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I have been looking at the Neo Grunfeld.

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1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 d5

I am considering Nf3 followed by castling, thereby giving up the pawn. Does White has compensation for the sacrifice as they do in the Open Catalan?

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  • with this move order, what's the reason for not playing 4. cd and then do all that stuff you wanted (Nf3, g3, Bg2)? – sleepy Jun 15 at 8:30
  • to sleepy Playing cxd5 allows for 2 kinds of positions , one where e3 is played and the another with e4 , the latter is obviously much more dynamic and gives a IQP on 5th rank, but I wanted this if I could put my opponents out of their comfort zone and grab the intiative firmly while they hold on the pawn – anti - Marshall Jun 16 at 5:19
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TL;DR: Yes, it is playable to leave the pawn hanging. In the event of it being captured, you will either regain it quickly, or enjoy strong compensation if Black hangs on to it. And if Black doesn't take on c4, then you will soon be protecting it in some fashion (or opting to exchange it).

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 d5, I'd recommend playing 4.Bg2 before Nf3 (David also mentioned this move). The point is that after 4...dxc4, 5.Qa4+ is a more enticing option since 5...Nc6 runs into 6.Bxc6+. Although answering 4...dxc4 with 5.Nf3 is also fine, with the intention of instead hopefully recapturing the pawn with the b1-knight later. So small move order subtlety, just to improve the circumstances arising from 5.Qa4+ if that's how you'd prefer to answer the immediate 4...dxc4 capture.

Moving on, following 4.Bg2 Black is more likely to not take yet and instead play 4...Bg7 or 4...c6. For 4...Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0, the main move for Black (other than 6...c6, which transposes to a position discussed in the final paragraph of this answer) is 6...dxc4. At this point you should play 7.Na3, aiming to recapture the pawn with the knight. Black does not have a good way to defend the pawn.

Meanwhile for 4...c6, you could choose to relieve the pawn tension and go for a symmetrical structure with 5.cxd5 cxd5. Or, 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.0-0, when Black can choose between 6...dxc4 and 6...0-0. 6...dxc4 prepares to create a pawn chain with ...b5, so you should prevent this with 7.a4. Now the plan is to regain the pawn with Qc2 and/or Na3, as well as to expand in the centre with e4. Black could try to relentlessly hang on to the pawn if they want (e.g., ...Ne4-...Nd6 and ...Be6 ideas), but White will definitely have good compensation in the form of a strong centre and better coordinated forces (not to mention that the c4-pawn will obviously be very weak).

If Black instead plays 6...0-0, then you have a number of moves. Once again you could capture on d5 (7.cxd5), or you may support the c4-pawn with any of 7.Qb3, 7.Nbd2, 7.b3, or 7.Ne5. So by now the opportunity for Black to win a pawn, either temporarily or over the long term, will have passed.

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Not really a pawn sacrifice, since you can retake your pawn with Qa4, but definitely a reasonable way to continue. 4.Bg2, with similar ideas, appears to be the more popular option according to databases though, but both moves will transpose into each other pretty much every time.

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