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This month's update focuses mainly on an old Queen's Indian line which may prove to be a useful "new" option for Black.

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 '10 Nimzo and Benoni games

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Bb7

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+:

In view of the difficulties Black has faced in the trendy pawn sac line 4...Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 (both from a theoretical and practical perspective), it's not surprising that many Black players are investigating ways of reaching more solid positions and finding new ideas in old lines to challenge previous assessments of "+/=". In fact, it could be argued that because of the overwhelming popularity of 4...Ba6 over the last 30 years, some of these 4...Bb7 lines have been unfairly neglected.

One of these lines is 4...Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+, and I confess that I've been a culprit myself - I couldn't find any previous coverage of this line in the archives. But with some strong GMs beginning to show an interest in this line, this feels like a good moment to fill the gap to some extent.

We begin with 6 Bd2 Bxd2+ 7 Nbxd2. The knight recapture is supposed to be fairly harmless, but you would have never have guessed judging by the evidence from Onischuk - Volokitin, Bundesliga 2010, a crushing win for White after 7...c5 8 e4! (instead of the usual 8 0-0):

Black really needs to be careful with his move order here, but if he is there should be no real problems for him.

In Simantsev - Lomako, Serpukhov 2009, we consider White's main choice, 7 Qxd2, ensuring that the knight goes to its most active square. After 7...0-0 the most forcing option is 8 Nc3:

A critical line - one which dates all the way back to two Capablanca-Euwe games - sees Black sacrificing the exchange. In the featured game White shows that he's unfamiliar with the theory, falls into a trap and loses quickly, and questions still remain about the true assessment of Black's sacrifice.

In Feller - Efimenko, 39th Olympiad, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010, White chooses the quieter 8 0-0 d6 9 Nc3. Efimenko heads down a line which has previously been assessed as clearly better for White, but he demonstrates that this assessment was far too optimistic and draws comfortably.

Against the less testing 6 Nbd2 it looks like Black has more than one decent option:

The first is the thematic 6...c5, trying to exploit the blockage on the d-file to challenge the d4-pawn. In Perunovic - Nestorovic, Senta 2008, Black demonstrates a strong idea which overturns a previous "+/=" assessment after 7 a3 Bxd2+ 8 Bxd2.

Another possibility for Black is 6...0-0 7 0-0 d5:

Black's set-up with....d5 against g3 isn't everyone's favourite, but this particular version is one of the more favourable that Black can achieve. The key point is that White's knight on d2 is passively placed to meet Black's eventual plan of....c5, and so Black is usually pretty happy to accept the....c5/...d5 hanging pawns safe in the knowledge that White won't be able to apply as much pressure to them as usual. In Radjabov - Kramnik, Wijk aan Zee 2003 (by transposition), White gets nowhere against precise play by Black.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2

In Dzagnidze - Pogonina, 39th Olympiad (Women), Khanty-Mansiysk 2010, Black plays an interesting new pawn sacrifice, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 c5 8 cxd5 cxd4 9 Qxd4 Nc6 10 Qh4 Qa5+!?:

Black sacs a pawn and allows White's queen into f6, but counts on a development lead and White's airy queenside to provide compensation (previously only 10...exd5 had been played). In the game Black gets a completely winning position in only five more moves! (but then loses).

Finally, Cmilyte - Hammer, 39th Olympiad, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010, underlines the fact that Black has been having a relatively comfortable time of things in the once critical 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 dxc5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Ne4 10 e3 Qa5 11 Nge2 Bf5:

Cmilyte chooses the quieter 12 Bxb8 Rxb8 13 Nd4, but Hammer equalises with ease and even has the better of things later on.

Till next time, John