ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Hi everyone!
This month is devoted entirely to new developments in the ever-popular 4 Qc2 Nimzo (okay, there's also enough room for a brief look at the Modern Benoni). Richard Palliser covers some very sharp 4...d5 lines, while I take a look at an increasingly popular option for White against 4...0-0.

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 December '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5

Black has been coming under some theoretical pressure of late (writes Richard Palliser) after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3, although 6...Ne4 7 Qc2 c5 may still be quite viable for him as John showed in the August update. After 6 Qxc3, 6...Ne4 has long been Black's main reply, but it isn't his only option as Ruslan Ponomariov recently demonstrated en route to sharing first place in the super-strong Tal Memorial. Ponomariov's preference was for 6...c5!? 7 dxc5 d4:

This is the Romanishin Gambit and it's possible Ponomariov had been studying the games of his ever-creative Ukrainian compatriot, looking for inspiration. Alternatively he might have ordered the recently-published Dangerous Weapons: The Nimzo-Indian which features a chapter on this enterprising gambit. White's critical response is 8 Qg3 as was indeed seen in Gelfand - Ponomariov.

In the main line with 6...Ne4 7 Qc2 c5 8 dxc5 Nc6 9 cxd5 exd5 10 Nf3 Black usually continues with 10...Bf5 as we've seen many times on ChessPub. Recently, however, that most creative of players, Vassily Ivanchuk, essayed the extremely rare 10...Qf6!?:

Ivanchuk fully equalized with his semi-novelty before White went astray with some sloppy play in Bareev - Ivanchuk.

Until fairly recently 7...Nc6 was a major alternative to 7...c5, and indeed it remains quite a popular option. Its days appear to be numbered, however, due to 8 e3 e5 9 f3! which has gained some further adherents since John drew attention to it in a previous update. Sometimes, though, White prefers to meet 7...Nc6 with the less critical 8 Nf3:

Black continued in active vein in Muller - Duggan with 8...Qf6!? 9 e3 Qg6 and was soon rewarded with a powerful initiative. Indeed this game should serve as a reminder to 4 Qc2 fans of the need to know their theory, or at least to be quite careful, when behind in development.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0

In the April update I took a brief look at the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Nf3 Bb7 8 e3:

and I thought it was about time to revisit this variation with some further thoughts, especially since its popularity shows no sign of diminishing. Still not as common as 7 Bg5, but there have been a substantial number of games, and some by very strong grandmasters. Traditionally this line has been considered fine for Black based on the straightforward plan of ...Bb7, ...Ne4, ...f5 etc. with good counterplay on the kingside, but although in practice these positions certainly need some care on White's part, the fact that top GMs are playing it suggests there is at least some hope of an advantage for White. And, as I've mentioned before, 7 Nf3 and 8 e3 has the big practical advantage that it hasn't (yet) been virtually analysed out to infinity.

Instead of the usual 8...d6, recently Black players have been trying 8...d5, for example 9 b4 c5 10 dxc5:

and here 10...Ne4!? was a novelty in Savchenko - Zavgorodniy, Ilyichevsk 2006, while the usual continuation, 10...bxc5, is examined in Kozul - Gyimesi, Sibenik 2006.

Back to the more conventional 8...d6, and in Atalik-P.Carlsson, Malmö 2006, Black went hell for leather on the kingside after 9 Be2 Ne4 10 Qc2 f5 11 0-0 Rf6!? 12 d5 Rh6:

which is perhaps a bit too bold, and Atalik's refutation does look very convincing.

In Zhao Xue-Karjakin, Cap d'Agde (rapid) 2006 Black played in a slightly more restrained fashion with 9...Nbd7 10 0-0 a5 11 b3:

before reverting to aggressive kingside action with 11...Ne4 12 Qc2 f5 13 Bb2 Rf6. Watch out for White's king marching all the way from g1 to b7 in one of the critical lines!

Modern Benoni: The Modern Main Line

It's never nice to be confronted with one of one's own favourite openings (writes Richard Palliser), but that's exactly what happened to me in Palliser - Quillan. Having recently covered the Modern Main Line in some detail on this site (suggesting that Black can play 9...b5, but should then consider his deviations from the main line on moves 14 and 15), I decided to play right down it and soon one of two critical endgames was reached:

In short this isn't a pleasant ending for Black to defend, especially in a rapidplay game.

Until next time, John