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Hi Everyone,
There are Nimzo, Queen's Indian and Bogo-Indian games this month, including a new and very creative exchange sacrifice on move 10 in one of the very main lines of the Classical Nimzo, plus an underrated pawn sacrifice suggested by a subscriber in the Bogo-Indian.
Let's get on with the action!

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 July '08 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

New ideas continue to crop up in the Classical Nimzo, and the latest is an interesting novelty in the variation made famous by the 1993 Kasparov-Short match: 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

I've found well over 100 games reaching this position, but in none of these did White choose 10 0-0-0!?. But this is exactly what White played in the recent game Rajlich - Sethuraman, Budapest 2008. After 10...Bxc3 11 f3! the real idea was revealed: White is prepared to sacrifice an exchange in return for a pawn and dominance on the dark squares. Perhaps not surprisingly 11 0-0-0 is the first choice of Iweta Rajlich's husband's brainchild ... Rybka!

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 d5

In last month's update we looked at 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 cxd5 and now 7...exd5, but 7...Nxd5 is still Black's main choice, and a very reliable one too:

In Moskalenko - Gonzalez Vidal, Montcada i Reixac 2008, Black equalises comfortably against a 4 f3 expert by choosing (after 8 dxc5 Qa5 9 e4) the move 9...Nf6. Following 10 Be3 0-0 11 Qb3 Nfd7! Moskalenko opted for the rare 12 Bb5!?, but I also cover White's other 12th move options. In general it looks like 9...Nf6 is just as reliable for Black as 9...Ne7 (recently played by Leko against Mamedyarov, and given in the notes).

Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation

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 cxd4 9 exd4 b6:

Given that Black often captures on c3 of his own accord, it would be easy to dismiss 10 a3!?, which was played in Kobese - Paschall, Budapest 2008, as a waste of a tempo. It's not quite that simple, though, and some strong grandmasters have played an early a2-a3 (albeit usually in slightly different positions, for example 10 Re1 Bb7 11 Bd3 Nbd7 12 a3!? Bxc3 13 bxc3). After 10...Bxc3 11 bxc3 White's idea is quite straightforward: to follow up with c3-c4 and Bb2. White can argue that Black often only captures on c3 once White has committed to Bg5. With such an early a2-a3 White forces Black to make a decision, and with the hanging pawns on c4 and d4 White's bishop might prefer to be on the long a1-h8 diagonal rather than the g5-square.

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5 Bb7 8 Bg2 Nxd5:

This pawn sacrifice shows no sign of losing its popularity, unsurprisingly so given how much grief it has caused Black players over the past couple of years. In Kramnik - Leko, Dortmund 2008, however, the World Championship challenger failed to trouble Black with 9 Qb3!? (instead of the usual 9 0-0). We've already seen this move once before, a 19-move crush for White (Kazhgaleyev-Al Sayed, Doha 2006), but the signs are that its surprise factor has worn off and Black is no longer having any real problems. Kramnik doesn't really do anything to suggest otherwise, and you can't help but feel that he is storing up his best ideas for a significantly more important event later on in the year. Let's hope so!

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4

Last month featured a game with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 dxc5 Bxc5, but more recently Black has scored a couple of high-level wins with the more ambitious 7...bxc5 (ambitious in that Black keeps more central pawns). The main line runs 8 0-0 Be7 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Rd1:

and now:

  1. Gustafsson - Leko, Dortmund 2008, went 10...Qb6 11 Bf4 Rd8 12 Rd2 d6 13 Rad1 Ne8! (13...Nc6? 14 Bxd6! Bxd6 15 Rxd6 Qxb2 16 Qb5! Qxb5 17 cxb5 gives White a clear advantage in the endgame - see Lalic-Emms, Redbus KO 2001). Gustafsson understandably follows the game Mamedyarov-Kramnik from the previous round, where White gained an edge, but Leko improves on Kramnik's play to first gain equality and then the advantage.
  2. In Onischuk - Eljanov, Aerosvit Foros 2008, Black chooses 10...d6 11 Bf4 Qb6 12 Rd2 h6!?. This move prevents Bg5 in preparation of ...e5. After the f4-bishop retreats to e3, Black's idea is a simple one: ...Nc6-d4. This basic plan has proved to be very effective in practice, and this game proves to be no exception. (Black's early ...d6 does give White the opportunity to play for b2-b4 with 12 Rab1!?, as the bishop on e7 no longer protects b4. This move was previously covered in Tregubov-Van der Wiel, Wijk aan Zee 2002.)

Bogo-Indian: 4 Bd2 Qe7 5 g3 Nc6

Subscriber Florian Biermann makes an interesting point on a line that's been previously been dismissed by most sources, including this website:

«Dear Grandmaster Emms,
In your ebook on the Bogo-Indian, after the moves 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Bb4 4 Bd2 Qe7 5 g3 Nc6 6 Bg2 Bxd2 7 Qxd2 Ne4 8 Qc2 Qb4+ you just mention the answer 9 Nc3 after which White's structure gets damaged through 9...Nxc3 10 Qxc3 Qxc3. However, I believe that most reasonable players who choose 7 Qxd2 do not intend to get into this line, as the resulting position looks unpromising for White. Rather I believe that someone who plays 7 Qxd2 intends to sacrifice a pawn and get some practical chances in exchange. My chess trainer, Kai Wornath, showed me a game which he played with White against GM Ikonnikov. After 9 Nbd2 Nxd2 10 Qxd2 Qxc4 the game continued 11 0-0 Qb4 12 Qd3 d5 13 a3 Qd6 14 Rac1 Ne7 15 e4 c6 16 e5 Qc7 17 h4 a5 18 Ng5 h6 19 Nh3 b6 20 Rfd1 Ba6 21 Qf3 a4 22 Nf4 Bc4 23 Nh5 and although Black went on to win this game, White's position looks quite convenient and Black has to fend off an unpleasant attack against his kingside. At least from a practical point of view, this seems to justify sacrificing one pawn. It would be great if you could include this line and give some advice how Black should play it in the right way.»

Florian definitely has a point here. Judging by the statistics I have (9 Nc3 is still far more common than 9 Nbd2) it seems that many players - even one or two grandmasters - stumble into this variation rather than prepare it. After all, I don't think anyone would prepare 9 Nc3!

I must confess I had written off White's chances with 9 Nbd2 after seeing the way Michael Adams easily gained an advantage as Black against Jeroen Piket (Roquebrune 1992), but White's more direct play in Wornath - Ikonnikov, Wiesbaden 2000, deserves attention because it does indeed offer him compensation for the pawn and reasonable practical chances, and of course those playing this line as White wouldn't usually come up against the defensive skill and tenacity displayed by Ikonnikov! Black players shouldn't despair though; a pawn is a pawn after all, and even though objectively there's nothing wrong with Ikonnikov's approach, in the notes I do offer alternative ways for Black to play it.

Till next time, John