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This month I take a look at the 4 f3 and 4 Qc2 Nimzo, and a trendy line in the Queen's Indian. Meanwhile, Modern Benoni expert and guest contributor Richard Palliser continues his coverage of popular Benoni lines.

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 January '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3

First it's the game Kadziolka - Aleksandrov, Warsaw 2005, and another look at the fashionable 4 f3 Nimzo: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 and now 4...0-0:

For a long time this perfectly natural move seemed to be overlooked by the theoreticians, who concentrated only on 4...d5 and, to a lesser extent, 4...c5. But more recently 4...0-0 has received more attention, in my opinion because the move White plays in return here is not as strong as was once believed. Without a doubt 5 e4 is the absolutely logical follow-up to 4 f3. However, I'll risk making a sweeping statement here: maybe 5 e4 is a mistake!

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

Next up we have a heavyweight clash from the recent Wijk aan Zee tourney. Van Wely-Ivanchuk, Wijk aan Zee 2006 begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5:

This queen recapture is a much safer choice for Black than the theoretical and sharp 5...exd5. Perhaps revealingly, it has been favoured over 5...exd5 by many of the top GMs who play the Nimzo (Anand, Kramnik, Adams); it's also the recommendation in Eddie Dearing's new book Play the Nimzo-Indian. Here Ivanchuk enhances the variation's reputation by equalising very comfortably.

Modern Benoni

(Modern Benoni games annotated by IM Richard Palliser).

Berry - Povah, 4NCL Birmingham 2005 begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 and here we revisit the ambitious 9...Nbd7 10 0-0 Nh5:

which was first recommended by John Watson in his 2001 book Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni and has since been seen quite a few times.

Modern Benoni: White plays Bf4

Flear - Lund, 4NCL Birmingham 2006 begins 1 d4 c5 2 d5 e6 3 c4 exd5 4 cxd5 d6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Bf4 Nf6 7 e4 Bg7 8 Qa4+ Bd7 9 Qb3 Qc7 10 Nf3:

a position that is often reached via the move-order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Bg7 8 Qa4+ Bd7 9 Qb3 Qc7 10 e4.

Modern Benoni: Epishin's 8 Qe2

The game Harikrishna - Cheparinov, Pamplona 2005 gives us another chance to study Epishin's strange-looking but very effective invention: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 e4 a6 8 Qe2. Previously we've considered 8...Bg4 on this site; Cheparinov preferred to give up castling rights after 8...Bg7 9 e5 dxe5 10 Qxe5+ Kf8:

Given that Cheparinov has worked extensively with Veselin Topalov, this game perhaps gives us an insight into what the new world champion would play against 8 Qe2.

Modern Benoni: The Flick-Knife Attack

You don't often see Boris Gelfand on the black side of the Modern Benoni, but when he was in a 'win at all costs' situation at the recent FIDE World Cup, it's interesting that it was the Modern Benoni he turned to. Bareev - Gelfand, FIDE World Cup, Khanty Mansyisk 2005 begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 a4 and now Gelfand continued 9...Qh4+ 10 g3 Qd8:

another recommendation of John Watson's.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation

In the game Martyn - Palliser, 4NCL 2006 we see the line 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 Re8 10 Nd2 a6 11 a4 Nbd7 12 Nc4 Nb6 (12...Ne5 is Black's alternative) 13 Na3 Bd7 and now 14 Re1!?:

a tricky move that has been causing Black a few problems of late.

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3

José Soza asks, "After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 7 Nc3,

which is better in your opinion: 7...c6 or 7...0-0?"

A good, topical question (Topalov has revitalised 7 Nc3 from White's point of view), and one that cannot be answered quickly. So this month I've looked at a couple of games with 7...0-0, whereas next month I'll concentrate on 7...c6.

The trendy line at super-GM level at the moment runs 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 7 Nc3 0-0 8 Rc1!? (Topalov's move) 8...d5 9 cxd5:

Now 9...Nxd5 is covered in Gelfand - Macieja, Merida 2005, while 9...exd5 is the subject of Mamedyarov - Aronian, Wijk aan Zee 2006.

That's all folks! Good luck with your Nimzo/Benoni games this month!