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Hi everyone!

The recent Chess Olympiad produced its fair share of memorable battles, and this month I've included one or two games that, however hard I resisted, I simply couldn't leave alone for more than a few minutes. Top board for the gold medal winners, Levon Aronian, certainly grabbed the headlines in Turin, producing a stunning theoretical novelty in a sharp and critical Nimzo-Indian line, as well as unleashing a very strong contender for 'move of the tournament'.

Also this month, Modern Benoni expert Richard Palliser tackles the Taimanov/Flick-Knife Variation which, according to a recent poll on the forum, is still the reason why the Modern Benoni via the traditional move-order 2...c5 is not such a popular option.

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 June '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5

It's not every day you see one of the World's leading 4 Qc2 experts losing in under twenty moves in his favourite variation, but that's exactly what happens in I.Sokolov-Aronian, Turin Olympiad 2006: 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 10 Bxb8!? and now Aronian uncorked the visual 10...Qf6!:

I remember seeing 10...Qf6 being suggested as a good reply to 10 Bxb8 in the official 1993 World Championship bulletin, but as far as I'm aware until now it hasn't been played in practice. Thirteen years: that's quite a long time to be laying in wait for a victim!

But all is not doom and gloom for White, as I hope the notes illustrate. What's clear, though, is that it's essential to have nerves of steel and some air-tight preparation if you want to go travel down this line.

No less hazardous is the variation seen in Van Wely-Antonio, Turin Olympiad 2006: 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 cxd5 exd5 10 Nf3 Bf5 11 b4 d4 12 g4 Bg6 13 Qc4 d3!:

This move was Anand's idea and it completely resurrected Black's chances in this line. (Previously 13...Qe7 had been played, but 14 Bg2 Rd8 15 0-0 h5 16 g5 h4 17 h3 Bf5 18 Bf4 - Furman-Averbakh, Moscow 1948 - was not inspiring from Black's point of view). A few moves down the line Van Wely produced a novelty (16 g5) which led to a very quick win and threatens to blow this line out of the water. However, after having great fun analysing this line, my conclusion is that I don't think we're ready just yet to label it as 'case closed'. (Many thanks, by the way, to subscriber Franck Steenbekkers for alerting me to some analysis on the Dutch chess website,

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Bb7

Aronian - Navara, Turin Olympiad 2006 begins in a deceptively sedate fashion with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 Nc3 Ne4 7 Bd2 f5:

Now Aronian decided upon 8 Qc2!?, quite a rare move (White usually justifies 7 Bd2 with 8 d5 Bf6 and only then 9 Qc2). The main reason for this game's inclusion, however, comes on move eleven. If you haven't seen Aronian's bombshell already, brace yourselves: it's a real stunner.

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6

Markus - Perunovic, Vrnjacka Banja 2006 opens 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 and now 7 Bc3!?:

At first sight it appears that White is simply playing to reach the main lines via a slightly different move order, but in fact it's deceptively tricky idea. I think this is an enticing weapon for White players, especially if they suspect their opponent is set on playing the usual ...c7-c6 and ...d7-d5. Some credit here should go to the English GM Keith Arkell; I believe it was his games which brought this neat idea of 7 Bc3 and 8 Nbd2 into prominence.

Modern Benoni: Taimanov Variation

By Richard Palliser

One critical and fashionable line of the Taimanov is Milov's favourite 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 Nf3!?:

White avoids a2-a4 in favour of rapid development, which means that Black is able to expand on the queenside with ...b7-b5. After... 9...0-0 10 0-0 a6 11 Bd3 b5:

White is really committed to a kingside attack, and unsurprisingly some quite violent games have ensued from here. In Komarov - Genocchio, Salsomaggiore Terme 1999, White plays 12 Kh1, while in Milov - Pantsulaia, San Marino 2006, the Swiss GM prefers the prophylactic 12 a3!?

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line

Annotations by Richard Palliser

One of most popular lines these days sees Black opting for an early trade of minor pieces with ...Bg4xf3. There are numerous move-orders, one of which is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 e4 a6 8 a4 Bg4 9 Be2 Bxf3 10 Bxf3 Bg7 11 0-0 0-0 12 Bf4 Qe7:

By far the most common move for White here is 13 Re1. However, in N.Pert-Quillan, 4NCL 2006, the English Olympiad player chose the more critical 13 e5!?, and after 13...dxe5 he followed the same path as Aronian did in one of his recent games with 14 Bg5!?. Quillan was unable to find a good path in the complications, but Richard's notes show that Black has nothing to fear, even if he does have to play more carefully than after 13 Re1.

It's important when playing this line to understand the nuances of the possible move orders. In the older game Xu Jun-Hracek, Bad Homburg 1997, Black delays castling in favour of a quicker ...Nbd7: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nc3 g6 7 e4 a6 8 a4 Bg4 9 Be2 Bxf3 10 Bxf3 Nbd7 11 0-0 Bg7 12 Bf4 Qe7. Now White can still play 13 e5!?:

but, as Richard's annotations demonstrate, there are some subtle differences between this and the line played in Pert-Quillan.

That's it for the moment. Till next time, John