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Hi everyone,
Recent tournaments, including the Melody Amber Blindfold/Rapid event in Monte Carlo (I wonder how high Kramnik's rating would be at blindfold chess!), have produced one or two new developments in the Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian. I'll leave the Queen's Indian until later, but this month there's a significant White novelty from Ivanchuk against Anand's favourite Nimzo line, and the Ukrainian Grandmaster also has some fun on the Black side against Van Wely.
Also this month Richard Palliser checks out the Fianchetto Variation and the MML of the Modern Benoni.

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 '07 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

We kick off with the game Ivanchuk - Anand, Monaco (Blindfold) 2007: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Ne4 7 Qc2 c5 8 dxc5 Nc6 9 cxd5 exd5 10 Nf3 Bf5 (recently Ivanchuk unleashed 10...Qf6 - see Bareev-Ivanchuk, Havana 2006) 11 b4 d4 12 g4 Bg6 and now 13 Qb2!?:

This is a novelty (13 Qc4 had been played in every previous game I could find), although it's true the idea of Qc2-b2 is well known in similar positions. This surprise turned out well for Ivanchuk, who apparently used very little time on his clock for the entire game.

Next up we look at Golod - Moranda, Cappelle la Grande 2007, in which White opts for the quieter 9 e3:

Traditionally 9 e3 has been considered fairly harmless, but I've noticed that some strong grandmasters (Golod, Khenkin, for example) have preferred this to the much sharper 9 cxd5 and 9 Nf3, and have also introduced little wrinkles that give White some hope of an advantage - and of course a risk-free advantage when compared to the aforementioned alternatives. In this game White produces something new at move 13 and Black is unable to cope with the changes. It will be interesting to see whether games like this help 9 e3 to gather more interest amongst the elite.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0

Van Wely-Ivanchuk, Monaco (Blindfold) 2007, isn't overly important from a theoretical perspective but is certainly worthy of inclusion if nothing else because it's a very nice hack attack from Ivanchuk. The game actually begins as an English Opening but soon transposes to the Classical Nimzo: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nf3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 b6 7 e3 Bb7 8 Be2 d6 9 0-0 a5 10 b3 Nbd7 11 Bb2 Qe7 12 d4 Ne4:

and Black carries on with ...f7-f5 etc. This is a good illustration of the practical difficulties White faces in this line, even if objectively he may enjoy an edge.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

Chua - Izoria, Parsippany 2007, begins 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 Bg5 Bb7 11 Ne5:

This is White's sharpest way of playing against the Karpov Variation, because Black's natural development is disrupted to some extent. If Black wishes to develop the queen's knight he must either allow his kingside pawns to be compromised or - as in this game - offer an exchange sacrifice with 11...Nc6!?.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation

by Richard Palliser

A position which we've seen many times before on this site is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 Re8 12 h3 Rb8:

White's main continuation remains very much 13 Nc4, but he can also play to split the black queenside with 13 a5!? b5 14 axb6 Nxb6 which leads to a tough manoeuvring struggle as we'll see in Grabarczyk - Gashimov.

More lively from Black's perspective was the course of Martyn - Cox. White didn't hurry with Nd2, but after 11 Bf4 Qc7 12 Rc1 Nh5 13 Bg5 Re8 14 b4 was hit by a stunning novelty in the shape of 14...cxb4!? 15 Nb5 Qxc1! 16 Bxc1 axb5 17 axb5 Nc5:

For the sacrifice Black is the better co-ordinated side and has a very useful passed b-pawn.

Modern Benoni: The Modern Main Line

Those who enter the Modern Benoni via the pure move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 find themselves unable to meet the MML with the early ...a6 plan, at least unless White now plays the slightly inaccurate 7 Nf3. Instead 7 h3 Bg7 8 Bd3 0-0 9 Nf3 leads to one of the key positions of the opening.

Black's main response remains the theoretical 9...b5, but that isn't to everyone's taste. Unfortunately, as previously discussed on this site, Watson's 9...Nh5 now appears to leave Black facing an uphill struggle to draw and 9...Bd7 also cannot be recommended against a well-prepared opponent. Perhaps that's why in Gustafsson - Naiditsch the German no.1 wheeled out 9...Na6. However, this game does nothing to dispel the notion that such an approach is rather slow.

Currently the best way to deviate from 9...b5 appears to be 9...a6 10 a4 Nbd7 which has long been considered a little passive. However, some strong players have been persevering with former ChessPublishing contributor Nigel Davies' plan of 11 Bf4 Re8 12 0-0 Qe7 13 Re1 Nh5 14 Bh2 Qf8!?:

We first considered this in Kaidanov-D.Gurevich (December '05 update) in which White opted for 15 a5. More recently 15 Bf1 was preferred in Belov - Jobava; a game in which we'll also discuss Black's move order options in the run-up to this critical position.

Till next time, John