Chess openings – Grunfeld

Chess openings – Grunfeld


Hello again, and welcome to chessopenings.com.
Today we’re going to look at the Grunfeld opening which is a venomous
reply to the queen’s pawn opening. It begins with the moves, pawn to
d4, knight to f6, pawn to c4, pawn to g6, knight c3, and then the signature
move, pawn to d5. In the Grunfeld, Black rejects the principle of occupying
the center with pawns, and instead he prioritizes rapid development
and peace pressure on the center in order to see if he can create White
some headaches as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look. The Grunfeld is an aggressive response to
the queen’s pawn opening. So it usually starts out with the moves, pawn to
d4, knight to f6, and pawn to c4. Now Black sets up the development of his
dark squared bishop with the move, pawn to g6. Now after White continues,
knight c3, he’s planning to bring a third pawn to the center with e4.
And now, Black selects the Grunfeld by playing the move, pawn to d5.
This move might look innocent enough, but in fact it’s part of an all out
strategy to get at a sensitive point in White’s camp, and namely that’s the
d4 square. So the Grunfeld is very much so a strategy which is built around
trying to get at this pawn and trying to break it down. Eventually what
black plans to do is to trade off his D pawn, which will open up the queen
for an attack, and he’s going to use his bishop on g7 and he’s going to
use piece pressure and pawn pressure to try to break down this d4 point.
We’re going to get a chance to see that in just a moment. You could say that in the Grunfeld, Black
is sort of playing a little trick on White. In most openings, both sides are
going to fight hard to occupy the center with pawns, but in the Grunfeld,
Black actually lures White into setting up an enormous pawn center with the
sneaky ambition to attacking it later. This is a double edged strategy which
could end in either glorious success for Black, or sometimes it could lead
to total disaster. Now the clearest example of the strategic
climate happens after pawn takes pawn, knight takes pawn, and pawn to e4. When
Black’s major aim is going to be to combine piece pressure and pawn pressure
against the d4 point. This leads to a really paradoxical area of
chess strategy, which is that advancing pawns is generally a good thing.
White has advanced tw9 center pawns here, and this does a few things. This
gives his pieces some free line and squares. It also restricts the enemy’s
pieces and pushes them back, and in the event of an end game it also
means that White’s pawns are a little bit closer to promotion. So these
are three big upsides to advancing our pawns, but there are also down
sides to advancing the pawns, which is that they invariably create weak
squares behind them, since pawns cannot move backwards, and they’re also the
best defenders. So in this case, since White has moved both
his E pawns and his C pawns, here he has a tender point on d4. In a way
the Grunfeld is a kind of battle between two opposing strategies. White
says, “I’m just going to take the center, and I’m going to enjoy the
benefits of having extra central control, and extra space.” Black,
for his part is saying that, “I’m going to give you the center, just for a little
while and I’m going to use the extra time to develop my pieces and then
attack the center ferociously and see if I can break it down and leave you
with all kinds of weaknesses.” So both sides have a clear strategy, and they
also take on a clear risk. Now, the position which we are showing after
White has captured on d5 and played pawn to e4 is known as the exchange
variation. This represents White’s most popular book line against the
Grunfeld. From here, Black now captures on c3, and White recaptures. Black
completes his fianchetto with bishop to g7. I think you’ll notice right
away that White indeed has a huge pawn center. His pieces have plenty of
flexibility about how they can be deployed, and Black always has some funny
problems finding squares for some of his pieces, because that pawn center,
it controls just so many squares in this position. And it also can
rapidly be advanced. For example, e5 or d5 could always push some material
backwards. But Black is positioned to assault the pawn center. There
are plenty of ways White can play and press for an advantage in a double
edged game, but for instructional purposes, let’s focus on what
happens if White doesn’t think carefully about how he deploys his pieces
next. After the very reasonable developing move,
knight to f3, Black would play pawn to c5, and I just want to give you an
example of how quickly White can fall under a typical Grunfeld attack. If he
just lackadaisically plays bishop to e2, he’s going to find out very
quickly what it means to come under assault in the center which is, black
would play, knight to c6. Immediately he’s already attacking that pawn
four times, and this means that White has no choice but to defend the
pawn. He has to play bishop to e3. If he simply advances the pawn, then Black
would win material with bishop takes c3 check, the rook would also
be under attack. Instead, White normally plays bishop e3, in this position,
and now Black can step up pressure once again with bishop to g4, which
threatens to win a pawn once again as one of the defenders is under attack.
At this point, White has no choice but to play pawn to e5 which fixes
his pawns in the center, and also weakens the light squares as well. Now black could step up the pressure by first
playing pawn takes pawn, pawn takes pawn, and then he would castle king
side, castles king side, and now simply, queen to d7, followed by bringing
a rook to d8. In this position, Black already has something of an initiative
here. He’s developed his pieces comfortably and White has weaknesses
on a2, d4, and on the light squares. So this is already an example of
just how quickly the position can come out of control for White. In the
exchange variation, White needs to think about how to slow down Black’s counterattack.
And he’s got a few ways to do this. Mostly he wants to pay attention
to not allowing this light squared bishop to also participate in
the attack. So one very fascinating way to do this is rook b1. This
leads to a very sharp position by putting pressure on the b7 pawn, White
is making it much more difficult for Black to eventually bring the light squared
bishop into the game. Certainly, there are some antidotes to this
for Black, there are a couple of known methods which allow Black to get
an interesting complicated game. But this is a very dangerous, very sharp position,
and Black has fight very hard not to get into a horrifyingly passive
position. Another way to cope with these problems would be to delay developing
this knight on f3. For example, bishop c4 is known as the classical
variation, and the idea of this line is that instead of developing the
knight to f3, White is going to develop the knight to e2. By doing this, he’s
always ready to counter the pin, on g4 with the move, f3. This is also
a very interesting strategy. White is just going to try to continue his
development and build up an attack using the center. Another method of development is just to play
bishop e3 early on into these positions, and the idea here is to first shore
up things along this diagonal, usually by playing queen b2, and
then either rook c1, or rook d1, and only later is White going to develop the
king side pieces. And these positions he might even consider playing d5
at some point, once he’s defended c3. And he’s going to try to give
Black as many headaches as possible before continuing his development.
This setup also has a lot of potential for White. So now we’ve seen a few ways White can attack
and put pressure on Black in the exchange variation. Let’s back up now
and look at another approach for White, which is also very principled, and
this is known as the classical variation. This one begins with knight to
f3, and now Black just continues development, bishop to g7. Instead of taking
on d5, Black plays queen to b3, putting pressure on d5. Now, of course,
Black could simply defend the pawn, say, with c6, but this would very passive
and not the kind of idea which we’re aiming for in the Grunfeld. We
want to use that pawn to attack on c5 later. So instead, Black takes on c4,
White recaptures with the queen, and Black castles, and White plays
e4. Now in this case, in the classic variation, White’s center is a little
bit more compact, and it’s easier to defend. But he’s already lost a
tempo for general development since he’s made a couple of queen moves in
this position. And it’s likely that he’ll lose some more time if the queen
ends up getting chased around. For example, maybe a6, and b5 at some point,
gain some time for Black in this position, or some other ideas. And Black saw every aim of breaking down the
center with the move pawn to c5. So this is a very popular alternative
to the exchange variation, since it has a little bit less risk. Black has moved
a few less pawns in this position, but the center can still come under
attack, and we can see that the major idea of the Grunfeld is pressuring
d4 still stands, even in these positions. There are certainly a few other major strategies
for White in the Grunfeld, but I hope this has given you a foothold on
some of the core concepts of the Grunfeld opening. Now certainly as Black,
this is a very attractive opening for players who are willing to take
some risks with Black in order to look for a complicated and interesting
tactical game where they have counter chances. On the other hand, I think
that studying this opening as White is also a great idea, since it can teach
you how to safely and strategically advance the center and avoid
creating too many weaknesses in the process. That’s all for today, and I look
forward to seeing you again.

