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Nimzo Indian Kasparov Variation (4 Nf3 c5 5 g3)
It only seems right to begin with Bacrot - Aronian, Morelia/Linares 26.02.2006, where the French GM comes up with a strong move (though not quite a novelty) in the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 Ne4 6 Qd3 Qa5:
I think that Bacrot's move gives Black a few problems to solve. In the game Aronian opts for an incredibly complex but objectively losing endgame over a line which offered a slight disadvantage. Then the real fun begins!
Nimzo Indian 4 Qc2 d5
Next up it's Neuman - Oral, Czech League 2006, which begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5:
With the normal reply 7 dxc5 leading to such sharp positions in which Black has been holding his own lately, it's perhaps unsurprising that White players are looking at alternatives. Here White opts for 7 a3, but doesn't follow up very well over the next few moves and soon finds himself in big trouble.
In Sasikiran - Rombaldoni, La Roche-sur-Yon 2006 White opt for White's main alternative to 5 cxd5, i.e. 5 a3. (Actually, I wonder if 5 a3 should be called the 'alternative' - these days it's in danger of taking over as White's main move). The game continues 5...Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3:
and now Black eschewed the sharp and theoretical 6...Ne4 in favour of the quieter 6...dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6, Short's move, the idea of which is to hit the queen with a quick....Ba6.
Modern Benoni: Knight's Tour Variation
By Richard Palliser
The Knight's Tour Variation, played in the first ever Modern Benoni (Nimzowitsch-Marshall, New York 1927), remains rather rare, but it has recently received some attention from the highly respected theoretician, Boris Gelfand. Whether or not it's set for a mini-revival, it certainly does no harm for Benoni players to ensure that they are ready for it.
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nc3 g6 7 Nd2:
Now we shall look at the following games:
7...Bg7 8 Nc4 0-0 9 g3!? - Gelfand - Jobava, Gothenburg 2005
7...Bg7 8 Nc4 0-0 9 Bf4 (the traditional main line) - Saladen - Lawson, Buenos Aires 2005
7...Nbd7 8 e4 Bg7 9 Nc4 - Gelfand - Cvitan, Saint Vincent 2005
Modern Benoni: Modern Classical Variation
Van der Linden-Gormally, 4 NCL, Birmingham 2006 begins by following a well-trodden path with 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 e4 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 b5, but now instead of capturing on b5 White opts for 10 0-0:
A few years ago, declining the b5-pawn with 10 0-0 was frowned upon because it allows Black to play 10...a6, transposing to an early ...a6 line where White has omitted a2-a4 and thus allowed Black to expand with ...b5. This line was for a long time considered harmless for Black, but in recent years some GMs have shown that there is in fact considerable sting to this line - White has good chances to play for an advantage (see, for example, Yermolinsky-Wedberg, New York 2000 in the archives - ECO code A70). It's now getting to a point where some consider 10 0-0 to be White's best reply to 9...b5!
Queen's Indian 4 e3
The game Brethes-Z.Almasi, Bastia 2005 sees Black producing something a bit different: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 b6 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 g6!? 6 0-0 Bg7 7 Nc3 d5!:
We've seen the line 5...c5 6 0-0 g6!? a few times on this website, but on this occasion Black's idea is to couple a kingside fianchetto not with ...c5 but with ...d5. No matter how many times you see Black mixing ...e6 with ...g6, it somehow always makes an unusual impression, but I really like this idea and it will be interesting to see if it becomes more popular. It certainly worked well in this game.
That's all folks. See you in April!