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Hi Everyone,
I've just noticed there's a high percentage of gambit play in this month's update, including a novelty which offers a rook sacrifice at move nine! That particular offering might not catch on, but there's no doubting the validity of the Queen's Indian pawn sac line with 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2, which continues to claim numerous 2700+ scalps and must be one of the most important opening ideas of recent years. Also included this month is something of rarity - a 16-move loss by a reigning World Champion. Maybe someone could check the record books on that one? Enjoy!

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 June '08 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3

4 f3 continues to crop up fairly regularly; albeit in events just below the elite tournaments (it would be great to see Shirov wheel it out again).

One recent game that caught my eye was Avila Jimenez-Cruz, Salou 2008. This began 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 e3 Qc7!:

So far, so normal, but now White played the unbelievable 9 Bd3!?. I must confess I thought this move simply lost material to a queen fork on c3, but things are not as straightforward as I (and many others) previously thought.

In Khenkin - Pap, Budapest 2008, White tries what looks like a promising pawn sacrifice in the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 c5 5 d5 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qa5!? and now 7 e4!? (more usually White has defended with 7 Bd2).

In the game Black grabs the pawn with 7...Qxc3+ and White manages to build up a very strong and ultimately winning position, but there's also the issue of what happens if Black simply declines by playing 7...d6 to deal with.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5!? c5 6 e3:

5 Bg5 c5 6 e3 is quite a modest approach from White, but it might be a reasonable option for those who enjoy playing typical IQP positions. In Sokolov - Ibrahimov, Baku 2008, Black plays creatively to avoid the typical positions, but comes unstuck after some powerful play by the Dutch Grandmaster.

Nimzo-Indian: Parma 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 Nbd7:

8...Nbd7 has many similarities with the Karpov Variation (8...cxd4 9 exd4 b6) and indeed there are quite a few transpositional possibilities. Black does retain a bit more flexibility with 8...Nbd7. On the other hand White also has extra options and Black must also be a bit more careful about the timing of ...b6 - if indeed he wants to play in this way. In Ivanchuk - Anand, Leon 2008, the World Champion plays a bit loosely, not choosing the correct move order and then compounding his error on the next move. Five moves later he has to resign!

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5 Bb7 8 Bg2 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7:

This pawn sac continues to impress. The practical problem Black faces is that the theory is so volatile and White can attack from a number of angles - if Black patches up one line White can try something slightly different but just as dangerous. In Shirov - Jakovenko, Foros 2008, Shirov eschews the main move 10 Rd1 in favour of 10 Qe4!?. I'm pretty sure Jakovenko knew about this possibility (it's been played before), but he reacts poorly and is soon facing an uphill struggle.

In contrast to the pawn sac line, with 5 Qa4 White is looking for a slight positional edge. The main line is still 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 dxc5 Bxc5:

I've tended to prefer 7...bxc5 (see, for example, the notes to Lalic-Emms, Redbus KO 2001, but both captures are playable and 7...Bxc5 has been the more common choice over the years (maybe because it just looks more natural to recapture while developing a piece). As far as I can see Black is holding his own in this line, and Gurevich - Friedel, USA Ch, Tulsa 2008, is a nice illustration of what can happen to White if he unwisely plays with too much ambition early on.

Modern Benoni: Taimanov Attack

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7:

The game Taylor - Solomon, Budapest 2008, isn't particularly important from a theoretical viewpoint (although I have tried to summarise a few thoughts on theory in the notes). It is, however, a chilling reminder to Modern Benoni players that you should not give up your Benoni bishop without due consideration to the consequences. In this case the consequence was a severe mauling for the black king!

Till next time, John