100 thoughts on “Chess openings – Grunfeld

  1. This is the most STYLIST presentation of chess (openings or otherwise) that I've seen. The script and the camera work are so well choreographed, that I marvel at the beauty not only of the chess play explained, but the aesthetic value of the video itself. A lot of hard work must have been garnered to get each video up; the colour setup, the little dotted circle indicating pieces movement are works of intricacies; coupled with the window background, that I feel like watching broadcast news.

  2. @moogwai37 Thank you so much! I haven't decided yet whether to handle general middlegame strategy at some point or not. Usually, I study middlegame strategy by focusing on the openings. I think the openings are filled with strategic ideas that are directly applicable to the middlegame and I think it's a tremendous place for every player to learn strategy. -Dereque

  3. @wilsonwangvuisoon Thank you! It's really encouraging that someone noticed all of the little details 🙂 Thanks again! -Dereque

  4. I agree with you! However, pure chess also begins on move one in "normal" chess :)) Studying opening theory is a remarkably effecient way to become better at pure chess since we are really just studying chess tactics and strategies that have been historically important…and this is extremely valuable. It's no different from analyzing important court cases to become a lawyer or case studies in business to improve your business thinking. -Dereque

  5. Eek, …Bxc3+ would be killer 🙂 Plus, dxc5 is anti-positional so that even if this were not so, the pawn on c5 would be easly recovered by Black (say …Qxd1+ Kxd1 …Na6 now or later) and White' s proud center is no more, with a big weakness on c3. Thank you for the question! -Dereque

  6. 1/1
    Opening theory is a natural and intriguing part of chess. It's like a general studying previous battles and contemplating new strategies or improvements. It gives the game even more depth and personal flavor while allowing us to explore like scientists if we choose. Plus, these theoretical positions tend to be more complex and interesting than I could come up with in a typical game with no knowledge of theory. It raises the learning curve a bit but it's negligible for an amateur.

