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This month features some action from the latest super-GM tournament, the Tal Memorial in Moscow, with all three games involving the winner Vladimir Kramnik. Also we take a look at what could be a key novelty deep into the 4...d5 Nimzo, and an interesting pawn sacrifice in the Queen's Indian.

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 '09 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0

The super-trendy line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 continues to impress, even at the highest level. Kramnik employed 6...d5 twice at the Tal Memorial tournament, scoring 1½/2 and more than equalising in both games.

Carlsen - Kramnik, Moscow 2009, went 7 cxd5 Ne4 8 Qc2 exd5 9 Bf4 and here Kramnik played 9...Nc6 (a ChessPublishing suggestion!). A few days earlier Anand had also tried this move against Karpov. In both games Black gained some advantage.

Morozevich - Kramnik, Moscow 2009, was 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bf4 Ba6:

Morozevich avoided the critical capture on c7 by playing 10 Qc2, but after 10...Nbd7 11 e4 Bxf1 12 Kxf1 c5! Black had already equalised, maybe more than equalised.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

Fellow ChessPublishing contributor Chris Ward played an interesting novelty deep into what is arguably the main, main line after 4...d5:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 g5 9 Bg3 Ne4 10 e3 Qa5 11 Nge2 Bf5 12 Be5 0-0 13 Nd4 Nxc3 14 Nxf5 Ne4+ 15 Kd1 Nc6 16 Bd4

In the past Black has played 16...Nxd4 (for example, 17 exd4 Be1 18 Kc1! was covered in R. Eames-C.Flear, Hastings 2009). But in Eames - Ward, London League 2009, Black tried 16...Bxc5!? which leads an exchange sacrifice and some complications. Analysis suggests that this looks quite promising for Black if he follows up correctly.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

Last month we looked at 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 a3 Ba5!?, with White playing the 'quiet' 9 h3 (Del Rio de Angelis-Adams, Montcada 2009). That might have been an edge for White, but the critical main line runs 9 cxd5 exd5 10 dxc5 Bxc3 11 bxc3 Bg4:

Tony Kosten alerted me to a game of his, against Alexander Baburin, that had escaped my attention. He kindly provided his analysis which he made for, upon which many of my own notes are based.

Baburin - Kosten, Kilkenny Masters 2008, is important for two reasons. Tony's analysis of a key variation, which included two amazing queen sacrifices, casts doubt upon a previous assessment, but Alexander Baburin's own novelty avoids this and perhaps offers White chances of an advantage, albeit a small one in my opinion.

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 7 Bg2 c6 the main line here is 8 Bc3 d5 9 Ne5 Nfd7 10 Nxd7 Nxd7 (see below), but of course White has some alternatives. A very rare one is 8 0-0 d5 9 Ne5 Nfd7 10 Nd3!? (10 Nxd7 Nxd7 11 Bc3 returns to the main line), which is an intriguing pawn sacrifice:

I'm indebted to Milen Petrov here, for not only pointing out that this possibility existed, but also for kindly sending suggested lines and deep analysis to a gambit which has yet to be tested in practice (although I'm only judging, as always, by games on my database). As a starting point I've reproduced his current analysis and suggestions here, and have restricted myself to just a few comments - mainly on some confusing move order issues and also involving a similar gambit where Bc3 is played.

Overall I agree with Milen that the 10 Nd3 Gambit looks like a serious option for White, especially as a practical over-the-board surprise weapon. In virtually every line White gets at least some positional compensation. I'm a bit unsure why there have been so few games with 10 Nd3. Also, it's interesting that in the small number of game so far, Black has always declined the offer with less than critical 10...0-0. Hopefully we will find out more in the future! Is there anyone out there brave enough to try the gambit, or brave enough to accept it?

Returning to theory, V.Kramnik-P.Leko, Moscow 2009, went straight down a long main line, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 7 Bg2 c6 8 Bc3 d5 9 Ne5 Nfd7 10 Nxd7 Nxd7 11 Nd2 0-0 12 0-0 Rc8 13 e4 c5 14 exd5 exd5 15 dxc5 dxc4 16 c6 cxb3 17 Re1:

Here Leko played 17...Bb5, a move which has been resurrected recently after games by Ivanchuk, Almasi and Leko himself. 18 axb3 has been White's main response, but Kramnik instead chose 18 Nxb3. The game entered a sharp tactical battle and although under pressure, Leko's defence held firm. When I checked it with previous games, it became clear that Kramnik - for once - had nothing really new to show. He was basically testing Leko's knowledge of an old game and some analysis by the Hungarian grandmaster Gyula Sax. Needless to say, Leko knew his stuff!

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 h3 a6 8 e4 b5 9 Bd3 Bg7 10 0-0 0-0:

In a recent London League match I was playing Richard Bates in what seemed like our umpteenth game against each other. After playing 3 c4, Richard asked me whether this game would go on to the website to join our other two Benoni battles. Actually, this did make me think for a while about whether or not to play 3...c5 at all! Anyway, I couldn't disappoint him, so here it is. I think this time I finally managed to come up with a decent idea against his inventive Ne2-g3 plan. See Bates - Emms, London League 2009.

Till next time, John