without much study. They also give examples of middlegame plans and typical tactical motifs, to complement the “Step by Step” and “Complete Games” chapters.

In most main lines, the authors offer at least two alternative setups for Black – one solid system, and a more challenging approach. The material is up to date to April first. Here is the link to the Index of Variations and a sample of the book.


In this part, I deal with systems
where White develops his bishop to
g5. Line A is devoted to 4.Bg5 while
line B considers its “improved” version
4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5.

The first test of this system was
the game Alekhine-Grünfeld, Vienna
1922. It saw 4.Bg5 Ne4! and the
future World champion unexpectedly
answered with 5.cxd5. This
probably took the godfather of the
opening, Grünfeld, unaware as he
failed to find the best continuation.
(nevertheless he won the game)

It was demonstrated a year later:
5…Nxg5 6.h4 Ne4! 7.Nxe4 Qxd5
8.Nc3 Qa5 9.h5 Bg7 10.h6 Bf6 11.e4

Safest Grunfeld 1

Euwe-Von Hoorn, Amsterdam 1923

12.e5 cxd4!, with a big advantage.

For half a century White did not
come up with any fresh ideas until
the year 1970. Then the Bg5 system
enjoyed a burst of popularity, connected
with the novel move 5.Bh4.
Black reacted with the thematic
…c5, but Taimanov won a number
of games which put the whole
Black’s setup under question. The
turn of the tide was the game Mecking-Fischer, Buenos Aires 1970

Bobby Fischer played here 5…
Nxc3! 6.bxc3 dxc4! 7.e3 Be6!. His
idea marked the beginning of a new
era in the development of the Bg5
system. It is the foundation of our
proposed repertoire, although we
also provide a more solid and safe
setup as a backup line.

The improved branch of the Bg5
system – 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, had similar
development. In the beginning,
White linked it with the idea
to grab the d5-pawn after 5…Ne4

Safest Grunfeld 3

6.cxd5, using the fact that the
g5-bishop was defended. Of course,
Black could easily regain the pawn,
but not without concessions:
6…Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6 8.Qd2 exd5
9.Qe3+ Kf8, losing the right to castle.
So Black should play first 8…h6
9.Nf3 and only then recapture the

The resulting Carlsbad pawn
structure with …h6 on the kingside
was assessed as slightly better for
White. However, Black gradually
learned how to cope with this approach.
He found a good manoeuvre
– before castling, the g7-bishop
returned to f8 and then went to d6
to support play on both flanks.

it turned out that Black
was not even obliged to level the
pawns. Firstly Korchnoi tried 7…
c6?!, and then 7…0-0!? was discovered.
Thus about 1970, White had
to borrow the retreat to h4 from the
4.Bg5 variation. As a result, after
6.Bh4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4, instead of
having an extra pawn, White was
playing a real gambit.

A. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5

Objectives and Move Orders

Similarly to the previous part,
White leads out his bishop, intending
to complete development with
e3. The big difference is that instead
of targeting the c7-pawn, which is a
remote threat, he now simply wants
to snatch the central pawn on d5.

Black has not a convenient way to
defend it so he will have to take on
c4. However, he should first exchange
his f6-knight to reduce the
number of minor pieces which is
important in a cramped position.
The immediate 4…dc?! 5.e4 Bg7
6.Bxc4 0-0 7.Ne2! would be horrible
for Black so he answers with:


This is by no means the only
move. Svidler’s efforts in the early
1990s popularised the amazing
move 4…Bg7!?. Practice has confirmed
that Black gets good compensation
for the central pawn.
Still, I advocate the opposite approach
- instead of sacrificing a
pawn, to pocket one. It gives more
chances to win.


5.Nxe4 deprives White of the f3-
square. Black can use this to attack
the central dark squares, e.g.: 5…
dxe4 6.e3 Bg7 7.Ne2 c5 8.Qd2 h6!
9.Bf4. Now simplest is 9…e5! 10.Bxe5
Bxe5 11.dxe5 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Nc6
13.Nc3 Bf5 14.Be2 0-0-0+ 15.Kc2
Nxe5 16.Rad1 Be6 17.b3 f5=.

