Jan 2000 Update
GM John Emms rounds up the latest in these Nimzo and Benoni Systems, with the help of guest GM Chris Ward in the Nimzo-Indian.
Welcome to the year 2000 and if anyone thinks that this site's posting is a little late then don't blame John(!) as I can tell you that he is always prompt. I on the other hand only recently returned from playing in a competition in Malta. Despite having 7 GMs, I notice that it hardly received any publicity anywhere. Okay there were other tournaments taking place at a similar time (with the Kasparov's, Kramnik's and Anand's of this world), but I'm not quite sure why the games didn't at least make it to 'The Week In Chess'. Anyway their loss is your gain in that respect as I offer a bit of Nimzo coverage from this mid January event (i.e. the games that you might never ever get to see otherwise).
The reason that I'm providing you with 3 of my own games is not because I'm showing off about being a joint winner (although it goes without saying that I might have done that anyway!), but rather that I found myself in the rather unique (certainly for me) situation of meeting the Nimzo 3 times and wheeling out a different variation each time.
The first is a 4 g3 encounter although the position more frequently arrives via 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3. Then there is the aggressive Classical 4...0-0 5 e4 which Nigel Short made popular by defeating Karpov a couple of years ago. Finally I dabbled in the Leningrad for the second time in my life and frankly I'm very glad I did.
Well until February Au Revoir!
The Christmas and New Year period has seen all those Benoni die-hards come out of hibernation, and I spotted a total of 32 Modern Benoni games from This Week in Chess. However, White players have been ready and Black has scored a meagre 41% this month (7 wins, 12 draws and 13 losses).
There's more bad news for Black in the Flick-Knife Variation. The game Ovod- Stellwagen sees the players follow an old game for some time. Black makes a new move, but it looks like a bad one and only a few move later, White ploughs through with a devastating attack.
Unfortunately for me, I was on the receiving end of "Game of the Month". Alexei Dreev's powerful attacking play in this game is certainly worth a second look, although given a second chance, I don't think I would grab that hot potato of a pawn on e4 again.
We round up our Modern Benoni coverage with another look at the very popular Modern Classical Variation. In the game Breier-Van Blitterswijk Black tries a new idea, but it looks dubious, and White's treatment looks very like a very good way of dealing with it.
The QID remains very popular at the top levels. This month was not quite as productive for Black as the last, but 46% in 78 games (21 wins, 30 draws and 27 losses) still represents a reasonable return.
Two games caught my eye this month. Fominyh - Sakaev, sees White trying the fairly unconventional line 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qb3. I must say that Black's response in this game looks very convincing.
I guess we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from the blitz game between Karpov and Anand, except for the already obvious fact that Anand is one hell of a blitz player (he used to play his normal games at that speed after all!) In any case, Anand's choice of opening is one of Black's most respectable continuations in the 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 line.
A line soon to be obsolete!? I couldn't resist giving one of my pet 4 g3 variations another run out before it possibly disappears from the map.
Put your pawns in the centre! A very literal interpretation of this favourite opening principle has appeared in the now topical 5 e4 variation of the Classical. But is White asking for too much too soon?
Risky Business Another warning shot is fired to those Black players who might try and open things up prematurely in the Leningrad Nimzo.
Game of the Month: Those horrible dark squares Unfortunately I couldn't resist grabbing a hot pawn. I was confident there was no immediate bust, but I underestimated White's slow burning attack on the weakened dark squares...
A Dubious Novelty Black's tries his most aggressive response to the Modern Classical Variation and on move 15 unleashes a novelty, but I don't think White players will be losing any sleep over it.
The Flick-Knife Strikes Again! In a game between two relatively unknown players White embarks on a very promising attack on the Black king, although I'm not sure he realised he was following an old game of Boris Gulko!
Is this the end for 5 Qb3? The idea of defending the c4-pawn with 5 Qb3 seems to be a favourite of the Russian GM Vladimir Epishin. However, it hasn't found much popularity elsewhere and this game will do little to help its cause.
A Queenside Storm This is the most solid line for Black against 5 b3, and a favourite of many of the top GMs. In fact Karpov has had much experience of this line from both sides of the board, but here his rival was not to be overawed...