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Hi Everyone,
One or two people have been reminding me about my woeful prediction for a close World Championship in which Kramnik would just edge home. My only consolation - apart from the fact that a few others were just as far off the mark as me - was that the match did produce some very exciting chess. And of course there were three Nimzo-Indians, all of which were interesting, despite the fact that the players avoided the ultra-sharp and ultra-theoretical lines. Game 2 was covered in last month's update, and this month I've taken a look at Games 6 and 10.

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 November '08 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

We begin with Game six of the Anand-Kramnik match, which began 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5 (it would have been fun to see the two players battle it out in the very sharp lines after 5...exd5, but at 0-2 and with seven games to go Kramnik was still trying just to be solid with Black) 6 Nf3 Qf5 7 Qb3:

This is a line which Anand has faced as Black before, and his experience may have given him a head start over Kramnik. After 7...Nc6 8 Bd2 0-0 Anand uncorked the novelty 9 h3!. This move doesn't appear to be that dangerous, but as Kramnik found out it's not easy for Black to equalise.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 e3 d6 9 Ne2 Nbd7:

Bareev's plan of Ne2-c3 continues to be popular, with 10 Qc2 now rivalling the older 10 Qd3 for the title of 'main move'. Black's typical response has been ...c7-c5, with or without the insertion of ...h6 and Bh4, but in Matveeva - Dzagnidze, Kallithea 2008, Black instead chose the very rare 10...h6 11 Bh4 e5!?. This looks like an interesting and playable alternative to the main lines, even though I suspect White should keep a small edge somehow.

Many thanks to Bogdan Lalic for sharing his thoughts on Savage - Lalic, London League 2008. This game only seems to reinforce the view that Black has no real problems after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 Na6 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Qxc3 Nxc5:

and indeed it's often White who has to be more careful not to slip into a worse position.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Nf3

Game 10 of the Kramnik-Anand match saw Kramnik employing the Kasparov Variation, with the players following what is generally recognised as the main line: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 cxd4 6 Nxd4 0-0 7 Bg2 d5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 Qb3 Qa5 10 Bd2 Nc6 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 0-0 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Ba6 14 Rfd1!

This clever move, which as far as I know was first played by Peter Heine Nielsen (against me), is the only reason this line has some bite, as other moves allow Black easy equality. After 14...Qc5 15 e4 Bc4 16 Qa4 Nb6 17 Qb4 Qh5 Kramnik produced the subtle novelty 18 Re1!? and goes on to win a fine game. 18 Re1 isn't an earth-shattering move along the lines of Anand's ...Bb7 in the Semi-Slav, but Kramnik's sophisticated play does present Black with some tricky positional problems in this line.

Modern Benoni

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6, 7 Qa4+ is a tricky check for Black to meet, especially if he is unprepared:

In Shengelia - Mueller, Bundesliga 2008, the German Grandmaster chose 7...Bd7, as many have done before him. However, he was soon in trouble, and there's much to admire in Shengelia's powerful attacking play in this game.

The next two games aren't particularly important from a theoretical perspective, but they are both nice wins for Black which I hope will highlight one or two positional ideas.

In Buhr - Malakhov, Kallithea 2008, White commits a cardinal error in giving up his dark-squared bishop too lightly by taking a knight on e5. This is hardly ever a good idea even if it does facilitate Nc4, although there are a few exceptions to this rule (one is pointed out in the notes).

Arkell - Quillan, Le Touquet 2008, is a model game from Black's point of view. The usual queenside action is followed by a typical pawn sacrifice in return for activity. White chooses the wrong path and loses his centre. Watch out for some variations where there are four queens on the board!

Till next month, John