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Hi everyone!
First of all, sincere apologies for my tardiness this month. July and August have been incredibly busy work-wise, and then I simply had to get away from looking a chessboard so I took the briefest of vacations.
Time doesn't stand still and I've noticed that there has been a flood of interesting and theoretical important Nimzo games over the last couple of months. One line that really stood out was 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3, so I thought I'd take a look at the recent developments here.
Richard Palliser joins me again and this month he looks at the Nimzo Zurich Variation and more action in the Modern Main Line of the Benoni.
Many thanks for the recent subscriber queries. I promise to cover these over the next couple of updates.

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 August '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo Indian 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3

We kick off this month with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Ne4 7 Qc2 e5 8 cxd5 Bf5!?:

This is an audacious attempt to revive this variation. 8...Qxd5 had been the usual move, but Kasparov-Adams, Linares 2005 caused Black problems. Check out Zakhartsov - Motylev, Tomsk 2006, for a convincing display by Black.

Next up it's Likavsky - Petrik, Banska Stiavnica 2006: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Ne4 7 Qc2 Nc6 8 e3 e5 9 f3!:

I've mentioned this possibility a few times before on this website, and now finally we have a recent game where someone has played it. This move was virtually totally ignored for a very long time, but it seems to me that there's a good chance the plan of 7...Nc6 and 8...e5 is completely refuted!

Lysyj - Smirnov, Tomsk 2006 followed the critical line 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 11 b4 d4 12 g4 Bg6 13 Qc4 d3 14 Bg2 Qf6 15 Ra2 Ne5 16 g5:

So far we have been following Van Wely-Antonio, which I analysed on this site a couple of months ago. Instead of Antonio's 16...Nxc4, Smirnov played 16...Qf5!?, as suggested here on ChessPublishing!

In Zakhartsov - Gajewski, Pardubice 2006, Black played 11...0-0, the move everyone played before Anand came along and resurrected 11...d4. Then came 12 Bb2 Re8 13 Qb3!?:

This is the move Bareev has been successful with (for 13 Rd1 see Lautier-Zhang Zhong Taiyuan 2004). Here Black played 13...b6!? and the game ends in a nice repetition, but I'm not fully convinced by Black's play.

Finally in this line there is the game Karpov - Leko, Miskolc 2006, with 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 Qa5+:

I must admit I didn't realise this move was a real alternative to 10...Bf5, but anything Leko plays must be taken seriously.

Nimzo-Indian: Zurich Variation

by Richard Palliser

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 Nc6 remains a pretty solid defence for Black against the Classical Variation. Possibly due to the whims of fashion, 4...Nc6 remains some way behind 4...0-0, 4...d5 and 4...c5 in the popularity stakes, even though it is probably the easiest choice for Black to play. His plan is to advance in the centre with ...d6 and ...e5, and one main line runs 5 Nf3 d6 6 Bd2 (6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Qxc3 is an important alternative) 7...0-0 7 a3 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 Qe7:

It was always going to be interesting to see how a modern-day strong grandmaster would try to break through the solid black position, but in Lautier - Sharif White failed to gain any real advantage with his bishop pair.

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line

by Richard Palliser

After the critical 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 b5, we've concentrated a fair amount of late on the endgames arising after 10 Bxb5. However, 10 Nxb5 remains an important alternative when Black met 10...Re8 11 0-0 Nxe4 12 Qa4 with the extremely rare 12...f5!? in Murzin - Sadvakasov:

Modern Benoni exponents should be aware that the Modern Main Line is recommended in two recent repertoire works for White: John Cox's Starting Out: 1 d4 (Everyman) and Efstratios Grivas' Beating the Fianchetto Defences (Gambit). Both recommend 10 Bxb5, although black players wishing to avoid having to hold a worse ending would still do well to examine two ideas which we recently covered in some detail, namely 10...Nxe4 11 Nxe4 Qa5+ 12 Nfd2 Qxb5 13 Nxd6 Qa6 14 N2c4 Nd7 15 0-0 Ne5!? and 14...Rd8 15 Bf4 Nd7 16 0-0 Nb6 17 Nxb6 axb6!?.

Cox has managed to pack an enviable amount of fine explanation and theory into a Starting Out guide, although we should note that he doesn't cover the popular line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6. That's because his repertoire meets 2...e6 with 3 Nc3 (and not 3 Nf3), and so via a pure Benoni move order he can avoid Suba's ...a6 variation with the accurate 7 Bd3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 and we're back in the Modern Main Line. Grivas, however, does cover 7...a6 in his impressively detailed book which contains a large number of new ideas and improvements. He then advocates 8 a4 Bg4 9 Be2 Bxf3 10 Bxf3 Bg7 11 0-0 which has long been believed to be quite comfortable for Black. However, after 11...0-0, rather than the standard 12 Bf4, the Greek theoretician advocates the somewhat more flexible 12 Re1!?:

To see if this idea is actually so challenging, check out the notes to Sowray - Taylor.

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 h3 Bg7 8 Bd3 0-0 9 Nf3, 9...b5 remains Black's best move, but such a theoretical approach isn't popular with everyone. One alternative which has gained a fair amount of attention since being advocated by John Watson is 9...Nh5!? 10 0-0 Nd7:

Against this Grivas advocates 11 Re1 and if Black knows his stuff and follows Watson's main line, the Greek grandmaster believes that White can try to grind in a slightly better ending. That may well not be great news for fans of 9...Nh5, but Cox's approach may spell even more problems: 11 Bg5 Bf6 12 Bh6 Re8 13 Be2! was a strong novelty unveiled in Ikonnikov - Van der Poel.

Until next time, John