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This month I've decided to focus entirely on the Queen's Indian: the 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 pawn sac line, the Nimzo/Queen's Indian Hybrid with Nc3 and Bg5, and also 4 a3 Ba6.

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 '10 Nimzo and Benoni games

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2

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:

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, one of the practical problems Black faces when taking on the 5 Qc2 pawn sac line is that there are several approaches by White, and all of them contain at least some level of danger. So even if you are confident as Black that you have been able to patch up one line, there's always the possibility you might get hit from another angle.

For example, in Riazantsev - Karjakin, Poikovsky 2010, White chooses 10 Qe4!? instead of the main move 10 Rd1, and unleashes a novelty two moves later. White later sacs a piece, plays with great energy, and Black's position is teetering on the edge for a very long time. A very entertaining game and this is certainly not a line for the faint-hearted.

Unsurprisingly there are those who want to avoid having to defend this line as Black, and a decent practical alternative is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb4+, which was recommended by IM Andrew Greet in his book Play the Queen's Indian.

The main line runs 6 Bd2 Be7 7 e4 d5 8 cxd5 Bxf1 9 Kxf1 exd5 10 e5 Ne4 11 Nc3:

Overall 11...Nxc3 (previously covered in Ni Hua-Tomashevsky, Nizhniy Novgorod 2007) has been played more often, and certainly there's some justification behind leaving White with his 'bad bishop', but I've noticed that over the past 12 months a few players have been taking the bishop instead, including the likes of Peter Leko and Mickey Adams. 11...Nxd2+ was also the choice in the game Iotov - Georgiev, Kyustendil 2010.

Nimzo/Queen's Indian Hybrid

A key line here continues to be 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4 g5 7 Bg3 Ne4 8 Qc2 Bb7 9 e3 Bxc3+ 10 bxc3 d6 11 Bd3 f5 12 d5 Na6! (judging by the recent evidence, it looks like this move has overtaken 12...Nd7) 13 Nd4 Nac5:

As we've seen before here, 14 dxe6 Qf6 15 f3 f4! is at least okay for Black, and nothing has changed recently to alter this assessment.

14 0-0!? is an old move, which was initially played by GM Nukhim Rashkovsky in the 1980s, without any real success. However, last year it was tried by Mchedlishvili and recently Jakovenko has also given it a go. Play continues 14...Qf6 15 f3 Nxg3 16 hxg3 and now:

a) In Jakovenko - Bologan, Poikovsky 2010, Bologan played 16...e5!?, a novelty and a very interesting pawn sacrifice.

b) Previously Black had always played 16...0-0 - see Mchedlishvili - Timoshenko, Leros 2009.

Queen's Indian 4 a3 Ba6 5 Qc2

The main line after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 a3 Ba6 5 Qc2 is 5...Bb7 6 Nc3 c5, but 5...c5 remains a decent alternative for Black, especially for those players who are happy with the Modern Benoni structure resulting after 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5 g6 8 Nc3 Bg7. White usually plays 9 g3 0-0 10 Bg2 d6 11 0-0 here, but some GMs have favoured the disruptive 9 Bf4 d6 10 Qa4+!:

Now Black is faced with a difficult decision:

a) 10...Qd7 11 Bxd6 Qxa4 12 Nxa4 Nxd5 13 0-0-0 reaches a key position for the 9 Bf4 line. Black must make a choice between two knight moves.

a1) 13...Ne7 has been the most popular choice, and was played recently in Kozak - Meszaros, Zalakaros 2010. However, despite playing natural moves Black soon found himself in serious trouble. Black's best bet seems to be to follow a recommendation from Kasparov - one dating back from 1982!

a2) Black has a critical alternative in 13...Nf6, and this move is covered in Vaganian - Tukmakov, Yerevan 1980. This is an old game but one which is worth revisiting as I think it's still quite relevant today.

b) If Black is unhappy entering the queenless middlegame, there's a more aggressive alternative with the pawn sacrifice 10...b5. In Roselli Mailhe-Vescovi, Morelia 2008, the Brazilian GM comes up with a promising looking novelty with 11 Nxb5 0-0 12 Nc3 Re8!?.


Another bonus game this month! GM Emanuel Berg has kindly given permission to reproduce his annotations to Elsness - Berg, Moss 2010. Look out in this game for a very original way, in the Modern Benoni at least, for Black to develop his king's knight...

Till next time, John