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The Grünfeld is a very aggressive hypermodern defense, and it leads to extremely sharp and interesting games.
The Grünfeld Defense is a hypermodern opening. It does not challenge center in a “classical” manner. The idea is to allow white to develop classically, only to disrupt his central control with the pieces later on.
It’s a very aggressive defense in many respects, and it leads to extremely sharp and interesting games. That is mainly due to the imbalances which almost inevitably occur in the center and on the queenside.
Ernst Grünfeld introduced the opening in 1922. in his game against Alekhine. Apparently Alekhine resigned by throwing his king across the room. Later on, Alekhine employed the Grünfeld defense himself successfully.
As opposed to the KID, where black fights for the center later on and castles first, in the Grünfeld black strikes at the center right away, not giving white the option of a further expansion. After d5, white has numerous responses.
The two most common ones are the Exchange variation which occurs after …d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5
5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3, and is one of the most challenging ways for white to continue (and the most common one), and the lines after 4. Nf3 Bg7.
The most significant feature of the Grünfeld is white’s broad center, best visible in the exchange variation. Black’s idea is to strike at it with his pieces later on, especially his “Grünfeld” bishop on g7. It is therefore true that results of Grünfeld games often depend on whether white has managed to keep his strong center intact or not. If white utilizes it he will win. If black breaks it open and activates his pieces (mainly on the long diagonal towards white’s queenside), he will win. There are exceptions, of course.
Jon Speelman: “If you are afraid of a passed d-pawn, you shouldn’t play the Grünfeld.” This sums up how a lot of games tend to go. White’s strong center often produces a passed d pawn. Black, on the other hand, will often be left with a potential passer on the queenside. This fact promises for very interesting endgames, often including pawn races.
This hypermodern defense has been employed by some of the greatest players of all time: Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Bobby Fischer, Alexey Shirov, Magnus Carlsen, Peter Svidler, Vishwanatan Anand, Maxime-Vachier Lagrave, Boris Gelfand and many more. Study their games if you want to understand it well.