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Hi subscribers,

This month we look at games in the Modern Benoni, Nimzo Indian and Queen's Indian. I've had one or two people enquiring about the 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 a4 Qh4+ line of the Flick-Knife Attack, and so here Richard Palliser, author of The Modern Benoni Revealed, takes an in-depth look at the recent developments in this line.

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 July '05 Nimzo and Benoni games

Modern Benoni: Flick-Knife Attack with ...Qh4+

by Richard Palliser

9...Qh4+ in the critical Taimanov Attack was John Watson's suggestion in his inspirational 2001 Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni. It's true that this particular line hasn't especially caught on, quite possibly because many still enter the Benoni only via 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5. However, there have been some new developments after the queen check and we'll consider those in the next four games.

We reach the critical position after 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 a4 Qh4+:

The queen check is actually quite logical. In the Taimanov Attack White aims to complete his development while restraining any counterplay, and he can then prepare the e5-advance. A crafty way to force that through is with the important manoeuvre Bd2-e1-g3, but that is no longer possible here after 10 g3 (10 Kf1 disrupts White's development, isn't too dangerous and remains pretty rare). Furthermore, the white kingside has been weakened and thus Black's often-problematic light-squared bishop is able to find a good square on g4 or h3.

In Lautier - Abergel, French League 2004 and Koepcke - Sevillano, Las Vegas 2005 we consider 10 g3 Qe7. On e7 Black's queen targets the e-pawn, although Black must be careful as here the queen can be vulnerable to an e4-e5, ...dxe5, d5-d6 advance.

Should Black not be convinced that e7 is the best square for the queen (it's currently slightly the more popular choice) then he can prefer 10...Qd8, when the queen can head to a5 or to c7, and we'll consider that approach in McEntee - Casella, Las Vegas 2004 and Carlsen - Lie, Molde 2004. In these two games we'll also study 9...a6!?:

This is a crafty move order which exploits the fact that an exchange on d7 isn't especially problematic for Black.

In conclusion I believe ...Qh4+ remains a good counter to the Taimanov Attack. Much remains to be discovered after it, and Black does gain some pretty thematic Benoni counterplay. I'm not so convinced by the ...Qe7 lines, especially when White opts for Bd3, but the retreat to d8 is holding up well. However, Black might as well first play ...a6 and only then decide on a queen retreat, although doing so does require one to understand the typical themes and positions arising from both variations.

Modern Benoni: 7...a6 8 Qe2!?

(John Emms)

The line 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 e4 a6 8 Qe2:

is fast becoming a bit of a pain in the backside for 7...a6 devotees. White's idea is to exploit Black's lagging development with a very quick e4-e5. To me it just looks too crude to really be the refutation of 7...a6, but no concrete easy way to equality has yet been discovered for Black.

It could easily be called the Epishin Variation, because Epishin has played it at least four times (four wins!) and with that type of success rate it is unsurprising that one or two others are having a go. The game J.Rogers-Ward, English Club Championship Final 2005 is in fact the first 'known' black win in the line, but this doesn't necessarily mean that all Black's problems are solved.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

The Classical Variation with 4...d5 often leads to very sharp positions, one of which arises after the moves 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 Nf3 Qa5+ 10 Nd2 Nd4:

Now White's 'normal' move here is 11 Qd3, but in the game Aronian - Palac, European Team Ch, Gothenburg 2005, the former world junior champion came up with the paradoxical 11 Qd1!?, which I believe was the brainchild of the St. Petersburg GM Sergey Ivanov. Massive complications arise, but as far as I can see, Black has at least an equal share of the chances here.

Topalov's Crazy Novelty

A few months ago I annotated the game Bareev-Topalov, Monte Carlo 2005, in which the Bulgarian GM came up with a stunning novelty at move five of a very well known line: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 and now 5...c5!?:

An incredible move - I'm struggling to think of a similar gambit where the same pawn is offered in two different ways! The surprise value paid off handsomely for Topalov, and he reached a very easy position out of the opening. Even so, at the time I thought that we wouldn't be seeing much more of this move, especially at the top level in classical time limits. The game Pelletier - Carlsen, Biel 2005 goes some way to proving me wrong, although a 15-move loss (!) for Black is not an ideal advert for 5...c5.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0

Going into the final round of this year's British Championship, Scottish GM Jonathan Rowson was leading with 8/10 while there were four players tied on 7/10 - I was one of these. As the other three had already played my fellow ChessPublishing contributor, it was now my turn. Even though Jonathan was the highest rated player in the tournament, I was quite looking forward to the encounter because basically I had the advantage of playing 'with a draw in hand' - that is, unless completely winning, Jonathan was always likely to accept a draw at any stage to secure his second title in a row. The main problem with preparation was choosing an opening variation in the Nimzo that kept the position 'alive'. In the end I opted for 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 d6?!:

but this was a very unfortunate choice that failed quite miserably in its task - see Rowson - Emms, British Ch, Douglas 2005.

Nimzo-Indian/Queen's Indian Hybrid

Finally this month we have a good old-fashioned hack attack in the game Williams - Stone, British Ch, Douglas 2005: 1 d4 e6 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4 g5 7 Bg3 Ne4 8 Qc2 Bb7 9 e3 Bxc3+ 10 bxc3 Nxg3 and here Simon Williams characteristically opted for the aggressive 11 fxg3!?:

White accepts a compromised pawn structure in return for attacking chances down the half-open f-file. This turned out to be a nice win for White, but I believe that Black missed a few good chances along the way and I think this variation certainly remains playable for Black.

That's all this month. Next month we'll take a look at the so-called 'Clarendon Court Variation': 1 d4 c5 2 d5 f5!?