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Hi everyone! Welcome to this month's update, where we'll be looking at recent games from the Nimzo-Indian, Modern Benoni and Queen's Indian.

Remember, if you have any opinions, ideas or questions, please either make yourself heard at the Forum (the link above on the right) or subscribers can email me at

Download PGN of April '05 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian Classical Variation: 4 Qc2 d5

Chris from Germany writes:

"Dear John,
After seeing some 4 Qc2 Nimzo-Indian games in Linares this year, I checked the recent theory and found it quite interesting. Above all, the variation that fascinated me the most starts after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 Na6 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Qxc3 Nxc5 8 b4 Nce4:

When playing through games in my database, it seemed to me that Black was having all the fun in this line, especially following 9 Qd4 d5 10.c5 b6 11 f3 bxc5 12 bxc5 Qa5+ 13 Qb4 Qc7!?, with Black having a sure draw in hand, perhaps even more if White doesn't reply correctly. This assessment is even given in Ivan Sokolov's book on the Classical Nimzo-Indian and recent games seem to confirm this. So I went on and realized that 9 Qc2 and 9 Qb2 are only given short coverage in most books, and are virtually unmentioned even in recent Informants and the Nimzo-Indian ebook as well. The line 9 Qb2 d5 10 c5 d4 11 e3 Ng4 12 Nh3 dxe3 13 Qxg7 Ke7 was found in some interesting analysis by IM Frank Zeller. The idea is 14 Ng5 exf2+ 15 Ke2 Qd5 16 Qxf7+ Kd8 17 Qg7 Bd7. Black can even sac the h8-rook in some lines and play the killer ...Bd7-b5+ !!. However, 17 Qf3! seems to lead to a white win when I checked the line with good old Fritz. What do you think? Is Black still okay here?"

I did a bit of digging up some old analysis here and found something in Chess Informant 83. Vera gives 17 Qg7 as winning for White, giving no further analysis, but Ivan Sokolov and the editorial team continued the analysis with 17...Bd7 and concluded it was good for Black. However, no one mentioned 17 Qf3! and this move may well turn the tables once more! Check out the game Hoenig - Claridge, correspondence, 1999 for details.

Nimzo-Indian Classical Variation: 4 Qc2 0-0

The game Anderton - Turner, British League 2005 begins very normally with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 and now Black played the move 7...h6!?:

Even though hitting the bishop with ...h7-h6 is nearly always played at some moment in this line, actually playing it on move 7 is very rare. Certainly in some variation it's better to delay this move, but with the line chosen by Matthew Turner it actually cuts out some white options, and we could be seeing a bit more of 7...h6 in the future.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

Next up it's another look at the very popular Karpov Variation: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 10 Ne5 Bb7 11 Bg5:

White's very direct way of playing (Ne5, Bg5) often leads to razor sharp positions, in which both sides need to know their stuff. Here 11...Bxc3, 11...Be7 and 11...Nbd7 have all been played, but in Aloma Vidal-Cheparinov, Linares Open 2005 Black effectively offers an exchange sacrifice with the brave 11...Nc6!?.

Modern Benoni: Flick-knife Attack - A theoretical draw?

Theory in the controversial (if Jonathan Rowson allows me to use that adjective) 8...Nbd7 line of the Flick-Knife continues to grow, and in Rowson - Palliser, Blackpool we get a potentially crucial novelty at move 21!: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nbd7!? 9 e5 dxe5 10 fxe5 Nh5 11 e6 Qh4+ 12 g3 Nxg3 13 hxg3 Qxh1 14 Be3 Bxc3+ 15 bxc3 a6 16 exd7+ Bxd7 17 Bxd7+ Kxd7 18 Qg4+ f5 19 Qf3 Qxf3 20 Nxf3 Rae8:

And now 21 Kd2! Compared to f2, the king is more actively placed. In particular, it can go to d3, supporting the c3-c4 to cement the defence of the passed d-pawn. However, during this game Black misses the opportunity to reach the defensive side of a rook and bishop versus rook ending. So is the Flick-Knife Attack merely a draw?

Avoiding the Benoni with 4 g3

David Liu Daowei writes:

"Dear John,
The Benoni is a nice opening to play... but only if you get it! 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 g3 is an annoying move order, but I was wondering whether Black can mix it up with 4...a6!?:

(intending ...b7-b5). This line was featured in New in Chess Yearbook 62 where Rene Olthof gave the game Haba-Vokac, Czech League 2000/01. I would love to hear your opinion on this. While you're covering the ...a6/...b5 approach, would you also give you opinion on whether this is a universal panacea? By universal I mean it would surely be wonderful if this ...a6/...b5 approach could be applied to ALL Réti/English move orders, e.g. 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 Bg2 a6 5 Nc3 b5!?. In this case, I'm not sure if the omission of d4 helps White or Black? When White plays 6 cxb5 Black gets in 6...d5 (or 6...axb5 first and then ...d5) and it's a sort of Benko/Blumenfeld with Black being very strong in the centre. Even the materialistic Fritz doesn't give White more than an advantage of +0.3, which means the compensation is sufficient for humans. I'd like to hear your grandmasterly opinion on this, though! Thanks for the wonderful site!"

Many thanks for your email! It's true that 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 g3 (or 4 Nc3) is a bit of a pain for Black. I must admit I didn't realize that against 4 g3 this 4...a6 and ...b7-b5 was possible - I thought Black had to transpose to the English with 4...cxd4. Of course the Réti/English move orders can also be annoying for Benoni/Benko players. In general I think it's worth Black players learning independent lines against these openings (for example, 1 c4 e5), but there are one or two offbeat lines involving a quick ...a6 and ...b5. In particular, the enterprising 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 a6!? and then ...b7-b5 (Romanishin popularised this) is certainly worth considering and is covered on John Watson's Flank Openings website (ECO code A13 in ChessPub). Your move order 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 Bg2 a6 5 Nc3 b5!? is much less common - I only found three examples in Mega Database 2005. That said, in one of these the Czech GM Ftacnik was playing Black and it certainly looks like a reasonable practical gambit. Check out all these line in 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 - 4 g3 a6!?.

Nimzo/Queen's Indian Hybrid: Delaying ...Bb7

In Palo - Cu.Hansen, Malmö 2005 the Danish GM plays a rare idea that certainly deserves further investigation: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 d6!?:

Black's plan is to delay (or even omit) ...Bb7. The point is that White often builds a centre with Nd2, f2-f3 and e2-e4, erecting a brick wall against the bishop on b7 - sometimes Black winds up playing ...Bb7-c8. Furthermore, Black gains an extra tempo to organise things in the centre and on the kingside. Finally, on b7 the bishop is often vulnerable to tactics, especially after the sequence c4-c4, ...bxc5.

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qb3: A Ludicrous Novelty!

Finally this month we see Black obtaining scant reward for an imaginative opening novelty. Riazantsev - Koneru, Dubai 2005 opens 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qb3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Na5 7 Qc3:

and here the young Indian GM introduced the bizarre move 7...Bxc4!?? (7...c5 is the main move - see Lautier-Gelfand, Cannes 2002 in ChessPub). This outrageous move comes top of my Fritz suggestions so I guess it was only a matter of time before someone tried it out. Certainly top marks for enterprise and possible shock value (depending on whether White has been using Fritz!), but perhaps unfairly White can turn this pawn loss into a rather promising gambit!

Have a good month! See you next time!