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There's both Nimzo-Indian and Modern Benoni coverage this month, including a good way to play against the Nimzo-Indian Sämisch and another look at a tricky ...b5 pawn sac in the Benoni.

To download the October '11 Nimzo and Benoni games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

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Nimzo-Indian: Sämisch Variation 6...b6 [E24]

I'm indebted to subscriber Fabien Roussat, who pointed out that there has so far been very little coverage on this site of the Nimzo-Indian Sämisch line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 b6!?:

5...b6 is seen much less often than 5...c5. Yet in many ways it's Black's most consistent and ambitious response to the Sämisch, because he doesn't hold back for a single moment on the typical plan to attack the c4-pawn with the ...Ba6 and ...Nc6-a5 plan. To be honest there hasn't been a great deal of recent developments with 5...b6, but I did examine this line in detail while writing my new book The Nimzo-Indian: Move by Move, and here I've summarised what I consider to be some of the key options for both sides.

After 6 f3 Nc6 7 e4 Ba6 I feel that White's two most challenging moves are 8 Bg5 and 8 e5. These moves are covered in Yang-Ippolito, Lubbock 2010, and Moskalenko-Neverov, Kharkov 1984.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 [E32]

I don't think that the very recent game Carlsen-Ivanchuk, Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, is of huge theoretical relevance, but it's very interesting nonetheless. After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 (possible 4 Qc2 move orders include 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Ne4 7 Qc2 f5 8 Nf3 b6 9 g3 Bb7 and 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Nf3 Ne4 8 Qc2 Bb7 9 g3 f5) 4...b6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Qxc3 Ne4 8 Qc2 f5 9 g3 Nf6 Carlsen played the creative novelty 10 Bh3!?:

It's not immediately obvious why this move should be any better than (or even as good as!) the usual 10 Bg2. But there are some hidden points to 10 Bh3, and Carlsen certainly manages to exploit these during the game.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 [E38]

White also shows some creativity in the game Xiu Deshun-Xu Jun, Qinhuangdao 2011, in the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 Bxc5 6 Nf3 Qb6 (one of Romanishin's many ideas). After 7 e3 Qc7 8 a3 a6 9 Bd3 b6 10 b4 Be7 11 Bb2 d6 White tried 12 Ne4 followed quickly by Neg5 and a piece sacrifice with Bg6!? in answer to ...h6. It looks dangerous but is not quite sound against accurate defence.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Bg5 [E30]

A warning for Nimzo players facing the Leningrad Variation: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Bg5 c5 5 d5 d6 6 e3 Qe7:

Moving the queen to e7 is a typical Leningrad idea for Black, and a few very strong players have played ...Qe7 as early as move six. However, White's convincing response in Mamedyarov-Grandelius, Rogaska Slatina 2011, will certainly put people off. After 7 Nge2! exd5 8 a3! Black was already clearly worse.

Modern Benoni: 7 Bf4 [A61]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4, 7...a6 is the move with the best reputation, but some Benoni players are still willing to go down the line 7...Bg7 8 Qa4+! Bd7 9 Qb3:

9...b5!? is the move Benoni players really want to play here (instead of the main line, 9...Qc7), but the pawn sacrifice has suffered from a poor reputation for a number of years. On the other hand, it's interesting that two 2700+ GMs, Jobava and Gashimov, have played it in the last 18 months.

The critical line runs 10 Bxd6! Qb6 11 Be5 0-0 12 e3. In Gelfand-Jobava, Rogaska Slatina 2011, Jobava chose 12...c4, but couldn't improve on existing theory and was easily beaten. In Khismatullin-Venevtsev, Olginka 2011, Black tried Gashimov's 12...b4 13 Nb1 a5. This looks much less clear but still better for White.

Modern Benoni: Classical Variation 10...Bg4 [E75]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Bg4 11 Bf4 Bxf3 12 Bxf3 Qe7 13 Re1 Nbd7:

Black continues to score respectably from this tabiya position and is under no real theoretical pressure. That's not to say that White can't play for an advantage; just that Black seems to have a full share of the chances.

Beliavsky-Palliser, Rogaska Slatina 2011, continued 14 a5 Rfe8 15 Qd2 h5 16 Bd1!?, creatively using the back rank and planning the awkward pin with Ba4, but Black was fine anyway. Many thanks to Richard Palliser for sharing his thoughts on the key moments of this game.

Till next time, John

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