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Hi everyone!

March saw the conclusion of the Morelia/Linares Super-GM event, which was a great tournament victory for the former World Junior Champion Levon Aronian. With this following hot on the heels of his World Cup triumph, it's without doubt we are dealing with a new star here. Linares produced more than its usual quota of exciting, hard-fought games (the Topalov effect, I think), including a crazy Nimzo-Indian battle between Aronian and Bacrot which I had great fun analysing (especially the queen and knight versus rook and four pawns ending where the rook and four pawns were trying to win!).

To go with some Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian games, guest contributor and Modern Benoni expert Richard Palliser takes a look at the Knight's Tour Variation, a line which for some reason I never really fancy playing against when I feel brave enough to venture the 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

Download PGN of March '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

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!