[fen ""]

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

After 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5, which variation of the Grunfeld Defense leads to the most solid and strategic position? If possible, I prefer a variation with possibilities for a minority attack. The Exchange Variation (4. cxd5) is too sharp and contains too much theory. If possible, there should not be loads of theory.

2 Answers 2


Maybe 4.e3 is an interesting idea against the Grünfeld. Usually, black answers with 4....Bg7, but it should be noted that black can transpose to the Slav defence with 4....c6.

After 4....Bg7, white has two interesting options: 5.Qb3 and 5.cxd5.

  • 5.Qb3 is probably the most popular continuation, attacking the pawn on d5. If black plays 5....dxc4, then white should be slightly better after 6.Bxc4. After 5....c6, a Slav defence-like position arises, which black players probably want to avoid. Therefore, 5....e6 is the most common response. Then, white can (temporarily) stop black from castling with the interesting move 6.Qa3!?, which has been played by several strong grandmaster like Nakamura (against Caruana), Ivanchuk and Dreev. After 6....Qe7?!, white obtains a clear advantage after 7.Qxe7+ Kxe7 8.b3.
  • The idea behind 5.cxd5 is to answer 5....Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 with 7.Ne2 and 8.Nc3. This line has been played by several grandmasters, including Kramnik (in a rapid game against Svidler) and Andreikin.

Although my suggestion has some ideas and has been played by many grandmasters, it is far from the most principled continuation against the Grünfeld. Nevertheless, I believe it has some venom and could be a good try to surprise your opponents.

  [StartPly "7"]

  [FEN ""]
  1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 (4...c6) 5.Qb3 (5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 7.Ne2) e6 (5...dxc4 6.Bxc4) (5...c6) 6.Qa3 Qe7 7.Qxe7+ Kxe7 8.b3

Bg5 on move 4 is a strategic move, prioritising a minority attack in some lines. The line 6.cxd5 with this plan is covered in Richard Palliser's Play 1.d4! Also 6.Bf4 is possible, see the game below played between Shogi legend Yoshiharu Habu and super GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Annotations by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave).

  [StartPly "7"]
  [FEN ""]

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Bg7 5. Nf3 Ne4 
    6. Bf4 {A very rare but very solid variation.} c6 7. e3 O-O 8. Qb3             Qa5 9. cxd5 
    $1 Nxc3 10. bxc3 $1 (10. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 11. bxc3 cxd5 12. c4 dxc4 13.       Bxc4 Bf5 $11) 
    10... cxd5 11. Bd3 { This position is somewhat unpleasant for       Black.} b6 (11... 
    Nd7 12. O-O Nb6 { was interesting but seemed dangerous to me.} 13.       Rfc1 (13. 
    Bc7 Bg4 14. Rab1 $6 Rfc8 15. Bxb6 axb6 16. Rfc1 Rc7 $15) 13... Bd7       14. h4 $5 
    {with a certain initiative but the position remains about equal.})       12. O-O Ba6 
    13. Bxa6 (13. c4 $5 dxc4 (13... Nd7 $5 14. cxd5 Bxd3 15. Qxd3 Qxd5       16. Rfc1 
    Rfc8 17. Qa6 Rxc1+ 18. Rxc1 e5 19. Rc8+ $5 Rxc8 20. Qxc8+ Bf8 21.       Nxe5 Nxe5 
    22. Bxe5 Qxa2 $13) 14. Bxc4 Bxc4 15. Qxc4 Nd7 16. Rac1 e5 $11)       13... Nxa6 14. 
    Rac1 Rac8 15. c4 dxc4 16. Rxc4 b5 (16... Rxc4 $5 17. Qxc4 b5 18.       Qb3 Rc8 {transposes.}) 
    17. Rxc8 Rxc8 18. h3 $6 {not enough dynamic here.} (18. Qd5 $5 Nb4       $1 19. Qd7 
    (19. Qb7 Qa6 $1 20. Qxe7 Nd5 21. Qd7 Nf6 $13) 19... Rd8 20. Bc7 $5             (20. Qxe7 
    Nd5 21. Qc5 Nxf4 22. exf4 Qxa2 23. Qxb5 $11) 20... Rxd7 21. Bxa5       {and this ending 
    is unpleasant, due to the pawn on b5 instead of b7 for example.}       Nc6 22. Bd2 
    f5 23. Rc1 Rd6 24. Be1 $1 $146 {prophylactique} e5 $6 25. dxe5       Nxe5 26. Rc8+ 
    Kf7 27. Ng5+ Ke7 28. Rc7+ Rd7 29. Bb4+ $16) 18... e6 (18... b4 $5 19. Ne5 Bxe5 {again, this move works thanks to the not very dangerous white attack. It is more important to prevent the knight from sitting on the c4 square.} (19...e6 20. Nc4 Qd5 21. Rc1 $14) 20. Bxe5 Rc3 21. Qb1 f6 22. Bg3 Qd5 $13) 19. Qb1 (19. Rb1 b4 20. e4 $5 {this idea was interesting to take advantage of the out of play Na6.}) 19... Qb4 (19... Bf8 $1 20. Rc1 Qb4 {During the game, I realized that this line was stronger, first inviting the opponent's rook to come on the c column.}) 20. Qe4 Qe7 21. Ne5 $6 (21. a3 $1 {Habu was very impressed by this idea, saying with his usual modesty and humour that he doubted he would have found it even with an additional one hour to his clock.} b4 22. Qd3 $14) 21...Nb4 22. Qb1 a6 { now, it is obvious that Black is aiming to win: all black pieces are well grouped together and the queen side majority will work when the major pieces will be exchanged.} 23. e4 $5 (23. Rc1 Rxc1+ 24. Qxc1 Qb7 $15 25. e4 $2 Nxa2 26. Qd2 Qxe4 $17) 23... Bxe5 $1 {this move is really the strongest but here white is mistaken.} 24. Bxe5 $6 {the bishop is in fact misplaced here. White should play} (24. dxe5 $1 Rc4 $1 {a difficult idea to play because it seems that we let some counterplay against our king and apparently, Black's pieces are perfectly placed to prevent it.} (24... Rd8 25. Rd1 $1 Rxd1+ 26.Qxd1 Nc6 $13) 25. Rd1 Qh4 26. g3 Qh5 $15 27. Kg2 (27. Rd8+ Kg7 28. Qb2 Nc6 29.Rd6 Rxe4 $1 30. Rxc6 $6 Qd1+ 31. Kg2 (31. Kh2 Re2 32. Rc1 Qd3 $1 $19) 31...Rxf4 $1 32. gxf4 Qd5+ $19) 27... g5 28. Be3 Nc2 $15) 24... Rc4 25. Rc1 Nc6 26.Rxc4 $2 (26. Bg3 $1 {This was the last chance but was far from obvious.} Nxd4 (26... Qb4 $5 27. d5 Qxb1 28. Rxb1 Nd4 $15) 27. Rxc4 bxc4 28. Qb8+ Qf8 29. Qc7 Ne2+ 30. Kh2 Nxg3 31. fxg3 {gives good practical chances, a priori I would have given back the pawn here.} a5 $1 (31... Qb4 32. Qd8+ Kg7 33. Qd4+ Kh6 34. h4 $44) 32. Qxc4 Qb8 $15) 26... bxc4 $17 27. Qb6 (27. Bg3 Qb4 $1 $17) 27... Nxe5 28. Qb8+ Qf8 29. Qxe5 Qc8 $19 {the c-pawn is running too fast now, the game is over.} 30. d5 (30. Qc5 Qxc5 31. dxc5 c3 $19) (30. Qf4 c3 31. Qc1 Qc4 $19) 30... c3 31. Qf4 c2 32. Qc1 Qc3 33. d6 Qd3 34. d7 Qd1+ 35. Kh2 Qxc1 36. d8=Q+ Kg7 37. Qd4+ Kh6 38. Qf6 (38. Qd6 g5 $1 $19) 38... Qd2 39. Qxf7 Qd6+ 40. e5 Qxe5+ 41. f4 Qc5 0-1