  7. 2
    Moreover, I find even involved theoretical openings to be a minor problem to learn. Just going through the database and a few key games will impress on me the character of the positions and I will find remembering theory simple. Of course, playing equally well as in my other openings will take longer. However, serious opening study is by no means essential unless your playing level is incredibly high and you can take advantage of small nuances or minuscule advantages in that stage.

  8. 3
    Chess960 takes away from chess's universality and elegance. In the normal chess position after 1. e4 and 2. d4, the pieces have maximum scope and a myriad of plans. Chess960 positions are awkward and nonsensical – such as with a bishop on h1 where only one development plan exists. It adds to the learning curve and makes the games less relevant to us since we're unlikely to reach any similar positions. I'd rather play something totally different like Capablanca chess than switch to Chess960.

  9. My goodness you're right. I probably won't manage to remember this all the time but we'll see what I can do. Poke me again if I do it again! -Dereque

  10. I think it sounds better the way you say it. That's the way that I hear other chess instructors in other videos say it anyway. Also I noticed that you mentioned recently in the comments on another video that you lived in Seattle. I wish it rained down here in Georgia like it does up there. Maybe one day I will get the chance to visit the city and see the Space Needle. :b

  11. We'll have to throw a big chess event in Seattle so that you have a most excellent reason to come! I'll have to ponder which way I'd like to say it

  12. Chess party in Seattle! What would be even cooler would be to go see the Seahawks play one Sunday up there also. Ever since I was a child I have been in love with the rain and I learned that it rains a lot in Seattle, so ever since then it has been at the top of my list of places I would want to live one day. I remember being the only Seahawks jersey in a sea of Bucs jerseys back home in Tampa Bay. Its amazing my mother didn't get beat up for not knowing enough to buy visitor side tickets. Lol

  13. Semi serious question. How much theory is too much? Like people tend to avoid the slav because it does require some understanding. so analyzing games of greats like capablanca tal kasprov etc I look for? Reasoning/insite on certain games or what ever im trying to understand? Thanks for reading

  14. (1/2) Thank you for the question! I don't know how much theory is too much or what to push for when studying. But when I study, I simply continue studying that thing until I think I have achieved a new level understanding in it. I may even ask myself, "If I now had to play this opening – how confident do I think I would feel?" If I don't feel confident, "what can I took a look at or learn that would make me more confident?"…then proceed until I feel more confident 🙂

  15. (2/2) Be careful about the assumption inherent in many chess questions: that there is a certain known way to go about things. For example, in asking "how much theory is too much?" you suggest that there is a certain amount of theory which should be known. It's a wonderful question but it's also goofy!

  16. @dereque Kelley Dereque im trying to pick an opening for black against d4 and im down to grunfeld or the kings indian defence. A lot of people are telling me you need to be really high rated to play the grunfeld because its so sharp. Is that true?

  17. (2/2) But what about this?: If others are attracted to the King's Indian because it appears to be more manageable, then this also means that your opponents will all have been more likely to play against it several times and developed systems. The slightly more complicated path can often yield more fruits since your opponents may immediately be dumbfounded. This advantage to choosing more intricate openings is often overlooked. But in any case, you can play either!

  18. (1/2) The Grunfeld was the first opening I studied when I first began playing chess. The King's Indian is easier to play (and learn) than the Grunfeld because the themes of the positions tend to remain the same and the King's Indian can be applied universally to all of the major moves except for 1.e4.

  19. Thank you! Also ive heard that some variations in the grunfeld just lead to a dead draw if white wants is this true as well if white knows his theory well enough?

  20. You're welcome. The King's Indian also has such lines as well as many reputable openings, including sharp ones. But how often has any opponent whipped out a bunch of moves and drawn with you? 🙂 If I have played 30,000 chess games, I think I can remember maybe 4 or 5 instances where this happened, so I don't take this seriously when preparing the openings. Just my perspective however!