5…Nxc3! 6.bxc3 dxc4 7.e3

Safest Grunfeld 2

Our plan is to finish development
with …Nd7-b6, …Bg7, and
…0-0. Then we’ll wait for an opportunity
to push …c7-c5. If White
played e3-e4, we should be ready
to stop his central expansion with
…f7-f5 or …e7-e5. Whenever White
plays a4, we blockade the pawn
with …a5 and attack the target on
a4 with …Bd7, possibly …Qe8.

A1. 8.Be2 Nd7!? 9.d5?! Bf5
10.Qd4 Rg8

Black has the initiative. For instance,
11.e4? Bg7 12.Qxc4 would
fail to 12…Bxe4.

A2. 8.Qb1?! c5!

9.Qxb7 Bd5 10.Qb5+ Qd7!
11.Rb1 Qxb5 12.Rxb5 Nd7 13.Ne2
e5 14.f3 Bg7
Black has completed development with a roughly equal position.

A3. 8.Rb1 c5! An idea of Agrest.

9.Rxb7 Qa5 10.Ne2 Bd5

Black has full compensation for
the pawn and an easy game, for instance: 11.Qb1 (11.Rb2 Nd7) 11…
Nd7 12.Rb5 Qa3.

A4. 8.Nf3 Nd7!?

9.Be2 (9.d5 Bg4 10.Qd4 Bxf3 is fine for Black.)

9…Nb6 10.0-0 Bg7

Safest Grunfeld 4

Here White can try to build up
play on the kingside with e3-e4,
or on the opposite flank with Qc2,
Nd2, Bf3.

B. 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4

I chose this move for our repertoire
because it offers Black active pieces
and clear plans. Alternatives are 5…
dxc4 and 5…0-0!?.

B1. 6.Bf4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 c5
8.e3 0-0 9.cxd5 cxd4! 10.cxd4
Qxd5 11.Be2 Nc6 12.0-0 Bf5=

Had White’s bishop been on h4,
White would have been better due
to the pressure on e7 and the d8-
h4 diagonal. From f4, the bishop
is hitting void. Even more, in many
variations, when the d5-queen had
retreated to a5, …e7-e5 will be with

B2. 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7.Nxg5

Safest Grunfeld 5

I prefer this move to 7…e6 or 7…
c6?!. Now we threaten to regain the
pawn with 8…e6 or even meet 8.e3
with the sharp 8…c6 9.dxc6 e5!? so
White retreats with:

8.Nf3 c6 9.dxc6 Nxc6 10.e3

Black has full compensation for
the pawn:
11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Be2 Nxf3+
13.Bxf3 Be6 14.0-0 Qa5 15.Qc2
Rab8, Smyslov-De la Villa, Barcelona
1990, or:
11.d5 e4 12.Nxe4 Bf5 13.Nc3
Nb4 14.Rc1 Qa5.

B3. 6.Bh4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4!

8.e3 b5! 9.a4 c6 does not give
White substantial compensation so
he commonly answers in Catalan

8.Qa4+ Qd7! 9.Qxc4 b6!
10.e3 Ba6 11.Qb3 Bxf1 12.Kxf1
0-0 13.Ke2

It is obvious that Black’s only
reasonable plan is connected with
…c7-c5, but I prefer to execute it
when we’ll be better mobilised.

Safest Grunfeld 6

13…Nc6!? 14.Rhd1 Na5
15.Qb4 e6! 16.Rac1 Rfc8 17.c4

Now 18.dxc5 Qb7 19.cxb6 axb6
would give Black excellent compensation
while 18.Qb5 is also sharp
and unbalanced: 18…Qb7 19.d5
exd5 20.cxd5.