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Luckily for us, there are many players throughout the world who are continually coming up with creative ideas in the opening - there seems to be no letting up! This month we focus on some more new ideas in the main lines of the Nimzo-Indian, Queen's Indian and Modern Benoni.

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 October '09 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2

We begin with an opening line which is very much "flavour of the month": 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5!?. It seems to me that White has so far struggled to prove any advantage with the natural moves 7 Bg5 or 7 Nf3, but the restrained 7 e3 b6 8 Nf3:

has been causing Black a few problems, and especially recently with 8...Bb7 9 b3 (instead of 9 b4), as played by Carlsen. Perhaps in view of these problems, in Mkrtchian - Xu Yuhua, Nanjing 2009, Black chose 8...Nbd7 intending ...Ba6 instead of ...Bb7 - an idea every Nimzo player should be familiar with. This works to perfection in the game, which Black wins convincingly. But improvements exist for White, who can certainly still fight for an advantage here. I'm indebted to FM Igor Kragelj, both for providing some key analysis and for previously pointing out the possibility of ...Ba6 here.

Next up, here's a very long sequence of theory, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 Nc6 9 e3 g5 10 Bg3 Ne4 11 Nf3 Qa5 12 Nd2 Nxc3 13 bxc3 Bxc3 14 Rb1 Qxc5 15 Rb5 Qa3 16 Rb3 Bxd2+ 17 Qxd2 Qa5 18 Qxa5 Nxa5 19 Rb5 b6:

19...b6 was played by Nigel Short against Stephen Gordon, but this move was originally suggested a long time ago by Ruslan Scherbakov as an improvement over 19...Nc6 (see the notes to R.Scherbakov-P.Lyrberg, Jyvaskyla 1994). In Dreev - Gyimesi, Sibenik 2009, Black goes down this risky line, albeit one that hadn't been refuted. Unluckily for the Hungarian GM, he comes up against a powerful novelty from Dreev.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

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!?:

8...Ba5 is rare in comparison to the main line 8...Bxc3 but it's by no means bad and has been played by some very strong players. For example, by Fischer against Spassky in the 1972 match (the famous first game where Fischer took on h2 and lost his bishop), more recently by Aronian, and now by Mickey Adams (Del Rio de Angelis-Adams, Montcada 2009). In this game White avoided the main line with 9 cxd5 in favour of the quiet 9 h3, and after 9...dxc4 10 Bxc4 h6!? 11 Qd3 cxd4 12 exd4 an interesting IQP position arose.

Queen's Indian

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 exd5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7 10 Rd1 Qc8 11 a3:

The 5 Qc2 gambit shows no sign of losing its popularity. It seems that just when Black patches up one line, White finds another new idea and causes further problems.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 11 a3 has gained considerable popularity since Topalov employed it to beat Anand so convincingly last year. In fact, quickly checking through the 2009 games, I noticed that White has played nothing else! The game Gelfand - Almasi, Lugo 2009, looks like a case of some successful patching up by Black, with Almasi coming up with a new move which returns the pawn and seems to equalise. It's up to White to make some more holes.

Dreev - Markos, Montcada 2009, is less theoretical, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 Bb7 6 Qc2 h6 7 Bh4:

Now the main continuation for Black is 7...g5 8 Bg3 Ne4. Instead 7...Be4!? 8 Qb3 Nc6 is rare and contains quite a creative idea in ...a7-a5-a4. It's very unusual to see Black's queenside minor pieces developed like this. Unfortunately for Markos, Dreev's solid and accurate response does seem to suggest that, in the final analysis, Black is being perhaps a bit too creative here. That said, I think it's safe to assume that not everyone reading this is likely to be facing Dreev in the near future; if nothing else this is certainly a useful surprise weapon for Black.

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 0-0 5 Nf3 d6 6 h3 c5 7 d5 e6 8 Bd3 exd5 9 cxd5 b5 10 Nxb5:

The evaluation of 10 Nxb5 has become more important recently, if only because Black is experiencing fewer problems in the solid line 10 Bxb5 Nxe4 11 Nxe4 Qa5+ 12 Nfd2 Qxb5 13 Nxd6 Qa6 14 N2c4 Nd7 15 0-0, basically on account of the rise in reputation of 15...Ne5! as a strong alternative to the previously preferred 15...Nb6.

I.Rajlich-Demidowicz, Lublin 2009, continued with the typical 10...Re8 11 0-0 Nxe4 12 Re1 a6. Now instead of the usual 13 Na3, Rajlich unleashed an interesting exchange sacrifice with 13 Rxe4!? and in the game Black was unable to solve her problems.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 0-0 Re8:

Black's major decision in the ...a6/...Nbd7 line is basically whether to play ...Nh5 to prevent Bf4, or whether to wait for Bf4 before playing ...Nh5, usually after ...Qc7 or ...Qe7. However, recently it has been established that after 11...Re8 12 Bf4 Black can play the immediate 12...Nh5!? allowing White to take on d6 (see the notes to Kakkanas-Anderton, Hastings 2008). Perhaps because of this factor, this has led to a mini-revival in 11...Re8.

In Macieja - Miton, Lublin 2009, White instead chose 12 Re1 and now Black played 12...Nh5. Even though White won the game, Black was certainly doing okay earlier on, possibly helped by a not so impressive novelty from Macieja.

Till next time, John