  21. hiii (: i wanted to ask if you if you knew much about an opening im studying called the saragossa it's hard to find much on it because it violates opening principles as the first move for white is c3 to play d4 and white normally fianchettos the kings bishop it looks interesting but kinda unorthodox and your like the best teacher ever so i thought i'd ask you first. (:

  22. Thank you! I am familiar with it but it is probably a bit too rare to cover in a video. What is the advantage to playing 1.c3, 2.d4 as opposed to 1.d4 right away? 🙂

  23. i agree. i only learned the opening because i had a mouse slip on a first move haha :D! i never use it 🙂 will you be doing an opening on the sicilian accelerated dragon? ^^

  24. To me it seems obvious that white can shore up his pawns weakness by putting his bishop on b2. It also frees up the rook for later development.

  25. Hi, Dereque! I have watched almost all of your videos, but I like best when you go deeper in a particular variation rather than showing several ones in a somewhat superficial way. Please, make a video on the Alekhine's Defence! I also would love to see you analyzing some real games just to illustrate the theory you teach in these videos.
    Thanks, man!

  26. I agree with peristilo. Examining strategies further into the mid and end game scenarios would be fascinating. Great job on the videos!

  27. I like this opening very much because the strategy is so clear for both sides. Thanks for the video, I hadn't thought of the Rb1 pressuring b7 and it's a nice idea

  28. I completely agree! They are in depth and cover legitimate things that actually happen. Also you not only say this is best if this move is made you say why its best and why others are inferior; i am 1340 elo and you are helping me shape my thinking. Thanks

  29. Dereque thank you for your in depth analysis regarding openings! You are not dry in your theories…your studies are fresh air in helping us who share this same like passion, DEVELOPING our game!! Thanks again brother. Don't stop teaching,Dereque!

  30. Now I'm no chess person, but are you wearing a BLACK shirt cause you are teaching us about the BLACK side strategies? 😀

  31. [23] Bishop's Opening Four Pawns' Gambit 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. b4 Bxb4 4. f4 exf4 5. Nf3 Be7 6. d4 Bh4+ 7. g3 fxg3 8. O-O gxh2+ 9. Kh1

  32. yeah i' am a noob and it seems interesting why white should give up 4 pawns… it would be cool if you explain even rare openings… beside your one of the best on youtube ( sorry for bad English )

  33. Very nice.Quality videos Chess openings Rocks
    Big smile refreshing instead of always looking at the board.
    Camera angle is very nice.

  34. I've recently picked up the Gruenfeld defense because of its many attacking ideas. Apparently most people I play online eschew the tactical mélée that arises in the classical variation. Dereque's videos are incredibly fluid. This is somewhat intimidating because he seems to understand the ideas behind theses openings, which makes him GM material. Even more intimidating are the super GMs who "see" farther in so many side lines. I think I'll take the safe route and learn more from Dereque's awesome chess videos! 🙂 Thanks Dereque!  

  35. I just realized that you are from Washington originally. I found out because in one of my old tournaments my only loss was to you. Great job continuing to develop into such a strong player. The videos are really excellent and I feel like I learn a lot.

  36. With the 100rds and 100rds of places to explore opening systems I now always start out with yours Dereque. High quality and consistency and good advice on how and where to explore further.

  37. I just wanted to say that this video really helped me. I wanted to learn the Queen's Gambit, so I looked at this. Thank you! Please don't stop making these videos ever! 🙂

  38. I just recently decided to try Grunfeld def, cause I think is very difficult for my level, very aggressive, and since I knew almost nothing about it, I always gotten punched when i was "forced" to play against it. So.. I found this this most helpful video for begginers who don 't knew the basic idea behind it.
    Of cource I ' ve watch and your other videos, all were more or less helpfull, (some openings I already knew good enough so, some videos might not be soooo helpful but still, nice presentations. So, a big thanks from me Derrek.

    PS I d like to see this channel to continue making videos, I think you are not uploading for some time.
    Greedings from Greece, and yet thanks again.

  39. nice video is the the queen side black majority desisive? looking for other than benko, benoni this grunfeld looks good

  40. Some lines are wrong 🙁 for example when you say that d5 is impossible, it's fals: after d5 Bxc3+ Bd2 Bxa1 it's impossible because after Qa1 a8 rook and Knight both hunging. So after Bxd2 Qd2 white has a lot of compensation because the Kc6 is forsed back

  41. Hello, first of all thank you for all of your very usefull videos ! =)
    i have a question about this one : at 6:18 , why do you bring the A rook on D file ? the fact is that the C file is opened, so what's wrong with the fact to bring the A rook on C file, and the F rook on D file ?
    thanks 🙂

  42. Tapes are very informative, you simplify it, also you put yourself into it and you put your personality into it.

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