Grunfeld defense is a queen’s pawn opening that starts with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5. Black deviates from 3…Bg7 which leads to King’s Indian defense. Black’s main idea here is to give white a pawn center and then attack it with a strong bishop on g7 and with c7-c5 move.
It is a very tricky opening for beginners. Because at first sight it feels like white will have advantage after 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 and white has full control of the center. But black’s counterattack in the center can be very unpleasant if you don’t know how to deal with it. Especially the bishop on g7 keeping an eye all the way to a1 rook is often irritating for white.
White has various ways to play here.
White plays 7.Nf3
White can start developing naturally with 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5 9.Qd2 0-0 10.Rc1 Rd8 11.d5
White has advanced a pawn to d5 to release pressure from d4 square. But the d pawn is pinned and black starts taking advantage of it with 11…e6.
Here white would like to play 12.c4 to strengthen his center. But the exchange of the queens is not really good for white. For example, after 12…Qxd2 13.Nxd2 b6 14.Be2 Na6 15 0-0 Nb4 16.a3 Na2
As you can see, without the queens, there is no scope of attack for white. Black’s pieces are well developed and black has already equalized in this position. Therefore white avoids playing 12.c4
The main line is 12.Bg5 f6 13.Nc6 Taking advantage of pin on d file
White still has more control of center but black also maintains his pressure on d5 pawn and on dark squares c3 and d4. The position is about equal but it is hard to come up with natural plans for both sides in this position. Therefore it is a tricky place to be in for a beginner.
White plays 7.Bc4
White can develop his knight to e2 after 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2. And now 8…0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Be3 Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12.Bd3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Be6
Here is a positional lesson for you. Black’s dark-squared bishop is so important that white can also think of sacrificing exchange with 14.d5. After 14…Bxa1 15.Qxa1 f6 black luckily managed to get rid of the threat Bh6 due to the pin on d file. But white has enough compensation for the sacrificed exchange.
White plays 7.Ba3
White can also play 7.Ba3 with a direct intention to stop 7…c5. The line goes 7…0-0 8.Nf3 b6 9.Bc4 Bb7 10.Qe2 c5 with playable game for both sides.
White avoids 4.cxd5
White is not forced to take on d5 initially. White can play 4.Nf3 Bg7 and here there are two main options. 5.Bg5 and 5.Qb3
5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 a6 8.e5 b5 9.Qb3 Nd7 10.e6 fxe6 11.Qxe6 Kh8 12.Qe4 Nb6 is one possible way the game can go.
Both sides have got isolated pawns. White is yet left to castle but on the other hand black has weakened his light squares on the queenside for long term.
After 5.Bg5 black can play 5…Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6 and black wins back the pawn due to attack on g5.
As you may have noticed, many lines in Grunfeld defense are not typical structures that we see in other openings with obvious plans and natural game ahead. The positions that are reached after this opening are mostly very unique and ‘original’ in nature. Beginners would find it difficult to play it but at the same time it is good for exercising their positional play skills.