Set in the era of Led Zeppelin 8-tracks, Tab cola, flared trousers, and hanging in the back of a Vista Cruiser or "hanging" in a musty Wisconsin basement, we all laughed while we got educated by a little piece of television history we call That '70s Show. And for those of a certain age, we also got educated around the same period as the cult sitcom’s timeline by Bill Hartston’s tome The Grünfeld Defense.
The English IM’s pioneering Batsford book of 1973 taught us much on this very strategic of strategic openings, as we all wanted to play Bobby Fischer’s secret weapon of the Grünfeld, used to create his “game of the century” in 1956 against Donald Byrne and he almost beat the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik with it during the 1962 Varna Olympiad, not to mention a brace of epic loses to his world title foe Boris Spassky.
And the reason I mention that ‘70s Grünfeld book by William Roland Hartston is that it (still!) comes highly recommended, and even today’s top GMs can learn much from it, none more so than Georg Meier at the ongoing 4th Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden, Germany, who soon came unstuck at the board after World Champion Magnus Carlsen surprised him by deploying the Grünfeld - and the German GM could easily have learned from Hartston’s book that combining Nc3, Nf3 and g3 is a bad mishmash that gives Black excellent counter-attacking chances after …Nfd7.
And 6…Nfd7! was just what Carlsen played as he easily outplayed Meier for his first win of the tournament after a run of four draws. And although Carlsen has finally scored his first win of the tournament, he’s still got a lot of work to do going into the weekend’s final rounds as he’s a full point behind Levon Aronian, the runaway tournament leader.
1. L. Aronian 4/5; 2-4. M. Carlsen, F. Caruana, H. Yifan 3; 5-6. M. Vachier-Lagrave, A. Naiditsch 2.5; 7-8. G. Meier, M. Bluebaum 1.
GM Georg Meier - GM Magnus Carlsen
4th GRENKE Chess Classic, (5)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.g3 Meier admitted after the game that he confused himself by what he played, no doubt surprised by the Carlsen's rarity of using the Grünfeld. 5...dxc4 6.Qa4+ Nfd7! Hartston’s tip is just so good for Black because now all his pieces rapidly develop, with gain of tempo. 7.Qxc4 Nb6 8.Qd3 0-0 9.Bf4 Nc6 10.Rd1 Bf5! Already Carlsen has a big lead in development, and Meier can't even play 11.e4 now, as after 11...Bg4! suddenly the pawns on d4 and e4 come under attack and can't readily be defended without further compromising his position. 11.Qd2 As we said in the previous note: if 11.e4 Bg4! 12.Be2 (Worse is 12.d5? Nb4 13.Qe2 Nc2+ 14.Qxc2 Bxf3 and White's position is in meltdown already.) 12...Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Qxd4! 14.Qb1 (There's no time for 14.Bxc7 Qxd3! 15.Rxd3 Nc4 and again White's position is teetering on the brink.) 14...Qc4 and Black's activity and extra pawn is more than enough for an almost winning advantage already. 11...Bg4! And again, this puts d4 under great strain. 12.Bg2 After straying into a difficult position from the opening, Meier is resigned to his fate now, hoping that perhaps his bishops can offer some form of hope. And realistically this is his only practical chance here, as after 12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.Bxe5 Bxe5 14.dxe5 Qxd2+ 15.Rxd2 Nc4! 16.Rd5 c6 17.Rd4 Be6 Black is heading into a very easy ending a pawn to the better and with no weaknesses. 12...Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Nxd4 14.Bxb7 Nc4 It's always a bad sign when you start to emerge from the opening as White with Black having a pair of menacingly active knights cutting deep into your position. 15.Qc1 Rb8 16.b3 Rxb7 17.bxc4 c5 18.0-0 Rb4! Carlsen offers Meier no respite whatsoever. With his pieces actively placed and his king secure, he's rightly moving in quickly for the kill here. 19.Bh6 Unfortunately, White doesn't have 19.Nd5 as it loses on-the-spot to 19...Nxe2+ forking king and queen. So, faced with this difficult predicament, Meier attempts to stay in the game with the semi-quasi threat of a surprise attack on Carlsen's king. 19...Bxh6 20.Qxh6 Rxc4 21.Ne4 Threatening both e3 and Ng5 - but Carlsen has a clever solution. 21...Nxe2+ 22.Kg2 Qa8! 23.f3 Rxe4!! Carlsen cuts across all of Meier's hopes by putting pressure on his opponent's king. 24.fxe4 Qxe4+ 25.Kf2 Nd4 Three pawns for the exchange is the least of Meier's problems here, as Carlsen's knight on d4 is simply a monster. 26.Qe3 Qd5 27.Rd2 e5 28.Re1 Re8 29.Qe4 Qe6 With Meier's king wandering in the wilderness, Carlsen rightly prolongs his opponent's agony by keeping queens on the board. 30.Re3 Kg7 31.Rb2 c4 Not only does Meier have to worry about the perilous state of his king, he also now has to contend with the possibility of a big passed pawn coming down the board. 32.g4 Qf6+ 33.Ke1 Qg5 34.Kf2 Re6 With the rook now coming into the attack on Meier's king, the end is nigh, as the placard-holding doomsayers would have it. 35.Ke1 h5 36.h3 Rf6 37.Kd2 Rf4! Carlsen finds the quick kill with a deadly, double knight fork. 38.Qxe5+ Qxe5 39.Rxe5 Nf3+ 40.Ke3 Nxe5 41.Kxf4 Nd3+ 0-1