ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Seasonal greetings! This month includes some games from the World Cup and the London Classic, with a few new wrinkles in the Nimzo and Modern Benoni.

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at

Download PGN of December '09 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2

We begin with Malakhov - Ponomariov, Khanty-Mansiysk 2009, in which I think Ponomariov answers a question about the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 Nf3 h6 8 Bh4 (or alternatively, the move order 6...h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 Nf3):

I'd wondered before whether Black had an active alternative to 8...Nc6 9 dxc5 which transposes to main lines, but those where Black has committed his knight to c6. An old game had cast some doubt upon the tempting 8...g5, but there were always likely improvements for Black in that game and here Ponomariov seems to confirm the playability of this pawn lunge.

In Quinn - Buckley, London Classic 2009, White chooses 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 dxc5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Ne4 10 e3 Qa5 and now the "solid" 11 Be5 (instead of the main line, 11 Nge2 Bf5 12 Be5):

The game continued with the usual 11...0-0 12 Bd3 Nc6 13 Bxe4 Nxe5 14 Bxd5, but here Graeme Buckley produced the novelty 14...Bf5!?, which gives White some new problems to solve. This might be a decent way for Black to avoid the drawish (though not completely dead) 14...Bg4 Bxf3 16 Bxf3 Nxf3+ 17 gxf3 Rac8 18 0-0, played in the stem game Kasparov-Short, although I do think White might be a bit better with best play after 14...Bf5.

Next up it's Al Sayed-Eljanov, Khanty-Mansiysk 2009: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 Bd3 Nc6 7 Nge2 and now 7...Ba5!?:

Black's idea is ...Bb6. It may look like a bit of a luxury moving this bishop three times, but the positioning of White's pieces and the vulnerability of the d4-pawn makes it worthwhile. At least that's what both Kramnik and Eljanov think!

Ponomariov produced another novelty in the Nimzo this month, this time in the Zurich Variation: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 Nc6 5 Nf3 d6 6 Bd2 0-0 7 a3 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 Qe7 9 g3 e5 10 d5

Black usually settles for either 10...Nd8 or 10...Nb8 here, but Ponomariov advanced with 10...e4!?, offering a pawn sacrifice. I haven't seen this played before, but it was suggested by Richard Palliser in his book Tango which covers the Zurich variation, albeit with a different follow-up in mind to the one Ponomariov chose. In any case, Black certainly succeeds in gaining some compensation for the pawn here, see Malakhov - Ponomariov.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

Slavin - Wells, London Classic 2009, revisits an old line which White players seem reluctant to allow these days, 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 Nbd7 9 Qe2 b6 10 d5:

This leads to a fairly forcing line in which Black sacrifices a pawn after 10...Bxc3 11 dxe6 Ne5 12 exf7+ Kh8 13 bxc3 Bg4. I'm not exactly sure why this has gone completely out of fashion; White still has chances of an edge. Maybe it's just because it is easier to play for Black than for White over the board.

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line

The accelerated ...Nh5 continues to gather new supporters, and in Bensdorp - Van der Werf, Netherlands 2009, Black comes up with a somewhat surprising new move, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nc3 g6 7 h3 a6 8 a4 Bg7 9 e4 Nbd7 10 Bd3 Nh5 11 Bg5 Bf6 12 Bh6 Ne5 13 Be2 Nxf3+ 14 Bxf3 Bg5!?:

It somehow feels that with an exchange of two sets of minor pieces, White should be a bit better in view of Black's weakened pawns on the kingside, but in this game Black seems to always have enough activity to compensate. If Black can really solve his problems this easily - and that's something of an "if" - then that's a very good sign for 10...Nh5.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation

I'm quite impressed with Alekseev's original idea in Caruana - Alekseev, Khanty-Mansiysk 2009, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nc3 g6 7 Bg2 Bg7 8 Nf3 0-0? 9 0-0? Nbd7 10 a4 Ng4!?:

This is a novelty and quite a logical one too. Sure, Black wants to exchange a pair of knights to ease congestion. But there's more to Alekseev's idea than just that.

Modern Benoni: Taimanov Attack

Finally this month, a good old-fashioned hack attack in the game Peralta - Almeida Quintana, Barcelona 2009, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 Nf3 a6 10 Bd3 b5 11 0-0 0-0 12 Kh1 Re8:

We've seen this line before (check out the game Vitiugov-Maze, Moscow 2009, for a theoretical discussion on it), but I couldn't resist including this new game which gives a nice demonstration of White's direct attacking possibilities as well as a very pleasing queen sacrifice finish!

Till next time, John