Alexander Delchev and Evgenij Agrest, The Safest Grünfeld (Chess Stars, 2011). 347 pp. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
I've been a fan of almost every Chess Stars' opening book I've seen over the years, and that positive run continues with their brand new The Safest Grünfeld, co-authored by Alexander Delchev and Evgenij Agrest. Both are 2600+ level GMs (Delchev's peak rating so far is 2669, while Agrest's peak was 2616), and because part of the book originated with Delchev working with Veselin Topalov's regular second Ivan Cheparinov, there's probably some percolation from the 2700-2800 level as well. At any rate, the authors are plenty strong and know what they're talking about in this opening.
About the title: you may remember that Delchev co-authored a volume on the Taimanov a few years back called The Safest Sicilian. Since there are many versions of the Sicilian - the Najdorf, the Scheveningen, the Dragon, Sveshnikov, Kalashnikov, Kan, etc. - such a title makes sense. But there are different Grünfelds? Not in the same way as there are different Sicilians, no. But the idea Delchev (the primary author) has in mind is that when there's a choice between a sharper and more volatile system and one with more stable evaluations, he'll lean, when possible, towards the latter. It doesn't mean that D & A are domesticating the Grünfeld - they're not turning it into a sort of Slav or Petroff. Even further, they generally offer two responses to most White approaches, and often one of those responses is plenty sharp.
For example: Against the classic Exchange line with 7.Bc4 (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4), after the further moves 7...0-0 8.Ne2 c5 9.Be3 Nc6 10.0-0, the authors offer three lines:
(1) Their primary choice: 10...Qc7 11.Rc1 Rd8 (with a good deal of analysis of 11...e6 as well)
(2) A mostly unexplored backup: 10...e6
(3) For those who want to live on the edge, the topical 10...Na5, which was the variation where Anand suffered his catastrophe against Topalov in game 1 of their match last year but has been thoroughly rehabilitated (e.g. in Shirov - Vachier-Lagrave, played earlier this year in Wijk aan Zee and deeply analyzed in this book).
There is plenty of original analysis in the book, which, Delchev says, is up to date as of April 1, 2011. (That seems to be accurate and not an April Fools' Day joke.) Boris Avrukh's monster tomes on the Grünfeld will come out later this year, but until then, and possibly even afterwards as well, I can heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the opening.
One reason I like this book (and most of the Chess Stars openings books), and think it will be valuable even once Avrukh's books come out, is the format. Each chapter (or "part", in their parlance) starts with a "Main Ideas" section in which various key ideas - typical plans, structures, move order tricks and so on - are presented. This is followed by the "Step by Step" section in which the theoretical details are elaborated, and then (for most chapters) comes "Complete Games", which sometimes fills in some further theoretical details and sometimes gives the reader a model game to absorb. (And sometimes it does both at the same time, but I note, approvingly, that they do not offer more than perfunctory notes once the game has passed the point of theoretical significance.) I think this balance of concepts, specifics and examples is extremely valuable to readers.
So, once again: highly recommended to those who play the Grünfeld and those who are considering it.
(More info here, with a link to a remarkably long excerpt.)