Structure versus Activity!

Pseudo-Grunfeld [A16] with IM John Bartholomew

A line that has been steadily gaining followers is 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Qa4+ Nc6, eschewing the traditional 5...Bd7. After 6.Ne5 Qd6 7.Nxc6 Qxc6 8.Qxc6+ bxc6 the evaluation of this queenless middlegame determines the theoretical fate of 5...Nc6. Black's fractured pawns are offset by his excellent piece activity, e.g. ...Ra8-b8, ...Bf8-g7, and the possibility of ...Nd5-b4:

Position after 8...bxc6

White must proceed cautiously if he hopes to exploit his structural advantage. This position first appeared in 2008 according to my database, and 50 subsequent games have yielded respectable results for Black. Almost two-thirds of games in this line have been drawn.

Petrosian - Gupta continued 9.g3 Bg7 10.Bg2 Be6 11.a3!?, but after 11...Rb8 12.e3 0-0 13.Na4 Bc8!? 14.0-0?! Nb6! 15.Bxc6?! Nxa4 16.Bxa4 Ba6 17.Re1 Bd3 Black obtained a very pleasant bind:

Position after 17...Bd3

White is going to have to come up with something big in this line if he hopes to slow the 5...Nc6 train.

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