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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3
We begin this month with some continued theoretical success for Black in the new hybrid ...0-0/...d5 system, which we saw Anand employ so effectively last month. On this occasion it is Vladimir Kramnik who's championing Black's cause, and it's possible he catches his opponent Magnus Carlsen slightly by surprise. Carlsen - Kramnik, Dortmund 2009, begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5:
Here Carlsen chose 7 Nf3 (last month we saw games with 7 cxd5 and 7 Bg5), whereupon 7...dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 transposed to a line which until now has more commonly been reached via the move-order 4...d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6 8 Nf3 0-0. After 9 Bg5 Ba6 Carlsen opted for 10 Qa4 over the more popular 10 Qc2, but Kramnik's direct 10...c5!? proved to be a successful equalizer.
Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4
There's no doubt that Black has been experiencing some problems in recent times with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5, when instead of the "normal" (this should soon be replaced by "rare"!) 8 cxd5 White keeps the tension with 8 Nge2. Over the last couple of years White has enjoyed success with some amazingly direct attacks on Black's kingside (see, for example, the notes to M.Lomineishvili-S.Khukhashvili, Tbilisi 2007).
There are a couple of theoretical developments in the game Inarkiev - Gashimov, Poikovsky 2009. First of all, White chooses 8 Nf3!? (instead of 8 Nge2) which has also been played by Kasimdzhanov. In the game it just transposes to the 8 Nge2 main line, but 8 Nf3 might have the value of cutting out one of Black's options against 8 Nge2. Perhaps of greater importance, though, is Gashimov's clever novelty 15...Rd8!?, which on the surface looks like a promising attempt to dampen White's attacking chances.
Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6:
Gavasheli - Melia, Tbilisi 2009, isn't a hugely important game from a theoretical viewpoint (Black's 11...h6 is probably a touch inaccurate), but I do think it provides a fairly easy-to-understand example of how both players should treat certain positions in the Karpov Variation. Black's typical plan of controlling the light squares with ...a6, ...b5, ...Bd5 etc is certainly worth remembering.
Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2
There's no escaping the fact that the 7 d5 gambit continues to be a real pain in the neck for Queen's Indian players. Peter Leko recently suffered a humiliating defeat against it at the hands of Levon Aronian. So what did he do? He decided to swap sides and have some fun with White! In Leko - Bacrot, Dortmund 2009, the Hungarian GM simply repeated what he had faced against Aronian: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 exd5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7 10 Rd1 Nc6 11 Qa4 Nf6 12 Nh4. He gained the advantage, just like Aronian had done, and won. It's true that Black is close to equalising, but from a practical viewpoint 7 d5 remains a difficult variation for Black to face.
Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4
Kramnik - Bacrot, Dortmund 2009, provides something a bit more sedate with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 dxc5 bxc5 8 0-0 Be7 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Rd1 Qb6 11 Bf4 Rd8:
Here Kramnik played the curious-looking 12 Rab1!?. This is a normal move against 11...d6, but with the e7-bishop not blocked by ...d6, White isn't in a position here to play b2-b4. However, this looks like a typically subtle idea by Kramnik. Black is challenged to find a useful move other than ...d6, and in any case b2-b4 can be arranged with a2-a3. Bacrot chooses a somewhat radical way to deal with White's idea, but although he gains an easy draw in the game I'm not totally convinced by it.
Queen's Indian 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3
Judging by statistics, the main line of the 4 a3 Queen's Indian continues to be 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 6 cxd5 Nxd5 7 Qc2 Be7 8 e4 Nxc3 9 bxc3 0-0 10 Bd3 c5 11 0-0:
and now either 11...Qc8 intending ...Ba6 or 11...Qc7, the latter of which seems to be the preference amongst the top players at this very moment. Those playing this line as White could do worse than study Michal Krasenkow's games. He has come up with some very interesting ideas, and his 12 Qe2 Nc6 13 d5!? (Krasenkow - Sokolov, French League 2009) certainly caused Black fresh problems just when it seemed that Black was patching up some holes.
12...Nd7 (instead of 12...Nc6) has been a more popular choice for Black, and judging by the evidence of the earlier game Golod - Zhigalko, Plovdiv 2008, Black is on slightly firmer footing here.
Till next time, John