The game below shows the minority attack (Seirawan - Smejkal 1998)

  [StartPly "7"]
  [FEN ""]

  1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6 8.Nf3 exd5 9.b4 O-O 10.e3 c6 11.Bd3 Bg4 12.O-O Nd7 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 a5 15.a3 axb4 16.axb4 Qe7 17.Rab1 Ra3 18.Rfc1 b5 19.Bxb5 cxb5 20.Nxb5 Ra4 21.Nc3 Raa8 22.Nxd5 Qd8 23.b5 Rb8 24.Rc6 Nb6 25.Nc7 Qe7 26.Na6 Rb7 27.Rbc1 Rd8 28.Rc7 Rxc7 29.Rxc7 Rd7 30.Qc6 Rxc7 31.Nxc7 Qf6 32.Kf1 Qxc6 33.bxc6 Kf8 34.Nb5 f5 35.f3 Ke7 36.Ke2 Nc8 37.Kd3 Nd6 38.Nc3 Kd8 39.Nd5 Nb5 40.g4 Nc7 41.Nf4 fxg4 42.fxg4 Ke7 43.e4 Kd6 44.d5 Be5 45.Ne2 Nxd5 46.exd5 Kxd5 47.h4 Kxc6 48.Ke4 Bf6 49.g5 Bd8 50.Ke5 Kd7 51.Nd4 Bc7+ 52.Kf6 Bg3 53.Nf3 Ke8 54.Kg7 Ke7 55.Kxh7 Kf7 56.h5 1-0
  • I like the suggestion of Bg5, I wonder if it is better to play 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 or 4.Bg5 immediately? What are the differences?
    – Maxwell86
    Aug 16, 2015 at 10:05
  • I don't think there is much of a difference. Black wants to play 4...Bg7 after either move.
    – magd
    Aug 16, 2015 at 10:20
  • After 4.Bg5, 4....Ne4 is also a popular move. In this case, white cannot take on d5. Furthermove, after 4....Bg7, white can play 5.Bxf6.
    – Maxwell86
    Aug 16, 2015 at 10:37
  • You've answered your own question. Kudos!
    – magd
    Aug 16, 2015 at 10:41

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