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What's New (March 2004 update)

Hi Everyone! This month we take a look at games in the Nimzo Indian, Modern Benoni, and 'weird' Benoni from tournaments that took place in March.


Modern Benoni

Weird Benoni

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

To download the March '04 Nimzo and Benoni games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

Nimzo Indian Classical Variation (4 Qc2)

We begin this month's action with the game Bareev - Vallejo Pons, Monte Carlo 2004, which begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 8 Bg3 Ne4 9 e3 and now Vallejo Pons tried the adventurous 9...h5!?.

This is very brave play. Black tries to hunt down White's dark-squared bishop. (Black can still try to transpose into 'main lines' with 9...c5 but White doesn't necessarily have to play 10 dxc5; the move 10 Bd3 is an option, for example).

Nimzo Indian 4 f3

Artificer writes:

«I have a question: why doesn't 4...c5! refute 4 f3 in the Nimzo? Why do all the GMs still keep playing 4...d5 here? I've looked a lot at the following line after 4 f3 c5 5 d5 Nh5!. This unorthodox move that Watson would approve of has two threats: ...Qh4+ with a fearsome attack that will likely win a rook or a pawn; and ...f5 to keep White from attaining his goal of e4 without a pawn centre collapse. White can only avoid one of them. Play could possibly continue 6 g3 (6 Nh3!? f5! with black advantage as far as I can see) 6...f5! 7 e4!? 0-0 8 e5 Bxc3+ 9 bxc3 f4!? and I think Black has the advantage.»

A very good question. We've looked at 4...c5 a few times on this site (see, for example, Sakaev-Vladimirov and Volkov-Gershon in ChessPub - ECO code E20), but in these games Black responded to 5 d5 with 5...exd5 and 5...b5 respectively. 5...Nh5, however, is certainly a critical reply. I agree that Black has excellent counterplay after 6 g3 f5! 7 e4 0-0 8 e5 Bxc3+ 9 bxc3 f4, but here I want to take a closer look at 6 Nh3:

which I suspect is the most important response by White. Now Black has a major decision to make: whether to play 6...f5 or to grab a pawn with 6...Qh4+ 7 Nf2 Qxc4. The first of these options is dealt with in the old game Vegh - Lazic, Iraklion 1992, while the second is studied in Nimzo Indian: 4 f3 c5 5 d5 Nh5 6 Nh3 Qh4+.

Nimzo Indian 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3

The game Stocek - Babula, Karlovy Vary 2004 contains a wicked idea from White's point of view: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 cxd4 6 Nxd4 Ne4 7 Qc2!? (by far the most popular move here is 7 Qd3) 7...Qa5 8 Bg2!! (a brilliant idea, which on my database has only occurred once before) 8...Nxc3 9 0-0!

This is the point of White's previous play. He calmly castles and it soon becomes apparent that Black cannot successfully hold onto his extra piece. Actually, I'm not 100% sure whether the game data here is correct or not as, according to The Week In Chess database, exactly the same game was played in the encounter Babula-Laznicka from the same tournament!


Modern Benoni

Weird Benoni

Modern Benoni: Modern Classical Variation

The game Vasilev - Chatalbashev, Calvi 2004 sees Black adopt a clever move order to reach a Modern Benoni: 1 d4 g6 2 c4 Bg7 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 e4 Nf6

There are certain advantages in Black delaying ...e7-e6 to reach a Modern Benoni. For one thing, the dreaded Flick-Knife Attack after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ is avoided. The only real disadvantage is that after ...e7-e6 and ...e6xd5, White can also choose to recapture with the e4-pawn. This reduces Black's counterplay but also reduces White's chances of obtaining a theoretical edge. In this game White simply opted to transpose into the Modern Classical Variation with 6 h3 0-0 7 Nf3 e6 8 Bd3 exd5 9 cxd5 a6 10 a4

and now Black played 10...Nh5, as advocated by John Watson in his excellent book Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni, although Watson preferred not to interpose the moves ...a7-a6 and a2-a4.

Modern Benoni: White plays Bf4

Next up we have the game Wu - Palliser, British League 2004, which takes quite an unusual course after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 a6 8 e4 b5 9 Bd3

This natural-looking developing move is actually quite rare in this position (the main move for White is the disruptive 9 Qe2!?; see, for example, the game Haan-Lacroix, Belgium 2004 in the February 2004 update - ECO code A70). Now a sensible idea for Black is to finish kingside development with 9...Bg7 10 0-0 0-0, after which White probably has nothing more constructive than 11 h3, transposing into a main line of the Modern Classical Variation. Instead Black opted for the logical way to exploit White's omission of h2-h3 with 9...Bg4!?. However, Black's positionally ambitious play has come at a cost: a slight lack in development. In this game White tries to exploit this with a very interesting idea on move eleven.

In Brynell - Hall, Gothenburg 2004 we have the same opening moves: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nc3 g6 7 Bf4, but here Hall diverged with 7...Bg7, the main alternative to 7...a6. Play continued 8 Qa4+! (the only move to cause Black real problems, as interposing a piece on d7 will leave the d6-pawn undefended) 8...Bd7 9 Qb3 b5!?

This pawn sacrifice visually looks much more appealing for Black than 9...Bc8 and 9...Qc7, but it's unclear whether Black really gets enough play for the pawn. Indeed, both Norwood and Watson are unconvinced, Watson preferring to resurrect the older 9 ...Qc7.


Modern Benoni

Weird Benoni

Weird Benoni: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 c5 3 d5 b5!?

Finally this month we take a looks at the crazy opening line that occurred in Bareev - Van Wely, Monte Carlo 2004: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 c5 3 d5 (this can lead to an anti-Benoni system after 3...e6 4 Nc3!? - instead of 4 c4 - while a transposition to the Schmid Benoni is also possible if Black simply continues with 3...g6 4 Nc3 Bg7). 3...b5!? 4 Bg5 Ne4 (this line has become popular since its successful introduction by the Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov) 5 Bh4 Bb7 6 Qd3 f5 and now Bareev raised the stakes with the shocking lunge 7 g4!?

This move, undermine the protection of the knight on e4, looks like a direct attempt at refuting Black's ambitious play. It's certainly successful in this see-saw battle.


Modern Benoni

Weird Benoni

Till next month,

John Emms