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Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 [E15]
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 7 Bg2 c6 8 0-0 d5 9 Qc2 Nbd7 10 Rd1 0-0:
With Black finally managing to find ways to combat the 5 Qc2 gambit, attention at grandmaster level is returning back to more positional tries by White, including this traditional main line. In this tabiya position (which can also be reached via the Catalan), 11 a4 has in modern times more or less overtaken 11 Bf4 Rc8 12 Nc3 Nh5 (or 12 ...Qe8) to become the popular choice for White, and this move has appeared in a few recent games.
White's meets 11...Rc8 with 12 a5!, after which Black chooses between two pawn moves:
a) After 12...c5 play becomes quite forcing. Black's problems are by no means trivial in this line, but with precise play I feel he should be able to equalise, as he does in Ragger - Vitiugov, Plovdiv 2012.
b) 12...b5 leads to more blocked positions after the inevitable 13 c5!. On the whole this look less appetising for Black, especially when we see what happens in Markus - Ramesa, Sibenik 2011. However, even though Black is passive, his position does remain solid and very playable as long as he knows the right plan (discussed in the notes).
A relatively rare, but very sensible-looking alternative for Black is 11...Bd6, as played recently by Vishy Anand. Black plans ...Qe7, and a queen and bishop battery on the f8-a3 diagonal certainly seems logical given that a2-a4 leaves behind a small weakness on the b4-square. See the notes to Giri - Anand, German Bundesliga 2012, for details.
Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 [E16/E17]
Two games covered here, both involving an early d4-d5.
A) The first is Ragger - Rozentalis, Austrian Bundesliga 2012, with the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 0-0 Be7 6 d4 0-0 7 d5:
The 7 d5 gambit continues to be used, and occasionally by strong grandmasters. It scores more highly for White than 7 Nc3, I suspect not because it's objectively stronger, but because Black is more likely to make mistakes and/or forget the theory. Rozentalis does neither, and just about equalises. After 7...exd5 8 Nh4 c6 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 Nf5 Nc7 11 Nc3 d5 12 e4 Bf6 13 exd5 he chooses 13...Nxd5 instead of the more usual 13...cxd5 (which is also covered in the notes).
B) 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 0-0 c5!?:
5....c5 used to have a very poor reputation, but recently it's been noticeable that quite a few grandmasters have been willing to play it, including Gashimov. In fact 5...c5 is quite a logical choice for those who also play the Modern Benoni (like Gashimov), as this is exactly the structure we get in the main lines.
The critical line is 6 d5! exd5. White's most popular choice here has been 7 Nh4, but in Bacrot - Heimann, Deizisau 2012, White instead went for 7 Ng5!?. Both moves are covered in the notes.
Queen's Indian: 4 a3 c5 / 4 a3 Ba6 [E12]
A Queen's Indian line we've looked at more than once before is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 a3 c5 5 d5 Ba6 6 Qc2 (or, just as likely, via the move order 4...Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5) 6...exd5 7 cxd5 g6 8 Nc3 Bg7 9 Bf4 d6:
White virtually always plays the disruptive 10 Qa4+ here - it's clearly the consistent follow-up to 9 Bf4. However, maybe it's not the only challenging move after all. In Lysyj - Iordachescu, Moscow 2012, White was successful with the very interesting 10 h4!?. White plans to meet ...0-0 simply by h5!, creating attacking chances down the h-file against Black's king. The problem for Black is that it's not easy to delay castling and develop elsewhere without exposing his d-pawn.
Returning to 10 Qa4+, in this position Black either enters a slightly worse ending after 10...Qd7 or gambits a pawn with 10...b5 11 Nxb5. Previously Black has always castled in this position, but in Papin - Najer, Glinka 2011, Black produced a novelty: 11...Bxb5!? 12 Qxb5 Nbd7. We actually reach a position here which is virtually identical to a good line for Black in the Modern Benoni, the only difference being that White's a-pawn stands on a3 rather than a2. In the notes we find out exactly how this affects things.
Till next time, John
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